DOD Contract Goes to Known Money-Launderer

Jeebus. First we confirm that the British defense company BAE was funneling bribe money into Soviet covert ops. And now we learn (h/t scribe) that DOD has a jet fuel contract with Gaith Pharaon.

Pharaon is best known for his central role in the BCCI scandal. As a seemingly wealthy Saudi, he served as a perfect front for BCCI, which wanted to purchase an American bank to make it easier to get money in and out of the US. So Pharaon schmoozed all the right people in Georgia (including a number of high level Democrats with ties to Jimmy Carter) and got BCCI its approval for the bank.

Well, now we’re back in business with him, to the tune of $80 million.

The US military has awarded an $80 million contract to a prominent Saudi financier who has been indicted by the US Justice Department. The contract to supply jet fuel to American bases in Afghanistan was awarded to the Attock Refinery Ltd, a Pakistani-based refinery owned by Gaith Pharaon. Pharaon is wanted in connection with his alleged role at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the CenTrust savings and loan scandal, which cost US tax payers $1.7 billion.

The Saudi businessman was also named in a 2002 French parliamentary report as having links to informal money transfer networks called hawala, known to be used by traders and terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Pharaon was also an investor in President George W. Bush’s first business venture, Arbusto Energy.


An official at Attock, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the refinery was supplying thousands of tons of jet fuel to the US base at Bagram Air Base every month.

Is it just me, or does anyone else doubt that the money for a contract in Afghanistan with a known money-launderer with ties to hawala is really going to jet fuel? I mean, c’mon, really. This guy’s in the business of laundering money for the rich and powerful, and apparently his clients now include the Pentagon.

23 replies
  1. bonjonno says:

    Are you saying BushCo just nailed a spigot right into the treasury keg? I’d believe it.

    • emptywheel says:

      I doubt this is going to BUsh. But this guy is so crooked, I wouldn’t be surprised if the “jet fuel” they were buying was some kind of cooperation with one of the Afghan tribes or with Pakistan’s ISI.

      Here’s a description of how Attock was part of money-laundering for BCCI, from The Outlaw Bank.

      In exchange for a $1 billion credit [to Nigeria]–no bank in history had ever lent that much to a single borrower other than the U.S. government–Nigeria agreed to pay back BCCI with crude oil, delivered to its shadowy Pakistan subsidiary, Attock Oil.

      This was basically a way for BCCI to get hard currency out of Nigeria, money which the people of Nigeria basically lost.

      • JThomason says:

        These kinds of transactions could leave nice little slush funds here and there to tide one over until the next big play, maybe in a couple of decades.

      • Ishmael says:

        Wasn’t John Kerry the expert on BCCI? Perhaps he could look into this. I agree that this is a way to disguise payments to some group in Pakistan – surely the US Air Force has other suppliers that are more reliable for “jet fuel”.

        • emptywheel says:

          Yes, he was. He did a great job until it came time to quesion Clark Clifford, one of the Democrats whom Pharoan had schmoozed into serving as covers for BCCI. Kerry ultimately backed off of pushing Clifford because he was so old (or, if you’re skeptical, because he knew it would hurt his career in Democratic politics).

  2. darclay says:

    I’d believe anything of GWB, even so far as that this money was funneled to Osmma to stay in hiding…no just say he is capable of anything.

  3. darclay says:

    Ishmael, OT I posed a ? yesterday asking if DOJ did not pursue bringing charges against pres or those in his Adm. could AG be charge with aiding and abetting?

    • phred says:

      FWIW, I left a response to you on the prior thread, but IANAL. Hopefully Ishmael, bmaz, Mary, or someone who is will respond as well.

    • Ishmael says:

      Very doubtful, IMO. Aiding and abetting requires both a knowledge and intention of the underlying illegal act of the principal wrongdoer, and overt assistance in the act. I don’t think that a fettering of prosecutorial discretion could be proved to a sufficient criminal degree – for example, in the Enron cases, some banks were charged with aiding and abetting because they took steps to facilitate Enron’s fraud and actively altered their own record keeping to make it possible for Enron to do so. Perhaps a conspiracy charge to obstruct justice could stick, but there would likely be some good faith constitutional defence that the AG could plausibly use. I think that there are enough crimes that could be proved against Buscho in any event!

  4. BayStateLibrul says:

    OT, on Fitzy…

    Response to Congress?

