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Bank with close ties to Bush administration engulfed in scandal

Wednesday 25 August 2004

By Joseph Kay

The Justice Department announced on Friday that it is launching
a criminal investigation into Riggs Bank. In recent months, the
Washington-based bank has become engulfed in a scandal related
to charges of money-laundering, corruption and terrorist financing.

Riggs, which touts itself as “the most important bank
in the most important city in the world,” has been known
for decades as the bank of the Washington elite, including politicians,
foreign ambassadors and the wealthy. It has held presidential
accounts stretching back to the time of the Civil War, and is
a prominent fixture in the political and social establishment
of the nation’s capital.

Or rather, it was a prominent fixture. In July, PNL
Financial Services agreed to buy Riggs for $779 million. The sale
will become final by early next year.

The bank’s prominent embassy and international operations
will be shut down in an attempt to bury a scandal that has the
potential of becoming much larger. That an institution like Riggs
could so quickly disintegrate is an indication of the extent of
the corruption that has overtaken American finance and government.

There are three separate activities for which Riggs has come
under investigation: (1) its relationship with the Saudi royal
family and the potential financing of two of the September 11
hijackers through an account owned by the wife of the Saudi ambassador;
(2) its relationship with the corrupt and dictatorial regime of
the oil-rich West African country of Equatorial Guinea; and (3)
its banking business with the former military dictator of Chile,
Augusto Pinochet.

The Saudi accounts

The public revelations concerning the bank’s relationship
with Saudi Arabia came mainly through the publication of a Newsweek
article on December 2, 2002 (“The Saudi Money Trail”).
The news magazine reported that in January 2000, two of the hijackers
who were on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon—Nawaf
Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar—received monetary aid and other
assistance from Omar al-Bayoumi.

Alhazmi and Almihdhar are at the center of suspicions of US
government complicity in the 9/11 attacks—and for good reason.
The CIA had identified the two as early as January 2000 as Al
Qaeda operatives, and the Washington Post reported in June
2002 that the FBI also knew of the two from January of 2000. Yet
they were allowed to enter the US and live openly in San Diego
for 18 months prior to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Newsweek reported in September 2002 that the roommate of
Alhazmi and Almihdhar in San Diego was an FBI informant!

According to the December 2002 Newsweek article on Riggs
Bank, al-Bayoumi “apparently did work for Dallah Avco, an
aviation-services company with extensive contracts with the Saudi
Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan, the
father of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar.
According to informed sources, some federal investigators suspect
that al-Bayoumi could have been an advance man for the 9/11 hijackers,
sent by Al Qaeda to assist the plot that ultimately claimed 3,000

Al-Bayoumi may have been receiving assistance in his activities
from sections of the Saudi royal family. The Newsweek article
states: “About two months after al-Bayoumi began aiding Alhazmi
and Almihdhar, Newsweek has learned, al-Bayoumi’s
wife began receiving regular stipends, often monthly and usually
around $2,000 and totaling tens of thousands of dollars. The money
came in the form of cashier’s checks, purchased from Washington’s
Riggs Bank by Princess Haifa bin Faisal, the daughter of the late
King Faisal and wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi envoy who is
a prominent Washington figure and personal friend of the Bush
family. The checks were sent to a woman named Majeda Ibrahin Dweikat,
who in turn signed over many of them to al-Bayoumi’s wife...”

Dweikat’s husband, Osama Basnan, is reported to be a sympathizer
of Al Qaeda and is known to have had friendly relations with the
two hijackers, Alhazmi and Almihdhar.

Al-Bayoumi apparently came under suspicion shortly after the
attacks of September 11. He was picked up by British intelligence,
which found evidence that he had made two phone calls to diplomats
at the Saudi Embassy in Washington. However, he was released and
is reported to be in Saudi Arabia.

Further, according to Newsweek: “Osama Basnan showed
up in Houston last April [2001] while Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
came to town with a vast entourage en route to President George
W. Bush’s ranch. According to informed sources, Basnan met
with a high Saudi prince who has responsibilities for intelligence
matters and is known to bring suitcases full of cash into the
United States.”

There are suspicions that Basnan may have been a member of
Saudi intelligence, suggesting that Saudi intelligence was closely
monitoring, if not aiding, the activity of the September 11 hijackers
through its accounts at Riggs.

Newsweek noted that the FBI, as of December 2002, still
had an investigation open into the transactions. In July 2003,
the FBI accused Riggs Bank of failing to abide by anti-money-laundering
(AML) regulations.

Prior to and after the attacks of September 11, it was not
unusual for Saudi clients to transfers of millions of dollars
in and out of the bank with no questions asked. This was in violation
of AML regulations, which require the reporting of all transaction
involving such large sums of money.

The bank was eventually fined $25 million in May 2004 for violating
these regulations. However, the FBI has issued a statement saying
it found no evidence of terrorist financing. The Bush administration
has refused to release the intelligence behind the investigation,
citing “national security concerns.”

Even after the FBI’s accusations in July 2003, the bank
continued to allow massive cash transfers by the Saudi ambassador.
Under pressure, the bank announced this past March that it was
closing all Saudi accounts.

Equatorial Guinea and General Pinochet

On July 14, 2004, the Minority Staff of the US Senate Permanent
Subcommittee on Investigations, at the request of Democrat Carl
Levin, the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, issued
a report that dealt mainly with the bank’s accounts for Equatorial
Guinea and Augusto Pinochet.

