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Allegations Regarding Vince Foster, the NSA, and Banking Transactions Spying, Part XXIX

by J. Orlin Grabbe

1. The difference between Chris Ruddy and Mike Wallace is that Chris Ruddy is a hard-working reporter who wants to get at the facts, while Mike Wallace is a geriatric hatchet-man who apparently didn't recall that Ft. Marcy Park had been closed for weeks in an on-going investigation into the death of Vince Foster.

2. CBS implied the carpet fibers on Foster's clothes were the result of Foster's new carpet. Are we to also infer that the semen stains were the result of Foster's new girlfriend?

3. Meanwhile there is another conspiracy theory going around: Critics of the Clinton administration are inspired by Satan. Perhaps we'll have a national witch-hunt with Mike Wallace playing the role of Grand Inquisitor.

4. One of the functions served by the largely irrelevant debates regarding the evidential discrepancies at Ft. Marcy Park is to prevent the asking of questions with respect to the larger picture; namely, What was Vince Foster involved in that led to his death? Who killed him? and Why? No, it is much, much safer that we spend countless days focused on the burning issue of whether Vince Foster was left- or right-handed.

5. One of these omitted larger questions concerns the relationship of Vince Foster to Clinton's financial backer Jackson Stephens, and to the latter's role in money-laundering and drugs-for-arms deals. Jackson Stephens is the Little Rock billionaire who has held substantial interest in Worthen National Bank as well as in Stephens Inc., one of the largest privately owned investment banks outside Wall Street. Worthen gave the Clinton campaign a $3.5 million dollar line of credit.

6. Crucial parts of the Arkansas laundry were created when Stephens married his political connections in Panama and Washington to his Little Rock financial institutions and his Little Rock software firm Systematics.

7. It began when Stephens helped bring BCCI (the Bank of Credit and Commerce International) to America. The details of this story are important, because it represents the beginnings of a cozy relationship between Jackson Stephens, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Webster Hubbell, Bert Lance, Systematics, Vince Foster, and BCCI.

Stephens, a 1946 Naval Academy graduate, had joined with William Middendorf II (Secretary of the Navy under Nixon and Ford) in April 1977 to acquire Financial General, a Washington D.C.-based bank with headquarters a block from the White House.

"Some people might think it is important to know about the outstanding loans and balances of Government officials," a Washington banking executive noted at the time.

Stephens then sent salesmen from Systematics to talk to Middendorf about providing banking software for Financial General. When these salesmen were firmly rejected, Stephens decided to wrest control of the bank from Middendorf. To do so he solicited the help of Bert Lance, Jimmy Carter's Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Lance knew the executives at Financial General, because they had sold him controlling interest in the National Bank of Georgia in 1975.

Stephens himself had met Lance through President Carter, his old roommate from Naval Academy days.

In November 1977, Stephens introduced Lance to BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi, and Abedi in turn introduced Lance to investor Gaith Pharaon. Pharaon, acting on behalf of Abedi, proceeded to acquire the stock of Bert Lance's National Bank of Georgia, a deal consummated on January 5, 1978, a day after Lance's $3.4 million loan from the First National Bank of Chicago was repaid by BCCI London.

Lance then joined with Jackson Stephens to help BCCI take over Financial General. A Financial General lawsuit filed on February 17 named "Bert Lance, Bank of Credit & Commerce International, Agha Hasan Abedi, Eugene J. Metzger, Jackson Stephens, Stephens Inc., Systematics Inc. and John Does numbers 1 through 25."

8. In that law-suit, Systematics was represented by C.J. Giroir, Webster Hubbell, and Hillary Rodham Clinton of the Rose Law Firm. Vince Foster would later tell the American Lawyer that Hillary Clinton did all the intellectual property work for Systematics.

Part of this "intellectual property" would involve a banking- transaction software system based on the stolen PROMIS software. A telecommunications back-door to the PROMIS software was introduced by Michael Riconosciuto, now in prison, but then Director of Research for a Wackenhut Corp.-Cabazon Indian Reservation joint venture. In an affidavit, Riconosciuto says the copy of the PROMIS software he received was given to Wackenhut by Justice Dept. official Peter Videnieks. Earl Brian, acting through Wackenhut, then gave it to Riconosciuto.

