Con Men of the Year Masters of Deceit.

THEY WERE BOTH SELF-MADE MEN WHO BUILT THEIR empires on the ill-placed confidence of lenders and investors. One of the con men was a Pakistani banker who exercised influence from Washington to Beijing but was in fact running a financial supermarket for criminals. The other was a 300-lb. tabloid tycoon whose fatal plunge into the Atlantic was one of the most bizarre finales in business history. When their empires came crashing down in 1991, the debacles raised pointed questions about the laxity of financial regulations around the world.

Agha Hasan Abedi, founder of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International, ranks...