Saddam Hussein, secret offshore banks, and a dissolute Saudi prince

Secret offshore banks are the key to The Bank of Fear.

Sam Hoffman grew into his work as a financial investigator specializing in the Arab world from childhood. His father had been a senior officer in the CIA with powerful connections throughout the Middle East and was still active as a private citizen. He “had grown up in Beirut, where his father had been chief of the large and active CIA station during the late 1960s.” But Sam was not a drunk like his father, and he had rejected the old man’s cynicism with a powerful strain of idealism. So it was natural that when a poor Filipino cook came to his London office complaining that his girlfriend had been raped and murdered by their boss, a wealthy Arab financier, Sam would look into the matter. And he soon finds that the financier, an Iraqi named Nasir Hammoud, is powerful indeed.

The Bank of Fear by David Ignatius (1994) 463 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)

Saddam Hussein, secret offshore banks, and a dissolute Saudi prince

At length, Sam manages to track down a woman inside Hammoud’s company, Coyote Investment, whom the Filipino had said might help. Naturally, the two are attracted to each other, and sparks begin to fly. And soon the two become entangled in a complex web of events. Involved are “the Ruler” of Iraq (obviously, a stand-in for Saddam Hussein), a network of secret offshore banks, a dissolute Saudi prince, a venerable Washington establishment lawyer, and, eventually, Sam’s own father.

The Bank of Fear is a compelling tale that continues to fascinate until the very end. Ignatius combines deep research into the role of money in international affairs with all-too-believable characters and a fast-moving plot. When David Ignatius writes about secret offshore banks, it’s wise to believe what he says.

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