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UNITED STATES v. BCCI HOLDINGS

August 26, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
BCCI HOLDINGS (LUXEMBOURG), S.A., BANK OF CREDIT AND COMMERCE INTERNATIONAL, S.A., BANK OF CREDIT AND COMMERCE INTERNATIONAL (OVERSEAS) LIMITED, AND INTERNATIONAL CREDIT AND INVESTMENT COMPANY (OVERSEAS) LIMITED, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 Presently pending is the United States' Motion to Dismiss ("Motion to Dismiss") the Bank of Jamaica's Petition for Adjudication of its Interest in Certain Assets Subject to Forfeiture Order, which was filed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1963(l) ("L-Claim"). The government has moved to dismiss the L-claim due to lack of standing and for failure to state a claim. For the reasons expressed below, the Motion to Dismiss will be denied.

 BACKGROUND

 The facts surrounding BCCI's collapse are well known in the financial and legal communities, but certain facts bear repeating to set the stage for resolving the instant motion to dismiss the Bank of Jamaica's L-Claim. *fn1" In early 1991, the Bank of England received troubling information about BCCI's financial condition and integrity. In response, it commissioned a special audit, which "disclosed evidence of a complex and massive fraud at BCCI, including substantial loan and treasury account losses, misappropriation of funds, unrecorded deposits, the creation and manipulation of fictitious accounts to conceal bank losses, and concealment from regulatory authorities of BCCI's mismanagement and true financial position." Corrigan, Mattingly & Taylor, The Federal Reserve's Views on BCCI, 26 Int'l Law. 963, 970-71 (1992) (based on testimony before the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs of the United States House of Representatives on September 3, 1991).

 The results of the audit were shared with regulators in other countries, and, on July 5, 1991, banking regulators in the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and the United States, froze assets owned or controlled by BCCI. In New York, the Superintendent of Banks seized BCCI's assets at various New York banks, including those at First American Bank of New York ("FABNY"). By July 6th, eighteen countries had shut down BCCI's operations in their jurisdictions, and, as of July 29, 1991, forty-four countries had closed down BCCI branches.

 On November 15, 1991, a three-count Indictment, which included charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and racketeering against BCCI, was filed in this Court. On January 24, 1992, this Court, following findings of fact and conclusions of law with supporting reasons made in open court, accepted the pleas of guilty of the four corporate defendants, collectively known as BCCI, and the Plea Agreement between them and the United States of America. See Transcript of Guilty Plea Proceedings at 7 (Jan. 24, 1992). In accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 1963, this Court then entered an Order of Forfeiture.

 Under paragraph 9 of the Plea Agreement and pursuant to the Order of Forfeiture, BCCI forfeited all of its property interests in the United States. Pursuant to paragraph 1(e) of the Forfeiture Order, the corporate defendants forfeited to the United States their ownership interests in all property located in the United States, including, without limitation, real property and all tangible and intangible personal property, however held, whether subsequently identified, determined or discovered in the course of the ongoing liquidation proceedings described therein or otherwise identified, determined, or discovered in any manner at any time (excluding property brought into the United States by or on behalf of Court-Appointed Fiduciaries of BCCI in the course of the management or disbursement of the liquidation estates).

 Attached to the First Order of Forfeiture was a listing of BCCI accounts, with corresponding numbers, names, and approximate balances, which the United States Marshals Service was directed to seize forthwith. Because the government was unable to verify certain information concerning additional forfeitable accounts at the time the Order of Forfeiture was entered, the Court issued a First Supplemental Order on January 31, 1992, which directed immediate seizure of the specific assets listed therein. The Court later amended the Order of Forfeiture to include additional assets, including property set forth in Second and Third Supplemental Lists of Forfeited Property. See Order of Forfeiture of July 29, 1992 (Second Order of Forfeiture); Order of Forfeiture of August 19, 1993 (Third Order of Forfeiture). Attached to the Third Order of Forfeiture, which is relevant to the L-Claim presently before the Court, was the Third Supplemental List of Forfeited Property aggregating $ 101,302,465.54.

 The Plea Agreement also established the Worldwide Victims Fund and the U.S. Fund. Under the terms of the Plea Agreement, forfeited assets were to be disbursed in equal amounts to the Worldwide Victims Fund and the U.S. Fund. See Plea Agreement P11(c). The broad purpose of the Worldwide Victims Fund, operated by the Court-Appointed Fiduciaries, is to distribute funds "only to innocent depositors, creditors and other victims of BCCI whose claims are not derived directly or indirectly through violations of United States or other laws concerning narcotics, terrorism, money laundering, crimes of violence, or other acts generally recognized as felonies or similar crimes under the law of countries subscribing to recognized norms of international justice." Id. P14.

 In compliance with 18 U.S.C. § 1963(l)(1) and to inform third parties of their potential rights to seek recovery of assets declared forfeited in the Third Order of Forfeiture, the United States published notice of the Order of Forfeiture, as amended, during the period September 3, 1993, and September 27, 1993 in eleven major newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the Washington Post, and the International Herald Tribune. See United States' Notice to the Court (filed Sept. 21, 1993). In addition, personal notice was sent to over 523 persons and entities. Id. at Ex. 2, at 11. In response, the Bank of Jamaica timely filed the instant petition.

 Through its L-Claim, the Bank of Jamaica seeks to recover US $ 159,873.37 from BCCI (Overseas) Kingston branch's account # 20492003 at FABNY. *fn3" The Bank of Jamaica's claim arises from two separate wire transfers made at the request of originator T. Geddes Grant (Jamaica) Ltd. ("TGG") for payment to the accounts of four beneficiaries: business associates in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands. L-Claim PP 2 & 4. As the originator's bank, the Bank of Jamaica issued the first payment order on July 4, 1991, when it instructed the Bank of Nova Scotia ("BNS") to transfer $ 145,918.40 to BCCI (Overseas) Kingston branch's account # 20492003 at FABNY, for value on July 9, 1991. Id. P4. On July 5, 1991, a second payment order was issued, instructing BNS to transfer an additional $ 13,954.97 to the same account at FABNY for value on July 9, 1991. On the execution date of July 9, 1991, after banking authorities had intervened freezing the assets of BCCI, including those at FABNY, intermediary bank BNS issued a payment order transferring a credit in the amount of US $ 159,873.37.

 Unknown to both BNS and the Bank of Jamaica was the fact that, on June 26, 1991, BCCI (Overseas) Kingston branch had instructed FABNY to close its account # 20492003, effective on June 27, 1991, and transfer the balance in that account to a new account, # 44103572, at BCC London. On July 9, 1991, "FABNY apparently opened a new account # 550547877 on BCCI ...


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