WASHINGTON - Clark Clifford and Robert Altman denied they took bribes from the owners of Bank of Credit and Commerce International to hide their control of banks in the United States.

The prominent Washington lawyers appeared at a news conference Thursday, a day after. they pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in New York. In a statement, they called the accusations "cruel and unjust."

Mr. Clifford, 85, a former chairman of First American Bankshares Inc. in Washington, said neither the New York District Attorney nor federal prosecutors "has any direct credible evidence of our participation in any wrongdoing."

The government contends that investors lost more than $5 billion through frauds committed by the Luxembourg-based BCCI, which was shut down by regulators around the world last year and had illegally controlled First American, according to the Federal Reserve Board.

Mr. Clifford gave a detailed version of his side of the story of his and Mr. Altman's serving as "front men" for BCCI. He said that they had done nothing illegal and that the government was wrong to bring the case.

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