In A Nutshell
In 1988, undercover agent Robert Mazur had successfully infiltrated one of the most nefarious criminal organizations in history: the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. But to make arrests, Mazur would have to lure the BCCI’s overseas executives into the US. The solution was to stage an extravagant fake wedding, culminating in the most explosive bachelor party in Florida history.
The Whole Bushel
The Bank of Credit and Commerce International was founded in Pakistan in the early ‘70s and soon expanded worldwide, quickly growing to become the seventh largest private bank in the world. With 1.2 million customers and a swanky headquarters in London, it seemed like an eminently respectable institution. It wasn’t.
In fact, the BCCI was a terrifyingly evil organization—a James Bond villain for the real world. The bank was deliberately set up so that no one country exercised regulatory control over its operations. In the days before national regulators had systems to effectively share information with each other, this essentially allowed BCCI to operate without supervision. They used that freedom to operate one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, using customer deposits to cover huge losses and outright theft by senior members of staff. And that was only the tip of the iceberg.
To keep the flow of deposits up, BCCI quickly became bankers to the world’s terrorists and criminals, helping to launder millions in illicit cash. They supplied arms to Iraq, actively facilitated drug deals, supported Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and helped to broker the illegal sale of nuclear weapons components. One of the bank’s London employees became an informant after realizing that the wealthy businessman the bank had him chauffeur around town was actually the infamous terrorist Abu Nidal (he first became suspicious when Nidal asked him to help purchase six bulletproof Mercedes-Benz vehicles with concealed, on-board rocket launchers). When the Peruvian Shining Path rebel group paid Abu Nidal $4 million to teach them bomb-making, BCCI handled the cash.
It somehow gets even more sinister. In Pakistan, BCCI is believed to have run a shadowy organization known as “the Black Network,” which carried out kidnappings and assassinations. But while the bank’s international nature (and possible links to the CIA and other intelligence agencies) enabled it to avoid justice for years, law enforcement eventually began closing in. Among those investigating the bank was US Customs agent Robert Mazur, who had spent years deep undercover as a cocaine trafficker named Bob Musella.
As Musella, Mazur had successfully infiltrated the Colombian drug cartels, and his investigation eventually led him to BCCI. Introducing himself as the owner of a Colombian business with large sales in the US (he might as well have just said “cocaine dealer”), Mazur discovered the bank had a well-oiled pitch on how they could launder his profits for him. After a lengthy investigation, Mazur knew he had enough evidence to take senior BCCI executives down. There was just one problem: He would have to lure them to the US so they could be arrested. The solution? A rocking party.
After befriending BCCI’s leadership, Mazur announced he was getting married and invited all his new friends to the wedding in Tampa. Drug dealers and money-launderers flew in from around the world for a week of celebrations, including a swanky cocktail party complete with a string quartet. Of course, Mazur’s “fiancee” and around 50 of the guests were undercover agents.
To separate the criminals from their (presumably innocent) wives and kids, it was decided to invite them all to a wild bachelor party. The targets themselves were only too eager—they were in town to party and the FBI had already had to foot the bill for a trip to Hooters. As he hopped into the complimentary limo, money launderer Gonzalo Mora asked an undercover agent if he would get laid at the party. The agent told him not to worry: “You’re going to get f—ed tonight like you’ve never been f—ed before.“
As the limos pulled up one by one, the BCCI executives inside were swarmed by a team that included a black belt DEA agent disguised as a maitre d’. One newly arrested executive expressed his confusion: “I’ve been to bachelor parties where the women dress up like cops and act like they’re arresting you. Where are the women?” The case resulted in the biggest money-laundering conviction in US history up to that point and played a huge role in BCCI’s collapse shortly thereafter.
Show Me The Proof
The Infiltrator, by Robert Mazur
Drug Politics, by David C. Jordan
The Outlaw Bank, by Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne
NY Times: The Worst Of All Possible Banks
NY Times: Agent Tells Of Failures On BCCI
LA Times: BCCI’s Arms Transactions For Arab Terrorist Revealed