The report found that “the evidence reviewed by the Subcommittee
staff establishes that, since at least 1997, Riggs has disregarded
its anti-money laundering (AML) obligations, maintained a dysfunctional
AML program despite frequent warnings from OCC [Office of the
Comptroller of the Currency] regulators, and allowed or, at times,
actively facilitated suspicious financial activity.” The
OCC, a branch of the Treasury Department, is responsible for regulating
nationally chartered banks.

Equatorial Guinea was Riggs’ largest client. It held over
60 accounts at the bank, with varied holdings of $300-700 million.
Its ruler, Teodoro Obian Nguema Mbasogo, came to power in a military
coup in 1979 and is infamous for his corruption and brutality.
Relations with the United States became strained in the mid-1990s,
when the Clinton administration broke off diplomatic ties. However,
these were restored by the Bush administration in 2003. The country
holds interest for the United States because of its large oil

Riggs appears to have held both Equatorial Guinea government
treasury accounts and the personal accounts of Obiang, his family
members, and ministers in his government.

According to the subcommittee report, Riggs “serviced
the EG [Equatorial Guinean] accounts with little or no attention
to the bank’s anti-money laundering obligations...”
For example, “Riggs opened multiple personal accounts for
the President of Equatorial Guinea, his wife, and other relatives;
helped establish shell offshore corporations for the EG President
and his sons; and over a three-year period, from 2000 to 2002,
facilitated nearly $13 million in cash deposits into Riggs accounts
controlled by the EG President and his wife.”

Riggs also opened an account that received large sums of money
from oil companies that did business with Equatorial Guinea, including
Exxon Mobil, Amerada Hess, Marathon Oil and ChevronTexaco. Riggs
allowed the wire transfer of over $35 million from the account
to two unknown companies. “The Subcommittee has reason to
believe that at least one of these recipient companies is controlled
in whole or in part by the EG President.”

Riggs appears to have acted as a conduit for large-scale bribes
or other corrupt machinations between the giant oil corporations
and the dictator of a country with which they were eager to do
business. The report also noted that these oil companies made
a number of large payments (sometimes valued at over $1 million)
to individual officials or family members for a variety of services.

The manager of Riggs’ accounts for Equatorial Guinea was
Simon P. Kareri, who was eventually fired by the bank in January
2004. According to a bank employee, on more than one occasion
Kareri visited the Equatorial Guinean embassy and returned with
a suitcase full of $3 million in cash, which was deposited in
the bank with no reports to financial regulators.

According to the subcommittee report, “The bank leadership
permitted [Kareri] become closely involved with EG officials
and business activities, including advising the EG government
on financial matters and becoming the sole signatory on an EG
account holding substantial funds. The bank exercised such lax
oversight of the account manager’s activities that, among
other misconduct, the account manager was able to wire transfer
more than $1 million from the EG oil account at Riggs to another
bank for an account opened in the name of Jadini Holdings, an
offshore corporation controlled by the account manager’s

In addition to its dealings with the Saudi royal family and
Equatorial Guinea’s dictator, Riggs had a close relationship
with the former dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet
held numerous active accounts at Riggs between 1994 and 2002,
even while he was under house arrest in Britain and his assets
were supposedly frozen.

According to the subcommittee report, “The aggregate deposits
in the Pinochet accounts at Riggs ranged from $4 to $8 million
at a time.... Riggs account managers took actions consistent with
helping Mr. Pinochet to evade legal proceedings seeking to discover
and attach his bank accounts.... Riggs opened multiple accounts
and accepted millions of dollars in deposits from Mr. Pinochet
with no serious inquiry into questions regarding the source of
his wealth; helped him set up offshore shell corporations and
open accounts in the names of those corporations to disguise his
control of the accounts; altered the names of his personal accounts
to disguise their ownership; transferred $1.6 million from London
to the United States while Mr. Pinochet was in detention and the
subject of a court order to attach his bank accounts; conducted
transactions through Riggs’ own accounts to hide Mr. Pinochet’s
involvement in some cash transactions; and delivered over $1.9
million in cashiers checks to Mr. Pinochet in Chile to enable
him to obtain substantial cash payments from banks in that country.”

The scope of the corruption, money-laundering and other suspicious
activities is indeed astonishing. While it was engaged in these
activities, the bank operated under the not-so-watchful eye of
the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. In spite of clear
indications of regulatory violations at least as early as 1997,
the OCC took no actions.

Particularly closely involved with the OCC’s investigation
into the Pinochet accounts was the comptroller’s examiner-in-charge,
R. Ashley Lee, who worked at the OCC from 1998 to October 2002.
According to the subcommittee report, “In 2001, [Lee]...advised
more senior OCC personnel against taking a formal enforcement
action against Riggs, because the bank had promised to correct
identified AML deficiencies. In 2002, he ordered examiners not
to include a memorandum or work papers on the Pinochet examination
to the OCC’s electronic database.”

Lee went to work for Riggs two weeks later, quickly becoming
an executive vice president and the chief risk officer. The subcommittee
report states: “During his next 18-months at the bank, he
attended a number of meetings with OCC personnel related to Riggs’
AML problems,” despite regulations prohibiting former OCC
employees from attending meetings on OCC-related maters.

