China blocks international crackdown on offshore, says European Commission President Barroso

Sept 27, 2010 –

China is the major international power blocking a global solution to the offshore bank and secrecy problem. It is doing so because of its own secrecy jurisdiction, Hong Kong, says José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission.

He said some countries hadn’t been reacting positively to efforts to change the system , to establish a level playing field.

After the meeting, I asked him why the major financial powers hadn’t been able to achieve a solution. He said the problem was “China, because of Hong Kong.”

IDT’s imaginary “ethics letter”

IDT’s imaginary “ethics letter”

Sept 24, 2010 – Last Saturday, Barron’s ran my story in which IDT CEO Howard Jonas admitted for the first time a suspect deal with then Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that involved sending payments due Haiti to a law firm in the Turks and Caicos. Jonas told me the company had gotten a lawyer’s “ethics letter” clearing the deal. But he wouldn’t provide it.

A day before the story was to run, Barron’s got a call from a lawyer of the firm representing IDT in a lawsuit by former IDT executive D. Michael Jewett, who says the company fired him for objecting to the offshore deal. He promised to provide the ethics letter. It was the end of day, Friday. The magazine noted that promise when it published the next day.

Days later, the lawyer called to say he couldn’t provide the letter because it was sealed. Hard to believe: there is no sealing order for the letter in the case docket.

A Lingering Problem for IDT — CEO admits company official met with Aristide on contract

A Lingering Problem for IDT — CEO admits company official met with Aristide on contract

Barron’s, Sept 20, 2010 –

Scoop summary: Howard Jonas, CEO of U.S. telecom IDT, in an interview with Lucy Komisar, acknowledges for the first time that then Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2003 met with an IDT official during discussions about a contract to pay Haiti Teleco for calls from U.S. customers. That contract included agreement for IDT to send payments to a shell company in the offshore Turks and Caicos Islands. Jonas said IDT got an “ethics letter” from a law firm clearing the deal, but the lawyer said in a memo filed with the court, published here for the first time, that he simply told IDT to do “due diligence.” IDT signed the contract the next day.

A former IDT official, who objected to the deal, was fired and is suing the company; trial is set for Nov 9th. The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Jonas’s revelations are likely to have a major impact in the trial and investigations.