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New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) Data from ‘Suisse Secrets’ reveals that 15 intelligence figures from around the world, or members of their immediate family, held accounts with the Zurich-based global investment bank, Credit Swiss.
The accounts, many of which had very large balances, raise due diligence questions for the bank.
Those who held accounts include spy chiefs and their relatives from Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt and Pakistan. Some have been charged with financial crimes, torture — or both, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said in a report.
During the war on terrorism, international strategy relied on the intelligence officials of regimes accused of corruption and torture. Several of these spies and their families held large sums of money at Credit Suisse.
All four played a role in major US interventions in the Middle East and Afghanistan, from the CIA’s first attempts to support the anti-Soviet mujahideen in the late 1970s through to the first Gulf War in 1990. until the so-called “eternal wars” launched in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.
Most of the 15 were high-level spy chiefs in their countries. The data also contained a number of other spies whom OCCRP chose not to name, as their identities could not be verified beyond absolute doubt.
Along with Jordanian spymaster Sa’ad Khair, three of these spy chiefs have common professional backgrounds that set them apart: Egyptian Omar Suleiman, Pakistani general Akhtar Abdur Rahman and Yemen’s Ghaleb Al-Qamish.
All four ran state intelligence agencies where they controlled large black budgets that were beyond parliamentary and executive control. These personalities or their family members also held personal accounts at Credit Suisse of significant value, with no obvious sources of personal income to explain the wealth.
Three of the figures, Qamish, Suleiman and Khair, were officials of agencies well known for their involvement in torture.
At least eight of their family members also had accounts at Credit Suisse.
By the late 1970s, seven different factions of US-backed Islamist fighters, called the mujahideen, were battling the Russian presence in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia has matched US dollar-for-dollar funding of the jihadists, often sending the money to the CIA’s Swiss bank account. The end recipient of the process was Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) group, led by Akhtar.
In the mid-1980s, Akhtar was adept at funneling CIA money to Afghan jihadists. It was during this time that accounts at Credit Suisse were opened in the names of his three sons.
As Mohammad Yousaf, a colleague of Akhtar at the ISI who later wrote a book about the time, wrote: “The combined (American and Saudi) funds, amounting to several hundred million dollars a year, were transferred by the CIA on special accounts in Pakistan under the control of the ISI.”
Yousaf and Steve Coll – author of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Ghost Wars” – say Akhtar was the man who decided where the money went. To train the mujahideen in sophisticated weaponry, the CIA entrusted them with millions. In 1984, the CIA’s budget for Afghanistan alone was around $200 million.
Oversight was chronically lax, and Akhtar’s role was long questioned.
A South Asian intelligence source with knowledge of operations in Afghanistan told OCCRP, “It was easy at that time to open Swiss bank accounts in any way or type for the transfer of overt funds.
“Akhtar was doing this to line his own pockets… A lot of money was diverted from the Afghan war and poured into his bank accounts.”
Akhtar died in a plane crash in 1988 that also killed his boss, Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq.
(Sanjeev Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])
Updated: February 21, 2022