Earl Brian, who later sold the same software to Iraq using the arms dealer Carlos Cardoen as an intermediary, will undoubtedly have some- thing to say about all this, as he has been indicted in California for fraudulent lease transactions undertaken while he was head of Financial News Network, United Press International, and Infotechnology.

9. In the same Financial General lawsuit, Bert Lance's attorney was Robert Altman, who later became President of the bank when it was finally taken over. Altman's mentor Clark Clifford (the former Defense Secretary under Lyndon Johnson) who also acted as BCCI's attorney became the bank's Chairman.

10. The Financial General takeover attempt did not succeed right away. In another lawsuit, one filed March 18, 1978, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Bert Lance with violations of federal security laws, and BCCI's application to purchase Financial General Bankshares was denied.

Abedi then formed a new takeover vehicle called Credit and Commerce American Holdings (CCAH), based in the Netherlands Antilles. The largest investor in CCAH was Kamal Adham (the former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence), who put up $13 million of his own money On October 19, 1978, CCAH filed for approval with the Federal Reserve to purchase Financial General. This application was dismissed on February 16, 1979, due to opposition from Financial General's Maryland subsidiary, but a new application was submitted later.

The Federal Reserve finally approved the purchase in on April 19, 1982, and BCCI renamed the bank "First American" three months later. The head of Bank Supervision at the Federal Reserve when BCCI's purchase was approved was Jack Ryan, who later became head of the Resolution Trust Corporation, in which role he would deny Rep. Leach's requests for documents related to Madison Guaranty, the Whitewater thrift.

11. BCCI was the center of a global laundry and a conduit for transactions involving arms, drugs, and nuclear technology.

Firstly, BCCI had the motive. BCCI founder Abedi was committed to the development of an Islamic atomic bomb, even donating 500 million rupees for the creation of Pakistan's Gulam Ishaq Research Institute for nuclear development. (BCCI paid the lawyer for Dr. Abdul Qader Khan, head of Pakistan's nuclear program, who a Dutch court convicted in 1983 of stealing the blueprints for a uranium enrichment factory. Three Pakistanis indicted in Houston in 1984 had tried to buy nuclear triggers using BCCI gold. A Pakistani-born Canadian, indicted in Philadelphia in 1987 for conspiracy to export restricted specialty steel and metal to enhance nuclear explosions, paid for the materials through BCCI Toronto. Etc.)

Secondly, BCCI had the right political connections. BCCI-founder Abedi got Jimmy Carter to publicize BCCI to heads of state around the world. Abedi made his personal 727 jet available to Carter, and accompanied the former President to Thailand, Tibet, Hong Kong, and the Soviet Union, among other places. Carter introduced Abedi to many heads of state, from Deng Xiaoping in China to James Callahan in the U.K. Abedi donated a half million dollars to establish the Carter presidential library, and a public policy institute at Emory university.

Thirdly, BCCI had the right intelligence connections. Kamal Adham, who became the lead frontman in BCCI's takeover of First American, had also been the CIA's principal liaison for the entire Middle East from the mid- 1960's through 1979. The CIA utilized BCCI for its own payments. For example, Manuel Noriega, who was recruited by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in 1959, who went on the CIA payroll in 1967, and who became head of Panamanian military intelligence in 1968, was paid through the Panamanian branch of BCCI. The CIA also used BCCI branches in Pakistan to launder payments to the Afghan rebels, and Pakistani officials used the same bank to launder heroin profits.

Fourthly, BCCI had the right U.S. financial connections. Jackson Stephens would later capitalize on the $100,000 donation he made to the 1988 campaign of George Bush (thereby becoming a member of Bush's "Team 100"), as well as his friendship with George Bush, Jr., to to get BCCI involved in funding a lucrative Harken Energy offshore project in Bahrain. The money apparently came through the Swiss BCCI subsidiary.

