Reports & analysis by award-winning investigative journalist Lucy Komisar “”

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National Press Club award for Stanford investigation

National Press Club award for Stanford investigation

June 25, 2010 – Another award for the Stanford investigation, this time from the National Press Club in Washington DC, bestowing the prize for Newspaper Consumer Journalism.

The NPC award categories are consumer reporting, Washington correspondence, press criticism, regional, diplomatic and environmental reporting, online journalism, freedom of the press, political journalism, animal reporting, and geriatric writing.

Lucy wins Sigma Delta Chi award for Stanford story

Lucy wins Sigma Delta Chi award for Stanford story

May 5, 2010 –

I have won the Sigma Delta Chi journalism award for Non-Deadline Reporting (Daily Circulation 100,001+) for “Allen Stanford’s Miami Connection.” This is the exposé I brought to the Miami Herald that told how the Florida Banking Department allowed Stanford to set up an unregulated office to move money offshore. I worked with two Herald reporters, who shared the award. It is one of the country’s major journalism prizes.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, which presents the award, “Judges chose the winners from over 1,300 entries in categories covering print, radio, television and online. The awards recognize outstanding work published or broadcast in 2009.” They will be presented Oct. 2 during the 2010 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference in Las Vegas.

U.S. civil rights veterans pass torch to younger generation

U.S. civil rights veterans pass torch to younger generation

RALEIGH, North Carolina, Inter Press Service (IPS), April 27, 2010 – Robert Moses, 75, a legendary leader and organiser in the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement, was huddled with a dozen people discussing plans for a campaign to make quality education a constitutional right. On one side was his son Omowale, 38. Next to Omo was John Doar, 89, head of the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department in 1960-67 and prosecutor of the major civil rights cases of that era.

The age differences were noticeable at the conference they attended this month in Raleigh, North Carolina, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. It was a moment for the “elders” – as high school and college students at the conference called them – to pass the torch to a new generation of activists.

Where was Obama on SNCC’s 50th anniversary?

Where was Obama on SNCC’s 50th anniversary?

April 19, 2010 –

Last week, I was at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC, for the 50th anniversary conference of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which led the sit-in movement of the 1960s. I attended SNCC’s founding conference at Shaw in April 1960.

That meeting had been called in response to the February 1,, 1960 protest in Greensboro, NC, when four black students sat at an all-white Woolworth’s lunch counter, demanded to be served and were arrested.

National Headliner Award for Komisar story on Stanford

National Headliner Award for Komisar story on Stanford

March 23, 2010 –

I’ve been awarded a National Headliner Award for the story on Ponzi-schemer Allen Stanford I took to the Miami Herald last year. It exposed how the Florida Banking Department ignored the strong advice of its own lawyer and allowed Stanford to set up an unregulated office to move money offshore.

Paul Volcker says privately Obama appointed him as “window dressing”

Paul Volcker says privately Obama appointed him as “window dressing”

Dec 14, 2009 – The man who isn’t there: whatever happened to Paul Volcker?

President Obama appointed him Chairman of the new Economic Recovery Advisory Board which is supposed to advise the president on jump-starting the economy and stabilizing financial markets. But the former Federal Reserve Chairman has been cut out of key discussions, including one taking place today with officials of a dozen big banks.

Film: Challenging 500 Years of Globalisation

Film: Challenging 500 Years of Globalisation

Inter Press Service (IPS), Nov 14, 2009 – To end poverty, you have to know how it began – with globalisation. No, not the 20th century variety engendered by multinationals and their friends at the IMF, World Bank and WTO. They just codified practices that kept developing countries poor.

French filmmaker Philippe Diaz, in an illuminating documentary opening in New York Friday, traces globalisation back 500 years to the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of the Americas. Diaz shows how the colonial North used the South’s resources to build its industrial base and how its continued control over resources, global trade and debt rules prevents developing countries from ending poverty.

My Stasi Files: getting banned by East German secret police in the 80s

My Stasi Files: getting banned by East German secret police in the 80s

Nov 8, 2009 – The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has called forth a plethora of memories and celebrations. Here are mine.

