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Funny Business: An old banking family

By DAVID MARCHANT, Special to UPI

MIAMI, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Four offshore bankers were arrested by United States law enforcement agencies in November and charged with money laundering.

Two more have also been charged with money laundering, but are still at large after warrants were issued but not executed.

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Those arrested were Roy Malcolm West, a British citizen living in Barbados; Julien Giraud, of Dominica; Brian Boeger, of the United States; and Richard F. Downes, a British citizen living in Spain.

Warrants are still outstanding for Downes' wife, British national Pamela Butson, and Thierry Nano, who has Belgian and St. Vincent citizenships.

The Nano family has operated banks in Anguilla, Turks & Caicos Islands and St. Vincent and has a long history of disputes with regulators and creditors, including the Egyptian and the Libyan governments.

An arrest warrant issued in the United States arrived in St. Vincent on Nov. 22 and Nano left the island at 6:30 p.m. three days later in a plane chartered from the national airline company, a source told United Press International.

Nano first flew from one of the smaller islands in the Grenadines to Martinique and then on to Nice in the French Riviera, said the source. He is wanted in the United States on two charges of money laundering.

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St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves claimed that local authorities could not arrest Nano because money laundering was not an extraditable offense.

After the horse had bolted, St. Vincent's legislature closed the barn door by passing legislation allowing the extradition of citizens wanted for money laundering.

West, Downes, Giraud and Boeger were not so lucky. West and Downes were arrested in Miami, while Giraud was arrested in Puerto Rico while traveling with Dominica's Finance Minister Ambrose George. Boeger was arrested in Kansas City and is the only one of those arrested who is out on bail.

While the timing of the warrants suggests the United States is sending out a message following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the investigations were largely carried out before then, according to court filings.

Five of the warrants are the result of investigations by one FBI agent, who posed as a "consultant" in an attempt to induce bankers to launder his "illegal funds."

A bank that features prominently in the investigations is Overseas Development Bank and Trust, of Dominica. West is an executive director of ODBT, while Giraud has either been a consultant or director of the bank, depending on who you speak with, while Downes was "Director of European Operations," according to an affidavit filed by the FBI Agent.

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Also mentioned in at least one of the three affidavits are Banc Caribe Ltd., of Dominica; St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank and Jane Seagull, who allegedly attended a meeting in Antigua. Seagull has not been charged with any offense.

Onshore banks that were used for wire transfers to handle the "illegal funds," include Amtrade International, of Miami; ABN Amro Bank, of New York; and SouthTrust Bank of Florida.

Giraud and Boeger have each been charged with 15 counts of money laundering in a joint case, Downes and Butson have each been charged with 12 counts of money laundering in a joint case and West has been charged with five counts of money laundering in a case in which he is the sole defendant.

All of the above charges were filed at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in November. United Press International is not sure where Thierry Nano has been charged since the complaint is still sealed.

The undercover sting operations that were used to gather evidence against all except Nano included meetings in the United States, Dominica, Antigua and the United Kingdom, according to the agent.

In describing his investigations, the agent alleged that the bankers agreed to launder funds that he told them were the proceeds of investment fraud for commissions of between 5 and 10 percent.

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Part of the laundering process involved the provision of fake invoices to create the appearance that the funds were legitimate, according to the agent.

The flight from justice of Thierry Nano is particularly embarrassing to St. Vincent, whose governments have a long history of close ties to the Nano family.

The family's attorney is Rene Mercedes Baptiste, the government minister of culture and a former manager of the St. Vincent Trust Authority, and the Nanos have a history of granting unsecured, interest-free loans to government ministers and demanding repayment when it suits them.

The family has controlled several offshore banks, including Owens Bank Ltd., United Bank International Ltd., New Bank Ltd., and Nano and Sons 1146 Private Bankers Ltd.

The licenses of Nano and Sons 1146 Private Bankers and New Bank were revoked in July of last year by the St. Vincent authorities following pressure from the United States.

This prompted the Nano family to publicly demand the repayment of unsecured, interest-free loans that they claimed to have issued to government ministers, including then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell.

This was a case of déja-vu for followers of the Nanos since, in June 1995, Owens Bank had demanded the repayment of loans, with interest, from Parnel R. Campbell, the bank's former lawyer who was attorney general and deputy prime minister of St. Vincent at the time. Campbell also had supervisory responsibility over the St. Vincent Trust Authority, which regulates banks.

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On August 1, 1995, the Opposition Party filed a Motion of No Confidence in the government of St. Vincent, alleging that Campbell had requested and received approximately $600 billion in interest-free and unsecured loans from Owens Bank over a five-year period from 1987 to 1991.

The Nano family is headed by Thierry's father, Armando Nano, who was born in Genoa, Italy, on August 4, 1925, but who is now a French citizen.

Other family members include Ubaldo Nano, who was chairman of both Owens Bank and New Bank in 1991; Sylvino Mario Nano, who was a director of Owens Bank from 1983 to 1988; Jacqueline Nano, Thierry's wife, who was the manager of Owens Bank from 1990 to 1992 and manager of New Bank from 1990 to 1992; and Claire Nano, who has been a shareholder of New Bank.

The Nanos been involved in many high- profile cases where they have been accused of fraud and Armando Nano was actually once sentenced to six years in prison in Italy, which was suspended on appeal.

Among the best-known are their disputes with Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser and the Libyan government.

In or around 1958, Armando Nano allegedly ripped off Nasser by accepting hundreds of millions of lira that was transferred to the Nano-affiliated Bank of America City in Tangiers, Morocco, in return for 150 tanks that were never delivered. Shortly after payment, the bank closed.

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From 1975 to 1994, the Nanos and Owens Bank were allegedly part of an another fraud perpetrated on the Libyan Armed Forces, who allegedly paid the Nanos $15.3 million for night-vision goggles that were never delivered. According to documents of a lawsuit filed in the High Court of St. Vincent, the Nanos carried out the scheme in conjunction with arms dealer George Stackmann.

There have also been other allegations of involvement in investment frauds, sometimes involving the alleged sale of apparently worthless stock to unsuspecting members of the public.

French firm L'Etoile Commerciale S.A. once obtained a FF30 million (approximately $4 million) judgment against Owens Bank.


David Marchant is publisher of OffshoreAlert, www.offshorebusiness.com. Tel. 305-372-6267/305-604-2060. Address: 123 S. E. 3rd Avenue, PMB #173, Miami, FL 33131, USA.

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