BCCI was bursted for unprecedented international financial crimes in 1991, and many governments shut down the bank's operations in their domains. Not in Nigeria, under General Ibrahim Babangida. The corrupt military administration run by him worked out a deal where the bank, controlled by one of his close friends, the deposed Sultan of Sokoto, IbrahimDasuki, changed its name to Africa International Bank. In the scandal that ensued, newspapers that dared to write about the crime were threatened with closure. His friend, whom he later betrayed, M.K.O. Abiola, tried to extract an apology from his employees at the Concord newspapers group, who had written about the "army arrangement." The journalists declined, and had to resign their positions. Today, Abiola's Concord group is dead, but those journalists have been running a thriving THE NEWS group since. Here is the scale of the finacial crime that Babangida swept under the rug.

BCCI's activities in Nigeria were so profoundly, overwhelmingly corrupt as to suggest a very significant level of corruption in Nigerian officialdom generally. Whereas BCCI's activities in most countries merely involved corrupting a few, key people, in Nigeria the corruption was systemic and endemic, and touched nearly every operation of the bank in Nigeria.

According to BCCI officers, this was not the consequence of BCCI applying its practices to Nigeria, but rather, BCCI adapting itself to the conditions already present in Nigeria. According to BCCI officers interviewed by the Subcommittee, few European or American businesses active in Nigeria would have been able to do business without making one or another form of pay-off to Nigerian officials during the 1980's, and, to the knowledge of some BCCI officials, several such corporations, including some well-known European and U.S. banks, did.

During the Subcommittee's original investigation of BCCI in 1988, corruption involving Nigerian officials was one of the earliest allegations of BCCI criminality made to staff. As former Subcommittee investigator Jack Blum testified:

There are extraordinarily close relationships at all levels of the Nigerian Government with BCCI. [During my intial investigation] I had been called . . . by the Nigerian Ambassador who had been asked to call by the President [of Nigeria] to say, what's happening here? What are you guys doing with respect to BCCI?

Several BCCI officials described BCCI having made cash payments to officials of the Nigerian central bank. As Abdur Sakhia testified:

During a meeting of the World Bank in Seoul, Korea -- I think it was in 1985 -- I saw one of the BCC officers with a lot of cash, handing it out to the staff of the central bank of Nigeria. This is what I saw personally being given to them.

The most detailed account of BCCI's activities in Nigeria came from Nazir Chinoy, convicted in the Tampa case of money laundering during the time he was BCCI's Francophone regional manager. Prior to moving to BCCI-Paris, Chinoy had been stationed by BCCI in Nigeria for the first half of the 1980's, where he saw first hand the pervasive corruption of the Nigerian banking system, and BCCI's solutions for dealing with it profitably.

At the time Chinoy arrived in Nigeria in December, 1980, he found that BCCI already had purchased a minority interest in a commercial bank in Nigeria -- owning just 40 percent of the Nigerian bank, with corrupt Nigerian officials insisting on controlling the remaining 60 percent. But even with only 40 percent, the Nigerian offices of BCCI were earning BCCI very significant profits. In fact, the profits were so large that BCCI feared the Nigerians might try to take remaining interest in the bank away from BCCI. Chinoy's job was to establish a second bank for BCCI in Nigeria to protect BCCI against the possible expropriation by the government of the first bank.

BCCI was already being used for short-term commercial financing through letters of credit for the purchase and sale of goods by various Nigerian governmental entities. Moreover, some Nigerian officials were using BCCI in London and elsewhere to store cash they had earned through off-the-books deals while in the government. As Chinoy explained:

Nigerians were keeping large laundered funds generated by influential people who got contracts from international companies and commissions paid abroad. The money was kept abroad and not repatriated to Nigeria. BCCI was a good place to keep it.

The simplest means of generating funds for Nigerian officials was requiring a "commission" on each transaction. As Chinoy stated:

Commission means kick-back. The government approves a $300 million contract. A multinational corporation agrees with the government which has helped him, 10 percent gets kicked back. A company is established abroad or they nominate a cousin or someone who is paid 3 percent. It is known as a commission but it is actually a kickback.