I visited West Germany in 1983 as it held massive demonstrations against the U.S. plan to station medium range missiles on German territory. The peace movement – objecting to the Ronald Reagan hard line against the East — had another view of how to bring down communism from within. The German government “Ostpolitik” – East politics – though denounced by the Reagan politicians, was ultimately successful.

Sodexo’s ‘safe’ supplier sickens 27 boy scouts at camp

Sodexo’s ‘safe’ supplier sickens 27 boy scouts at camp

Oct 17, 2009 – When he was interviewed for the investigative story I did in March on Sodexo’s practice of demanding rebates (ie kickbacks) from suppliers, Sodexo deputy counsel Tom Morse argued that working only with “compliant” vendors was necessary to assure health and safety. (“Compliant” means they pay rebates.”)

He said that “the first thing we vet our vendors for is safety” against food-borne illnesses …”

Corazon Aquino missed her chance

Corazon Aquino missed her chance

Aug 3, 2009 –
Corazone Aquino book

In January 1986, I went to the Philippines to chronicle the growing movement against the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. I was there for the “people power revolution,” a non-violent massive street protest that in February finally drove Marcos from power. I remember being outside the presidential palace that night and racing through the streets when gunfire erupted. The U.S., which had supported him for decades, flew him and his wife Imelda to Honolulu. Along with documents that detailed how they had looted the country and where the money was.

The mysterious Bank Madoff

The mysterious Bank Madoff

March 17, 2009 –

There’s a mysterious “Bank Madoff, New York” that U.S. authorities don’t appear to know about. International securities clearing houses move trillions of dollars a year for banks and brokerages and are a natural way for crooks to launder Bank Madoff listing on Clearstream roster
and hide ill-gotten gains. So it would be natural for investigators to check the paper trails of Madoff accounts in CSDs (central securities depositories) around the world.

They already know about the one listed in the name of “Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC New York, US broker/dealer.”

But they don’t seem to know about “Bank Madoff, New York.” It appears on a list published by Clearstream, the international clearing and settlement house in Luxembourg. That “bank” has not been publicly mentioned by investigators.

(See the listing on its full page.)

Offshore tax cheating could become criminal money-laundering offense

Offshore tax cheating could become criminal money-laundering offense

Feb 11, 2009 –

The U.S. government might finally get a powerful tool against offshore tax evasion by mega-wealthy individuals and corporations. The worst most miscreants face now is negotiated pay-ups years after they are caught.

A bill introduced last week by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) would make tax evasion using international transfers a criminal money-laundering offense.

The law aims at cases in which money passes through tax havens. It targets not just the evaded taxes, but any money that is part of the scam.

Is NY Gov. Paterson protecting corporate tax evaders?

Is NY Gov. Paterson protecting corporate tax evaders?

Feb 8, 2009 –

At a time when New York State’s budget is reeling from Wall Street tax losses — Wall Street pays 20 to 30 percent of revenues — you’d think Governor David Paterson would want to recoup all the evaded taxes he could get. That doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to corporations that launder their profits offshore.

Paterson refused to deal with the issue and instead answered a question I hadn’t asked. I wonder why. Does that mean he won’t go after corporate tax evaders? Here is the exchange from the Council’s transcript of David Patterson meeting.

Palin’s campaign operations chief was VP of IDT, telecom investigated for bribery

Palin’s campaign operations chief was VP of IDT, telecom investigated for bribery

Sept 2, 2008 –

Michael Glassner, in charge of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s campaign operations, was till April 18th a vice-president of IDT, the New Jersey-based telecom fined $1.3 million by the FCC in July for failing to file its Haiti contract.

The contract, effective in 2004, revealed payments to an offshore shell company in the Turks & Caicos which sent only part of the fees to Haiti’s phone company. The case is under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. A former IDT insider, Michael Jewett, who managed the company’s Caribbean region, says the missing money represented kickbacks to former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“Where’s Mobutu!”

“Where’s Mobutu!”

June 18, 2008 –

I never thought I’d hear those words, certainly not at the Council on Foreign Relations. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico spoke at a Council lunch today. The subject was immigration. Before the talk, several people, including this reporter, stopped at the speaker’s table to chat. Maurice Templesman, photo by Lucy Komisar I was standing there when Maurice Tempelsman approached Richardson. The Governor greeted him and said, “Where’s Mobutu!”

