If banks are evil, it's the most boring kind of evil possible. When they repossess a house, they do so with a form and a condescending tone, not a snake-themed helicopter and an anti-gravity ray. They may be the closest thing we have to a real-world villainous organization a la SPECTRE, but that's because the real world is friggin' tedious -- no bank is out there hiring hit squads and funding terrorism, right?
Well, actually ...
#5. Nugan Hand Will Chop Your Family into Bits
On paper, the Australian bank Nugan Hand was a high-class establishment. Founded by a lawyer and an American ex-Green Beret with only $1,000 in seed money, they quickly expanded, serving the needs of prominent U.S. military brass, including two generals, an admiral, and a former CIA director. Banking with Nugan Hand was like depositing your paycheck at the Hall of Justice, if the Hall of Justice offered a sweet 16 percent interest rate on deposits and always smelled like vanilla and Febreze.
Which is unnecessary, since cash smells pretty damn good on its own.
Wait, 16 percent interest? Holy crap! Haha, how can they afford that? What are they doing with your money to be able to return that kind of interest? They must be funding friggin' drug runs with your paycheck or ohhhh crap.
That's exactly what they're doing, isn't it?
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In retrospect, bank tellers don't typically ask you to "Show me that paper, son."
Yep. That ludicrously competitive interest rate was largely funded by the massive heroin operation they were running. Mike Hand, the former Green Beret, helped launch Nugan Hand as a cover for the $25 million he received from drug dealers, arms smugglers, and (possibly) the CIA, who may have been using the bank to fund covert operations in Eastern Asia. During their seven years of business, Nugan Hand stole at least $50 million from their investors. And it's not like you could get it back by coming in and berating the teller into refunding your unfair overdraft/embezzlement fees -- their boss once promised to chop up his employees' wives and mail the parts to them in a box, Se7en style, if they ever disobeyed him. That's a slightly more effective threat than your "I'll take my business elsewhere."
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"We're not saying selecting 'Close Account' opens a trap door into spikes, but we're not saying it doesn't."
The whole thing eventually collapsed in 1980 with co-founder Francis Nugan's suicide, but if you're hoping this story ended with some swift and merciless justice, we're sorry: Aside from Nugan, pretty much everyone involved got off scot-free. Hand was last seen boarding a plane with a false beard, and all the remaining senior employees have refused to testify, which is something you're apparently allowed to do if you're rich enough.
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This pretty much entitles you to refer to the district attorney as "my bitch."
As for its depositors, they lost everything. But honestly, if you do your banking with Nugan Hand -- the most plainly ominous business name this side of the Dark Brotherhood -- you were probably prepared for the inevitable dramatic double-cross.
#4. "God's Banker" Funded Terrorism and Civil War
Founded in the 19th century with the backing of the Vatican, Banco Ambrosiano's mission was to provide an alternative to secular banks, because we all know that the only person you can trust more than a banker is a high-ranking official of the Catholic Church. A mere century of holy deposits later, they were the second-largest private bank in Italy. More than a bank, actually -- they were a sacred institution. In the 1970s, CEO Roberto Calvi was known as "God's banker."
"We've decided to waive that overdraft fee rather than risk being turned into pillars of salt."
Surely, with a title like that, nothing could go terribly and ironically wrong ...
God probably should've joined a credit union. Calvi used most of his time in charge of Banco Ambrosiano to launder the Mafia's drug money, bribe Italian and American politicians, and sell weapons to both sides of the Nicaraguan Civil War.
Sunday school songs feature "little children" instead of "violent Third World contras" for a reason.
Eventually, however, Banco Ambrosiano got too big for their own frock, and things started to fall apart. A 1982 investigation revealed that the bank could not account for around $1.3 billion in deposits. Keep in mind that, while today's banks blow that kind of cash on breakfast champagne and gold-leaf toilet paper, $1.3 billion in 1982 dollars was basically all of it. All of the money.
Even the Mafia got spooked by all the heat the holy bank was bringing. They started cutting both ties and the throats they were wrapped around: A high-ranking regulator was found dead in Corsica shortly before Calvi's secretary committed suicide, and Calvi himself was found hanging from Blackfriar's Bridge in London -- a death ruled a suicide until basic common sense and a 2003 re-examination uncovered that it was pretty definitely a murder.
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"We'll rule it whatever you want, just keep this shit between yourselves."
If any of this sounds familiar, it's probably because parts of The Godfather: Part III were based on the scandal. That's right: terrorism, death, embezzlement, war, sinister political machinations, AND The Godfather: Part III. Truly, Banco Ambrosiano is responsible for some of the worst tragedies known to man.
#3. BCCI Has a Secret Private Black Ops Force
The Bank of Credit and Commerce International was established in 1972 and soon became one of the largest private financial institutions in the world, with deposits of over $20 billion and clients like the United Arab Emirates government. At its peak, it had 400 branches in 72 countries around the world. But as anybody who's broken a controller in the Lost Woods can tell you, just because something has a lot of branches, that doesn't mean you can trust it.
Unfortunately, "up, left, down, left" seldom works in international finance.
Banks are like vomit: They're pretty easy to take care of when contained in one place, but once you spread them over a wide enough area, everyone just pretends they can't see the mess, rather than risk having to clean it up.
We, uh ... look, nobody said we were good roommates.
Back to the banks. Being no one's responsibility gave BCCI free rein to embark on a massive crime spree that would make Grand Theft Auto proud: laundering money for Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, brokering illegal nuclear weapons sales, selling top-secret American technology to Iraq, running one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, and doing the financial dirty work for virtually every major terrorist group in the world.
Plus the customer service line is, like, a 45-minute wait. We just need to order checks, you monsters!
They stopped just shy of spawning a tank and ramping it into a prostitute. BCCI even started their own private enforcement squad called the Black Network (Cobra Commander would be so proud) to take care of all the extortion, kidnapping, and murder that is apparently such a big part of tracking deposited money. When suspicious U.S. regulators refused to grant them a banking license (our banks usually don't have elite, shadowy fighting forces -- it really hikes up the insurance rates), BCCI just shrugged and employed some front companies and fraudulent loans to circumvent the law, and got right back to evilin' up the place.
"This ought to fool that crafty Federal Reserve."
BCCI's massive network of influence kept them consistently just a few steps ahead of the law. In the end, it took 62 countries conducting seven simultaneous raids to finally bring them down and 13 years to sort out where the money was. Even now, no one fully understands everything BCCI was up to, but we would be shocked -- shocked -- if it didn't involve some kind of laser and a moon base.