[First I should say hello-- this is my first post on the blog. From time to time I hope to post stories about the Bush crime family and their many sordid connections. I begin here.]
Last July, the Washington Post ran a story titled Riggs Bank Hid Assets of Pinochet, describing how this Washington DC-based bank had gone to great lengths to hide millions of dollars of Pinochet's money. The bank referred to Pinochet as "a retired professional" in its internal files, and resisted giving his name when asked about his accounts by government regulators, although there are laws demanding that financial transactions involving "politically exposed" individuals be reported to the government. Riggs also helped Pinochet stash money in offshore accounts under the guise of a shell corporation. In the same article, we read:
The [Senate] report also says the top federal bank examiner in charge of supervising the District's largest bank kept details about Riggs's relationship with Pinochet out of the Riggs case file. That happened a few months before the examiner retired from the government and joined Riggs as a senior executive.
Okay, so what is this Riggs Bank?
Riggs Bank is headed by longtime Bush family friend Joe Allbritton, employs President Bush's uncle Jonathan as a top executive, and other executives have been financial donors to the Bush campaign. The bank is at the center of a controversy, according to the Wall Street Journal, for failing to monitor "tens of millions of dollars in cash withdrawals from accounts related to the Saudi Arabian and Equatorial Guinean embassy," including "suspicious incidents involving dozens of sequentially numbered cashier's checks and international drafts written by Saudi officials, including Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan." Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) "said members of the bank's board of directors should be held to account for failing to exercise their watchdog role over Riggs's operations" and said refusal to follow money laundering laws "allows terrorists to funnel their blood money through the system."
The Center for American Progress also reports that Riggs Bank head Joe Allbritton donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Bush Sr Presidential Library, and that Jonathan Bush came on board when Riggs agreed to pay him $5.5 million to purchase his investment firm. Riggs, then, is closely tied to the Bush crime family.
As for the Saudi angle, Newsweek reported in 2002 that money had traveled from a Riggs bank account to a man named Omar Al Bayoumi, who then handed the money over to two of the 911 hijackers, then living in San Diego:
Sources familiar with the evidence say the payments--amounting to about $3,500 a month--came from an account at Washington's Riggs Bank in the name of Princess Haifa Al-Faisal, the wife of Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and the daughter of the late Saudi King Faisal.
. . .
The leaders of a joint House-Senate Intelligence Committees investigation have vigorously pushed for the release of a classified report that lays out the evidence of the Saudi money flow. But Bush administration officials, led by Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, have adamantly refused to declassify the evidence upon which the report is based.
Remember those pages that were redacted from the 9/11 commission report because they involved Saudi Arabia? Looks like the Bushes weren't just protecting Bandar Bush and their other Saudi friends; they were protecting their own butts too.
Bush has promised a full investigation into the Riggs-Pinochet links. This is silly. If he really wanted to get to the bottom of it he could ask his uncle or his good friend Joe:
The [Riggs company] plane was also used to travel to South America, especially to Chile, where Riggs maintained large deposit and loan relationships with that country's military. Company records show it was also used twice to transport Allbritton to Santiago, Chile. According to sources, Allbritton made two business trips to Santiago that included visits to former dictator Augusto Pinochet [link].
We all know Bush isn't serious about investigating Riggs' relationship with Pinochet, but even if he were, it wouldn't be easy, because the CIA is involved. According to an article by WSJ reporter Glenn R. Simpson (by way of Slate), Riggs Bank has a "special relationship" with the CIA:
The relationship with the CIA could prove problematic because it could cast a different light on the bank's dealings with two U.S. foreign-policy allies, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to Washington.
Given the intelligence connections to Riggs, prosecutors could be faced with proving that the bank's failure to disclose financial activity by the foreign officials wasn't implicitly authorized by parts of the U.S. government.
Back in the mid-70's when Bush Sr headed the CIA, the Agency had Pinochet's intelligence chief on its payroll. Maybe that era marked the beginning of that "special relationship" between the Agency and Riggs Bank, and the start of Riggs' "large deposit and loan relationships" with Chile's military.
WSJ reporter Simpson also wrote that top Riggs executives are being furnished with US government security clearances. They're obviously preparing to use the old "sorry, that's classified" saw to thwart investigation. I don't expect anything much will happen to Riggs Bank, in the end.
Not while it enjoys the protection of the Family.