ONE of Gen Ziaul Haq’s closest aides and the man largely credited with establishing the mujahideen network to counter Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, is one of thousands of figures from around the world who have been exposed in a massive leak of secret banking data from a leading Swiss bank.
Dubbed the ‘Suisse secrets’, this massive trove was provided to Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, by a whistle-blower and claims to have exposed the secret wealth of clients notorious for drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption.
According to the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) — a network of journalists from around the world that sifted through the data — accounts identified as potentially problematic held over $8 billion in assets.
The revelations indicate failures of due diligence by the bank in violation of commitments made to authorities to disown shady clients.
The data covers accounts that were open from the 1940s until well into the 2010s but not the bank’s current operations.
Hundreds of ‘problematic’ accounts said to hold around $8bn in corruption proceeds and more
According to the New York Times, senior intelligence officials and their offspring from several countries that cooperated with the US also had money stashed at Credit Suisse.
“As the head of the Pakistani intelligence agency, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Khan helped funnel billions of dollars in cash and other aid from the US and other countries to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to support their fight against the Soviet Union,” the NYT report says.
According to the newspaper, an account was opened in the name of three of General Akhtar’s sons in 1985, even though the general never faced charges of stealing aid money. Years later, the paper said, “the account would grow to hold $3.7 million, the leaked records show.”
An OCCRP report was more specific: it claimed that the Saudi Arabian and US funding for mujahideen fighters battling Russia’s presence in Afghanistan would go to the CIA’s Swiss bank account. “The end recipient in the process was Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence group (ISI), [at the time] led by Akhtar,” the report said.
The report states that “by the mid-1980s, Akhtar was adept at getting CIA cash into the hands of Afghan jihadists. It was around this time that Credit Suisse accounts were opened in the names of his three sons.”
OCCRP’s report stated that one of the two Akhtar family accounts at Credit Suisse — held jointly by three of Akhtar’s sons — was opened on July 1, 1985. That same year, US President Ronald Reagan would raise concerns about where the money intended for the mujahideen was going. By 2003, this account was worth at least five million Swiss francs ($3.7 million at the time). A second account, opened in January 1986 in Akbar’s name alone, was worth more than 9 million Swiss francs by November 2010 ($9.2 million at the time).”
However, one of Gen Khan’s sons told the project’s representative this information was “not correct” and “conjectural”.
The leak follows the so-called Panama Papers in 2016, the Paradise Papers in 2017 and the Pandora Papers last year.
The list of those named in the leaks includes King Abdullah II of Jordan and the two sons of the former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Venezuelan officials ensnared in a long-running corruption scandal.
The data also features a Hong Kong stock trader once sent to jail on bribery charges, a tycoon who ordered the murder of his Lebanese lover, a Filipino human trafficker and dishonest politicians from Egypt to Ukraine.
One Vatican-owned account was used to spend 350 million dollars in an allegedly fraudulent scheme in London which is the focus of a criminal trial of several defendants, including a cardinal.
According to the OCCRP, the data also reveals that 15 intelligence figures from around the world, or their close family members, have held accounts at Credit Suisse.
Credit Suisse said Switzerland’s stringent secrecy laws do not allow it to comment on accusations about individual clients, but in a statement it strongly rejected “allegations and inferences about the bank’s purported business practices”, arguing that the matters uncovered by reporters are based on “selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank’s business conduct.”
Further revelations are expected in the days to come as more and more of the data become public.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2022