Riggs Bank

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Group.png Riggs Bank  
Riggs logo.png
HeadquartersWashington DC, United States
A bank used by the CIA and other deep state actors for various illicit purposes.

Riggs Bank was a bank in Washington DC which enjoyed a "relationship" with the CIA similar to the BCCI.[1], especially after 1981, when Joe Allbritton acquired a controlling interest in the bank and became chairman.

That relationship included top Riggs executives receiving U.S. government security clearances, and the bank handling funds of CIA clients and allies like General Augusto Pinochet, Saudi ambassador to US Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and keeping the U.S. accounts of African oil dictators.

Official narrative

"The most important bank in the most important city in the world."[2]


Carter Beese is said to have met George Bush's Texas friend Joe Allbritton just as Allbritton was buying into Riggs Bank.

In 1988, Riggs Bank, under the direction of Jonathan Bush and Carter Beese purchased a controlling interest in a Swiss company named Valmet. Riggs-Valmet consultants set up the international financial apparatus for the Russian oligarchs and rogue KGB allowing them to steal the Soviet treasury and destroy the Russian economy in the 1990s[3]

Use by Prince Bandar bin Sultan

The bank had a relationship to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longime Saudi ambassador to US. The Prince was used as a conduit to finance the Contras at the behest of the White House, financed the Afghan rebels against the Soviet Union, and serving as a go-between in the mending of the Libya-U.S. relationship[1]. The Al-Yamamah arms deal, which was signed in 1985, also uncovered details of about a billion dollars of extra payments to the Prince[4].

In 2000, Omar al-Bayoumi opened bank accounts for two of the patsies that were framed as hijackers in the September 11 attacks. Shortly thereafter, Al-Bayoumi's wife received payments totaling tens of thousands of dollars from Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the wife of bin Sultan through a Riggs bank account.[5][6]

General Pinochet

The CIA worked with Pinochet through his secret police chief, Manuel Contreras, who banked at Riggs as recently as 1979.[1] Riggs opened multiple accounts for the dictator and his family, used aliases and offshore shell corporations to disguise his ownership from U.S. bank regulators,[7] and "accepted millions of dollars in deposits from him with no serious inquiry into the source of his wealth."[8] All this was done "with the knowledge and support of the Bank’s leadership," including Allbritton, who, along with other senior bank officials, would periodically fly down to Santiago for meetings with the dictator.[9] Riggs only closed the accounts in 2004, shortly before its own collapse.

Equatorial Guinea

Under Joe Allbritton, Riggs also conducted business with the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago, who took power in a 1979 coup. Obiang’s relationship with Riggs began in 1995, just as American oil companies found huge offshore reserves in Equatorial Guinea. By 2003, Obiang’s regime had become the bank’s single largest customer, with about $700 million in 60 different personal and state accounts. Riggs accepted cash deposits for the accounts of up to $1 million at a time, in 20-pound bundles of shrink-wrapped bills. The bank also helped Obiang buy two Washington area mansions worth about $4 million combined, and issued a debit card to his wife with a $10,000 daily limit to facilitate her D.C. shopping sprees.[8]


Upon discovery of the 911 Saudi transactions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating the bank for possible money laundering and terrorist financing. Although the FBI and later the 9/11 Commission ultimately stated that the money was not intentionally being routed to fund terrorists, investigators were surprised at the lax safeguards at the bank.[10]

In 2004, the U.S. Senate released a report saying Riggs had "turned a blind eye" to evidence that the bank was "handling the proceeds of foreign corruption." The Treasury Department hit the bank with a $25 million penalty. The next year, Riggs paid a $16 million criminal fine over related charges that it had failed to report suspicious transactions with foreign account holders. The judge who imposed the fine described Riggs as "a greedy corporate henchman of dictators and their corrupt regimes." The relationship with the CIA made prosecution of the bank’s officials impossible.[1]

A long running Justice Department investigation was wrapped up quickly in February 2005 with Riggs pleading guilty and paying a $16 million fine for violations of the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act after a Wall Street Journal article reported December 31, 2004, that Riggs had extensive ties to the CIA, including that several bank officials held security clearances.[11]

In the wake of the money laundering revelations, members of the Albritton family resigned from the bank board. On February 10, 2005, PNC Financial Services agreed to acquire Riggs,[12] and the merger was completed on May 13, 2005.[13] The Riggs name was retired and all Riggs branches became PNC Bank branches three days later.[14] Soon after the merger's completion, PNC phased out the scandal-plagued embassy business.[12]

Robert Allbritton avoided any fallout from the Riggs collapse. Though resigning from Riggs after its sale to PNC, he remained as chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications Co., the privately held media company that owns several television stations as well as Politico.[8]

Carter Beese's death was reported as a suicide in 2006.[15]

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