Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||November 23rd 2013|
At a time of ceaseless budget crises, it may astound many that American taxpayers are deploying their precious dollars not to pay for peace in Israel, but to achieve the exact opposite: confrontation.
Each year, American aid, taxpayer subsidies of 501(c)(3) organizations, and other financial programs richly support political confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis, vocal critics say. Tax experts estimate that for every one million dollars in donations received by a 501(c)(3), US taxpayers must subsidize approximately $440,000.
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Tax-exempt charitable organizations are supposed to be just that: charitable. But prominent Israeli critics claim that highly politicized American charitable organizations, including several operated by some of America’s most prominent Jewish personalities, are actually working hard to destabilize the Israel Defense Forces and erase Israel’s identity as a Jewish State. Rather than engaging in charitable programs, outspoken critics say, these charitable groups are focused on massive political lobbying and fomenting internal political upheaval that make peace between Arab and Jew seemingly impossible. Not a few of these critics point to the prestigious New Israel Fund (NIF) as the chief culprit.
NIF grants steer millions of US dollars to scores of confrontation-oriented Israeli NGOs. Among the controversial NGOs is one called B’Tselem, which circulates video cameras to Arab villages that are hotbeds for confrontation. Israeli military officials assure that they rely upon B'Tselem’s help to document IDF infractions. But many critics in the ranks charge the cameras are calculated to capture the scene after soldiers are taunted into finally reacting.
One such critic is Colonel Benny Yanay, who represents Consensus, an organization of several hundred IDF officers. "The New Israel Fund,” insists Yanay, “acts against Israel—against the soldiers of our country. It is important to me that people recognize the New Israel Fund for what it is. It is supported by foreign governments and organizations so that Israeli soldiers will be weakened." Yanay adds, "Their budget is more than anything we have—so it is not a fair fight. We are not a political organization. They are political." Read more ..
Financing The Flames
|Edwin Black||November 17th 2013|
Times of Israel
Evyatar Borovsky, age thirty-one, was devoted to helping people across Israel—people of any background. His way was psychodrama and other role-playing techniques calculated to coax victims, especially children, out of their traumatic fog. Often the children were survivors of terrorism. Evyatar was part of a so-called therapeutic theatrical troupe. On April 30, 2013, Evyatar went to Tapuach Junction to catch a ride.
Salam Zaghal came from an impoverished Arab family in Shuka, a village near Tulkarm. Once, Salam tried to plant a bomb. That landed him in an Israeli prison for more than three years. When Salam was released earlier this year, he had no job and no economic prospects. His family lived on the edge. Money was scarce. As Salam became more disconsolate, his brother Abdulfattah remembered that his brother increasingly began "talking more and more about the martyrdom of the prisoners in Israeli jails."
April 30, 2013, shortly after dawn, Zaghal jumped onto a bus for the long drive to Tapuach Junction. He carried a blue plastic bag. Two items were secreted inside the bag. Zaghal asked to be dropped about sixty meters down the way from the intersection. When he stepped off the bus, he lit a cigarette. Then Zaghal texted his brother Abdulfattah. "My dear brother, take care of dad, mom and my sister, and keep your head up." Zaghal sent a second text to his family: "Forgive me in life, in death, and in the end of days." Then he broke his phone so no one could call back and dissuade him.
At 8:15 a.m., Evyatar was standing about, looking somewhere over there, oblivious to the nearby Arab hitchhikers congregated about. Zaghal approached, carrying his blue plastic bag, which contained a piece of paper—a prosecution notice from a previous run-in with Israeli security, and a kitchen knife almost eight inches long.
Suddenly, Zaghal screamed, "Allahu Akbar!" and "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger." Zaghal plunged the metal blade directly into Evyatar’s stomach and then again deep into his chest. A moment later, the medical clown lay on the ground, his life leaking quickly onto the asphalt. Salam then grabbed Evyatar’s gun, but before he could inflict more carnage, nearby Border Guards shot him. The killer was not shot in the head or upper body, but in the leg. In an instant, Evyatar—the clown with the big heart—was gone, stabbed to death. As for Salam, he was rushed to an Israeli hospital with a non-life-threatening leg wound. There, Salam received Israel’s world-renowned medical attention. Read more ..
|Michael Beckel||November 16th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Read more ..
Americans for Prosperity — the main political arm of billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch — spent a staggering $122 million last year as it unsuccessfully attempted to defeat President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of documents filed in Colorado.
