BCCI Criminal Investigations Launched in U.S., Britain

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BCCI Criminal Investigations Launched in U.S., Britain

The United States and Britain began separate investigations last week into Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the $20 billion-asset Luxembourg-based bank seized by regulators worldwide on July 5 because of losses attributed to fraud.

Jay B. Stephens, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said Friday his office had begun an investigation into possible criminal violations at BCCI and three U.S. banks it owns: First American Corp., National Bank of Georgia, and Independence Bank of Encino.

A spokesman said that the investigation had been launched after the Federal Reserve Board referred its own findings to the attorney's office.

In London, Norman Lamont, the chancellor of the Exchequer, said the decision to hold an independent public inquiry followed a growing political storm over BCCI and estimated losses of at least $4 billion at the bank.

The government confirmed Thursday that the British Treasury had been sent a letter by BCCI staff members more than a year ago, alleging widespread corruption at the bank.

BCCI was cast into the spotlight last year when its agency in Tampa, Fla., was convicted of money laundering. In March, BCCI also agreed to divest itself of an at least the 25% stake it had secretly acquired in First American as well as undisclosed stake held in Independence.

Noriega Held Accounts

Investigators have also discovered BCCI accounts at First American that were used by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. …