Thursday, July 15, 2004

A Family Tradition

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times published articles today about Riggs Bank and the money-laundering services they provided to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Riggs also stands accused of facilitating Big Oil's bribery of government officials in human rights-challenged Equatorial Guinea.

From the Times:

Senators investigating Riggs Bank's operations said Thursday they were outraged by senior bank officials' failure to act while managers helped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet conceal his wealth, move funds and evade efforts under court order to seize his assets.


Managers at the old-line Washington bank, working with Pinochet from 1994 to 2002, set up phony offshore companies and hid the existence of his accounts from U.S. examiners, according to the report based on a yearlong investigation by the panel's Republican and Democratic staffs.

``I sit here in amazement ... to see how casually they dismissed the rules'' to prevent money laundering, said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.


The Senate investigators discovered large payments by oil companies, including major U.S. companies, to Equatorial Guinea officials and their relatives and to businesses they controlled. That raised concerns about corruption, the Senate investigators said.

The State Department has cited the West African country for human rights abuses, corruption, and diversion of oil revenues to government officials.

In one case, a Riggs account manager brought a suitcase weighing 60 pounds full of dollar bills into the bank to make a deposit into an account of Equatorial Guinea's president, the investigators said.

``If that kind of cash deposit doesn't make a bank sit up and ask questions, I'm not sure anything will,'' [Sen. Carl] Levin said.

You will recall that this is the same bank that was caught laundering money for the Saudis several weeks ago:

[O]n Jan. 13, 2003, the Muslim World League, an Islamic charitable organization, wired $461,341.72 into an account at Riggs in the name of the "Ministry of Defense and Aviation-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia." The Muslim World League, which was founded by Osama bin Laden but was taken over by the Saudi government years ago, is largely funded by the Saudi royal family and by most accounts funds a variety of worthy causes around the world. But it is also the subject of scrutiny by congressional investigators and federal law enforcement agencies for possible terrorist connections in some countries, and some of its officials abroad have been linked to al Qaeda. Treasury agents seized files at the league's offices in Falls Church in March 2002.

Oddly absent from today's stories in both the Times and the Post is any mention of George W. Bush's uncle Jonathan J. Bush's involvement in Riggs, nor is there any mention of Bush family pal Joseph Allbritton's ties to Riggs Bank.

Gee, what is it with the Bush family and their financial connections to notorious dictators accused of crimes against humanity?

Props to Erin Haag.