That's more than the total amount the group had previously spent from its formation in 2004 through 2011. During its previous eight years of existence, Americans for Prosperity spent a combined $72 million, a review of Internal Revenue Service records indicates.
The group’s unprecedented spending in 2012 is a fivefold increase over 2010, a year when a surge of conservative voters helped Republicans regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. And it represents a more than 1,600 percent increase above the $7 million it spent in 2008, when voters first elected Obama to the White House.
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||November 4th 2013|
Times of Israel
A regular feature of West Bank confrontation between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians seems to be a corps of intrepid young women that villagers call “internationals.” They specialize in upfront and personal, in-your-face, and often nose-to-nose verbal taunting hoping to provoke a reaction that video cameras can record. If and when soldiers finally do react, these incidents are then uploaded to the Internet to prove “the brutality of the IDF.” These “internationals” often seem to appear out of nowhere at a village flashpoint. Just as suddenly, they melt into the background.
Using false names and seemingly untrackable movements, the skilled and stealthy internationals have managed to inspire and encourage videographed confrontation far beyond their numbers. Who are they? What is the font of their financial wherewithal? Who is financing these flames?
Searching for answers, one night in early May 2013, I traveled to the tiny West Bank town of Deir Itsiya where the internationals quietly maintain a base of operations. The women are known to many in that local Arab community, where they are provided logistical assistance and deferential hospitality. They receive many European guests. When I asked my taxi driver, "Do you know where the house is?" he answered, "Yes, Sheik Haider (neighborhood)." He took me there.
At an elbow in a dusty road, I found their compound behind long, ornate iron fencing. I knocked on all the doors, the ones with knockers and the ones without. No answer. I called out for anyone who was home. A neighbor strolled by to remark. The driver translated: "He said the European girls are not sleeping in town tonight. But he knows how to reach them. I will take you where he said." Read more ..
|Reity O'Brian||November 3rd 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Out-of-state political organizations spent millions on mudslinging television ads in state supreme court elections in 2012, according to a new report, marking a new and worrisome trend, say some legal experts.
The report found that total spending in states where high court judges are elected reached $56 million in the 2012 election cycle with more than $24 million of it — 43 percent — coming from non-candidate organizations, many from out of state.
The report was released by the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake, groups that are highly critical of judicial elections. The conclusions were based on data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics and the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
A record $33.7 million was spent on television ads, much of which came from outside groups — including super PACs and nonprofits — attacking judicial candidates on the airwaves.
In Michigan, the Judicial Crisis Network spent between $600,000 and $1 million on a television ad equating incumbent Democratic justice Bridget McCormack’s previous legal work defending a detainee at Guantanamo Bay to volunteering to “help free a terrorist.” Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Rebecca LaFlure and R. Jeffery Smith||September 25th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
For years, hundreds of thousands of contractors seeking regular access to key Navy installations have merely paid a fee and typed identifying information into ATM-like machines installed on those bases. They were then able to gain temporary access without first going through a background check, even though Navy and White House regulations require such checks be completed beforehand.
Known as Rapidgate, the access control system is now in operation for contractors, vendors, service workers, and suppliers who regularly pass through not just Navy checkpoints — but also those at more than 150 military and government installations around the country, including the Washington Navy Yard, the site of the Sept. 16 shooting rampage.
Last week, an internal Pentagon report called into question how the Rapidgate system became so widely used by the Navy and urged its immediate cancellation at those sites, saying it provides a false sense of security that puts government personnel at risk. The Navy, it said, had contracted for the system through irregular acquisition practices. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|R. Jeffrey Smith||September 7th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
The U.S. Agency for International Development is propping up Afghanistan’s national health care system with millions of dollars in direct assistance even though its effort lacks the sort of controls and oversight needed to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, according to the U.S. government’s chief auditor of financial assistance to the country.
The funds are being disbursed to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health for doctor’s salaries, immunizations, prenatal care, hospitals, rural health care facilities and other urgent medical needs. They constitute a small but critical portion of the more than $90 billion Washington has pumped into the country since 2001, the lion’s share of which has gone to direct assistance for the Afghan military and police forces. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Sasha Chavkin||September 1st 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
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A mysterious kidney disease that is afflicting Central American agricultural workers has been raising growing alarms among governments, and in April the region’s health ministers jointly declared that the ailment was among their top public health priorities.
Yet only weeks after the health ministers issued their declaration, the World Bank approved a new loan to expand a sugar plantation in Nicaragua, renewing its support for an industry whose workers have been devastated by the disease. The $15 million loan to the Montelimar plantation in Nicaragua is estimated to create 1,300 new rural jobs, according to World Bank documents.
