Abedi, Abu Dhabi, Abu Nidal, Aga Hasan Abedi, BCCI, BCCI China, Bert Lance, Carter Center, CDC, China, China weapons BCCI, CIA, debt, Deng Xiaoping, First American, Global 2000, Jimmy Carter, Noriega, organized crime, Pakistan, Panama, Peanut farm, Plains Georgia, Saudi Arabia, Sheik Zayed, terrorism, Zhao Ziyang
The Carter Center doesn’t hide the connection to Abedi and BCCI. Their 2019 report says: “The Carter Center and the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum were built in large measure thanks to the early leadership and financial support of the Carter Center founders.” The first one listed is “Agha Hasan Abedi” (“PEACE HEALTH HOPE” Annual Report 2019, Carter Center, https://archive.is/Ysbhg )
From the 1992 US Congressional Report on BCCI:
Former President Carter has enormous respect and admiration throughout the world, but particularly in the Third World where he focused much of human rights policy while he was President. The President’s focus on “Third World” issues, combined with BCCI’s need for rapid worldwide expansion led the bank, and its president, Aga Hasan Abedi, to court President Carter after he left office.
BCCI, which styled itself as a “Third World”, bank successfully exploited the President’s reputation and access by providing large amounts of funding to the his charitable organizations. In turn, the President became an unwitting pawn of BCCI, failing to acknowledge, even when it became obvious, that the bank was a criminal institution.
The President and Saudi Front Men
There is nothing to suggest that Jimmy Carter was even aware of BCCI or Aga Hasan Abedi while he was President of the United States. However, the president would have known of at least two important BCCI front men, Kamal Adham and Gaith Pharaon. President Carter undoubtedly met Kamal Adham in the negotiations over the Camp David Accords as Adham, the chief of Saudi intelligence, acted as an important liaison for Anwar Sadat. This is discussed in more detail in the chapter on BCCI’s contacts with the CIA and foreign intelligence.
President Carter would have known of Gaith Pharaon because Pharaon bought the National Bank of Georgia where the President’s good friend Bert Lance had been chairman and where the President had business loans.
According to a 1980 Jack Anderson story, Senator Orrin Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, investigated the Carter loans at NBG.
In his story Anderson quotes from a confidential, investigative memorandum to Senator Hatch:
The assumption in financial circles is that Pharaon acted for the Saudi royal family in purchasing the national bank of Georgia. The bank’s biggest borrower just happened to be Jimmy Carter. Thus the President of the United States found himself to be deeply in hock to a Saudi Arabian financier with close ties to the Saudi royal family.(47)
The memorandum to Senator Hatch continues:
[T]he bank’s confidential files contained embarrassing information about the president’s financial affairs. The files revealed that the Carter peanut business wrote $3 million in overdrafts and unprocessed checks to repay peanut commodity loans during the 1975-1977 period.
While Carter was scrounging for money in his 1976 presidential campaign, the business borrowed $1.15 from the bank to buy peanuts, without a single peanut in bonded storage to secure the loan, in violation of the loan agreement. By September 1, 1977 , the business was insolvent to the tune of $410,000.
Of course, the Saudis remained discretely silent. The friendly Pharaon not only kept quiet about Carter’s irregularities, but renegotiated the loan to Carter’s advantage.
According to a memo in the bank files, the bank renegotiated the repayment terms. This resulted in a savings of $60,000 for the Carter family in 1987. The President owned 62% of the business and therefore was the largest beneficiary.(48)
The memorandum concludes:
The press and public have been conditioned by Watergate to expect a smoking gun — a taped conversation, a full confession by one of the conspirators or some other dramatic evidence… Perhaps the American people need to be reeducated about scandal.(49)
The Subcommittee has not been able to verify the accuracy of the information supplied by Senator Hatch’s investigator.
After the White House: Carter and Abedi
Since leaving the White House and the office of he Presidency in 1980, Jimmy Carter has devoted himself to several charities, including providing assistance to several organizations for fighting disease in the Third World. In this capacity the former President developed a friendship and working relationship with the founder and President of BCCI, Aga Hasan Abedi.
