The man behind the liquidation

Brian Smouha, lead liquidator at Deloitte & Touche

Speak to those who worked both with him and against him and you will be hard pressed to find anyone involved in the BCCI liquidation with a bad word to say about Brian Smouha. The man from Deloitte & Touche, then Touche Ross, appointed to run the liquidation in 1991 is variously described as “the great hero of the story” and “the personality that would always stand out”.

He resigned from the liquidation in 1997 in exchange for a Washington DC role as lead auditor to the World Bank, and he certainly boasted a CV worthy of the post. After all, before BCCI he had been the liquidator of Banco Ambrosiano, the collapse of which followed the discovery of the body of its chairman Roberto Calvi hanging under Blackfriars Bridge. That scandal embroiled the Vatican Bank and some of Italy's most influential financial names.

In the first nine months of the BCCI crisis, Smouha put in place the foundations for the three agreements which would shape the liquidation – the US plea agreement, the agreement with the majority shareholders and the pooling agreement between the liquidators.

The original Lovells lead partner on BCCI Peter Horrocks says: “When Brian Smouha was appointed he was out in the desert not knowing what had happened. He could either sue [the majority shareholders] or he could negotiate with them. Brian took the view that negotiating with them was the best way forward – credit goes to him for the agreements.”

One partner at Lovells says of Smouha: “He was a key personality – he almost didn't stop for a nine-month period. He had a real belief in what he wanted to achieve. He had a mission – he clearly wanted to do what he could for the liquidation.”

Having now completed his three and a half year stint at the World Bank, Smouha is back in London and planning what must be a well-earned retirement.