Over the last two years, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has examined how a rare type of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is killing thousands of agricultural workers along Central America’s Pacific Coast, as well as in Sri Lanka and India. Scientists have yet to definitively uncover the cause of the parallel epidemics, which have caused tens of thousands of deaths worldwide and are suspected to be linked to dehydration and toxic exposure.
ICIJ’s initial report, Island of the Widows, focused on a leading Nicaraguan sugar plantation that received substantial loans in 2006 from the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation. Sick former workers from the plantation filed a complaint to the IFC’s ombudsman alleging that the loan violated the Bank’s guidelines by failing to consider the epidemic. The complaint resulted in a recently concluded study of the epidemic’s causes by a team from Boston University, which found that there was still not enough evidence to get to the bottom of the mystery.
|Hannah Winston||August 28th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense spent at least $1.3 billion during the last four years trying unsuccessfully to develop a single electronic health-records system between the two departments — leaving veterans’ disability claims to continue piling up in paper files across the country, a News21 investigation shows.
This does not include billions of other dollars wasted during the last three decades, including $2 billion spent on a failed upgrade to the DOD’s existing electronic health-records system.
For a veteran in the disability claims process, these records are critical: They include DOD service and health records needed by the VA to decide veterans’ disability ratings and the compensation they will receive for their injuries. Stacks of paper files — including veterans’ evidence from DOD of their military service and injuries — sit at VA regional offices waiting to be processed instead of being readily accessible in electronic files. Read more ..
|Jim Morris||August 24th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Friday proposed a long-awaited rule to control worker exposures to silica, a toxic mineral that can cause the deadly lung disease silicosis, lung cancer and other ailments.
The rule could save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis each year, OSHA chief David Michaels told reporters in a conference call. Tiny silica particles are unleashed through activities such as sandblasting, concrete-cutting and a form of oil and gas drilling called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
“This proposal is long overdue,” Michaels said. “OSHA’s current standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers’ health.” The agency estimates that 2.2 million workers, most of them in construction, are exposed to silica in the United States. The rule will likely take “many months” to become final, Michaels said, with public hearings planned for March. Read more ..
Montenegro on Edge
|Esad Krcic and Robert Coalson||August 19th 2013|
The no-holds-barred conflict over a key piece of Montenegro's economy has just taken a billion-euro turn for the worse. That much became clear in a video press conference from Moscow for journalists in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica.
Yury Moiseyev, the former director of the Podgorica Aluminum Plant (KAP), said the plant's Russian shareholder that he represents was preparing an enormous lawsuit against the Montenegrin government, seeking compensation for alleged unfulfilled promises and lost profits.
"The government of Montenegro did not give us the chance to realize our plans for developing the plant and we, of course, are applying to arbitration courts. We have hired several law firms," Moiseyev said.
"We at present have submitted a lawsuit [in Podgorica] for 93 million euros ($123 million) and we will be filing with [an arbitration court in] Frankfurt a complaint on the falsification during the privatization of KAP, of the lack of fulfillment of the civil agreement. So far, preliminarily, we set the sum of damages at 1 billion euros." Read more ..
|Michael Beckel||August 13th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Billionaire businessman William Koch once operated green energy plants on multiple continents and had a reputation for being more politically moderate than his better-known brothers, Charles and David — the principal owners of Koch Industries, Inc..
But William now rejects the “apocalypse of global warming.” He says investing in alternative energy is “foolhardy.” And ahead of the 2012 election, he criticized President Barack Obama for trying to “socialize” the country.
Koch is putting his fortune where his mouth is and is also using his companies’ funds to do so. He has spent millions of dollars to aid politicians he sees as more business-friendly and to fight the Obama administration’s moves to combat climate change, which could mean costly new regulations for Koch’s expansive Oxbow Carbon LLC business network.
Unlike his brothers who have favored politically active nonprofits as their vehicles of choice to back conservative causes, William Koch has poured resources into super PACs, with millions of dollars coming straight from the corporate treasuries of his firms. Meanwhile, donations from his company’s traditional political action committee are at an all-time high — as are Oxbow’s lobbying expenditures. Read more ..
|Dave Levinthal||July 18th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Carpetbagging super PACs and nonprofit groups are dominating this year’s special congressional elections in a potential foreshadowing of the 2014 midterms, where even the sleepiest locales aren’t immune from out-of-state, cash-flush special interests.
Take Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate election, which last month propelled veteran Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to Congress’ upper chamber — and attracted millions of dollars in outside spending from political groups based in California, New York and Florida.