President Carter was introduced to Abedi in 1982 by Bert Lance who brought the banker to Plains, Georgia . Lance remembers, “There was an immediate relationship that developed between the two of them. You could sense it as they talked there in the living room of the Carter residence.”(50)
According to Carter, Abedi approached him to undertake charity work on the third world:
The foundation or the bank, I never did know which, had a massive program in the third world called South. They published a monthly magazine that had major conferences in different cities around — in the developing nations. Mr. Abedi, when he came to see me, said that they were just holding conferences, they were issuing publications, they were doing scholarly work, but they’d never actually planted a seek, or immunized a child or did anything of a specific nature. And he knew that our relationship with the Center for Disease Control let us have access to health care programs, and we were already embarked on those. So his relationship with us was one of “I want to do something practical to help people who are suffering, and we will help you.”(51)
During the 1980’s Carter and Abedi met over a dozen times and established a very warm, personal relationship. In 1983, for instance, when Carter and former President Ford held a joint symposium on conflict resolution at Emory University, Mr. Abedi was in attendance. (52) When Abedi suffered a heart attack in February 1988, Carter contacted heart specialist Norman Shumway who, at the former President’s request, flew to London to examine Abedi, and oversaw a heart transplant operation for the BCCI president. Carter even visited Abedi during his hospitalization and was quoted as calling Mr. Abedi “one of the most unusual men I have met.”(53)
Carter’s Travels With Abedi
The President travelled several thousand miles together with Abedi on the BCCI corporate jet and they visited at least seven countries together. Abedi has stated publicly that he has been “to every country…All the top politicians and heads of state were my friends, Jimmy Carter, James Callahan, I knew them all.”(54) Callahan, the former British Prime Minister, has claimed that Carter introduced him to Abedi in 1981 at a charity dinner for the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust in London.(55)
In October 1986 the Carter Center opened in Atlanta. The center was created to study third world issues among the guests was Abedi, who had contributed over $500,000 to the center.(56) Moreover, Abedi and BCCI donated $8 million Carter’s Global 2,000 project, helping to fund programs in Asia and Africa.
Abedi was appointed the co-chairman of Global 2,000.
Less than one month after the Carter Center opened, the former President travelled with Abedi to Pakistan and to Bangladesh to sign agreements with government officials starting Global 2,000 health care programs in those countries. According to a Global 2,000 statement at the time, the programs sponsored by Carter focused on control of polio, measles, tetanus and diarrheal diseases.(57) BCCI either had, or was to develop corrupt relationships with several of the countries visited by Carter and Abedi, including Bangladesh and Suriname. In 1986 Carter also travelled to the United Arab Emirates, again accompanied by Abedi, for a three day visit during which time he met Sheik Zayed.(58)
In 1987, they met in Bangkok with the King of Thailand before flying on to Hong Kong and back to China.(59) In Beijing they attended a state dinner with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping where they shared a toast with Premier Zhao Ziyang. President Carter has acknowledged that his travels with Abedi helped the BCCI president in his business:
[I] don’t think there’s any doubt that when a former President of the United States goes to a country and has anybody in his entourage, that person has some advantage to be derived.(60)
Indeed, the countries to which President Carter travelled with Abedi became important banking centers for BCCI. In China, for instance, BCCI opened the first foreign branch and reportedly conducted weapons transactions involving the Chinese government.
What the US Government Didn’t Tell Carter
By 1986, of course, several US government agencies, including the Central intelligence Agency, the Justice Department and the Treasury were aware of BCCI’s criminal connections. The CIA, for instance, knew that BCCI had secretly — and illegally — acquired First American Bankshares, Washington D.C.’s largest financial institution. The State Department knew that the terrorist Abu Nidal was using the bank to finance his operations in Europe. And the Customs Agency was working with the US Attorney’s office in Tampa in Operation C-Chase, an undercover sting operation designed to expose drug money laundering in South Florida, which ultimately targeted BCCI.
During this entire period, President Carter was never briefed by any agency of the US government concerning BCCI.
This seems all the more extraordinary given that during several of his trips with Abedi the State Department asked the former President to raise particular issues with the governments of those countries.(61) However, the former President has said that neither did he ever ask for a briefing, nor did he ever feel the need to request one. Carter has said that he does not feel either “betrayed or deceived”.
According to the former President he did not become concerned about his association with the bank until the revelations that BCCI had been General Noriega’s banker. At that point, the President stated:
[W]e were quite concerned , but the public news media reports — I believe including statements from the Justice Department — was that this was a problem that was apparently confined to the one bank operation in Panama dealing with Noriega. We had no information that it was broader.(62)
In point of fact, the indictment in Tampa charged BCCI with having a “corporate policy” of soliciting narcotics proceeds which clearly suggests that knowledge of BCCI’s criminal activity was broader than President Carter has suggested was publicly available.
Carter’s Other BCCI-related Benefactors
In 1987 President Carter invited BCCI’s most famous Georgia resident, Gaith Pharaon to have lunch at the Carter center. According to published reports, Pharaon brought David Paul, the President of Centrust with him.(63) Although Pharaon never contributed any funds to President Carter’s charities, Centrust made a corporate contribution of $100,000, which arrived with a note instructing Carter fundraisers to “credit it to Gaith Pharaon.”(64)
In 1991 after the Federal Reserve issued a cease and desist order concerning BCCI’s ownership of First American, the President began to disassociate himself from Abedi and the bank. On April 15, 1991 President Carter said:
We have, at the Carter Center, about 20,000 contributors to our programs, and we appreciate very much what BCCI did at the beginning to get this project started. But now, one of our major contributors is Sheik Zayed, in Abu Dhabi.(65)
Sheik Zayed, of course, was a major shareholder in BCCI from its inception and at the time that President Carter made his remarks, actually controlled the bank.
