NEW YORK -- The arraignment of BCCI has been delayed until Dec. 20, after court-appointed liquidators and New York prosecutors agreed to continue talks that are aimed at avoiding a stiff fine against the bank.

The arraignment of Luxembourg-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International has been delayed several times as no lawyers have appeared to enter a plea on behalf of the bank.

Under New York law, a corporation can be forced into a guilty plea even if it does not have a lawyer in court. Because of this, a judge could hit BCCI with as much as a $40 billion fine, representing twice its illegal gains.

Effort to Avoid Big Fine

The bank's liquidators are trying to discourage prosecutors from seeking a big fine, which would diminish assets to be distributed among victims. Lawyers for the liquidators and the Manhattan district attorney's office declined comment on the talks.

BCCI; its founder, Agha Hassan Abedi; and the bank's former chief operating officer, Swaleh Naqvi, were indicted in July on state charges of fraud, theft, and money laundering.

After BCCI was shut down in July in a multinational regulatory sweep, overseas courts began appointing liquidators to try to protect the bank's assets in the United States and to make sure remaining money is distributed equitably.

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