Ties to the Bush family

The revelations of the activities at Riggs Bank demonstrate
how commonplace and extensive criminal activity has become within
the American financial and political establishment. Not coincidentally,
the bank’s activity has a great deal in common with certain
features prominent in the Bush administration: the heavy influence
of oil interests, the close ties with the Saudi ruling elite,
the funding and support given to dictators and former dictators,
including General Pinochet.

The relationship of Riggs to the Bush administration is more
than tangential. Riggs owns a money management firm, J. Bush &
Co., operated by Jonathan Bush, the brother of George H.W. Bush
and the current president’s uncle.

Jonathan Bush played a very important role in helping find
investors for the various failed oil businesses that George W.
Bush ran before he began his career in politics. Jonathan Bush
also helped raise money for George H.W. Bush and is a former chair
of the New York Republican State Finance Committee. In 2000, he
was briefly named president and CEO of Riggs Investment Management
Company (RIMCO), a wholly owned subsidiary of Riggs Bank.

While Jonathan Bush appears not to have been directly involved
in the Saudi, Pinochet or Equatorial Guinean accounts, his position
at Riggs is an indication of the close ties between the bank and
the Bush family.

Moreover, Riggs is owned by the Allbritton family, a Texas
family with close ties to the Republican establishment. Joe Allbritton,
the former head of Riggs who bought the bank in the mid-1970s,
is a friend of the Bush family. His son, Robert Allbritton, is
the current chairman and CEO.

The Allbritton family is known among the Washington elite for
the party it traditionally holds after the annual Alfalfa Club
dinner, hosted to mark the birthday of Robert E. Lee, the southern
general in the Civil War. The New York Times (“A Washington
Bank, A Global Mess,” April 11, 2004) notes, “The Alfalfa
roster includes presidents, politicians, diplomats and business
impresarios, all bound together by being either formidably influential
or fabulously rich. Attendees have included luminaries like Prince
Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United
States; Jack Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Association
of America; and others with surnames like Greenspan, Kissinger
and Rehnquist. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made
their first joint public appearance after the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks at the Alfalfa gathering in 2002.”

Valenti, who, like Allbritton and Bush, is a former Texas businessman,
is also on the board of directors of Riggs Bank.

A television station also owned by Allbritton was in the news
earlier this year after it refused to air an ad critical of the
Bush administration’s policy in Iraq.

Perhaps even more than the Enron scandal, the Riggs scandal
is a deeply political scandal. No doubt, much of what went
on at Riggs remains to be uncovered. With the announced sale of
Riggs to PNL, which will be completed by early next year, the
owners of the bank are clearly attempting to contain the scandal’s

Forum posts

  • First and foremost, the Department of Justice is going to investigate?
    Yeah, Right, and we all just got off the turnip truck.
    To date just how many times has the Department of Justice conducted investigations and how many other than small items have ever come to light?
    How about an investigation into the theft of the election in 2000, how about investigations into voting fraud in 2002..I think you get my point. Like the fox guarding the hen house.
    Robert D. Daily
    404 Mill Street
    W. Frankfort, IL. 62896

    • i think that the public should be made aware of the fact that g.w. bush’s granddad was on the board of the union bank during the nazi days, and that the bush money (their current fortune)is blood money from the murdered jews. they cashed in the paintings, money and treasures that
      belonged to these murdered victims, and laundered it through the Union bank. I don’tunderstndhow the American people could allow this president to stay in power one moreminteThis shows me that our news media is so deceptive and full of lies and half-truths thatAmerican citizens are constantly being lied to and deceived by this administration. What Ihave to say is"shame, ahame shame! This whole regime should be brought down, the soonerthe better. Also, shame on the lying media, especially Fox. The American people deserveto know the whole truth behind this corrupt regime that is currently in power. Our countrydeserves much, much better, and I feel it is to our peril if we don’t wake up and dosomething about it. Thanks...

    • dept of justice to overwhelmed prosecuting teenagers for sharing music on line to investigate.

    • I am a veteran of the Korean war. The problem is that the american people without computers do not know the truth about George W Bush. The news media does not attack Bush on any issue, like the way he attacks the war veterans. The news media lie to and deceive the american people, they do not report the wrongs that Bush has done and is still doing. They simply cover up for Bush and do not report what they know about him.. What I do not understand is why there is no protests against the news media. Look at the protests going on at the republican convention in New York right now. Why can’t we have similar protests against CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and other television news networks? Bush can do anything he wants to do because he has the television news networks on his side and he controls the republican congress and senate. We had better take a stand against the news media and we had better do it quick. This country cannot stand another four years of George W Bush.

    • Anonymous-
      I think the only way that things can be made "right" in this country is with prayer; I don’t want to make anyone paranoid- but there needs to be a change. I don’t know how many of you are "believers" out there but we all need to start praying. The truth of the matter is that corruption is how many "elite" families in this country have become and remained rich.I don’t know if this will get printed- if it doesn’t- oh well!!! I will still continue to pray. But there has been a bad stench for many, many years before any of us was born (a previous responder wrote about the Bush family’s ties to Nazi Germany). That was before my grandmother was born- that is pretty deep-seeded- wouldn’t you say? But I know someone that is more rich, more powerful, and much much much older. Pray to GOD- He was here before any of this corruption was created and He will makes things right. After all we must all reap what we sow. Another thing is that God didn’t cause 9/11 to happen- no one should believe that bologna!!! Things are just coming to ahead. Take care everyone and don’t stop believing in the power of Love and God, and Goodness

  • Will you be updating this article to include any ties to Bush regarding the arrest of Mrs. Thatcher’s son? Isn’t that where Bush wants to set up oil drilling?

