30 August 2007

It is Four Degrees of Monzer al-Kassar time!

Ahhh... where would life be without a little bit of frivolity?

Today's frivolity begins in the semi-headlines of the campaign contributions to Hillary Rodham Clinton by Mr. Norman Hsu. As the WSJ reports, a little house in the valley near San Francisco got put on Mr. Hsu's campaign contributions to the Clinton campaign. But the headlines never tell the story, to say the least... and the fun is buried just a bit further down.

Now, as I promised you the Four Degrees of Monzer al-Kassar game, here are the rules:

1) Take someone in the headlines, in this case Mr. Hsu.

2) Find the connections between him and the well connected Mr. Kassar - these connections may be: Individuals or Companies.

3) See how fast you can winnow the connectivity down so that you can get Mr. Kassar within 4 links of the individual in question. This uses the 'Friend of a Friend' (FOAF) concept.

Now I will, in actuality, leave the Clintons out of this, and check towards the next primary individual in this story, which is not the family owning the house. They appear to be absolutely out of the spotlight on this. No, lets chase down the next most likely individual as mentioned in this paragraph:

Lawrence Barcella, a Washington attorney representing Mr. Hsu, said in a separate email: "You are barking up the wrong tree. There is no factual support for this story and if Mr. Hsu's name was Smith or Jones, I don't believe it would be a story." He didn't elaborate.
And Mr. Lawrence Barcella is a key figure, and will be a good fast link out to one company in particular. Which would that be? Time for some history!

Way back in the 1980's there was this scandal going on, and Mr. Barcella would play a key role in it. He would not only be a lawyer for the company, but then, in one of those lovely twists of the rolodex, would then get to work with the man who got him the plea deal! How is THAT for connectivity?

Here is the extract of the Senate repoft on the BCCI scandal (thank you to FAS for keeping such records around!):
BCCI's Lawyers and Lobbyists

In hiring lawyers and lobbyists in the United States to help it deal with its problems, BCCI did not think small. BCCI's cadre of professional help in Washington, D.C. alone included, at various times a former Secretary of Defense (Clark Clifford), former Senators and Congressmen (John Culver and Michael Barnes), former federal prosecutors (Raymond Banoun, Lawrence Barcella and Lawrence Wechsler), and former Federal Reserve attorneys (Baldwin Tuttle and Jerry Hawke).

Still other prominent figures were recruited for BCCI's secretly-held American subsidiary, First American, such as former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Stuart Symington and former Republican Senator from Maryland Charles Mac Mathias, who each sat on First American's board of director.

Other firms consisting of important former officials -- such as Kissinger Associates, then home to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, current Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and current National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft -- were recruited by BCCI, but refused to accept BCCI's business following its indictment on drug money laundering charges.

The revolving door between government and the private sector made it possible for BCCI to retain former government officials with intimate knowledge of how the U.S. government operates to aid BCCI's agenda. Ironically, BCCI used these former officials against the agencies they once served as instruments of its violations of U.S. laws and its attempts to slow or stop investigations of its wrongdoing.

Much of the activity of BCCI's lawyers in the United States was normal representation, often extremely aggressive, but within the borders of the kind of work the firms involved did for other clients. At other times, however, lawyers for BCCI participated in decisions to hire private investigators to investigate the private lives of government investigators pursuing BCCI; sought to use "political chits" to shut down Congressional investigations of BCCI; threatened publications considering publishing articles about BCCI with libel suits; and refused to refer BCCI foreign branches to federal law enforcement when BCCI's own employees in the U.S. believed such referrals were legally required because of the degree of the branch's involvement in money laundering.

The most aggressive activity by BCC's lawyers and lobbyists took place at the beginning and at the end of BCCI's

Two periods of activity by BCCI's lawyers in the U.S. illustrate how BCCI accomplished illegal or improper objectives were:

** Assisting BCCI and its nominees in restructuring the takeover attempt of Financial General Bankshares after the initial attempt was stopped by the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), on the ground that BCCI had secretly colluded with other shareholders by purchasing 4.9% of the FGB stock each to evade securities laws requiring the reporting of their purchases at 5% or more. Among the key attorneys involved in the restructuring of the BCCI takeover were Clifford, Altman, and former Federal Reserve lawyer Baldwin Tuttle. (1978-1981)