Organizations in Illinois, meanwhile, spent precisely zero dollars to advocate for or against several candidates who vied early this year to replace ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., while outfits from everywhere but collectively burned through more than $2 million. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Junko Yoshida||July 12th 2013|
You might have seen that frightening episode of the CBS series, Person of Interest, in which a fictional social media company's billionaire founder loses control of his car. From the street, the driver appears to be either a total nutcase (well, in this case, he is) or heavily intoxicated. His car weaves through traffic left and right, crossing lanes willy-nilly and clipping other cars. But inside the car, the driver is helpless. Any control he tries, especially the brakes, is overridden, apparently by the car itself. Unbeknownst to the driver, of course, the car is under remote control.
Inevitably, the car blows up (creating an exciting visual). However, the software genius escapes in the nick of time.This, of course, is TV drama. It's fiction. A remotely compromised car is a scenario that makes a good thriller and scares the bejesus out of viewers. But possible in real life? No way.Well, wait a minute.Way. Read more ..
|Reity O'Brian and Chris Young||June 17th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
At least five and perhaps as many as eight of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court are millionaires according to recently released financial disclosures, and only two hold any consumer debt.
Assets on the forms are reported in a range making it impossible to say precisely how much each justice is worth, but suffice to say, none of them are hurting financially.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg boasts the highest potential net worth at $18.1 million with Stephen Breyer a close second at $17.1 million. Both were appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
However, Ginsburg’s actual net worth may be as low as $4.4 million and Breyer’s as low as $5 million. Federal officials are also exempt from disclosing the value of their homes, making an accurate calculation even more difficult. After collecting nearly $2 million in book advances, Justice Sonia Sotomayor's assets rose to between $1.7 and $10.3 million, ranking her No. 3 in terms of highest potential net worth. Sotomayor is an appointee of President Barack Obama. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
Center for Public Integrity
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who signed an order requiring Verizon to give the National Security Agency telephone records for tens of millions of American customers, attended an expense-paid judicial seminar sponsored by a libertarian think tank that featured lectures from a vocal proponent of executive branch powers.
Vinson, whose term on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court began in 2006 and expired last month, was the only member of the special court to attend the August 2008 conference sponsored by the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment, according to disclosure records filed by the federal judge.
Disclosure records were collected as part of an investigative report that revealed how large corporations and conservative foundations routinely sponsor ideologically driven educational conferences for state and federal judges.
It’s unclear which lectures Vinson attended during the “Terrorism, Civil Liberty, & National Security” seminar. FREE’s website only provides a general agenda for the program and no lecture transcripts. Read more ..
|David Leigh, Harold Frayman and James Ball ||May 27th 2013|
UK’s crackdown on Channel island ‘Sark Lark’ simply scattered key players to other tax havens.
Many Britons who make a living from ‘the signing’ as they call it, originate from the tiny Channel island of Sark, a notorious British tax haven. Following scandals a decade ago about the “Sark Lark,” the group scattered, often setting up residence in far-flung jurisdictions such as Cyprus, Dubai, Vanuatu, Mauritius, or Nevis in the Caribbean. Many still keep in touch on Facebook.
They make up teams of sham company directors, according to documents we have seen, taking money to disguise the real ownership of thousands of international companies. This is not illegal, and they generally say they are helping owners preserve legitimate privacy. Sarah and Edward Petre-Mears, who moved residence to Nevis, worked through an agency in Northamptonshire. Some of their companies have been registered in the UK, at Companies House in Cardiff. Read more ..
On December 11, 2009, a former Soviet air force transport plane flying from North Korea to Iran stopped to refuel in Bangkok. The flight listed its cargo as spare parts for oil-drilling equipment. Instead police found 30 tonnes of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles, all being transported in breach of United Nations sanctions.
Three months later in a Miami courtroom, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the country's largest money-laundering scheme involving billions of dollars from Mexican drug lords. Then, last April, documents emerged in London concerning Russia's largest tax fraud, an alleged $230 million heist that led to the untimely deaths of four people and threatens to damage the Russian government.
The story behind the three events is many degrees stranger than fiction, but it includes one common element – a number of shell companies associated with 68-year-old Queensland businessman Geoffrey Taylor or members of his family. Shell companies – that is, corporations with no apparent operations, no apparent employees and no apparent physical assets – are used by those who register them for a range of nefarious activities around the world. Read more ..
