KARACHI: The closure of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was a conspiracy, as the British establishment did not want to see this fastest growing bank in the world, says young author Mubashir Malik. Speaking at the launch of his book “Double Standards, BCCI The Untold Story” at the IBA Auditorium on Saturday, Malik said that BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi would always be eulogised for his services. A large number of academics, top bankers, notables and media persons attended the ceremony. The BCCI was an international bank founded in 1972 by Agha Hasan Abedi, a Pakistani financier. The bank was registered in Luxembourg with its head offices in Karachi and London. A decade after its opening, the BCCI had more than 400 branches in 78 countries and assets in excess of $20 billion, making it the 7th largest private bank in the world. The BCCI came under the scrutiny of numerous financial regulators and intelligence agencies in the 1980s due to regulatory issues. Subsequent investigations linked it to money laundering and other financial crimes and said that it illegally gained the controlling interest in a major American bank. The BCCI became the focus of a massive regulatory battle in 1991, and, on July 5 of that year, customs and bank regulators in seven countries raided and locked down records of its branch offices. Investigators in the US and the UK said the BCCI had been “set up deliberately to avoid centralised regulatory review and operated extensively in bank secrecy jurisdictions. Its affairs were extraordinarily complex. Its officers were sophisticated international bankers whose apparent objective was to keep their affairs secret, to commit fraud on a massive scale, and to avoid detection.” Sharing his views at the book launch, Malik said, “In recent years, we have seen massive fines and penalties dished out to almost every major bank in the world for breaking the law. Yet these banks are considered ‘too big to indict’ in today’s world due to the threat of destabilising the financial system.” Malik says his book travels 25 years back to explore the story of a bank, which had its roots in the Middle East. It rose to prominence and became the fastest growing bank in the world. It was the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, popularly known as BCCI, and it became the 4th largest bank in the world by 1991. The bank became the bridge between the Third World and the West and at its peak was bailing out the governments in developing countries, like the IMF or the World Bank. It was also a favourite port of call for a more notorious clientele, like the CIA, who used it to facilitate its covert operations overseas, he added. “The Bank of England and the US authorities shut the BCCI down amid allegations of fraud in July 1991, making over 14,000 employees redundant and leaving over 1 million customers out of pocket,” Malik said. The book revisits the actions taken by the Bank of England and the regulatory authorities with regard to the BCCI and carries out an academic analysis to compare its treatment with major banking scandals after the global financial meltdown in 2008. The malpractice that BCCI was accused of was on a par with a parking violation compared to the actions of the bigger banks of today, yet the fines and penalties to these banks are not as severe as was the punishment to the BCCI. Why was the bank shut down and, more importantly, who benefited from its closure? This informative analysis of BCCI’s rise and fall will appeal to those with an interest in finance and banking law. Addressing the audience over Skype, John Hillbery, former director of the Bank of America and a close associate of Agha Hasan Abedi, lauded Malik’s effort to tell the world the untold story of BCCI’s closure. He recalled kind-heartedness and brilliance of Agha Hasan Abedi. “The young author has made us proud; he has done what we could not do,” said Sirajuddin Aziz, chief executive officer of HabibMetro Bank. He said the book had a passionate appeal to readers and it would be the best piece of writing and research to make people understand the reasons for the closure of the BCCI.