Well, that was a conversation stopper! Tempelsman, a very very rich man, and a generous donor, frequently gets a place of honor at the Council head table, though not today. Nobody raises the question of how he got his money.

Larry Summers on Robert Rubin and money-laundering

Larry Summers on Robert Rubin and money-laundering

March 26, 2008 –

Lawrence Summers spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations last week and was a bit uncomfortable about my question regarding Clinton administration anti-money-laundering policy.Lawrence Summers

I pointed out that Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (who happens to be one of the Council’s co-chairs) had not acted against money-laundering because he didn’t want to stop the free flow of cash into the US – in effect, into Wall Street. But when Summers succeeded Rubin in the job, he had taken action.

The facts are important because Rubin is poised to move into a Democratic administration — especially if Clinton wins — as a high-level Wall Street influential.

The big crime in the Spitzer scandal is money laundering

The big crime in the Spitzer scandal is money laundering

March 10, 2008

It’s not just about buying or selling sex. It’s also about money Eliot Spitzerlaundering. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s downfall began with an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service. That’s because when people move money for illicit purposes, they try to disguise the flows. And US banks are required to report suspicious transfers to the Treasury Department.

The IRS gets involved, because those transfers could be effected to hide income from taxes. So it responded to bank reports of suspicious transfers by Spitzer, who was paying thousands of dollars for call girl services. The money was being sent to QAT consulting, a shell company owned by the Emperor’s Club V.I.P. prostitution ring.

Then the FBI joined the United States Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigative Division, looking into what appeared to be at first possible government corruption but then turned out to be payments to an organization running prostitution. And also laundering money in the United States and Europe.

Italy’s President once a leading communist whom Kissinger never fathomed

Italy’s President once a leading communist whom Kissinger never fathomed

Dec 13, 2007

I chatted for a few minutes with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano Giorgio Napolitano, photo by Lucy Komisarafter he spoke this morning at a Council on Foreign Relations breakfast. He agreed that there is a problem posed by offshore financial centers and pointed to concern in Europe reflected in a recent joint letter on the subject by the UK, France and Germany.

Napolitano is an extraordinary man who served nearly 40 years in the Italian parliament and was a leader of the Italian Communist Party, the PCI, helping to move it out of the Stalinist camp to social democracy.

Richard Gardner, US ambassador to Italy 1977 to 81, who presided over the meeting, told me that he had tried to persuade Henry Kissinger that Napolitano was a social democrat. Gardner said that Kissinger never could grasp that.

Investigators of subprime crisis should look offshore

Investigators of subprime crisis should look offshore

Dec 1, 2007

When there’s a financial crisis tied to lack of transparency, follow the culprits offshore. Evidence comes out now that this is true about the subprime debacle.

Reuters reports that a German bank is implementing “accounting changes including consolidation of an offshore conduit whose soured investments triggered a government-led rescue.” The offshore operation was set up to invest in subprime mortgages.

Pam Martens in Counterpunch points out that, “Citigroup, is discovered to have stashed away over $80 billion of Byzantine securities off its balance sheet in secretive Cayman Islands vehicles with an impenetrable curtain around them.”

Among those securities count subprimes. Citigroup has $55 billion of subprime exposure and in November said it would write down up to $11 billion in subprime losses. Goldman Sachs said that won’t be all, that the bank may have to write off $15 billion.

Robert Rubin gushes over Musharraf’s vision of democracy

Robert Rubin gushes over Musharraf’s vision of democracy

Nov 3, 2007

Learning of General Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of emergency rule (martial law) in Pakistan, I can’t help but recall the gushing introduction of the general made by Citigroup honcho and Democratic financial eminence grise Robert Rubin when the dictator, who came to power in a military coup, spoke at the Sept 25, 2006 meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations. Robert Rubin

Rubin urged the audience to “understand a great deal more than those in our country tend to know about Pakistan, the Muslim world, the meaning of democracy in the context of countries very different from our own.”