    “Rasputin, Karl “The Architect” Rove, also was mentioned in the trial, as was former House Speaker Dennis “Don’t Ask Me About My Land Deal” Hastert, alleged to have been part of an effort by the bipartisan Illinois Combine to get rid of Fitzgerald. To demonstrate their kinship, Cellini and Rezko flew out to Washington on a play date and visited a White House reception with President Bush, where Kjellander joined them.

    Later in the Rezko trial, two witnesses said that Rezko told them not to worry about the criminal investigation, because the Republicans—Rove and Kjellander—would get rid of Fitzgerald. Hastert would install a friendly federal puppy who wouldn’t bother the Combine, according to the testimony. “The federal prosecutor will no longer be the same federal prosecutor,” testified Elie Maloof, a Rezko associate who is now a cooperating witness.

    And a state pension board lawyer who has already pleaded guilty told grand jurors that Cellini told him “Bob Kjellander’s job is to take care of the U.S. attorney.”

    The Illinois Republican Party holds its own convention this week in Decatur. The party establishment, which has long been cozy with the Daley Democrats at City Hall, has done little or nothing to rid the Illinois GOP of Kjellander and Cellini influence.

    “If I owe a response [about the putsch to remove him from his job], I owe it to Congress, first,” Fitzgerald said when asked about all this after the verdict.

  5. phred says:

    “If I owe a response [about the putsch to remove him from his job], I owe it to Congress, first,” Fitzgerald said

    Sounds like an open invitation to Waxman, Conyers, and Leahy to schedule a visit to me (I hope, I hope, I hope!).

    • Leen says:

      “Is it just me or does anyone else doubt that the money for a contract in Afghanistan with a known murky launderer with ties to hawala is really going to jet fuel”

      Ew where are you suggessting that money is going?

      I have shared before that I have become friends with a young man from Afghanistan who is studying here in the states on a Fulbright. We have had hours of discussions about his family, his faith and his country. While in Afghanistan he worked in counter narcotics (I have permission to repeat these things) and the stories he has shared about the poppy industry in Afghanistan are deeply disturbing.

      He has shared stories about the International drug mafia that are chilling. We have discussed the lack of funds going into Afghanistan and the lack of focus on how to build the infrastructure of that country so that it benefits the Afghani people with the greatest needs. His father is a retired Brigadier General and is convinced that the Bush administration does not want the Afghani government to become independent.

      Why is it that the Bush administration and our congress are not focusing more on Afghanistan? The Taliban have regained a great deal of power to the point that an Afghani student returning from the states is unable to spend time in their family villages because the Taliban will target them as spies for the U.S. I have talked with three Afghani students who have had this experience on their return home. What the hell is going on in Afghanistan?

      Ew so where are you suggesting that this money might be going?

  6. MarieRoget says:

    OT- Major downtime yesterday for this site & FDL in general. Much thanks to the hardworking tech heads behind the scenes who have everything back up & running. Just FYI, there are several sites that FDL folks seem to migrate to when things go wonky for a while here:

    TRex (former front pager @ FDL) hosted a large group of FDL refugees last night-

    Cbl (commenter) has kept open a site for FDL downtimes-

    There is a gabbly site for FDL folks to use, but I don’t have the site addy; perhaps someone who knows it can post that. If commenters know of other sites, please post them…

  7. selise says:

    OT – scott horton to testify today:

    10:30 am – House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight and House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties

    Joint Oversight Hearing: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Report OIG-08-18: The Removal of a Canadian Citizen to Syria

    The Honorable Richard L. Skinner, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    Clark Kent Ervin, Esq., Director, Homeland Security Initiative, The Aspen Institute (Former Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
    Scott Horton, Esq., Lecturer-in-Law, Columbia Law School

    note: scott horton has been added to the witness list, but i can’t update my webpage right now (i’m in the middle of making a bunch of changes to the behind the scenes files and don’t want to risk a major fuck up).

  8. BayStateLibrul says:

    Also, Tommy Thompson, the ex-HHS has formed a health company and
    has a lucrative contract with HHS
    You see why they “want a smaller government” to rake off profits for
    their capitalist selves… capitalist tools.

  9. Nell says:

    EW: BAE was funneling bribe money into Soviet covert ops

    That’s ‘anti-Soviet covert ops’, surely? or ‘Saudi covert ops’?

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