  • Who is George Bush? How did he become the 41st U.S. President?

    He is said to be a man of the "old establishment," who "chose to seek his fortune as an independent oilman...." @s1

    In fact, Bush was never "independent." Every career step in his upward climb relied on his family’s powerful associations. The Bush family joined the Eastern Establishment comparatively recently, and only as servitors. Their wealth and influence resulted from their loyalty to another, more powerful family, and their willingness to do anything to get ahead.

    For what they did, Bush’s forebears should have become very famous, or infamous. They remained obscure figures, managers from behind the scenes. But their actions—including his father’s role as banker for Adolf Hitler—had tragic effects for the whole planet.

    It was these services to his family’s benefactors, which propelled George Bush to the top.

    this is from a book about the bush family

    • President George Herbert Walker Bush was born in 1924, the son of Prescott S. Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. We will begin the George Bush story about a decade before his birth, on the eve of World War I. We will follow the career of his father, Prescott Bush, through his marriage with Dorothy Walker, on the path to fortune, elegance and power.
      Prescott Bush entered Yale University in 1913. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Prescott had spent the last five years before college in St. George’s Episcopal preparatory school in Newport, Rhode Island.
      Prescott Bush’s first college year, 1913, was also the freshman year at Yale for E. Roland ( "Bunny" ) Harriman, whose older brother (Wm.) Averell Harriman had just graduated from Yale. This is the Averell Harriman who went on to fame as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union during World War II, as a governor of New York State, and as a presidential advisor who was greatly responsible for starting the Vietnam War.
      The Harrimans would become the sponsors of the Bushes, to lift them onto the stage of world history.
      In the spring of 1916, Prescott Bush and "Bunny" Harriman were chosen for membership in an elite Yale senior-year secret society known as Skull and Bones. This unusually morbid, death-celebrating group helped Wall Street financiers find active young men of "good birth" to form a kind of imitation British aristocracy in America.
      World War I was then raging in Europe. With the prospect that the U.S.A. would soon join the war, two Skull and Bones "Patriarchs" , Averell Harriman (class of 1913) and Percy A. Rockefeller (class of 1900), paid special attention to Prescott’s class of 1917. They wanted reliable cadres to help them play the Great Game, in the lucrative new imperial era that the war was opening up for London and New York moneycrats. Prescott Bush, by then a close friend of "Bunny" Harriman, and several other Bonesmen from their class of 1917 would later comprise the core partners in Brown Brothers Harriman, the world’s largest private investment bank.
      World War I did make an immense amount of money for the clan of stock speculators and British bankers who had just taken over U.S. industry. The Harrimans were stars of this new Anglo-American elite.
      Averell’s father, stock broker E.H. Harriman, had gained control of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1898 with credit arranged by William Rockefeller, Percy’s father, and by Kuhn Loeb & Co.’s British-affiliated private bankers, Otto Kahn, Jacob Schiff and Felix Warburg.
      William Rockefeller, treasurer of Standard Oil and brother of Standard founder John D. Rockefeller, owned National City Bank (later "Citibank" ) together with Texas-based James Stillman. In return for their backing, E.H. Harriman deposited in City Bank the vast receipts from his railroad lines. When he issued tens of millions of dollars of "watered" (fraudulent) railroad stock, Harriman sold most of the shares through the Kuhn Loeb company.
      The First World War elevated Prescott Bush and his father, Samuel P. Bush, into the lower ranks of the Eastern Establishment.
      As war loomed in 1914, National City Bank began reorganizing the U.S. arms industry. Percy A. Rockefeller took direct control of the Remington Arms company, appointing his own man, Samuel F. Pryor, as the new chief executive of Remington.
      The U.S entered World War I in 1917. In the spring of 1918, Prescott’s father, Samuel P. Bush, became chief of the Ordnance, Small Arms and Ammunition Section of the War Industries Board.@s2 The senior Bush took national responsibility for government assistance to and relations with Remington and other weapons companies.
      This was an unusual appointment, as Prescott’s father seemed to have no background in munitions. Samuel Bush had been president of the Buckeye Steel Castings Co. in Columbus, Ohio, makers of railcar parts. His entire career had been in the railroad business— supplying equipment to the Wall Street-owned railroad systems.
      The War Industries Board was run by Bernard Baruch, a Wall Street speculator with close personal and business ties to old E.H. Harriman. Baruch’s brokerage firm had handled Harriman speculations of all kinds.@s3
      In 1918, Samuel Bush became director of the Facilities Division of the War Industries Board. Prescott’s father reported to the Board’s Chairman, Bernard Baruch, and to Baruch’s assistant, Wall Street private banker Clarence Dillon.
      Robert S. Lovett, President of Union Pacific Railroad, chief counsel to E.H. Harriman and executor of his will, was in charge of national production and purchase "priorities" for Baruch’s board.
      With the war mobilization conducted under the supervision of the War Industries Board, U.S. consumers and taxpayers showered unprecedented fortunes on war producers and certain holders of raw materials and patents. Hearings in 1934 by the committee of U.S. Senator Gerald Nye attacked the "Merchants of Death" — war profiteers such as Remington Arms and the British Vickers company —whose salesmen had manipulated many nations into wars, and then supplied all sides with the weapons to fight them.
      Percy Rockefeller and Samuel Pryor’s Remington Arms supplied machine guns and Colt automatic pistols; millions of rifles to Czarist Russia; over half of the small-arms ammunition used by the Anglo-American allies in World War I; and 69 percent of the rifles used by the United States in that conflict.@s4