Other mechanisms by which these funds were generated for Nigerian officials were through over invoicing of imports and under invoicing of exports. When over invoicing would take place, the government would pay more for goods than the actual market price. BCCI would disguise this through shell entities which would appear to any outsider as arms-length brokers, but which in fact were mere mechanisms by which money would be skimmed off from the government and deposited in BCCI, to be shared by BCCI and by the official responsible for handling the purchase. When under invoicing would take place, the reverse would happen. The government would ship greater commodities than were reflected on the government invoices; the additional commodity would be sold at the same time as that invoiced, and the additional funds generated would again be split by BCCI and the Nigerian official, who of course would have keep his profits outside his home country. As Chinoy explained it:

Essentially, BCCI was handling the financing of commodities through bribery. For example, BCCI loaned $250 million to Nigeria to be repaid within the next six months for oil exports. Nigeria would charge OPIC prices but would load ten percent more than the invoice. That way you are giving a 10 percent discount.

Business was so good that Chinoy's predecessor and superior at BCCI, Alauddin Shaikh, who was a senior official at the bank, decided to leave BCCI to form a partnership with a Nigerian, Razar Sareef, who had gained control of Nigerian oil exports. Shaikh has been implicated by numerous BCCI officials in making pay-offs not only in Nigeria, but in several other countries. His new venture was in any case a success. It wound up controlling the National Petroleum Corporation of Nigeria account for the United States, an account it continued to control at least as of 1991.

Other techniques used by Nigerian officials with the connivance of BCCI were currency swaps involving government funds. Government funds were placed in an account at BCCI in London. BCCI would place the funds with Lloyds or another bank and swap it into different currencies or make stock investments with it. If there was a loss, Nigeria bore it. If there was a profit, the first 8 percent went to Nigeria, on anything additional, the money was split between Nigeria and the traders at BCCI.

In addition to the skimming that was taking place of government funds, BCCI found itself in the position of being able to earn enormous fees from ordinary commercial transactions in Nigeria, because Nigerian officials insured that financial transactions undertaken by BCCI for its customers would be handled much more efficiently than similar transactions undertaken by any other foreign bank doing business in Nigeria. While other banks would have to wait days or weeks for their transactions to be processed by the relevant government ministries, BCCI, would have their transactions handled promptly. As Chinoy explained:

BCCI got big profits because early release of foreign exchange was the crux of any deal. BCCI was two to three times faster than Chase Manhattan or the Bank of America or any other joint venture. BCCI was faster than any Nigerian bank in getting foreign exchange out of the Central Bank. It had very good relations with Central Bank of Nigeria. Unless you were friendly with receptionist, it would lie in the tray and wouldn't go anywhere for days. BCCI used to look after the girl at the foreign exchange desk. When the BCCI clerk would hand in the foreign exchange she would do that first for processing its release. Release of foreign exchange was important. Clerks at every level were looked after by presents. We had an officer, Mr. Saddiqui, who used to go and spend at least 10 days a month in Nigeria. His specific job was to look after people at all levels. In addition, he had appointed one to two expatriates who did nothing but spend their time at Central Bank. I do not think that cash was actually paid, but presents were bought in large amounts, as much as 20-40 dresses, shirts, ties at a time brought in from London and given. Everybody was kept happy. so that there is no objection raised by a clerk that a document isn't filled in exactly correctly. Because BCCI was so good and there was a BCCI application where someone had forgot to cross a "t" or dot an "i" and they would get it rectified quickly. This is Nigeria.

The result was that BCCI began to develop almost a monopoly on handling import-export financing in Nigeria. As Chinoy explained:

For banks other than BCCI, sometimes it could take 90 days for your letter of credit to take. If some clerk is unhappy he says your documents are not in order and he throws it back and doesn't give a reason. In Nigeria it is very important to have contacts because it takes 14 days for a letter to reach you. BCCI would get its letters of credit three times faster than anyone else. They will get it through the Central Bank faster than other banks. Business increases due to this reputation.

According to Chinoy, the price-tag on some of the presents provided Nigerian bureaucrats was not small -- typically, they included such items as silver canteens, cutlery sets, tea sets, coffee sets, and $5,000 luxury watches and similar goods valued at a few thousand pounds, and given to Central Bank and other Nigerian officials.