12. Stephens' principal motive in bringing BCCI to America was apparently to connect up his own financial institutions to the global laundry--not only First American, but those in Little Rock also. To avoid the type of SEC scrutiny involved in the Financial General takeover, Webster Hubbell, who had represented Stephens' software company Systematics, was employed to draw up the charter for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA). The structure for the laundry was then in place.

One form of Stephens' laundry worked through front companies set up by bond broker Don Lasater. These companies would deposit cash in banks such as Stephens' Worthen Bank, which would not fill out reporting forms. In return for this service, the companies would be obligated to buy bonds issued by the ADFA, and underwritten by Stephens' investment bank Stephens Inc. Stephens would thus be compensated for the laundering service in the form of an investment banking fee.

The money from the bond issue, meanwhile, would go back to the same front companies. That is, in effect the companies bought their own bonds and paid Stephens a fee for the service.

The participation of the ADFA, a state government institution, eliminated SEC scrutiny. ADFA formally issued and "guaranteed" the bonds, and thus collected a fee in the process. Some of these fees were translated into "loans" to the political friends of the Governor of Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton, now President of the United States.

At other times ADFA was itself the core of the laundry. At the end of December 1988, for example, the ADFA deposited $50 million in Fuji Bank in the Cayman Islands. Fuji Bank subsequently purchased the industrial development loan of POM, Inc., a parking meter and arms production company owned by Seth Ward, Webster Hubbell's father-in-law. Hubbell was also POM's corporate attorney.

13. Jackson Stephens had political connections in Panama, which was then becoming the banking center for the Colombian cocaine business. One of these connections was Gabriel Lewis, the Panamanian Ambassador to Washington who had negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty. Another was Manuel Noriega, the head of G-2 (Panamanian military intelligence) who made a deal with the Medellin cocaine cartel.

Stephens was the banker for Gabriel Lewis, who had gotten very rich after he created corrugated banana boxes. Gabriel Lewis' seaside home on Contadora Island, which Lewis then owned, was the site where Canal negotiator Ellsworth Bunker was told in August 1974 that Panama would re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. Later the exiled Shah of Iran stayed at Lewis' home from December 1979 to March 1980, while Manuel Noriega provided for the Shah's security. (In his book Crisis, Hamilton Jordan tells how he tried to use Gabriel Lewis to help establish contact with the Iranians in the Iran-hostage crisis.)

Contadora Island would later become a conduit for drug shipments. One of Noriega's pilots, Cesar Rodriquez, became manager of Contadora Island's airline, and would appear at his club atop the Bank of Boston building with suitcases full of $100 bills. Rodriquez told marijuana smuggler Steven Michael Kalish, who wanted to bring $100 million in cash to Panama (whose currency is the U.S. dollar), to use the services of the Panamanian branch of BCCI, which handled both Rodriquez's and Noriega's accounts.

In 1982 Noriega had helped negotiate a truce between the Castro- backed M-19 in Columbia and the beginnings of the Medellin cartel. In subsequent coke shipments through Panama, another Noriega pilot Floyd Carlton Caceres would receive $400 per kilo, while Noriega would receive $100,000 to $200,000 per flight. But Noriega kept raising the transshipment price charged to the cartel under Pablo Escobar.

The feud escalated until in May 1984, Noriega let Escobar's new cocaine processing plant at Darien be destroyed (which also won him points with the Americans). Noriega, hiding out in Paris, then sent his political strategist Jose Blandon to talk to Castro, who mediated a settlement between Medellin and Noriega.

Subsequently Noriega closed a Panamanian bank for money laundering, because it was owned by a member of the Cali cartel--a Medellin competitor. Noriega also helped out the Medellin cartel by arresting or informing on Cali drug dealers to the DEA (whom effectively served as Noriega's private enforcer). The DEA publicly praised Noriega for helping shut down the Roberto Suarez Bolivian operation--another Medellin competitor.