      Samuel Bush’s wartime relationship to these businessmen would continue after the war, and would especially aid his son Prescott’s career of service to the Harrimans.
      Most of the records and correspondence of Samuel Bush’s arms- related section of the government have been burned, "to save space" in the National Archives. This matter of destroyed or misplaced records should be of concern to citizens of a constitutional republic. Unfortunately, it is a rather constant impediment with regard to researching George Bush’s background: He is certainly the most "covert" American chief executive.
      Now, arms production in wartime is by necessity carried on with great security precautions. The public need not know details of the private lives of the government or industry executives involved, and a broad interrelationship between government and private-sector personnel is normal and useful.
      But during the period preceding World War I, and in the war years 1914-1917 when the U.S. was still neutral, interlocking Wall Street financiers subservient to British strategy lobbied heavily, and twisted U.S. government and domestic police functions. Led by the J.P. Morgan concern, Britain’s overall purchasing agent in America, these financiers wanted a world war and they wanted the United States in it as Britain’s ally. The U.S. and British arms companies, owned by these international financiers, poured out weapons abroad in deals not subject to the scrutiny of any electorate back home. The same gentlemen, as we shall see, later supplied weapons and money to Hitler’s Nazis.
      That this problem persists today, is in some respect due to the "control" over the documentation and the history of the arms traffickers.
      World War I was a disaster for civilized humanity. It had terrible, unprecedented casualties, and shattering effects on the moral philosophy of Europeans and Americans.
      But for a brief period, the war treated Prescott Bush rather well.
      In June, 1918, just as his father took over responsibility for relations of the government with the private arms producers, Prescott went to Europe with the U.S. Army. His unit did not come near any fire until September. But on August 8, 1918, the following item appeared on the front page of Bush’s home-town newspaper:
      High Military Honors Conferred on Capt. Bush
      For Notable Gallantry, When Leading Allied Commanders Were Endangered, Local Man is Awarded French, English and U.S. Crosses.
      International Honors, perhaps unprecedented in the life of an American soldier, have been conferred upon Captain Prescott Sheldon Bush, son of Mr. and Mrs. S.P. Bush of Columbus.
      Upon young Bush ... were conferred: Cross of the Legion of Honor, ... Victoria Cross, ... Distinguished Service Cross....
      Conferring of the three decorations upon one man at one time implies recognition of a deed of rare valor and probably of great military importance as well.
      From word which has reached Columbus during the last few days, it appears as if the achievement of Captain Bush well measures up to these requirements.
      The incident occurred on the western front about the time the Germans were launching their great offensive of July 15.... The history of the remarkable victory scored later by the allies might have been written in another vein, but for the heroic and quick action of Captain Bush.
      The ... three allied leaders, Gen. [Ferdinand] Foch, Sir Douglas Haig and Gen. [John J.] Pershing ... were making an inspection of American positions. Gen. Pershing had sent for Captain Bush to guide them about one sector.... Suddenly Captain Bush noticed a shell coming directly for them. He shouted a warning, suddenly drew his bolo knife, stuck it up as he would a ball bat, and parried the blow, causing the shell to glance off to the right....
      Within 24 hours young Bush was notified ... [that] the three allied commanders had recommended him for practically the highest honors within their gift.... Captain Bush is 23 years old, a graduate of Yale in the class of 1917. He was one of Yale’s best- known athletes ... was leader of the glee club ... and in his senior year was elected to the famous Skull and Bones Society....@s5
      The day after this astonishing story appeared, there was a large cartoon on the editorial page. It depicted Prescott Bush as a small boy, reading a story-book about military heroism, and saying: "Gee! I wonder if anything like that could ever truly happen to a boy." The caption below was a rehash of the batting- away- the-deadly-shell exploit, written in storybook style.@s6
      Local excitement about the military "Babe Ruth" lasted just four weeks. Then this somber little box appeared on the front page:
      Editor State Journal:
      A cable received from my son, Prescott S. Bush, brings word that he has not been decorated, as published in the papers a month ago. He feels dreadfully troubled that a letter, written in a spirit of fun, should have been misinterpreted. He says he is no hero and asks me to make explanations. I will appreciate your kindness in publishing this letter....
      Flora Sheldon Bush.
      Columbus, Sept. 5.@s7
      Prescott Bush later claimed that he spent "about 10 or 11 weeks" in the area of combat in France. "We were under fire there.... It was quite exciting, and of course a wonderful experience." @s8
      Prescott Bush was discharged in mid-1919, and returned for a short time to Columbus, Ohio. But his humiliation in his home town was so intense that he could no longer live there. The "war hero" story was henceforth not spoken of in his presence. Decades later, when he was an important, rich U.S. Senator, the story was whispered and puzzled over among the Congressmen.
      Looking to be rescued from this ugly situation, Captain Bush went to the 1919 reunion of his Yale class in New Haven, Connecticut. Skull and Bones Patriarch Wallace Simmons, closely tied to the arms manufacturers, offered Prescott Bush a job in his St. Louis railroad equipment company. Bush took the offer and moved to St. Louis—and his destiny.
      A Thoroughbred Marriage
