A Banker For All Seasons: Bank of Crooks and Cheats Inc. by Tariq Ali

(First published 2007)

Read the introduction of the BCCI from my copy of the book:

The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI; known to many of its employees as the Bank of Crooks and Cheats Incorporated) was a major international bank founded in 1972. At its peak, it operated in 78 countries, had over 400 branches and claimed assets of $25 billion. In 1991, the BCCI became the focus of the world’s worst financial scandal – it had been involved in money laundering, bribery, support of terrorism, arms trafficking, the sale of nuclear technologies, the commission and facilitation of tax evasion, smuggling, illegal immigration and the illicit purchases of banks and real estates. The bank was found to be worthless, with at least $13 billion unaccounted for
From the back flap

The bank projected an image of the Third World bank, that is, owned and managed by the people of the Third World, and working for the benefit of the Third World in a world market dominated by the Western banks. This was not to be. The great architect of the bank was Agha Hassan Abedi, an ambitious, cunning, innovative but deceitful Pakistani banker, who moved to the Middle East and sought to set up the bank with the approval of the ruling emirs.

He set up first branch in the UAE and rapidly expanded its network first in the Middle East and later in Europe, United States, Africa and South America. Apart from the activities quoted above, the BCCI even facilitated some ex-CIA officials in secret/covert deals. After the investigations had started, some important politicians (including a US congressman) and diplomats, especially in the Bank of England, were actually found to be on the payroll of the BCCI. Many of Abedi’s aides went to jail but he never did, as he died of an heart attack during the investigation, I think.

Now a few words about the book: This book is actually a script of a documentary for UK’s Channel 4 which the said channel had commissioned Tariq Ali to write. It was probably filmed but not aired, primarily due to the litigation process that was going on at that time. It’s now in print and makes a good, quick read.

The drama starts with a reporter of UK based newspaper (Telegraph, I believe) who is investigating the allegations against the BCCI for a long time. She is gathering necessary evidence with the help of important leads when she hears about the bank’s collapse. The US prosecutors announce to launch an investigation into the bank and charge the founder and his close associates for various criminal activities.

The narrative then flashes back in the past, beginning with the rise of Abedi as a young ambitious banker and his meetings with men in position of power and influence who help him set up the bank. Many political and personal intrigues shown in different scenes are weaved in a single narrative which finally converges on the death threats to the insider whistle-blowers who are sick of the bank’s criminal activities and, either want to opt-out or reveal its secrets, but intimidated into doing neither. Finally, an important insider manages to have an interview with our all-important heroine-reporter of the UK paper (who sleeps around with guys from New York City law firm preparing to officially charge Abedi), and  manages to extract crucial evidence.

A bit dramatic at times, with an uncharacteristic lack of attention to good dialogue delivery, oft-repeated cliches, and inevitable sexual encounters, Tariq Ali has definitely written it in haste. This is not the book if you want a comprehensive account of the BCCI fiasco. But if you want Tariq Ali to tell you in his own style and if you have a taste for his writing, then go for it.

My rating 3/5. AMAZON LINK


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