14. The drug-arms-money laundering connection between Panama and Arkansas was apparently first cemented in the "Iran"-Contra dealings. Both Panama and Arkansas were used by Oliver North as transshipment points for money and arms to the Contras.

(The word "Iran" is in quotes since it was Iraq, not Iran, that the U.S. was mostly dealing with. Even Ollie North said "the coverup is itself a coverup", because the focus of the later Walsh investigation into the minor dealings with Iran obscured the major dealings with Iraq. The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 caused great intelligence concern after the Reagan administration took office, because Iraq appeared in danger of losing the war. It became U.S. policy to assist Iraq. Those who sold arms and also nuclear technology to Iraq found the business very lucrative, and would continue the process after U.S. official policy changed.)

By 1983, two years after the death of Omar Torrijos, Manuel Noriega had outmaneuvered three higher ranking Colonels to became head of the National Guard, which he renamed the Panamanian Defense Forces at the suggestion of Israeli Michael Harari. Hararai, formerly high in the Mossad, had been demoted for assassinating the wrong "terrorist". He showed up in Panama and grew close to Torrijos by mediating between him and his Jewish father-in-law. Harari assisted Noreiga's G-2 in developing sophisticated electronic surveillance techniques. After Noriega's older brother and closest advisor Luis Carlos died in early 1984, Noriega began to call Harari his "mentor".

Harari's participation ensured that Israel got a piece of Ollie North's action. By December 1983 the Israelis had begun using a Panamanian CIA front company, IFMA Management Company, to funnel support to the Contras. Harari would later boast of his friendship with Donald Gregg, George Bush's national security advisor.

In October 1984 the Boland amendment was extended to say no U.S. intelligence organization could spend money to support the Contras. Bill Casey and Oliver North decided the White House was exempt, and North through Richard Secord set up a secret Contra account in Credit Suisse, Geneva, called Lake Resources. Similarly, Noriega's Geneva lawyer and business associate, Juan Bautista Castillero, set up a Contra aid front company called Udall Research Company. (Noriega and his political advisor Jose Blandon advised North that the Nicaraguan "Southern Front" are really "cafe guerillas", more interested in doing business and sleeping with prostitutes than in fighting, but North ignored their advice.)

15. According to what Money Laundering Bulletin calls "The Greatest Story Never Told", an "archive of more than 2000 documents. . . allege that western Arkansas was a centre of international drug smuggling in the early 1980s--perhaps even the headquarters of the biggest drug trafficking operation of all time" (March 1995).

The degree of Bill Clinton's knowledge of, and participation in, this operation is not always clear. Certainly CIA secrecy is not in itself sufficient to defend a supposed lack of knowledge on Clinton's part. Clinton was recruited into the CIA by Cord Meyer while Clinton was a student in London. This itself gave him a somewhat symbiotic relationship with George Bush, both while Bush was CIA director and later while Bush was Vice President.

According to R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., (in the October 1995 American Spectator), Arkansas state trooper L.D. Brown, after taking a return flight with Barry Seal carrying cocaine and money from Central America to Mena, reported the details to Governor Clinton, who said, "That's Lasater's deal, that's Lasater's deal, and your buddy [or "hero"] Bush knows about it."

One CIA source who was watching Clinton closely in the early 80's is ambiguous as to how much Bill Clinton knew about the details of the Mena operation, but is somewhat more certain as to Hillary's knowledge (although Hillary was not a CIA agent, she had reliable information through the Rose Law Firm, and her own informants among the State Police), and confirms that Vince Foster was helping launder money at the time. He denies, however, that Foster was then involved in espionage. "That came later," he says.

16. Another thing that came later was the BCCI-financed arming of Iraq. What began as a simple U.S. strategy to maintain a balance of power between Iran and Iraq, turned into a vast money-making enterprise involving the sale of U.S. nuclear technology and nuclear secrets to both Iraq and Israel. In particular, the participation of Jackson Stephens and Hillary Clinton in the Pittsburgh-based nuclear network, along with the entrepreneurial (and deadly) activities of the Wackenhut Corporation, would eventually result in the untimely death of Vince Foster.

[to be continued]