      Prescott Bush went to St. Louis to repair his troubled life. Sometime that same year, Averell Harriman made a trip there on a project which would have great consequences for Prescott. The 28- year-old Harriman, until then something of a playboy, wanted to bring his inherited money and contacts into action in the arena of world affairs.
      President Theodore Roosevelt had denounced Harriman’s father for "cynicism and deep-seated corruption" and called him an "undesirable citizen." @s9 For the still- smarting Averell to take his place among the makers and breakers of nations, he needed a financial and intelligence-gathering organization of his own. The man Harriman sought to create such an institution for him was Bert Walker, a Missouri stock broker and corporate wheeler- dealer.
      George Herbert ( "Bert" ) Walker, for whom President George H.W. Bush was named, did not immediately accept Harriman’s proposal. Would Walker leave his little St. Louis empire, to try his influence in New York and Europe?
      Bert was the son of a dry goods wholesaler who had thrived on imports from England.@s1@s0 The British connection had paid for Walker summer houses in Santa Barbara, California, and in Maine— "Walker’s Point" at Kennebunkport. Bert Walker had been sent to England for his prep school and college education.
      By 1919 Bert Walker had strong ties to the Guaranty Trust Company in New York and to the British-American banking house J.P. Morgan and Co. These Wall Street concerns represented all the important owners of American railroads: the Morgan partners and their associates or cousins in the intermarried Rockefeller, Whitney, Harriman and Vanderbilt families.
      Bert Walker was known as the midwest’s premier deal-arranger, awarding the investment capital of his international-banker contacts to the many railroads, utilities and other midwestern industries of which he and his St. Louis friends were executives or board members.
      Walker’s operations were always quiet, or mysterious, whether in local or global affairs. He had long been the "power behind the throne" in the St. Louis Democratic Party, along with his crony, former Missouri Governor David R. Francis. Walker and Francis together had sufficient influence to select the party’s candidates.@s1@s1
      Back in 1904, Bert Walker, David Francis, Washington University President Robert Brookings and their banker/broker circle had organized a world’s fair in St. Louis, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. In line with the old Southern Confederacy family backgrounds of many of these sponsors, the fair featured a "Human Zoo" : live natives from backward jungle regions were exhibited in special cages under the supervision of anthropologist William J. McGee.
      So Averell Harriman was a natural patron for Bert Walker. Bert shared Averell’s passion for horse breeding and horse racing, and easily accommodated the Harriman family’s related social philosophy. They believed that the horses and racing stables they owned showed the way toward a sharp upgrading of the human stock—just select and mate thoroughbreds, and spurn or eliminate inferior animals.
      The First World War had brought the little St. Louis oligarchy into the Confederate-slaveowner-oriented administration of President Woodrow Wilson and his advisors, Col. Edward House and Bernard Baruch.
      Walker’s friend Robert Brookings got into Bernard Baruch’s War Industries Board as director of national Price Fixing (sic). David R. Francis became U.S. ambassador to Russia in 1916. As the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, we find Bert Walker busy appointing people to Francis’s staff in Petrograd.@s1@s2
      Walker’s earliest activities in relation to the Soviet state are of significant interest to historians, given the activist role he was to play there together with Harriman. But Walker’s life is as covert as the rest of the Bush clan’s, and the surviving public record is extremely thin.
      The 1919 Versailles peace conference brought together British imperial strategists and their American friends to make postwar global arrangements. For his own intended international adventures, Harriman needed Bert Walker the seasoned intriguer, who quietly represented many of the British-designated rulers of American politics and finance.
      After two persuasion trips west by Harriman,@s1@s3 Walker at length agreed to move to New York. But he kept his father’s summer house in Kennebunkport, Maine.
      Bert Walker formally organized the W.A. Harriman & Co. private bank in November 1919. Walker became the bank’s president and chief executive; Averell Harriman was chairman and controlling co-owner with his brother Roland ( "Bunny" ), Prescott Bush’s close friend from Yale; and Percy Rockefeller was a director and a founding financial sponsor.
      In the autumn of 1919, Prescott Bush made the acquaintance of Bert Walker’s daughter Dorothy. They were engaged the following year, and were married in August, 1921.@s1@s4 Among the ushers and grooms at the elaborate wedding were Ellery S. James, Knight Woolley and four other fellow Skull and Bonesmen from the Yale Class of 1917.@s1@s5 The Bush-Walker extended family has gathered each summer at the "Walker country home" in Kennebunkport, from this marriage of President Bush’s parents down to the present day.
      When Prescott married Dorothy, he was only a minor executive of the Simmons Co., railroad equipment suppliers, while his wife’s father was building one of the most gigantic businesses in the world. The following year the couple tried to move back to Columbus, Ohio; there Prescott worked for a short time in a rubber products company owned by his father. But they soon moved again to Milton, Mass., after outsiders bought the little family business and moved it near there.
      Thus Prescott Bush was going nowhere fast, when his son George Herbert Walker Bush—the future U.S. President—was born in Milton, Mass., on June 12, 1924.
      Perhaps it was as a birthday gift for George, that "Bunny" Harriman stepped in to rescue his father Prescott from oblivion, bringing him into the Harriman-controlled U.S. Rubber Co. in New York City. In 1925 the young family moved to the town where George was to grow up: Greenwich, Connecticut, a suburb both of New York and of New Haven/Yale.
      Then on May 1, 1926, Prescott Bush joined W.A. Harriman & Co. as its vice president, under the bank’s president, Bert Walker, his father-in-law and George’s maternal grandfather—the head of the family.@s1@s6

