A Pillar Of Corporate Life (C.P. Pandya)

One can never accuse Riggs Bank of lacking a global perspective. Indeed, the American financial institution’s expansive scope of malfeasance makes it an international player on the corrupt corporate scene. With dubious deals in Saudi Arabia, Chile and Equatorial Guinea, Riggs’ underhanded schemes span three continents – what an equal opportunity brigand. Where to begin?

A recent Senate inquiry into the bank’s dealings in Chile alleges that Riggs helped U.S. dictatorial darling Augusto Pinochet hide millions of dollars in the Washington, DC-based bank’s coffers between 1994 and 2002. The millions of dollars were apparently transferred from his London account into Riggs’ at the same time Pinochet’s henchmen were claiming the dictator didn’t have enough money to pay for legal fees and fines. Mind you, throughout the years Riggs serviced Pinochet, he was under a world-wide court order to keep his assets frozen and was being (finally) investigated for the countless human rights abuses he inflicted on the Chilean population. Riggs, of course, didn’t have a problem with that - his millions fattened their balance sheet. The Senate panel concluded that Riggs “appeared to take active steps to hide the Pinochet relationship from bank examiners." Now that shows a bank’s commitment to its clients, no?

Now onto Equatorial Guinea, where Riggs helped facilitate, through over 60 different accounts, the exchange of huge monetary gifts between U.S. oil companies such as Exxon and Marathon and the country’s first family. Exploitation of the country’s vast oil, petroleum, timber, manganese, uranium, titanium and iron ore resources couldn’t have been easier. Riggs carried between $400 million and $700 million from the government of Equatorial Guinea on its balance sheet during a time when, according to the Senate panel, there was “evidence suggesting the bank was handling the proceeds of foreign corruption.” Something about up to $700 million being in Riggs’ account from a country, which in 2001 took in $200 million in revenue (as recorded on its budget), just doesn’t add up.

Finally, for kicks, let’s rehash the recent past and mention Riggs’ $25 million fine after it was found at the heart of a Saudi Arabian money-laundering scheme.

Here are some interesting tidbits about this exemplary financial institution: Riggs is colloquially known as the bank of U.S. presidents; its chief, billionaire Joe Allbritton, is a long-time Bush family friend; and the bank has been at U.S. government’s beck and call for over a hundred of years, check out the timeline.