At its peak, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was the seventh largest private bank in the world. However, during the mid-1980s the bank was reportedly involved in activities which included money laundering, drug money, and dubious account holders. It is also said that the CIA used accounts at the BCCI to fund the Afghan Mujahideen during their war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
THE RISE OF BCCI
by Hassan Rizvi
Adham, and other intelligence heads worked with Abedi to contrive “a plan that seemed too good to be true. The bank (BCCI) would solicit the business of every major intelligence – and therefore terrorist, rebel, and underground – organization in the free world. The intelligence collected – and links forged in the process – would be shared with these ‘friends’ of BCCI.” CIA operative Raymond Close worked closely with Adham during the Congressional inquiry years to help identify and tap “into CIA’s hordes of misfits and malcontents to help man a 1,500-strong group of assassins and enforcers.”
[Right: Late Agha Hassan Abedi, Founder of the BCCI]
Soon, BCCI became the fastest growing bank in the world. Time magazine would later describe BCCI as not just a bank, but also “a global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad. Operating primarily out of the bank’s offices in Karachi, Pakistan; the 1,500-employee network had used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. It stops at almost nothing to further the bank’s aims the world over.”
Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal also set up Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt (FIBE) as part of the banking empire. The “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman was one of its founding members. Growth of Islamic banking would directly help the growth of the Islamist movements, and allow the Saudis to pressure poorer Islamic nations, like Egypt, to shift their policies to the right. FIBE worked closely with BCCI. Investigators would later find that BCCI held $589 million in “unrecorded deposits,” $245 million of which were placed with FIBE!
BCCI at a later stage was also ‘discovered’ to be deeply implicated in illegal arms and narcotics trade .But all this was to happen way in the future, when CIA wanted to get back into the driving seat!
THE ACTIVITIES OF SAFARI CLUB
Thus was the Safari Club established .It funded – off the books – covert operations for a ‘ghost’ CIA made up of fired agents close to ex-CIA Director George Bush Sr. and Theodore Shackley. Shackley would remain at the center of this “private, shadow spy organization within the CIA” until he was fired in 1979; when the Safari Club was exposed due to the Iranian revolution-Iran being one of the members ! It must be noted here that this “Super Spy Club” inevitably gave a front seat to Saudi, Arab and Iranian ‘Islamist’ interests. The club seems to have remained active till about 1982 when de Marenches stepped down from being head of French intelligence .By this time the issue of the witch hunt of CIA within the USA also seems to have been resolved, and the CIA was keen to get back into the driving seat. Yet as we shall see next ;the then junior officers –as they rose in rank- would continue to retain their Islamic imprint ,as they shaped Americas -and the CIA’s- future policies.
During the initial period the Safari Club played a secret role in political dramas of many countries mostly Islamic and in Africa or the Middle East. Its first operation: A rebellion in Zaire was put down by Moroccan and Egyptian troops, using French air support. It then turned to deal with the Soviet infiltrations in Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti and Peoples republic of Yemen. It also acted to repel Libyan aggression against Chad and Sudan. It also played a role in the US-Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979. Throughout 1970-80 huge amounts of Saudi money backed by Safari Club covert activity helped countries like Syria, Jordan, North Yemen, Angola, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Uganda, Mali, Nigeria, Ziare, Guinea, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines –and some reports suggest even South Vietnam; survive Russian backed Libyan or leftist in roads. In most countries Saudi ‘Wahabi Jehadi’ proselytizing inevitably accompanied the cash.
The Safari Club and the ‘rogue CIA’ also played a major role in supporting Pakistani ISI backed Afghani militants. Pakistani operation was remarkably successful and by 1977 the Afghan government of Sardar Daud was willing to settle all outstanding issues in exchange for a lifting of the ban on the National Awami Party and a commitment towards provincial autonomy for Pashtuns. This was also the period in which Moro operations in the Philippines achieved their most outstanding success.
PLANNING FOR A RUSSIAN VIETNAM: 1977-1982
During the period 1977 to 1982 a major re-orientation of US policy is apparent specially in the mid-east and SE Asia. To what extant the Safari Club influenced the shape of things must remain a field of conjecture; yet the circumstantial evidence is pretty clear that the Carter administration had “no clear policy” due to internal divisions and confusion – and also that Saudi (Muslim) influence was considerable through elements of the ‘rouge CIA’ which was beginning to emerge out of the shadows to merge into the main stream re-activated CIA.
SETTING THE STAGE
In the year 1977-79 a number of remarkable events (mentioned below) took place affecting our region. An analysis of these helps us to understand how the original concept of a defensive and deterrent Islamic Jihad was shaped into one of Americas most potent intelligence assets – global Islamic (Wahabi) militancy or Islamic Terrorism:
In The USA Zbigniew Brzezinski took over as President Carter’s National Security Adviser. He established the Nationalities Working Group (NWG) for weakening the Soviet Union through Islamic militancy .By December 1978; he formalized his theory around the idea of turning the Muslim world into ‘an arc of crises. It was based on the ideas of British expert Dr. Bernard Lewis, who advocated the balkanization of the entire Muslim near East along tribal and religious lines. The chaos would spread in what he also calls an “arc of crisis” and ultimately destabilize the Muslim regions of the Soviet Union.
BCCI EVEN BUYS THE CIA’s BANK!
The same year The Safari Club made a bid to buy CIA’s bank! A group fronted by Kamal Adham, bought First American Bank shares. It was the biggest bank in the Washington, D.C. – and since long the CIA’s principal banker. In 1981, the Federal Reserve after asking CIA for the mandatory clearance allows the sale! The CIA held back what it knew, including the fact that Adham was Saudi intelligence minister. But Adhami and his group were acting on behalf of BCCI. Thus by 1982 BCCI becomes (illegally) the owner of CIA’s bank.
The CIA did not inform the Treasury Department about this link till as late as 1985.In fact CIA continued using both BCCI and First American. The Safari Club and its financial arm the BCCI were fully in place –even within USA by 1982!
BRZEZINSKI’’s ISLAMIC MILITANT POLICY IMPLEMENTED IN PAKISTAN
In Pakistan on 5 July 1977 Pakistan’s socialist minded Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto – an advocate of the policy of independence from US domination through a combination of ‘Islamic socialism’ and a pro-China foreign policy; as well as the architect of Muslim unity (held first Islamic summit at Lahore) and Pakistan’s nuclear program – was eliminated in a coup by General Zia –ul-Haq.
Zia had already proved his worth as an American ally in Jordan, where he massacred the PLA to save the Jordanian throne for the Americans.
Apparently the US stopped all economic and military aid to Pakistan as a result of the coup. But in actual fact aid continued flowing in a big way for the militants and their Islamisation process through the Safari club and the rouge CIA; and planning was soon expedited to draw in and kill the Russian bear in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan Daud suspected of having gone ‘soft’ on Pakistan was removed through a pro-Soviet coup on April 1978.This served as the ideal start point for implementing Brzezinski’s policy. Aid to Pakistan was resumed .The CIA commenced beaming of radio propaganda into Afghanistan, and a program started for turning the Afghan Mujahideen into radical Wahabi Islamic fighters. Zia proved invaluable at this stage.
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