One of Kareri's past private banking clients was Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko, a Mali businessman who was subsequently accused of embezzling nearly $250 million from the Dubai Islamic Bank and funneling it through U.S. and European financial institutions. Dubai Islamic filed suit to recover the money and in 1999 recovered a small part of the missing funds through a default judgment.
Kareri opened a Riggs account for Sissoko in 1997, when Sissoko was under house arrest in Miami after having pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe a U.S. customs agent. Sissoko wanted to conceal his control over the account, ran millions of dollars through it and regularly had a representative stuff large withdrawals into a suitcase or his pockets.
Kareri told Dubai Islamic lawyers in a deposition that he was suspicious of Sissoko but did not report his concerns to his superiors or the Treasury Department.
Property records show that Kareri and Riggs helped with Obiang's local real estate purchases. In late 1999, the Guinean president paid $2.6 million in cash for a mansion in the Maryland suburbs that has 10 bathrooms, seven fireplaces and an indoor pool, according to the real estate listing.
Early the following year Obiang bought a second Maryland property for $1.15 million. He took out a $747,500 mortgage from Riggs on the property, and paid it off nine months later, real estate records show.
Kareri also is listed as the contact on a $349,000 Virginia townhouse purchased in 2000 by Obiang's brother, Armengol Ondo Nguema, who heads the country's security apparatus. Nguema is one of the most feared men in Equatorial Guinea.
A 1999 State Department report said that he directed security forces to urinate on prisoners, kick them in the ribs, slice their ears with knives and smear oil over their naked bodies to attract stinging ants. Five of the prisoners allegedly died. According to the State Department, one person who survived said the prisoners were beaten to death on Nguema's orders.
Kareri's signature appears on a letter vouching for Nguema's ability to pay cash for the Virginia townhouse. "We are please [SIC] to confirm and certify that Mr. Armengol Ondo Nguema is a valued customer of Riggs Bank NA," says the letter to the seller's agent. "We verify that Mr. Nguema has the financial capacity and available funds with this bank to purchase the property."
A Guinean official said Obiang, who controls a private business group with large holdings in his country, used personal funds to pay for the Maryland properties. He said Guineans don't care whether Obiang leads a lavish lifestyle as long as they have food. "People don't mind if they're saying that the president's family is buying jets or something," he said. "It's a different culture."
Times staff writer Warren Vieth contributed to this report.