    • Prescott Bush would demonstrate strong loyalty to the firm he joined in 1926. And the bank, with the scope and power of many ordinary nations, could amply reward its agents. George Bush’s Grandfather Walker had put the enterprise together, quietly, secretly, using all the international connections at his disposal. Let us briefly look back at the beginning of the Harriman firm—the Bush family enterprise—and follow its course into one of history’s darkest projects.
      The firm’s first global lever was its successful arrangement to get into Germany by dominating that country’s shipping. Averell Harriman announced in 1920 that he would re-start Germany’s Hamburg- Amerika Line, after many months of scheming and arm-twisting. Hamburg-Amerika’s commercial steamships had been confiscated by the United States at the end of the First World War. These ships had then become the property of the Harriman enterprise, by some arrangements with the U.S. authorities that were never made public.
      The deal was breathtaking; it would create the world’s largest private shipping line. Hamburg-Amerika Line regained its confiscated vessels, for a heavy price. The Harriman enterprise took "the right to participate in 50 percent of all business originated in Hamburg" ; and for the next twenty years (1920-1940), the Harriman enterprise had "complete control of all activities of the Hamburg line in the United States." @s1@s7
      Harriman became co-owner of Hamburg-Amerika. The Harriman-Walker firm gained a tight hold on its management, with the not-so-subtle backing of the post-World War I occupation of Germany by the armies of England and America.
      Just after Harriman’s public statement, the St. Louis press celebrated Bert Walker’s role in assembling the money to consummate the deal:
      "Ex-St. Louisan Forms Giant Ship Merger"
      "G. H. Walker is Moving Power Behind Harriman-Morton Shipping Combine...."
      The story celebrated a "merger of two big financial houses in New York, which will place practically unlimited capital at the disposal of the new American-German shipping combine...." @s1@s8
      Bert Walker had arranged a "marriage" of J.P. Morgan credit and Harriman family inherited wealth.
      W.A. Harriman & Co., of which Walker was president and founder, was merging with the Morton & Co. private bank—and Walker was "[p]rominent in the affairs of Morton & Co.," which was interlocked with the Morgan-controlled Guaranty Trust Co.
      The Hamburg-Amerika takeover created an effective instrument for the manipulation and fatal subversion of Germany. One of the great "merchants of death," Samuel Pryor, was in it from the beginning. Pryor, then chairman of the executive committee of Remington Arms, helped arrange the deal and served with Walker on the board of Harriman’s shipping front organization, the American Ship and Commerce Co.
      Walker and Harriman took the next giant step in 1922, setting up their European headquarters office in Berlin. With the aid of the Hamburg-based Warburg bank, W.A. Harriman & Co. began spreading an investment net over German industry and raw materials.
      From the Berlin base, Walker and Harriman then plunged into deals with the new dictatorship of the Soviet Union. They led a select group of Wall Street and British Empire speculators who re-started the Russian oil industry, which had been devastated by the Bolshevik Revolution. They contracted to mine Soviet manganese, an element essential to modern steelmaking. These concessions were arranged directly with Leon Trotsky, then with Feliks Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet dictatorship’s secret intelligence service (K.G.B), whose huge statue was finally pulled down by pro-democracy demonstrators in 1991.
      These speculations created both channels of communication, and the style of accomodation, with the communist dictatorship, that have continued in the family down to President Bush.
      With the bank launched, Bert Walker found New York the ideal place to satisfy his passion for sports, games and gambling. Walker was elected president of the U.S. Golf Association in 1920. He negotiated new international rules for the game with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland. After these talks he contributed the three-foot-high silver Walker Cup, for which British and American teams have since competed every two years.
      Bert’s son-in-law Prescott Bush was later secretary of the U.S. Golf Association, during the grave political and economic crises of the early 1930s. Prescott became USGA President in 1935, while he was otherwise embroiled in the family firm’s work with Nazi Germany.
      When George was one year old, in 1925, Bert Walker and Averell Harriman headed a syndicate which rebuilt Madison Square Garden as the modern Palace of Sport. Walker was at the center of New York’s gambling scene in its heyday, in that Prohibition era of colorful and bloody gangsters. The Garden bloomed with million-dollar prize fights; bookies and their clients pooled more millions, trying to match the pace of the speculation-crazed stock and bond men. This was the era of "organized" crime—the national gambling and bootleg syndicate structured on the New York corporate model.
      By 1930, when George was a boy of six, Grandpa Walker was New York State Racing Commissioner. The vivid colors and sounds of the racing scene must have impressed little George as much as his grandfather. Bert Walker bred race horses at his own stable, the Log Cabin Stud. He was president of the Belmont Park race track. Bert also personally managed most aspects of Averell’s racing interests— down to picking the colors and fabrics for the Harriman racing gear.@s1@s9
      From 1926, George’s father Prescott Bush showed a fierce loyalty to the Harrimans and a dogged determination to advance himself; he gradually came to run the day-to-day operations of W.A. Harriman & Co. After the firm’s 1931 merger with the British-American banking house Brown Brothers, Prescott Bush became managing partner of the resulting company: Brown Brothers Harriman. This was ultimately the largest and politically the most important private banking house in America.
      Financial collapse, world depression and social upheaval followed the fevered speculation of the 1920s. The 1929-31 crash of securities values wiped out the small fortune Prescott Bush had gained since 1926. But because of his devotion to the Harrimans, they "did a very generous thing," as Bush later put it. They staked him to what he had lost and put him back on his feet.
      Prescott Bush described his own role, from 1931 through the 1940s, in a confidential interview:
      I emphasize ... that the Harrimans showed great courage and loyalty and confidence in us, because three or four of us were really running the business, the day to day business. Averell was all over the place in those days ... and Roland was involved in a lot of directorships, and he didn’t get down into the "lift- up-and-bear-down" activity of the bank, you see— the day- to-day decisions ... we were really running the business, the day to day business, all the administrative decisions and the executive decisions. We were the ones that did it. We were the managing partners, let’s say.@s2@s0
      But of the "three or four" partners in charge, Prescott was effectively at the head of the firm, because he had taken over management of the gigantic personal investment funds of Averell and E. Roland "Bunny" Harriman.
      In those interwar years, Prescott Bush made the family fortune which George Bush inherited. He piled up the money from an international project which continued until a new world war, and the action of the U.S. government, intervened to stop him.

