The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI
By Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne
2004/02 - Beard Books
1587981467 - Paperback - Reprint -  428 pp.

The Outlaw Bank was named by Business Week as one of the top nine business books of 1993.

Publisher Comments

Category: Banking & Finance

This title is part of the Business Histories list.

Of Interest:

Bailout: An Insider's Account of Bank Failures and Rescues

Here is a detailed and spellbinding account of the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), one of the greatest financial scandals of all time. Events and players spring to life in this sordid story involving the wealthy, heads of state, and governments. The scandal affords a rare and representative glimpse at the trillion-dollar-plus underground market of secret money that moves at will in and out of the world's most sophisticated and highly regulated economies.

From BookNews:

The 1991 collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was one of the biggest financial scandals of all time. Based upon an 18-month-long series of articles in Time magazine, this text describes the international corruption that allowed this criminal enterprise to flourish for two decades with effective immunity from the law. The investigation reveals how governments around the world utilized the bank's services to finance terrorist organizations, hide drug money, and conduct illegal arms sales. Annotation 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

From BusinessWeek.Com 
The Ten Best Business Books of the Year (1993) 

As tangled as the thrift mess is, it pales in comparison with the scandal involving the Bank of Commerce & Credit Inc. When BCCI was shut down in 1991, the reported losses were $20 billion or more. The bank was linked to the CIA and a roster of terrorists and world-class sleazeballs. Like the S&L mess, BCCI has inspired numerous books, but the story is so complicated as to be all but impossible to follow.

To the rescue came Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne, Time magazine reporters who helped break the story with The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of BCCI (Random House). They turned the tale into a good read by crafting their own reporting quest into a thriller. Their search led them into the world of spies, arms dealers, and drug traffickers where BCCI thrived. The book, said International Outlook Editor Stanley Reed, "evokes an aura of paranoia and seaminess."

Beaty and Gwynne do a marvelous job of tracing the origins of BCCI, the brainchild of a silver-tongued Pakistani banker, Agha Hasan Abedi. In 1972, Abedi persuaded Abu Dhabi's Sheik Zayed to bankroll his plan for a Middle East-controlled multinational bank that would break the hold of Western financial institutions on the developing world.

When the 1973 embargo quadrupled oil prices, BCCI became the bank for Arab tycoons and for millions of Third World expatriates who flocked to the gulf to work. With the help of underlings who used bribery, money laundering, and even procuring to win over clients, Abedi expanded into some 70 countries. BCCI's unscrupulousness made it the bank of choice for arms dealers, the drug trade, and spy agencies.

Even after the bank became illiquid in the early 1980s, Abedi kept his Ponzi scheme going for some time--with the bank's complex structure obscuring the scams. The Outlaw Bank leaves the impression that with the offshore banking centers Abedi used so effectively still in business, another BCCI could happen.

From Publishers Weekly: 

As reporters for Time magazine, Beaty and Gwynne were at the forefront of uncovering the scandals surrounding the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in 1991. Here they authoritatively examine that global institution and the $20-billion-plus fraud its agents committed in 73 countries over a nearly 20-year period. They begin by describing their own "wild ride" as investigative journalists; their dramatic story includes highly placed pseudonymous sources a la Deep Throat and veiled threats from various BCCI power brokers, among them Clark Clifford. A second section flashes back to trace the rise of BCCI in Pakistan, where it was nourished by petrodeposits; BCCI's manipulations of such Americans as former President Jimmy Carter; and its depredations in such places as Panama and Nigeria. Returning to their personal tale, the authors go on to probe the cover-up of BCCI crimes and the negligence of "governments all over the world." The implications are chilling: BCCI was protected by U.S. intelligence agencies--"certainly" by William Casey's CIA and "probably" by the National Security Council. Moreover, international banking rules remain unchanged. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. 

From Library Journal: 

The latest chronicle of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) is "about the biggest bank fraud in the history of the world," write the authors, reporters for Time magazine. They have tracked the story much as Woodward and Bernstein sniffed out Watergate. While there is some overlap between this and two previous BCCI books (James Adams's A Full Service Bank , LJ 3/1/92, and Mark Potts's Dirty Money , LJ 5/1/92), this one gives a far-ranging overview of BCCI's origins, how it became a financial powerhouse, and how it fell apart. Some of the new revelations indicate a major cover-up involving the U.S. government; there is a great deal of cloak-and-dagger activity involving late-night meetings and anonymous high-level government sources (one named Condor, who is reminiscent of Deep Throat during Watergate). Given the scope of this scandal and the ongoing investigations, more books on BCCI are sure to be written, but this is probably the best now available for general readers on the subject. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. 

From Kirkus Reviews:

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 bythe 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.  -- Copyright 1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. 

From Ingram:

Two journalists with Time magazine provide a behind-the-scenes look at the BCCI scandal, describing a complex web of intrigue, kickbacks, corruption, and coverup and their cloak-and-dagger investigation into the case. 

