It’s just too rich that federal officials, citing Tom Ridge‘s “terror” alert last Sunday, are scrambling to protect the Treasury Department in D.C. from outside attack.
What about inside jobs? The national storehouse of simoleons, constantly being legally looted by the ruling class, was actuallly illegally looted not so many years ago by a Republican Secretary of the Treasury. This now dead crook who took the dead presidents used the infamous Riggs National Bank—owned at the time and until a few weeks ago by Bush family sugar daddy Joe Allbritton—in his scheme.
But he was foiled in 1987 by a fresh-faced U.S. Attorney named Rudy Giuliani.
The ex-Cabinet member, Robert B. Anderson, pleaded guilty that year to evading federal income taxes and to operating an unregistered offshore bank, which also did business on Wall Street. The offshore bank lost $4 million in depositors’ money. Anderson’s own account at Riggs Bank was hiding such loot as payments he got as a lobbyist for the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who’s a longtime Capitol Hill favorite.
Anderson was a former Defense Department official who ran the U.S. Treasury from 1957 to 1961 and became one of Ike‘s top advisers. He evaded taxes on about $127,500 of income during 1984 by using a series of bank fraud schemes.
“We almost couldn’t believe it,” a young Giuliani was quoted as saying in 1987. “We were shocked a Secretary of the Treasury of such high standing had failed to file his tax returns.”
That piece of history has fallen down the memory hole—even Google can’t find it. And if you look up this Cabinet crook’s bio on the Treasury Department site, there’s not a word of his fraudulent behavior. But the current official bio does describe him as “financially conservative” and adds, “He believed that the government could be run more efficiently by adopting the policies and practices of private business.”
Well, those “policies and practices of private business” have certainly been adopted. This spring, the long and tangled skein of schemes at Riggs Bank during GOP financier Allbritton’s ownership finally unraveled, and he had to give up control.
The purchase of J. Bush, an investment operation for the wealthy run by Dubya’s uncle Jonathan Bush, had helped make Riggs Bank prosperous. Jonathan Bush became a Riggs Bank bigshot, and he is, of course, a major fundraiser for Dubya. The bank has been famous for years as a primary ATM for D.C. pols and their campaigns.
At the same time, years of alleged money laundering for a host of pols and other schemers, including Augusto Pinochet, helped make the bank notorious. The bank was just fined $25 million in May for violating laws meant to deter money laundering. (See this dynamite report by Senate staffers under Michigan’s Carl Levin.)
The dangling thread that just this year doomed Allbritton’s control of the bank was its link to Teodoro Obiang, dictator of Equatorial Guinea. He stashed millions of no-questions-asked dollars he got from—who else—U.S. oil companies in good ol’ Joe Allbritton’s friendly downtown D.C. bank, according to Senate investigators and others. When that was publicized in Senate hearings, thanks in large part to Levin, the fabric of those expensive suits and ties inhabiting snooty Riggs Bank crumbled to dust.
As for Equatorial Guinea, well, people there are tortured by “stinging ants,” according to our own State Department. Let’s put that in context by quoting the entire sentence from the U.S. government’s 1998 report: “Police reportedly urinated on prisoners, kicked them in the ribs, sliced their ears with knives, and smeared oil over their naked bodies in order to attract stinging ants.”
The document continues, “According to credible reports, this torture was approved at the highest levels of the [Equatorial Guinea] Government and was directed by the chief of presidential security, Armengol Ondo Nguema, who is also President Obiang’s brother. Ondo Nguema allegedly taunted prisoners by describing the suffering that they were about to endure.”
Maybe you find it impossible to buy a house these days. But the bank helped Obiang himself buy a mansion in Maryland in 1999 for $2.6 million—in cash, according to this April 2004 story by Ken Silverstein in the L.A. Times. Documents uncovered by Silverstein also reveal that a Riggs official helped Ondo Nguema, who held a personal account at Riggs, buy a home in Virginia—and the official vouched for Ondo Nguema as a “valued customer.” Howdy, neighbor! Hey, the ants are pretty darn bad in Virginia, too, I tell you what.
They’re swarming in Los Angeles, also. Silverstein has been on this story—and on Kazakhstan’s murky oil bidness (see below in The Bush Beat)—like ants on an oil-soaked prisoner. His blockbuster from January 2003 is posted here by the Manhattan-based Global Policy Forum.
But there must be some sort of global epidemic of oil-drenched torture (accompanied by a high fever of chronic corruption), because organizations around the planet are investigating the links between oil companies, banks, and dictators. Take Global Witness, a London-based organization that was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, with Partnership Africa Canada, for their probe of “conflict diamonds.” Global Witness recently published a big ol’ 92-page report called Time for Transparency. In a vein similar to Silverstein’s stories, the Global Witness report says, “Major U.S. oil companies are paying revenues directly into an account under the [Equatorial Guinea] president’s control at Riggs Bank in downtown Washington, D.C. Riggs Bank has also managed the purchase of million-dollar mansions for Obiang and his family.”
So, you federales, while we’re legitimately worrying about outside attacks on American financial institutions because of your reckless behavior abroad, do us a favor: If you want to protect U.S. government buildings, you might want to post some guards inside as well as outside. Same goes for Wall Street, Bloomberg.