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BCCI BESTOWED LAVISH GIFTS TO CURRY FAVOR

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter got a big basket filled with fruit, champagne, imported chocolates and other goodies every Christmas in Plains, Ga., for nearly a decade.

Richard Nixon received a gourmet basket in December 1986 that cost $85.The gifts came from the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the Pakistani-founded global bank that recently pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and agreed to forfeit a record $550 million in U.S. assets.

The presents, which were legal, were part of BCCI's decadelong campaign to curry favor with influential people.

And only the best would do: huge baskets filled with French champagne, caviar, Swiss chocolates and other delicacies, embossed leather desk calendars, parties at posh hotels.

BCCI representatives in New York and Washington spent tens of thousands of dollars on gifts and entertainment for important people, according to bank documents examined by The Associated Press.

Luxembourg-based BCCI, which secretly acquired three American banks, didn't do any banking with the public in this country. Still, BCCI officials cultivated relationships with U.S. public figures, as well as VIPs in the Persian Gulf, Britain and South America.

The bank's Washington office served as a liaison with government officials, foreign diplomats and other influential people in the capital. The office's 20 employees included former high-ranking Pakistani officials.

A small group of favored contacts - including the Carters, su-perlawyer Clark Clifford and the late Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington - got huge Christmas hampers from BCCI nearly every year during the 1980s.

Jimmy Carter was friendly with Agha Hasan Abedi, BCCI's Pakistani founder and former president.

Clifford, a trusted adviser to Democratic presidents, and his law partner, Robert Altman, were attorneys for BCCI. They also headed First American Bankshares Inc., one of the three U.S. banks secretly owned by BCCI.

Clifford and Altman have insisted they were unaware of BCCI's illicit ownership of First American, the largest bank-holding company in the Washington, D.C., area.

Symington, whose 1956 presidential campaign was managed by Clifford, had been a director and vice chairman of First American.

"How could you forget people like them?" George Dukas, co-owner of Karin's Florist in Falls Church, Va., said Friday when asked if he recalled BCCI, a customer in the mid- to late 1980s.

Dukas said BCCI's Washington office spent about $45,000 on gift baskets and flowers from his shop over four to five years.