Charge of CIA Linkage to BCCI Upstages Summit

WASHINGTON - Charges that the CIA prevented a U.S. Customs commissioner from investigating Bank of Credit and Commerce in 1988 are getting front-page treatment in London, where heads of state of the seven leading industrialized nations are meeting this week.

The Financial Times of London on Monday devoted most of its front page to the remarks made last weekend by former Commissioner William von Raab on ABC News' "Nightline" program.

Mr. von Raab charged that Robert Gates, President Bush's choice to head the Central Intelligence Agency, dragged his feet when the Customs service asked in 1988 for information on the bank. Later, he said, he learned that the CIA used the bank to pay undercover agents throughout the world.

CIA officials could not be reached for comment on the allegations. But a spokesman for the Senate Intelligence Committee denied an item in the same news story that claimed the panel was investigating new links between Mr. Gates and the bank. The committee spokesman said he didn't know the source of the rumors.

Effect on Nomination

Mr. von Raab criticized American bank regulators for moving too slowly against the bank as well. His remarks could complicate nomination hearings for Mr. Gates and for the Federal Reserve Board's William Taylor, who is expected to succeed L. William Seidman as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. later this year. Mr. Taylor is in charge of the Fed's bank regulatory efforts.

On Friday, the Fed announced that it was moving against four individuals connected with BCCI who regulators contend participated in a scheme to help illegally acquire California's Independence Bank.

The Fed is attempting to bar the four from working in the U.S. banking system.

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