Jonathan James Bush
President George W. Bush’s uncle, Jonathan
James Bush, was a top executive at a bank that paid $41 million in fines for
laundering money for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and other despots. Riggs Bank
also held an account for a Saudi princess who may have funneled money to terrorists
involved in the September 11 attacks.
Jonathan Bush, a major fundraiser for his nephew, was appointed in 2000 to run Riggs Investment Management Co. Riggs Bank, at one time Washington’s biggest, oldest and most illustrious, in 1997 bought the company that Bush created: J. Bush & Co.
Bush’s firm, which he founded in 1970, specialized in offering discreet banking services to foreign embassies in Washington. Riggs used it to create a one-stop financial outlet offering a range of services, from insurance to securities trading and investment advice. News reports at the time said investment bankers estimated the undisclosed purchase price at $5.5 million.
During the time Bush was an executive at Riggs, Saudi Arabian Princess Haifa Al-Faisal withdrew tens of thousands of dollars from her Riggs bank account and gave it to the families of two Saudi students who subsidized two Saudi terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Princess Haifa is married to Saudi Arabia’s U.S. ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Jonathan Bush had been a financial advisor to Prince Bandar for years.
The Bush administration censored sections of a 2003 Congressional report on the 2001 terrorist attack that dealt with Riggs accounts held by Saudis.
The Washington Post, citing an unidentified source, reported that Bush’s investment advice unit had no relationship “whatsoever’’ with any of the Riggs’s Saudi accounts.
Riggs paid a $25 million civil fine in May 2004 “for failing to report to bank regulators suspicious transactions involving ambassadorial accounts of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea.” A year later the bank agreed to a $16 million fine and pleaded guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act by hiding transfers of millions of dollars in accounts controlled by Pinochet and top officials of Equatorial Guinea, once the bank’s largest customer. The judge called Riggs a “greedy corporate henchman of dictators and their corrupt regimes.’’
R. Ashley Lee, the top U.S. bank examiner supervising Washington’s largest bank, kept details about Riggs Bank’s relationship with Pinochet out of the bank’s case file.
That happened just a few months before Lee retired from the government position at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and joined Riggs as a senior executive. While still working for the government, Lee recommended that the bank not be punished for failing to take steps designed to prevent money laundering.
After the series of scandals, Riggs was bought by PNC in 2004 for $779 million. PNC shed all of Riggs’ international and ambassadorial business and focused on retail banking. In July 2005 Webster Bank bought J. Bush & Co.
During the 2000 campaign, Jonathan Bush was a major contributor and fundraiser for his nephew’s election and was named a “Bush pioneer’’ for raising more than $100,000 for the campaign.
In the early1980s, Jonathan pulled together two dozen investors to raise $3 million to help launch George W. Bush’s first oil venture, Arbusto, later called Bush Explorations. One of the investors was representing Salem Bin Laden of the Saudi Binladin Group. As it neared financial collapse in September 1984, Bush Exploration merged with Spectrum 7 Energy Corp. It was bought in 1986 for $2.2 million by Harken Energy.
Over the next few years, Harken would turn out to have links to Saudi money, CIA-connected Filipinos, the Harvard Endowment, the emir of Bahrain, and the shadowy Bank of Credit and Commerce International. BCCI was the largest criminal enterprise in history, a bank whose principals stole an estimated $12 billion from their depositors.
- http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ html/nationworld/2002162985_riggs28.html
- http://alaric3rh.home.sprynet.com/s cience/bceo.html
- http://www.washingtonpost.co m/wp-dyn/articles/A28396-2004May14.html
- http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php ?title=Jonathan_J._Bush
- http://www.whitehouseforsale.org/ContributorsAndPayb acks/pioneer_profile.cfm?pioneer_ID=158