** Structuring the purchase of National Bank of Georgia by First American from BCCI's nominee, Ghaith Pharoan. (1985-1986)

Response to Senate

Joint Defense Agreement
Ah, memories! Going from there right to:
Larry Barcella

Larry Barcella is a former Assistant US Attorney who gained national prominence for his successful prosecution of Edwin Wilson, the American convicted of selling secrets to Lybia. Barcella was brought onto the BCCI case shortly after the October 1988 indictment of BCCI in Tampa, Florida. Larry Wechsler, with whom Barcella had practiced law in the US Justice Department recruited him to coordinate the bank's defense.

Although the full extent of Barcella's activities on behalf of BCCI remains unknown, he did engage in the following:

-- In 1988 Barcella tried to persuade his firm's lead partner, former US Senator Paul Laxalt, meet with Swaleh Naqvi, BCCI's CEO, in London, and to engage in lobbying on behalf of the bank on Capitol Hill. The Subcommittee has been unable to determine what, if any, services Senator Laxalt performed on behalf of BCCI.

-- In 1989 and 1990 Barcella joined John Vardaman, a partner at Williams and Conolly and Robert Altman in warning Larry Gurwin, a freelance journalist writing an article about BCCI and First American Bank for Regardie's magazine, that it would be improper to write anything that linked the two institutions. Barcella has called Gurwin's allegations "absurd".(1)

- In early 1990, after BCCI pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in Tampa, Florida, several members of the US Congress criticized the plea bargain as to lenient on the bank. Documents obtained by the Subcommittee show that Barcella met with Senator Dennis Deconcini, one of the critics of the plea bargain, in an effort to persuade him that BCCI was not the corrupt institution that he and others had claimed.

Most recently, of course, Barcella has been hired by the House Foreign Affairs Committee to investigate the "October Surprise", the allegations surrounding a political deal for release of the US hostages held in Iran in 1980. On leave from the Justice Department to assist Barcella in his investigation is Greg Kehoe -- the Justice Department official with whom BCCI lawyers, including Barcella, negotiated the bank's plea agreement in Tampa.
Yes, going from representing BCCI to working with the guy that got you the plea agreement. Lovely how quickly these folks do things in DC, isn't it?

And from BCCI you go directly to Monzer al-Kassar, who used it as a way to launder money from his drug trade and arms deals. From the Globalsecurity.org document cache on BCCI:
4. BCCI's relationships with convicted Iraqi arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian, Syrian drug trafficker, terrorist, and arms trafficker Monzer Al-Kassar, and other major arms dealers. Sarkenalian was a principal seller of arms to Iraq. Monzer Al-Kassar has been implicated in terrorist bombings in connection with terrorist organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Other arms dealers, including some who provided machine guns and trained Medellin cartel death squads, also used BCCI. Tracing their assets through the bank would likely lead to important information concerning international terrorist and arms trafficker networks.

5. The use of BCCI by central figures in arms sales to Iran during the 1980's. The late Cyrus Hashemi, a key figure in allegations concerning an alleged deal involving the return of U.S. hostages from Iran in 1980, banked at BCCI London. His records have been withheld from disclosure to the Subcommittee by a British judge. Their release might aid in reaching judgments concerning Hashemi's activities in 1980, with the CIA under President Carter and allegedly with William Casey.

6. BCCI's activities with the Central Bank of Syria and with the Foreign Trade Mission of the Soviet Union in London. BCCI was used by both the Syrian and Soviet governments in the period in which each was involved in supporting activities hostile to the United States. Obtaining the records of those financial transactions would be critical to understanding what the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, Chernenko, and Andropov was doing in the West; and might document the nature and extent of Syria's support for international terrorism.
Hey, real lucky that Mr. Barcella WORKED for the bank involved in the Arms for Hostages deal, isn't it?

Really, I am quite sure Mr. Hsu had absolutely *no* idea of what he was doing and that it was *all* just a minor transcription error while bundling boodles of checks together! Too bad BCCI isn't around any more to help on that... perhaps Mr. Barcella can help him there....

There you go: Hsu to Barcella to BCCI to Kassar. That is only three degrees, so it is better luck next time in the connected world of the rich and infamous.

No comments: