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Citibank: A bank that ruled the world, almost

What do the the CEO of Standard Chartered, the finance minister of Pakistan, the central bank governor of the Philippines and the opposition leader in Liberia have in common? They all used to work at Citibank.

Bill Rhodes 160x186
Bill Rhodes

Citibankers were once regarded as banking's Foreign Legion, dedicating their careers to the conquest of new countries and markets for the greater good of their bank, raising the Citibank flag in some pretty inhospitable places. The bank recruited and promoted locals, taking the brightest and the best connected in 100 countries

It came to exercise a worldwide influence unmatched by any rival. When the US government wanted assistance in resolving the debt crises of emerging countries, it turned to Citibank to intermediate with its local knowledge and banking experience. Its alumni association must be one of the most high-powered informal groupings of people in the world.

In the same way that Barclays was the bank that followed and served the British empire, Citibank carried and represented American influence around the globe. The close relationships that Citibank cultivated with heads of government put it in positions of great power, though these were not always used to good effect.

In 1999, a US Senate subcommittee on money laundering investigated Citibank and found that the bank's global private-banking operation had helped such politicians as Nigerian head of state Sani Abacha and Raoul Salinas, the brother of the former president of Mexico, to launder their huge, illegally acquired assets.

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