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Clifford, 86, Undergoes Quadruple Heart Bypass

March 22, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Clark Clifford, 86, a former defense secretary and the most prominent American indicted in the BCCI banking scandal, was said to be doing ″very well″ Monday after undergoing a quadruple heart bypass operation.

Clifford, an adviser to Democratic presidents going back to Harry S. Truman, faces both federal and New York state charges, but his attorneys have said his precarious health precludes a trial for at least a year.

″So far everything’s gone smoothly,″ Clifford’s heart surgeon, Dr. Jorge Garcia, said in a telephone interview after the 2 1/2 -hour operation at the Washington Hospital Center.

″We will watch him closely for signs of complications ... but I don’t anticipate anything major,″ Garcia said. He said Clifford likely will stay in the hospital for a week to 10 days and will need at least two to three months to fully recover.

Coronary bypass operations are designed to alleviate the effect of blockages in arteries that carry blood to the heart. In the open-heart procedure, a vein usually is removed from the patient’s leg and sewn into clogged arteries to intercept the blood flow, take it around the blockage and direct it to the heart.

In Clifford’s case, four separate bypasses were made using three sections of his vein, Garcia said.

Potential complications include bleeding, irregular heart beat, infection and stroke.

His attorneys said previously that Clifford, who had a heart attack in 1977, faced a terrible dilemma. If he didn’t have the bypass operation he could die from another heart attack, but the surgery was very risky and it could have killed or incapacitated him, they said.

Clifford and a former law partner, Robert Altman, were indicted last July on separate federal and New York state charges of bank fraud. Prosecutors allege that Clifford and Altman helped the foreign-owned Bank of Credit and Commerce International gain secret ownership of First American Bankshares Inc., Washington’s largest bank holding company, in exchange for millions of dollars.

The two attorneys have denied any wrongdoing and said they were duped by BCCI’s top Pakistani executives. BCCI pleaded guilty in January 1992 to federal racketeering charges and agreed to forfeit $550 million in U.S. assets.

Jury selection in Altman’s New York trial began last Monday.

Because of his heart condition, Clifford asked judges last year for a speedy federal trial in Washington and dismissal of the New York charges against him.

As months passed, both trials were delayed and his health deteriorated, and Clifford decided early this year to undergo the bypass surgery.

″Mr. Clifford has been advised by his doctors that if he does not undergo bypass surgery in the near future, his cardiac condition will kill him,″ Clifford’s attorneys wrote in a motion filed Feb. 1. They said Clifford made the decision despite the ″immediate and substantial risks″ of the surgery, which his doctors identified as ″permanent mental or physical incapacitation or even death.″

In the motion, Clifford said that if the bypass surgery was successful, he will need at least six months to recover, and an additional five months or so to prepare for trial with his attorneys.

Green scheduled the federal trial to begin June 1 of this year, saying, ″We’ll deal with Mr. Clifford’s health as it develops.″

In addition to his heart disease, Clifford also suffers from a chronic lung condition, recurrent intestinal hemorrhages, an enlarged prostate that requires surgery, and shingles, a viral infection that causes skin blisters, according to his attorneys.

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