Pair said to profit from BCCI knowledge Clifford, Altman are accused of "insider games."

September 11, 1991|By ASSOCIAATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTTON (AP) -- Clark Clifford and Robert Altman used their knowledge of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International to profit in an "insider game" from stock deals and legal fees, the chairman of the House Banking Committee said today.

Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, was speaking at a hearing on BCCI and its alleged illegal takeover of First American Bankshares Inc.

"As the top officials in First American and as legal counsel for the bank, the Clifford-Altman team was in a unique position to know about BCCI's involvement," Gonzalez said.

Clifford and Altman sat in the hearing room as Gonzalez read hisopening statement. They were scheduled to testify later in the day.

Referring to a deal in which Clifford and Altman allegedly bought stock with loans from BCCI and netted $9.8 million, Gonzalez said, "These lucrative stock transactions were not the only insider game that profited these gentlemen. As soon as they assumed the executive chairs at . . . First American, legal business started flowing from the bank to their Washington law firm."

Gonzalez said the banking committee is still trying to determine the exact amount of the legal fees, but he noted they may have exceeded the pair's profit from the stock deal. The banking committee is trying to find out what, if anything, Clifford and Altman, his law partner, knew about BCCI's relationship with First American.

The lawmakers want to know whether Clifford and Altman misled federal regulators when they said in 1981 that BCCI wouldn't have control of First American, a Washington-based bank holding company.

BCCI -- founded by Pakistanis, owned by Persian Gulf investors and based in Luxembourg -- is enmeshed in a mammoth banking scandal involving alleged massive fraud, laundering of drug money and support of terrorists.

Clifford, 84, a former defense secretary and adviser to Democratic presidents, resigned abruptly last month as chairman of First American. Altman, his 44-year-old protege, stepped down as its president.

Rep. Chalmers P. Wylie of Ohio, the Banking Committee's ranking Republican, said documents obtained by the panel show that Clifford had extensive knowledge of BCCI's interest in acquiring First American's predecessor.

A report released by Wylie late Tuesday cited a 10-year-old telex message from a BCCI executive to the chief operating officer concerning BCCI's interest in the purchase.

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