Caribbean island chain is a favorite haven for attention-shy company owners. The British Virgin Islands are a micro-state whose national anthem is “God Save the Queen.” The islands consist of little more than a few stretches of tropical beach, with a population about the same size as that of the London suburban town of Windsor.
British lawyers first realized during the 1980s Thatcher era that they could legally make money by selling financial secrecy there. Mrs. Thatcher’s abolition of exchange controls allowed British capital to move around freely. A few years later, when nearby Panama, the traditional location for obscure offshore entities, was disrupted by the 1990 U.S. invasion, worldwide demand for the corporate anonymity on offer from the BVI took off like a rocket. Read more ..
|David Leigh, Harold Frayman and James Ball||May 26th 2013|
Questions arise as mega-rich from Russia and former Soviet republics descend on London.
Britain’s friendly regime of offshore secrecy has tempted an extraordinary array of post-Soviet billionaires to descend on London, sometimes to the sound of gunfire.
Vladimir Antonov fled permanently to Britain after his father, Alexander, was gunned down in a Moscow street in 2009. Another associate, German Gorbuntsov, narrowly survived a volley of shots in London last March.
When Antonov bought a luxury yacht in Antibes, the Sea D, he was careful to register its ownership to an anonymous British Virgin Islands (BVI) entity, Danforth Ventures Inc. He also got his hands on enough cash to try to take over the ailing Swedish car manufacturer Saab, though he did not take control. He did succeed for a while in owning Portsmouth FC, the even more ailing British football club. Antonov is currently on bail in Britain. Lithuanian authorities are trying to extradite him for allegedly looting their collapsed bank Snoras, which he denies. Read more ..
|Mar Cabra and Michael Hudson||May 24th 2013|
Famed Spanish art patron uses island haven in South Pacific to manage her collection. Tourists who come to Spain’s capital often make a pilgrimage to the museums in Madrid’s so-called Art Triangle. After the Prado and the Reina Sofia, the next stop usually is the Thyssen-Bornemisza. The Spanish state owns the majority of the paintings inside this museum, but it also holds much of the private collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, one of the world’s biggest art collectors.
What visitors don’t know as they look at these Monets, Matisses and other masterpieces is that many of them are legally owned by secrecy-guarded companies in tax havens: Liechtenstein, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Cook Islands.
Van Gogh’s 1884 painting, Water Mill at Gennep, is one of the works Thyssen-Bornemisza purchased with the help of an offshore operative based in the Cook Islands, a South Pacific haven more than 10,000 miles from Madrid. Read more ..
|Prangtip Daorueng, Prasong Lertrattanavisuth, Sanoh Sukcharoen and Montree Juimoungsri ||May 24th 2013|
Nearly 600 Thais have owned offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other havens.
Politicians and billionaire business magnates are among the prominent Thais listed in secret documents as owners of offshore holdings in tropical tax havens.
The list includes the former wife of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a sitting senator, a former high-ranking defense ministry official, Forbes-listed tycoons, and a former government minister whose assets in the United States are frozen because of her alleged links to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
Documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and examined by Bangkok-based news portal Isra show nearly 600 Thais owning offshore companies in overseas havens such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Cook Islands. Some of the entities owned by politicians have been previously self-declared under tough local anti-graft laws, but at least one may have escaped scrutiny from authorities. Read more ..
|Frederic Zalac, Alex Shprintsen, Zach Dubinsky and Harvey Cashore||May 22nd 2013|
Lawyer Tony Merchant, Canada’s “class action king,” sought secrecy for Cook Islands trust. A prominent Canadian lawyer, husband to a Liberal senator, moved CA$1.7 million (US$1.1 million) to secretive financial havens while he was locked in battle with the Canada Revenue Agency over his taxes, according to documents in a massive leak of offshore financial data.
Tony Merchant of Saskatchewan, dubbed Canada's class-action king because of the large settlements he has won for his clients, transferred the money to a tax haven in the South Pacific and then onward to an account in the Caribbean, according to the files. His wife, Canadian Senator Pana Merchant, and their three sons were named in the documents as beneficiaries of the funds.
The transactions are detailed in a leak of offshore financial information obtained by the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The data covered more than 120,000 offshore companies and private trusts in the Cook Islands and other offshore havens. The Merchants are among the more than 400 Canadians whose names are included in the secret records. Tony Merchant didn’t reply to several requests from CBC News to discuss the matter. Read more ..
Azerbaijan on Edge
|Stefan Candea||May 22nd 2013|
Members of Azerbaijan’s first family have had been shareholders in at least four offshore companies, newly revealed records show.
