THE OUTLAW BANK by Jonathan Beaty


A Wild Ride into the Heart of BCCI
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 An unconventional but thorough audit of the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International, by a pair of Time correspondents whose coverage of the stateless institution's scandalous collapse earned them a slew of journalism awards. Beaty and Gwynne (Selling Money, 1986) offer a four-part rundown on BCCI, the financial establishment of choice for arms dealers, drug traffickers, intelligence operatives, terrorists, Third World strongmen, and other scofflaws. The authors first recount how confidential sources tipped them on the biggest story of their professional lives. They then provide a concise, third- person briefing on the Arab-owned, Pakistani-run bank's origins and off-the-books operating procedures. Chartered in backwater venues like the Cayman Islands to evade oversight by regulatory authorities, BCCI (founded in 1972) resorted to money laundering, Ponzi schemes, secret ledgers, tax evasion, and allied misdeeds in catering to its criminal clientele. An accounting commissioned by the Bank of England finally exposed the extent of BCCI's deficits and offenses, impelling the bank's closing. Resuming the narrative as it unfolded from their points of view, the authors cover how they learned that BCCI was something larger and more sinister than a transnational depository institution. In conclusion, they address the failure of governments everywhere to clamp down on BCCI despite abundant evidence of its corruption. Throughout, Beaty and Gwynne make clear that the bank's capacity to suborn or use pillars of the political community played a crucial role in its success. The ranks of those tarnished include the prominent likes of Lord Callaghan, Jimmy Carter, Clark Clifford, and Bert Lance, while the much shorter list of good guys features Jack Blum (a former Senate investigator) and Gotham's D.A., Robert Morgenthau. The ringside format takes some getting used to, but it ultimately affords as vividly clear an explanation of the BCCI conspiracy as we're apt to get anytime soon. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41384-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993


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