    • 1. Washington Post, Aug. 16, 1991, p. A1.
      2. Gen. Hugh S. Johnson to Major J.H.K. Davis, June 6, 1918, file no. 334.8/168 or 334.8/451 in U.S. National Archives, Suitland, Maryland.
      3. Bernard M. Baruch, My Own Story (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1957), pp. 138-39. Baruch related that "our firm did a large business for Mr. Harriman.... In 1906 Harriman had [us] place heavy bets on Charles Evans Hughes in his race for Governor of New York against William Randolph Hearst. After several hundred thousand dollars had been wagered, [our firm] stopped. Hearing of this, Harriman called ... up. `Didn’t I tell you to bet?’ he demanded. `Now go on.’|"
      4. Alden Hatch, Remington Arms: An American History, 1956, copyright by the Remington Arms Co., pp. 224-25.
      5. The Ohio State Journal, Columbus, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 8, 1918.
      6. The Ohio State Journal, Friday, Aug. 9, 1918.
      7. The Ohio State Journal, Friday, Sept. 6, 1918.
      8. Interview with Prescott Bush in the Oral History Research Project conducted by Columbia University in 1966, Eisenhower Administration Part II; pp. 5-6. The interview was supposed to be kept confidential and was never published, but Columbia later sold microfilms of the transcript to certain libraries, including Arizona State University.
      9. Theodore Roosevelt to James S. Sherman, Oct. 6, 1906, made public by Roosevelt at a press conference April 2, 1907. Quoted in Henry F. Pringle, Theodore Roosevelt (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1931), p. 452. Roosevelt later confided to Harriman lawyer Robert S. Lovett that his views on Harriman were based on what J.P. Morgan had told him.
      10. See The Industries of St. Louis, published 1885 by J.M. Elstner & Co., pp. 61-62 for Crow, Hagardine & Co., David Walker’s first business; and p. 86 for Ely & Walker.
      11. See Letter of G.H. Walker to D.R. Francis, March 20, 1905, in the Francis collection of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri, on the organization of the Republicans and Democrats to run the election of the mayor, a Democrat acceptable to the socially prominent. The next day Walker became the treasurer and Francis the president of this "Committee of 1000." See also George H. Walker obituary, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 25, 1953.
      12. Letter of Perry Francis to his father, Ambassador David R. Francis, Oct. 15, 1917, Francis collection of the Missouri Historical Society. "... Joe Miller left for San Francisco last Tuesday night, where he will receive orders to continue to Petrograd. I was told by Mildred Kotany [Walker’s sister-in-law] that Bert Walker got him his appointment through Breck Long. I didn’t know Joe was after it, or could have helped him myself. He will be good company for you when he gets there...."
      13. Private interview with a Walker family member, cousin of President Bush.
      14. Prescott Bush, Columbia University, op. cit., p. 7.
      15. St. Louis Globe Democrat, Aug. 7, 1921. 16. This is the sequence of events, from Simmons to U.S. Rubber, which Prescott Bush gave in his Columbia University interview, op. cit.,) pp. 7-8.
      17. Public statement of Averell Harriman, New York Times, Oct. 6, 1920, p. 1.
      18. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Oct. 12, 1920, p. 1.
      19. Sports-as-business has continued in the family up through George Bush’s adult life. Bert’s son George Walker, Jr.—President Bush’s uncle and financial angel in Texas—co-founded the New York Mets and was the baseball club’s vice president and treasurer for 17 years until his death in 1977. The President’s son, George Walker Bush, was co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club during his father’s presidency.
      20. Prescott Bush, Columbia University, op. cit., pp. 16-22.

    • Anonymous- Wow!!! That was very interesting!!! Thank you for that history; I’ve never heard that story before. Thanks again!!!

    • I have been deeply involved in researching the early, almost entirely unknown years of the Walker-and-related Family (late 1700s-early 1900s) since late last year. This is pre-Bush years. Would be interested in knowing what you may have at hand of said history. Please advise how can be in touch, possibly offline. Thanks from Illinois.

  • I am so sorry , I seem to get carried away, but the Bush clan is very old and very scary, all should be scared shi**tless of what the want to do to this country..
    please read about the history of these people. Eugenics is what they want