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Viewpoint: Is war about terror and oil?

July 1, 1993

Viewpoint: Is war about terror and oil?

By Jow Baker

s war about terror and oil?

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

A French parliamentary report, released a week ago, says Osama bin Laden has extensive financial interests in Britain. It says London is a haven for laundering billions of dollars in terrorist funds.

The report also indicates a web of money flow that implicates not only British citizens but United States residents as well. The 70-page addition to the report says up to 40 companies, banks and individuals can be legitimate suspects for maintaining direct or indirect ties to the terrorist.

Titled “The Economic Environment of Osama bin Laden,” the report was compiled by a team of financial experts. It reveals the organization of bin Laden’s financial network is startlingly similar to the one used by the now-defunct BCCI bank for its criminal operations in the 1980s.

“This document clearly shows the great permeability of the British banking and financial system and the fragility of the controls operated at its points of entry,” said the report’s authors. Details of the findings were reported in an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian.

According to the newspaper, the report establishes numerous links between bin Laden and international arms and oil dealers and some members of the Saudi elite. It also describes the relationship between Osama bin Laden and his family’s holding company, Saudi bin Laden Group, plus its many subsidiaries, investments and other operations in Europe.

The Guardian said the report asserts that many of the individuals involved in these financial manipulations, many with British connections, also were involved in senior roles with BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International). The document mentions hundreds of banks and companies from Sudan, Geneva and London, to Oxford, the Bahamas and Riyadh.

Names of half a dozen former BCCI clients and officials recur throughout the report, the paper said, and are directly linked to bin Laden through banks, holding companies, foundations and charities. Among those mentioned are Ghaith Pharaon, wanted in the U.S. for fraud, and Saudi banker Khalid bin Mahfouz.

The report concluded: “The conjunction of a terrorist network attached to a vast

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financing structure is the dominant trait of operations conducted by bin Laden.”

Rodney Stitch is a pilot and a former government investigator. Together with a number of whistleblowers within the CIA, DEA, FBI and other government agencies, he has written many books about federal wrongdoing, including Defrauding America.

Here’s what he wrote about BCCI: “One of the men behind the founding of BCCI was Jackson Stephens, who headed Stephens, Inc., located in Little Rock, Ark. (This is the same brokerage firm that is handling Rockford’s street repair bond issue.) Stephens, Inc. was a large U.S. investment bank with numerous hidden connections, including one with Harken Energy, to obtain the oil drilling rights off Bahrain. George Bush Jr. was a consultant and member of the board of directors before the oil drilling contract was signed. Stephen’s firm helped secure a loan from a BCCI-affiliated Swiss bank for Harken Energy.

“Bill Clinton’s involvement in the BCCI affair was shown in a February 1992 article under the headline ‘Clinton and BCCI.’ The article reported that the Clinton campaign had a $2 million credit line from a bank with connections to BCCI. The credit line was from Worthen National Bank in Little Rock, Ark., controlled by billionaire Jackson Stephens and managed by Curt Bradbury. Stephens was involved in the 1970s deals in which BCCI unlawfully acquired Washington’s First American Bank.”

When it broke, the BCCI scandal implicated the largest bank in Saudi Arabia and the biggest banker, Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz, plus a former director of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who became a BCCI consultant shortly after his retirement. At the time, Stitch said, Canadian officials refused to cooperate in the investigation. They were accused of covering up facts relating to the crash of an Arrow Airlines plane at Gander that killed 248 American GIs under suspicious circumstances. Arrow, he said, was a CIA front company. Stitch is a former FAA investigator and probed numerous plane crashes.

A BCCI insider told a congressional hearing that the CIA used BCCI for money transfer in the Iran-Contra affair. The bank also was involved in the savings and loan scandals that defrauded hundreds of investors.

The investigative record shows that a BCCI front company bought the Bank of Georgia in 1977. Bert Lance, former budget director in the Carter administration, had a major financial interest in that bank. Lance sold his shares to Ghaith Pharaon, a Saudi businessman and a front man for BCCI.

BCCI also had its hands in the scandal known as ‘Iraqgate,’ and was involved in operations of Italy’s National Bank of Lavoro, or BNL. These two scandals implicated high U.S. officials.

Stitch further reported that a Houston oil consultant, Michael Ameen, who was a paid consultant for the U.S. Department of State, was a key player in working out the Bahrain drilling deal. Ameen had close ties with Kamal Adham, a BCCI stockholder and former chief of Saudi Arabian intelligence.

Stitch alleges a number of attorneys, public relations firms, members of Congress and others made substantial profits from all this at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and the thousands of depositors who lost their savings.

Jimmy Carter, while president, owed money to a bank linked with BCCI. Carter and his friend, Bert Lance, were bailed out by Pharaon, as reported at the time by columnist Jack Anderson. Pharaon loaned Lance $3.5 million through BCCI and then bought control of the Bank of Georgia for another $2.4 million, Anderson said. Several days later, President Carter authorized the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. BCCI, said Anderson, paid for Carter’s globe-girdling trips after he left office.

At a press conference, President George H. Bush denied that he knew Kamal Adham. Adham was head of Saudi Arabia’s spy agency while Bush headed the CIA. Ed Rogers, who was a White House aide and attorney, went to work for Adham in October 1991.

One of the president’s sons, Jeb Bush, had many dealings with BCCI, according to CIA insiders. Jeb was frequently in BCCI’s Miami office, and Jeb’s company invested in real estate with a company controlled by a BCCI customer who later went to prison for defrauding BCCI and other banks.

There is a tremendous amount of additional information about BCCI, but we haven’t the space to go into it here. Now, back to the present conflict in Afghanistan. It is known that the CIA has been instrumental in helping the people of that country to raise opium poppies and to supply the world with heroin. Sources say they furnish nearly 60 percent of Europe’s heroin and are planning to flood the globe with this drug at half the going price.

But the “War on Terrorism” is only partly about terrorists and drugs, according to some sources. Unocal, the oil cartel, these sources say, wants to build a natural gas and oil pipeline across Afghanistan and Pakistan into China and ports on the Arabian Sea. But the Taliban and Osama bin Laden balked. They want a bigger piece of the pie.

It is well established that the Bush family and Vice President Dick Cheney are long time members of and have extensive interests in the oil industry.

Proponents of oil as a motivator in the “War on Terrorism” assert that the oil cartel, therefore, decided the Taliban must be removed and the cartel’s own government installed in Kabul, so that construction of the pipeline can go forward.

Could it be that America’s young men, once again, are being asked to put their lives on the line for the private benefit of a handful of politicians and oil tycoons? Time will tell.

What’s that famous Sir Walter Scott quotation: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”?

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