According to the Atlanta Constitution, President Carter was aware of this: [W]hen BCCI changed owners and stopped payments on its Global 2,000 commitments, Mr. Carter asked the new owner, the President of the United Arab Emirates, to pay the $2.5 million balance due.”(66)
Carter Aide Used BCCI To Defraud Former President
On August 26, 1992, George G. Schira, the first executive director of the Carter Presidential Center, was indicted on charges that he impersonated former President Jimmy Carter and defrauded the center and one of its financial contributors out of $650,000.(67)
In committing this fraud on the former President, Schira used BCCI to receive some $650,000 from a shipping magnate through impersonating President Carter and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, and calling on the magnate for help.
The funds were first transferred to BCCI in London, and then to BCCI’s secretly owned U.S. subsidiary, the First American Bank of Georgia, and to BCCI’s secretly owned Swiss subsidiary, the Banque de Commerce et Placements.
The Relationship Between Jimmy Carter and BCCI
President Carter was used by BCCI to enhance its credibility around the world and particularly in developing countries. President Carter travelled to a number of these countries with BCCI’s president, Abedi, increasing Abedi’s status and helping Abedi gain access and entry to political leaders from those countries. At the same time, the former President became beholden to the bank for its generous contributions to his charities.
While President Carter did not show sufficient interest in establishing the bona fides of the bank, the CIA, which had substantial negative information on BCCI, failed to provide him with that information.
When a President of the United States becomes a private citizen, it is obviously his choice with whom he associates. Nevertheless, former Presidents are afforded physical protection, and should be afforded, to the extent possible, protection of their reputation.
As a result of his own lack of diligence in seeking information on BCCI’s poor reputation, and the CIA’s lack of diligence in telling President Carter what they knew, President Carter became closely associated for a decade with a bank that constituted organized crime. This outcome was not in the interests of the United States”. (Pages 466-471) https://fas.org/irp/congress/1992_rpt/bcci/16ga.htm
“In 1990, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch presented an impassioned defense of the bank in a speech on the Senate floor. He and his aide, Michael Pillsbury, were involved in efforts to counter the negative publicity that surrounded the bank, and Hatch solicited the bank to approve a $10 million loan to a close friend, Monzer Hourani.” (Baquet, Dean; Gerth (26 August 1992). “Lawmaker’s Defense of B.C.C.I. Went Beyond Speech in Senate”. The New York Times)
“Mr. Hatch’s motivation for helping the bank was not clear. But at least three of his friends stood to benefit if B.C.C.I. could remain a going concern in the United States: Mr. Hammoud, a large shareholder in B.C.C.I.; Robert Altman, one of the bank’s chief lawyers, and Mr. Hourani, the business associate and campaign contributor who was trying to get a loan.” See: Baquet, Dean; Gerth (26 August 1992). “Lawmaker’s Defense of B.C.C.I. Went Beyond Speech in Senate“. The New York Times https://web.archive.org/web/20150526064706/https://www.nytimes.com/1992/08/26/business/lawmaker-s-defense-of-bcci-went-beyond-speech-in-senate.html
They don’t even try to hide the connection with BCCI. From their 2019 report:
“The Carter Center and the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum were built in large measure thanks to the early leadership and financial support of the Carter Center founders.
Agha Hasan Abedi Senator Hajime Akiyama Ivan Allen III Dwayne O. Andreas Arthur and Diana Blank Richard C. Blum W. Michael Blumenthal Edgar M. Bronfman Sr. James C. and Connie Calaway Mr. and Mrs. Michael C. Carlos Anne Cox Chambers Warren Christopher Dominique de Menil Charles W. Duncan Jr. His Majesty King Fahd of Saudi Arabia J. B. Fuqua Roberto C. Goizueta Walter and Elise Haas
Armand Hammer Sidney Harman and Jane Frank Harman, Esq. Governor and Mrs. W. Averell Harriman Jess Hay Christopher B. and Patricia K. Hemmeter Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Mathilde and Arthur Krim George P. Livanos Fraydun Manocherian G. William Miller Guy W. Millner George P. and Cynthia Mitchell Set Charles Momjian David Packard George and Thelma Paraskevaides
Allen E. Paulson Lamar and Frances Plunkett John and Betty Pope James D. Robinson III Hasib J. Sabbagh Deen Day Sanders Ryoichi Sasakawa Walter H. and Phyllis J. Shorenstein Richard R. Swann R. E. “Ted” Turner Robert and Ann Utley Edie and Lew Wasserman Thomas J. Watson Jr. Milton A. Wolf Robert W. Woodruff Tadao Yoshida Erwin E. Zaban” from the “PEACE HEALTH HOPE”
Annual Report 2019, Carter Center, https://archive.is/Ysbhg