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Noriega Banker Gets 12 Years in Money-Laundering Case

December 1, 1990 GMT

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Heeding an appeal for leniency, a federal judge sentenced Manuel Noriega’s former banker to 12 years in prison for helping launder $14 million in cocaine profits.

Amjad Awan, the former head marketing officer for the Bank of Credit and Commerce International’s Latin American and Caribbean division, was one of five people sentenced to prison Friday in the government sting.

Awan, who was also fined $100,000, could have been sentenced to 19 years, but U.S. District Judge W. Terrell Hodges said he was lenient because Awan did not profit from the scheme. Awan had no previous criminal record and showed remorse.

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U.S. Attorney Robert Genzman refused to say whether Awan would testify against Noriega. The deposed Panamanian dictator is jailed in Miami, awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges.

The others sentenced Friday were Akbar A. Bilgrami of BCCI’s Miami branch, 12 years; Syted Aftab Hussain, who worked for BCCI in Panama, 7 years, three months; Ian Howard of BCCI Paris, 4 years, nine months; Sibte Hassan of BCCI Paris, 3 years, one month; and Colombian aircraft broker Rudolf Armbrecht, 12 years, seven months and a $200,000 fine.

The six were arrested after a two-year government sting operation and were convicted in July of conspiracy and laundering drug money.

″The use and abuse of cocaine is the scourge of this country today, and has been for at least a decade,″ Hodges told the defendants. ″It has produced enormous sums of money which have served to corrupt many of our institutions in a way that was unknown and unthought of 20 years ago.″

During the trial, prosecutors told how U.S. Customs Service agents infiltrated a Medellin, Colombia, drug syndicate, picked up cocaine profits from U.S. middlemen and asked the bankers to hide the source of the cash through a complex series of international wire transfers and loans.

The six were arrested in October 1988 after federal agents chauffeured them by limousine to a fake bachelor party and wedding that had been arranged to lure them to Tampa.

Two subsidiaries of Luxembourg-based BCCI, with more than 70 offices worldwide, pleaded guilty to money laundering at the start of trial in January and agreed to forfeit a record $15.3 million. The bank was placed on five years probation under supervision of the Federal Reserve System and agreed to open its books to prosecutors investigating Noriega.

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The case marked the first time an international financial institution was indicted on American money-laundering charges.

The case also led to nine related guilty pleas in Florida; convictions in England of a former BCCI officer and a bank associate; and 21 additional convictions in Detroit, Houston, New York and Philadelphia.

0928EST