Clifford, Altman said to be near indictment Charges in N.Y. would deal with BCCI, paper says.

July 28, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau is expected to seek an indictment this week against Clark M. Clifford and his law partner, Robert A. Altman, on charges relating to allegations that they played a role in a multibillion-dollar bank fraud involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

The indictment would involve charges that they lied to banking regulators in the 1980s when they swore that BCCI did not wield secret control over First American Bankshares, Washington's biggest bank holding company.

Mr. Clifford, a highly respected Washington insider who was a close friend and trusted confidant of several Democratic presidents, was the chairman of First American, and BCCI was a Middle East-controlled banking giant that officials have accused of involvement in money-laundering, bribery and terrorism.

Law enforcement officials who disclosed the impending indictment did not give details of the exact charges.

The decision to indict Mr. Clifford and Mr. Altman was first reported in today's Washington Post.

The decision followed intense debate in the district attorney's office in recent weeks over whether to pursue an indictment of the men.

Some prosecutors in Mr. Morgenthau's office are understood to have argued that the case is largely circumstantial and that they lack a credible witness or compelling document that proves Mr. Clifford misled federal banking regulators and participated in a fraud that bilked depositors out of billions of dollars.

Carl Rauh, a lawyer for Mr. Clifford and Mr. Altman, would make no comment on the indictment,

In an interview earlier this month, however, Robert S. Bennett, another lawyer for the two men, said that both Mr. Morgenthau and the U.S. Justice Department had indicated they were about to make a decision on whether to charge his clients.

Federal and state prosecutors would not comment on the indictments.

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