True Life Bad Bank Inspires Movie (As Usual Truth is Stranger than Fiction)

by Erin McCune on February 22, 2009

in Current Events, Financial Regulators

Erin McCune

In honor of the Oscars this evening, a post on banking and the movies. Last week the film The International opened, featuring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. The film is about evil, murderous bankers – the bad bank in the movie resembles an International sinister organization out of a James Bond plot.

As it turns out, the story of the real life bad bank on which the story is based is much more fascinating:

BCCI became the focus in 1991 of one of the largest scandals in world financial history. Due to the massive fraud and corruption at the heart of the bank, it was described as a “$20-billion-plus heist”. Regulators in the United States and the United Kingdom found it to be involved in money laundering, bribery, support of terrorism, arms trafficking, the sale of nuclear technologies, the commission and facilitation of tax evasion, smuggling, illegal immigration, and the illicit purchases of banks and real estate. The bank was found to have at least $13 billion unaccounted for. The bank’s relationship with underworld elements led to the nickname “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.”Wikipedia

No murder, but plenty of bad, bad business. Apparently the Naomi Watts character is based on a real-life Manhattan investigator named John Moscow who says he is much less pretty than Ms Watts. To learn more of the sordid details (fascinating) listen to NPR’s Planet Money podcast interview with John Moscow, (starts at 15:00 min). The interview is great; it’s disappointing that the movie has so little to do with the true (cinematic!) facts.

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