A political Web site written by a Democratic operative drew attention yesterday to the fact that President Bush's uncle, Jonathan J. Bush, is a top executive at Riggs Bank, which this week agreed to pay a record $25 million in civil fines for violations of law intended to thwart money laundering.
Jonathan Bush, who is a major fundraiser for his nephew, was appointed in 2000 to run Riggs Investment Management Co. His association with Riggs began when he headed J. Bush & Co., a New Haven, Conn., company he created in 1970 and built to offer advice on money management.
Riggs bought J. Bush & Co. in 1997 to help create a one-stop financial outlet offering a range of services, from insurance to securities trading and investment advice. News reports at the time said investment bankers estimated the purchase price, which was not disclosed, as $5.5 million.
The headline posted yesterday on the Web site, www.davidsirota.com, reads, "Bush's Uncle Is Executive At Bank Fined for Laundering Saudi Money."
Regulators have not charged the bank with money laundering, but they have charged that Riggs failed to comply with laws that require banks to report to law enforcement officials any suspicious transactions. Regulators have also said the bank didn't take the required steps to prevent money laundering.
A Riggs spokesman could not be reached last evening. But a source familiar with the multiple federal investigations of the bank's Saudi accounts and other embassy accounts say Jonathan Bush's investment advice unit has "no relationship whatsoever" with any of the Riggs's Saudi accounts.
A spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of Riggs's primary federal banking regulators, said any suggestion of political influence in the Riggs situation is "preposterous."
"The White House and the Treasury have absolutely no say or influence over the supervision or enforcement process," the spokesman, Robert M. Garsson, said.
Washington Post staff writer Thomas B. Edsall and staff researcher Alice R. Crites contributed to this report.