On March 9, 1989, old Abdul Hadi Chalabi, Ahmad's father, passed away in London; his body was loaded onto a Royal Jordanian jet, which lifted off to Syria for burial in a Shiite cemetery. The death of the old man -- and the flight of his remains to the Middle East -- was a kind of marker for the family, for it heralded the beginning of a spiral of collapse, as if he was the only thing holding their businesses together.
Just a month and a half after his death, in the morning hours of April 27, 1989, a group of somberly dressed accountants and lawyers stepped into the foyer of 100 Rue de Rhone in Geneva, where the Chalabi family businesses in Switzerland were headquartered. The lawyers and accountants were polite but firm. For all their businesslike appearance and formality, however, they were the financial equivalent of the Grim Reaper, implacable and stolid, sent by the venerable Swiss Federal Banking Commission. The commission notified MEBCO that its banking license had been revoked. "This is the way it is done," said one of the Swiss lawyers who went in that day. "We had to go in and tell them, 'Your bank has been closed. We are the liquidators.'"
Perhaps it was a good thing for the old man that he died when he did, because MEBCO Geneva, run by Hazem Chalabi, was just the first to fall in the long and painful collapse of the Chalabi enterprises worldwide. Petra Bank, in Amman, would be taken over in August, and after that Socofi in Geneva went down, and still later MEBCO in Beirut, all caught in a whirlpool that sucked away the life savings of a large number of investors. What's more, criminal investigations would hound the Chalabis in Switzerland, Lebanon, and Jordan.