All Is Clouded by Desire: Global Banking, Money Laundering, and International Organized Crime
Book by Praeger, 2004
As is often the case, this project came about by pure happenstance. In the early 1990s, an especially adroit journalist friend, Ira Silverman, who was then a senior producer at NBC News, suggested that we might find it interesting to take a close look at the affairs of Mr. Bruce Rappaport, a Geneva banker. Ira hinted that Rappaport was very close to American and Israeli intelligence and had been involved in numerous high-profile international scandals, and there were ongoing investigations into his questionable little banks in Antigua. At the time, Ira was examining Rappaport's involvement with Gaith Pharaon, a prominent figure in the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) debacle. And, thus it began.
In a serendipitous meeting with another friend, A. J. Woolston-Smith (Smitty), an investigator for the New York State Assembly, we mentioned our budding interest in Bruce Rappaport. As luck would have it, during the 1970s, Smitty had been part of an investigation by the British detective firm Q-MEN, looking into Bruce Rappaport's gargantuan rip-off of the Indonesian state-owned oil company, Pertamina. This caper seriously undermined the economy of Indonesia while making millions for the perpetrators. In addition to suggesting potential leads, Smitty turned over all his notes and documents relating to the case, giving us the first close look at some of the activities of Mr. Rappaport. In 1993, while traveling in Europe, we contacted several Swiss journalists who agreed to discuss Bruce Rappaport and his bank. We learned that Rappaport had a bad reputation in Geneva and that his bank had been under a cloud with the Swiss banking authorities.
On a visit to Geneva in the summer of that same year, we had time to spare before our train departed, so we stopped by The Bank of New York-Inter Maritime Bank to see whether we just might be able to meet with Mr. Rappaport. We stated our business and were told that Mr. Rappaport was out of town, but that we could leave a message. We made a quick trip across the way, to the Hotel Beau Rivage, to borrow a piece of stationery on which to write the message. In brief, we explained that we were in town and had hoped to meet with Mr. Rappaport for an interview. Period. After depositing our message with the guard, we left by train for Amsterdam. Here is where things began to get curious. At no time in Switzerland did we mention where we had traveled from, nor where we would be staying in Amsterdam. Yet, when we returned to the small and lovely Hotel Ambassade on the Herengracht, there was a fax from Mr. Rappaport's secretary, saying that since we had apparently already checked out of our Geneva hotel, Mr. Rappaport would be happy to answer any written questions we cared to submit. A quick lesson that this was no ordinary banker and, more importantly, that we were now on Rappaport's radar screen.
Later, in the fall of that same year, we were dinner guests of Mandy Rice-Davies and her husband, Ken Foreman, in Coconut Grove, Florida. Mandy, a novelist, is probably best remembered for her role in the Profumo affair, which rocked Britain's government in 1963. She had moved to Israel, married a man in the nightclub business in Tel Aviv, and thus had come to know something of the Israeli underworld. It was in this setting that she first came across Bruce Rappaport. When we described our research project and asked for a letter of introduction, Mandy refused, noting that she was fond of us and then went on to say, in no uncertain terms, that Bruce Rappaport is a dangerous man, close to Mossad, with a very bad reputation. She strongly urged us to drop the project.