Chinoy knew about the corruption of top Nigerian officials personally. During his residence in Nigeria, three Nigerians controlled the release of foreign exchange in Nigeria. One of the three, the country's comptroller of foreign exchange, was named Al Haji Balu:

Once when I was in marketing in 1985-1986, I saw a deposit from Balu of 280,000 Deutschmarks in a certificate of deposit in Frankfort. I knew what his salary in Nigeria was. This was at the time worth about $150,000 US, for deposit at BCCI Frankfort. He didn't have that kind of money from his government salary. It was obvious what was going on.

Another extremely prominent Nigerian political figure who was being paid bribes by BCCI was Al Haji Ibrahim Dasuki, chairman of BCC Nigeria up until 1990-1991, when he became the Sultan of Sokoto. BCCI audit records show a $1 million loan from BCCI to Dasuki which BCCI provided him to pay for his shares of BCCI-Nigeria. Dasuki repaid this favor -- although not this loan -- to BCCI in many ways. According to Chinoy:

Dasuki had fantastic contacts with the government. He was a politician and religious leader of great eminence, and in line then to be Sultan of Sokoto. He could help the bank and used to be paid. He was paid from Caymans as well as from Nigeria. He was paid in London by one of Mr. Naqvi's special assistants, Asad Matualah, now in custody in Abu Dhabi.

Chinoy explained that Dasuki was the one who would fix problems with other government officials for BCCI if anyone noticed that exchange laws were being broken or other problems arose. Dasuki was able to perform this role because of his position as a religious leader, making his support indispensable to other key Nigerian officials:

Dasuki came from the North where all presidents in Nigeria come from, and even the President has to go and pay homage to the Sultan of Sokoto. When he became Sultan all of the leaders would owe him a measure of deference. He took full advantage of that. Two to three times BCCI got into trouble and Dasuki would sort it out.

Dasuki also acted as a local representative for BCCI, obtaining the right to import goods for Nigeria, and providing that right to a business associate affiliated with BCCI. The BCCI associate would then arrange for import of the commodity involved, such as rice. According to Chinoy:

It was like a license to make money. Rice was gold. Dummy companies were created on a per transaction basis and had no other life beyond that.

Dasuki had so much business activity, he was able to establish his nephew, Ibrahim Katuni, to a level where by the mid-1980's, every foreign country did business with him because he had access to every ministry and had cut deals with each of them.

Katuni would tell a foreign businessman, this is how you'll make $100,000, and I'll take 20 percent. He kept Dasuki happy and was hoping to become President of BCCI.

BCCI found other ways of circumventing practices in Nigeria which frustrated other banks and prevented them functioning normally. As the indictment of BCCI officials in New York described it, BCCI's success in this area involved defrauding the Central Bank of Nigeria. Foreign exchange shortfalls in Nigeria had caused the government in about 1981 to impose restrictions on imports, requiring letters of credit used in connection with imports to be secured by 100 percent cash deposits in Nigerian banks. In turn, the banks were required to certify that the payment had been made to the Central Bank. As the transactions involved might take months to be completed, this would tie up the company's funds for substantial amounts of time, discouraging the import activity altogether. BCCI's way around the problem was to create phony loans for the importers and deposit the "proceeds" from the phony loans on BCCI's books in Nigeria, and then inform the Central Bank that the deposits had been made. Once the import transaction was over, the paperwork would be reversed. Through this technique, BCCI generated letter-of-credit business from importers who would not otherwise have been able to do business; earned commissions on opening the letters of credit; earned interest on the fictitious loans it granted; and realized exchange profits from converting currencies.

BCCI also handled black market foreign exchange transactions for Nigerian officials for use in Nigerian elections. Because Nigeria has never developed credit cards, and Nigerians rarely use checks, essentially all transactions in Nigeria are in cash, with few record-keeping requirements adequate to monitor graft, which is endemic. Most of the time, officials sell their cash in Nigerian currency and buy foreign exchange with it for purchasing goods abroad, or for maintaining deposits and homes abroad, typically in the United Kingdom. But sometimes the Nigerians found they needed Nigerian currency, especially during election time. According to Chinoy:

At elections, the officials need the money and sell the foreign exchange at black market price and that money is paid in Nigerian currency to them and they return the foreign exchange abroad. This method is employed by Nigerian politicians to obtain political money. It is commonplace throughout Africa.

As noted above, BCCI's Nigerian operations were among the bank's most profitable. This is understandable. In the case of BCCI and the Nigerian government, crime paid.

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