1973 – Nugent Hand Bank
Nugan Hand Bank was an infamous Australian merchant bank that was involved in drug smuggling, arranging weapons deals, providing a front for the United States CIA, money laundering and tax evasion schemes (including the Bottom of the Harbour).
Nugan Hand Ltd was founded in Sydney in 1973 by Australian lawyer Francis John ‘Frank’ Nugan and former U.S. Green Beret Michael Jon ‘Mike’ Hand. Although formed with only $5 of paid-up capital, the bank attracted investors with promises of up to 16% interest rates on their deposits and assurances of anonymity, tax-free accounts, specialist investment assistance, and money laundering.
The bank gained respectability by the recruitment of a number of retired senior U.S. military and intelligence personnel, such as former Rear Admiral Earl P. Yates as bank president and ex-CIA head William Colby as legal counsel. The bank raised $50 million from depositors and expanded into a global branch network including Cayman Islands, Manila, Hawaii, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Washington D.C.
The bank’s collapse was precipitated by the suicide of its founder Frank Nugan in the early hours of 27 January 1980. Nugan (who was facing charges of stock fraud) was found shot dead by a .30-calibre rifle in his Mercedes-Benz outside Lithgow.
After destroying many of Nugan Hand’s records, Hand fled Australia under a false identity in June 1980. In 2015, Hand was located living under the name Michael Jon Fuller in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Hand now manufactures tactical weapons for US Special Forces, special operations groups and hunters.
No one connected with Nugan Hand has ever been convicted of a crime.
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