Rubin’s obsequious comments might be connected to the fact that Musharraf had appointed a top Citigroup official to be his finance minister, giving the bank privileged entrée into the country.

A question now for Robert Rubin: Just how do you fit martial law into your expansive meaning of democracy?

French Finance Minister not “sufficiently aware” of frigates case

French Finance Minister not “sufficiently aware” of frigates case

Oct 23, 2007 – In the continuing saga of the Frigates of Taiwan, involving about $1 billion in bribes and kickbacks paid by the French company Thomson to win a bid on the sale of six war frigates to Taiwan in the early 90s, I asked French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, if she would continue the cover-up on a corruption case that could be the largest (known) in French history.

Madame Lagarde wasn’t “sufficiently aware” of the case that has been exhaustively reported by French print and broadcast media for more than a decade.

A Frenchman acting on principle

A Frenchman acting on principle

Sept 29, 2007

It’s that time of the year when the UN General Assembly opens and heads of state and foreign ministers meet up at parties and quiet gatherings and even give a few public speeches around town. A popular stop is the Council on Foreign Relations, where anyone representing an establishment view is assured of a warm welcome. Bernard Kouchner

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, famous as the founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (actually he was one of 12 doctor and journalist founders), spoke at the Council on Tuesday. In his introduction Felix Rohatyn, the prominent investment banker, US ambassador to France in 1997-2000 and now an advisor to the chairman of Lehman Brothers, said, “There are very few people who act according to their principles. Bernard Kouchner acts on his principles, and that’s a very rare virtue, especially in a politician.”

I was hopeful that Minister Kouchner, a Socialist who has joined a conservative government, would display these principles in his answer to my question about a corruption scandal that could be the French Watergate. However, the minister displayed the not-so-rare political attribute of solidarity with high-level officials who want to suppress evidence of corruption.

Offshore shell games threaten global financial system

Offshore shell games threaten global financial system

Sept 17, 2007

There’s an astonishing article in the Washington Post’s Business Section (“Risk. Now They See It. Now You Don’t. Sept 16, 2007)

The Post, which has never, ever, railed against tax havens, is now suggesting that their use to cheat tax authorities and investors threatens the entire global financial system. Of course, it doesn’t put it so starkly, but that’s the gist.

The Post says, “Over the past few years, major banks figured out how to use “conduits” and “structured investment vehicles” to earn big fees while playing cute little games of tax and regulatory arbitrage and keeping it all pretty much hidden from investors.”

Where does The Post think those off-balance-sheet investment vehicles are? Most of Enron’s were in Grand Cayman. The Post should connect the dots. Tax and regulatory arbitrage plus hidden plus off-balance-sheet investment vehicles = offshore.

Why did regulators tolerate the use of offshore? Because global tax evasion and avoidance of regulation is something corporations want. That’s what offshore secrecy is for. Now, will Congress act, in spite of corporate power, when there is a threat to the entire global financial system?

Tax dodging helps Murdoch buy the Journal

Tax dodging helps Murdoch buy the Journal

Aug 1, 2007

Where did Rupert Murdoch get $5 billion to buy up the Wall St. Journal? Beyond normal profits, his coffers were stuffed by dodging taxes in the U.S. and elsewhere. Some of that is your money!

The Economist, in 1999, investigated Murdoch’s corporate tax affairs and discovered that a collection of 800 offshore companies help him cut corporate taxes to 6%!

Bono the tax dodger wants others’ taxes spent on Africa

Bono the tax dodger wants others’ taxes spent on Africa

May 16, 2007

Paul Hewson, known as Bono, the rock star, is complaining that the seven wealthy nations in the G-7 which had promised to double aid to the developing world by 2010, are more than half behind target. The countries are the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Bono

Bono’s protest might be taken more seriously if he and his U2 band were not participating in the system that deprives developing countries of far more than western aid – much of which has to be repaid.

Bono is a tax dodger. As a result of a change in Irish law that limits the tax exemption for artists and musicians to a “punitive” $625,450, Bono’s U2 has moved its music publishing company registration to the Netherlands, where the tax on its multi-million dollar income will be about 5 percent. To dodge taxes on non-royalty income, Bono’s company has used offshore nominees.