From Amazon:

Beaty and Gwynne do an excellent job tackling the Leviathan that was BCCI. With so many labrynthine angles to pursue, this book does a terrific job of presenting them to the reader in clear and lucid terms. With a keen eye for crafting a good story, they keep your interest throughout by adding a bit of detective story flavor. Indeed, just investigating this story has always been dangerous for journalists and public servants--many deaths are associated with BCCI.

This book would be a timely read right now, as many of the players involved in BCCI still exercise huge influence on world affairs. Though published in 1993, the book details very accurately our current president's involvement with figures closely connected to the drug and arms dealing that was a huge part of the BCCI network, not to mention the funding of international terrorists, including the bin-Ladens.

Long before Michael Moore, and much more academic, these writers had no idea that they were doing the world a great service by helping to uncover the massive corruption of our own government and its decades of business dealings with terrorists and criminals throughout the Middle East and the world, despite their overt lying to the contrary. Read it before the election.

From Amazon:

While most analyses of BCCI saw it as a banking scandal, Beaty and Gwynne correctly understood and colorfully present its true nature: as the deepest and most detailed glimpse anyone has so far had into the real workings of the underground economy. Their findings, which have never been challenged or refuted, have only grown more urgent with time. This book will not only tell you where Osama-types come from, it will tell you how and why they can thrive -- or not. That it was written before anyone knew who bin Laden was makes it all that more extraordinary.

From Amazon:

While most analyses of BCCI saw it as a banking scandal, Beaty and Gwynne correctly understood and colorfully present its true nature: as the deepest and most detailed glimpse anyone has so far had into the real workings of the underground economy. Their findings, which have never been challenged or refuted, have only grown more urgent with time. This book will not only tell you where Osama-types come from, it will tell you how and why they can thrive -- or not. That it was written before anyone knew who bin Laden was makes it all that more extraordinary. 

From Amazon:

Not a bad report of what took place although the topic could be a bit dry for the average reader. The dust jacket tries to make the book out to be a bit sexier then it really is. The authors do a good job or moving the story along but I did expect more from Beaty. I think what is interesting is some of the same move movement issues covered within the book are now coming to the forefront with the current crack down on terrorists. If you are interested in the topic of international banking then this book will be interesting. 

From Barnes and Noble:

The Outlaw Bank goes straight to the corrupt heart of the most spectacular financial scandal in history: the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. A riveting mix of Dr. No and All the President's Men, The Outlaw Bank tells the story of the collapse of the BCCI in a unique, revealing - and unforgettable - way. Time correspondents Jonathan Beaty and S. C. Gwynne didn't just report on the BCCI story; from the first tip, they became players in a game of journalistic three-dimensional chess - full of murky leads and shady sources who often were not what they seemed. Through their fastpaced, firsthand account, we are there as Beaty and Gwynne arrange back-channel rendezvous; find a way around government stonewalling; and slowly begin to trace the web of kickbacks, corruption, and cover-ups that spanned three U.S. administrations and ensnared politicians and business figures around the world. The Outlaw Bank shows how the BCCI was more than a bank with a portfolio of bad loans and nasty clients like Manuel Noriega and the Medellin cartel. With offices and agents in every corner of the world, the BCCI had become a clearinghouse for almost anything: political bribes, untraceable cash, guns, tanks - even nuclear weapons. Beaty and Gwynne tell the real BCCI story with all of its amazing detail and mysterious characters. They go inside the mind of Agha Hasan Abedi, BCCI's messianic founder, whose vision of a Third World bank became twisted into a financial evil empire that moved effortlessly across national borders. They show how Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and others mounted a massive inquiry - in the face of opposition from the U.S. Justice Department - that eventually led to the indictment of both the bank and former Defense Secretary Clark Clifford. They reveal how they unraveled the BCCI's labyrinth of connections in Africa, Europe, and the United States, and with the CIA - and how their investigation broke through the Washington

Jonathan Beaty, a senior correspondent for Time Magazine, gained a national reputation for his investigative reporting unraveling financial and political conspiracies ranging from the Vatican Banking scandal to the BCCI affair. Now retired and living on a remote cattle ranch in New Mexico, he is writing a book about the CIA and Middle Eastern arms dealing.

S.C. "Sam" Gwynne is executive editor of Texas Monthly Magazine, an Austin, Texas based publication with a readership of 2.5 million. He was formerly a national correspondent, senior editor, and bureau chief for Time Magazine. Prior to that, he was an international banker. He lives with his wife and daughter in Austin, Texas.

Acknowledgments ix
Cast of Characters xv
Chronology xix
Introduction: The Devil's Paymaster xxiii
Part One: The Chase
1 Back Channels 3
2 Curiouser and Curiouser 15
3 Into the Looking Glass 31
4 Piercing the Scam's Heart 48
5 To Abu Dhabi and Beyond 65
6 End of Empire 93
Part Two: The Rise of the Outlaw Bank
7 Out of the Blue 125
8 Gilt by Association 147
9 The Black Raj 190
Part Three: Bankers, Guns and Money
10 Rock and Roll 221
11 The Bank That Can Get You Anything 257
12 The Hidden Alliance 278
13 Mr. Casey's Bank 298
Part Four: The Cover-Up
14 The Big Sleep 323
15 Beyond Zero 345
Epilogue 359
Notes 363
Index 373

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