A corporate mogul whose business empire has won building contracts worth billions of dollars amid Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s massive construction spree is tied to the president’s family through secretive offshore companies.
The businessman, Hassan Gozal, is the director of three British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies set up in 2008 in the name of the president’s daughters, according to secret documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The daughters were 19 and 23 years old at the time. The documents obtained by ICIJ also show that the president and his wife, Mehriban, a member of Parliament, acquired their own BVI company in 2003, Rosamund International Ltd. Read more ..
Mongolia on Edge
|Gerard Ryle and Nicky Hager||May 21st 2013|
Deputy speaker of Mongolia’s Parliament admits he had $1 million Swiss account. One of Mongolia’s most senior politicians says he is considering resigning from office after being confronted with evidence that he has an offshore company and a secret Swiss bank account.
“I shouldn’t have opened that account,” Bayartsogt Sangajav, Mongolia’s deputy speaker of Parliament, told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“I don’t worry about my reputation. I worry about my family,” he said after ICIJ asked him about records revealing his offshore holdings. “I probably should consider resigning from my position.” Bayartsogt, who says his Swiss account at one point contained more than $1 million, became his country’s finance minister in September 2008, a position he held until a cabinet reshuffle in August 2012. Read more ..
|Michael Beckel||May 17th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
When Ed Sheehy looked at his mail one day last fall, he was startled to see his face staring back at him, posed alongside the notorious “Christmas Day Killer.” Sheehy, as a public defender, had represented the man a year earlier. Now Sheehy was running for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court and someone was using the double-murder to accuse him of being soft on crime.
“I was furious,” the 60-year-old Sheehy, who was born in Butte, Mont., and now resides in Missoula, told the Center for Public Integrity. “It was misrepresenting what I did and what I do as a lawyer.” So who was behind the attack?
The mailer showed only that it was paid for by the “Montana Growth Network,” a “social welfare” nonprofit, registered under Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. Montana election records revealed next to nothing about the organization, which, because of its tax status, is not required to disclose its donors. The nonprofit’s website says its goal is to make Montana “more business friendly.” Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Matthew Leavitt||May 17th 2013|
|Wassim el Abd Fadel in Paraguayan custody.|
In December 2012, Paraguayan authorities detained Wassim el Abd Fadel, a suspected Hezbollah member with Paraguayan citizenship, and charged him with human trafficking, money laundering, and narco-trafficking. International authorities had connected Fadel to Nelida Raquel Cardozo Taboada, a Paraguayan national arrested in France the same month with 1.1 kilograms of cocaine in her stomach. Cardozo Taboada had claimed that Fadel and his wife hired her as a drug mule, prompting an Interpol investigation into Fadel’s finances.
According to Paraguayan police, Fadel deposited the proceeds of narco-trafficking and pirated music and movies into Turkish and Syrian bank accounts linked to Hezbollah.The Fadel arrest cast new light, and fresh international attention, on a long-running phenomenon. Read more ..
|Marina Walker Guevara & Emilia Díaz-Struck||May 15th 2013|
Francisco Illarramendi often called on Moris Beracha when he needed an infusion of cash.
The Venezuelan-born Illarramendi was a manager of a Connecticut-based investment advisory firm. Beracha was a Venezuelan financier close to the Hugo Chavez government who, a lawsuit against him claims, could produce multi-million-dollar advances of cash with relative ease — for the right price. On Nov. 2, 2007, Beracha emailed Illarramendi instructions to deposit more than $10 million — Beracha’s share of profits from a transaction — into three HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland, via an HSBC account in New York. “Dude, I am your biggest producer hahahahaha,” Beracha wrote in Spanish before he sent the message off to Illarramendi. Read more ..
Greece on Edge
|Harry Karanikas and Marina Walker Guevara ||May 15th 2013|
Greek citizens who own or direct offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens rarely declare them to Greek tax officials, an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' review of more than 100 companies shows. Just four out of 107 offshore companies investigated by ICIJ are registered with tax authorities as the law usually requires, particularly when the firms hold assets or conduct business in Greece.
Officials apparently have no record of the other 103 firms — or whether the owners declared any assets held by these entities or paid taxes on them. After learning about ICIJ's findings, the Greek Finance Ministry said it would examine the data and determine whether there's any evidence of improper or illegal conduct by owners of offshore companies. The companies’ owners are a surprising cross-section of Greek society, from the richest districts in Athens to remote northern villages. They include retail executives, shipping magnates and middle-class families. What these people have in common is that they are connected to offshore companies that appear to operate under the radar of tax authorities at a time when endemic tax evasion is fueling a financial crisis that has devastated Greece’s economy and threatened the future of the Euro. Read more ..
|Christoph Heinzle, Lena Guertler, Mareike Fuchs, Bastian Brinkmann and Christoph Giesen||May 11th 2013|
Germany’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, helped its customers maintain more than 300 secretive offshore companies and trusts through its Singapore branch, an investigation by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, German public broadcaster NDR and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.
More than 100 customer consultants at Deutsche Bank Singapore helped create or manage 309 offshore entities for its customers in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens, according to secret records obtained by the news organizations. Most of the companies carry fantasy names like “Thrilling Returns Incorporated,” “Amazing Opportunity Limited” or “Market Dollar Group Limited.” Public sources don’t show any business activities for most of these companies. Read more ..
France on Edge
|Anne Michel and Raphaelle Bacque||May 5th 2013|
Jean-Jacques Augier says that his actions were fully legal and attributes his participation in these schemes to his “adventurous nature”.
French president François Hollande faces more embarrassment after it emerged that a close friend and treasurer for his presidential election campaign invested in offshore businesses in the Cayman Islands. The revelation comes at the worse possible time, as France is reeling from the Budget Minister Cahuzac scandal.
The name of 59-year-old Jean-Jacques Augier, a businessman and an unobtrusive figure on the French publishing scene who was François Hollande’s treasurer during the 2012 presidential campaign, features in documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and seen by Le Monde. These show that he has shares in two offshore firms in the Cayman Islands through his financial holding company Eurane. Read more ..
|Michael Hudson, Stefan Candea and Marina and Walker Guevara||May 5th 2013|
British Virgin Islands firm kept doing business with shady characters even as regulators prodded it to obey anti-money-laundering laws.
The tangled trail of the Magnitsky Affair, a case that’s strained U.S.-Russian relations and blocked American adoptions of Russian orphans, snakes through an offshore haven in the Caribbean.
The death of Moscow tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky sparked international outrage. It also fueled a push to unravel secret deals that had prompted him to claim that gangsters and government insiders had stolen $230 million from Russia’s treasury.
Magnitsky and other private attorneys investigating the affair on behalf of a major hedge fund followed a path from Russia to bank accounts in Switzerland and luxury properties in Dubai — ending up at a small firm based in the British Virgin Islands that specializes in setting up offshore companies for clients who want to remain in the shadows. Read more ..
|Roel Landingin||May 4th 2013|
Philippine government officials said Friday that they will look into a media organization’s disclosure that the eldest daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was a beneficiary of a secret offshore trust in the British Virgin Islands.
Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, more popularly known as Imee Marcos, did not report her offshore trust on asset disclosure statements that she’s required to file every year as a public official, according to a story released Thursday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
She has been governor of Ilocos Norte province, her father’s traditional political bailiwick, since 2010, and was a member of the Philippine’s House of Representatives from 1998 to 2007.
“We are duty bound to investigate and, depending upon informed preliminary findings, decide whether to pursue the matter,” Andres Bautista, the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, told Agent France-Presse. The commission is tasked with recovering the Marcos family’s alleged ill-gotten wealth. Read more ..
|Bastian Obermayer, Frederik Obermaier and Titus Plattner||April 29th 2013|
He's known as Brigitte Bardot’s husband, photographer, director, art collector. Now another aspect has come to light: a man who set up an intricate offshore scheme to manage his vast fortune, a scheme that remained inscrutable to the fiscal authorities until the end.
The hand that governs everything must remain invisible. It certainly must not sign anything. That is why Hanswerner Schwenk, a private secretary in his 50s, sets off for the Pacific island of Rarotonga.
Meanwhile, the man behind the scenes can relax: in London, Paris or St. Tropez, on one of his many estates. His name must not appear in any official document, for such is the nature of an anonymous enterprise. Otherwise one would not need to bother with all the hassle, after all: the South Seas, the lawyers and all that secretiveness.
It is a strenuous trip for Schwenk, who lives in Munich. Rarotonga is situated about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, and it takes him more than 40 hours to get there from Germany. At least his local partner, the International Trust Corporation Ltd., has arranged for a hotel and a rental car. Hanswerner Schwenk’s mission: confirm with his signature that the share issue of the recently founded company Triton Ltd. proceeded in a lawful way. Read more ..
|Anne Michel||April 27th 2013|
The “Offshore Leaks” files published around the world on April 4 show that, from the late 1990s until the end of the 2000s, two major French banks, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole, oversaw the creation of a large number of totally opaque offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and Singapore for clients in search of secrecy and lower tax rates.
These are the findings unearthed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has been researching the story for over a year. According to these secret documents, BNP Paribas channels operations through its Singapore and Hong Kong subsidiaries, whereas Crédit Agricole relies on its Geneva-based Swiss subsidiary.
Both banks have set up companies through their Asian subsidiaries with the help of Portcullis TrustNet, a service provider that specializes in offshore business and turnkey companies (the famous “quick” companies that can be incorporated within 48 hours) for rich clients claiming to be domiciled in Asia and concealed by nominees. Read more ..
|Duncan Campbell and Craig Shaw||April 25th 2013|
Jailed British property developer Scot Young, an associate of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, constructed a secret network of offshore companies to hold his assets during a multimillion-pound divorce battle, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ's) research.
His story graphically demonstrates the way hideaways such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) can be used by a man bent on cheating the law.
Young, 51, described as a fixer for the super-rich, rose suddenly from working-class origins in Dundee to occupy a $21 million Oxfordshire mansion and to throw his money about in spectacular fashion. He once bought his then wife, Michelle, a Range-Rover filled to the roof with couture dresses. For her 40th birthday, he gave her a $1.5 million necklace. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Richard H.P. Sia||April 24th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
The Pentagon allowed a private firm providing food and water to U.S. troops in Afghanistan to overbill taxpayers $757 million and awarded the company no-bid contract extensions worth more than $4 billion over three years, according to the Pentagon’s chief internal watchdog and congressional investigators.
The deal represented one of the largest U.S. military contracts in Afghanistan. But the Defense Logistics Agency, which was overseeing the contract, failed repeatedly to verify that the contractor’s invoices were accurate, an official in the Defense Department inspector general’s office said. "This has to be one of the prime poster childs for a government contract spun out of control," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said last week.
Mica and other members of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Subcommittee on National Security expressed outrage at a hearing last week about the Pentagon’s handling of the deal, especially two contract extensions awarded amid a dispute between the government and the company over as much as $1 billion. Read more ..
|Gerard Ryle and Stefan Candea||April 23rd 2013|
On November 14, 2006, a man going by the name Paul William Hampel was arrested at a Canadian airport on charges of being a Russian spy. Hampel’s carefully constructed identity portrayed him as a successful businessman, yet for a decade his company did no business.
Only months before his capture, the same apparatus used to create his alias was also employed by a very different spy agency - the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency —to build a secret prison in Lithuania, where U.S. agents interrogated suspected al-Qaeda terrorists.
Earlier again, it was used by the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to cheat the Oil for Food program.
All three deceptions employed a common subterfuge: far-flung corporate entities used as anonymous fronts, with “executives” who lacked knowledge of what the firms were up to. The activities of these so-called nominee directors are a little noticed part of the world of secretive offshore finance that’s grown so vast that it touches more than 170 of the globe’s 206 countries, but it’s one that’s often drenched in intrigue. Read more ..
|Aisila Razak, Kuek Ser Kuang Keng, Wong TeckChi, and Steven Gan||April 18th 2013|
Key members of the Malaysian government, their families, and well-heeled associates are among those owning secretive offshore companies in Singapore and the British Virgin Islands, according to a cache of leaked documents.
They include former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's son Mirzan, Federal Territories and Urban Well-Being Minister Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin and Michael Chia, the alleged ‘bagman' for Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman.
The files, which were obtained by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and examined by Malaysiakini, show more than 1,500 Malaysians owning offshore companies in Singapore – dubbed as the new Switzerland – as well as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), an international tax haven. The ICIJ list comprises a curious mix of Forbes-listed tycoons, parliamentarians, retired politicians, civil servants and their spouses, members of royal families, famous and infamous businesspeople, underworld kingpins and even former beauty queens. Read more ..
|Aamir Latif and Marina Walker Guevara||April 17th 2013|
The scandal-buffeted heir to one of Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasties, the Chaudhry family, owned a secret company in the British Virgin Islands he created with the help of Swiss bank UBS, according to documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Moonis Elahi, son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who has just stepped down as deputy prime minister, was the sole shareholder in an offshore company called Olive Grove Assets Ltd, created in 2006 in the British Virgin Islands according to corporate records reviewed by ICIJ. In 2008 Moonis Elahi won a seat in the Punjab Provincial Assembly.
Elahi was swept up in scandal in 2011 when government prosecutors accused him of obtaining illegal payments in an alleged land scam involving the government-owned National Insurance Company Limited (NICL). Read more ..
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