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

Archive for the Category ‘Fraud’

Russian Sanctions Highlight Role of Western Enablers

Russian Sanctions Highlight Role of Western Enablers

The secret deals of “corruption fighter” William Browder, an offshore profit-launderer

100Reporters, May 21, 2014 – As U.S and European governments impose sanctions on bankers, businessmen and officials close to Vladimir Putin to pressure him over Crimea, the asset freezes will lead investigators not to the Kremlin alone, but to the western-built offshore system that has helped the Russian leader and friends loot their country and consolidate power.

A case – details not public before – shows how westerners – lawyers, accountants, bankers, investors—used the offshore system to facilitate and benefit from Russian corruption.

It involves William Browder (opposite), self-described anti-corruption fighter, known in Washington for winning passage of 2012 “Magnitsky Act,” which presaged current law by blocking visas, freezing assets of Russians accused of rights violations and corruption.

Browder and fellow investors stole funds diverted via an Isle of Man shell from a Russian company they controlled.

Ex-employee who claimed firing over opposition to Haiti bribery settles suit against IDT

Ex-employee who claimed firing over opposition to Haiti bribery settles suit against IDT

Jan 24, 2011 – The lawsuit filed by a former employee against the Newark-based global telecom IDT is over. J. Michael Jewett, who was an IDT executive, claimed in 2004 that he was fired for opposing bribes to Haitian officials. Lawyers for both sides agreed to drop the complaint and counterclaims in an accord filed with the U.S. District Court in Newark on January 13th. This has not been reported before now.

IDT spokesman Bill Ulrey said, “We have no comment…as usual. Thank you.” Jewett’s attorney William Perniciaro also declined to discuss the matter. When both sides don’t talk about an agreement to dismiss a case, that normally means a confidential settlement has been reached.

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.

Sodexo, exposed by Komisar for kickbacks, agrees to $20m settlement

Sodexo, exposed by Komisar for kickbacks, agrees to $20m settlement

July 21, 2010 –

The global food services company Sodexo, which I exposed last year for exacting “rebates” from suppliers and charging clients full price, has agreed to a $20 million settlement with NY Attorney General for that illicit practice.

IDT’s Voodoo Economics: Inside Justice Dept’s probe of telecom bribes in Haiti

IDT’s Voodoo Economics: Inside Justice Dept’s probe of telecom bribes in Haiti

The Big Money, March 11, 2010

When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in January, IDT, the New Jersey-based global phone company, moved fast to help.

It announced it was setting up calling stations at hotels and other sites so Haitians could use its Internet calling-service to reach family and friends around the world. It cut rates on its U.S. prepaid calling-card to 2 cents a minute to Haiti (at least for 12 days), donated 4,000 $2-prepaid calling-cards to Haitian community groups in New York and Florida, and said it would give some proceeds from prepaid calls to Haitian Red Cross relief.

Such a warm, fuzzy response from a U.S. corporation often wins plaudits, though, of course, IDT has a business interest in the impoverished island. In 2005, in its latest publicly available figures, the company reported $4 million in profits from $17 million in revenues for routing calls there.

Exclusive: Florida banking agency helped Stanford set up unregulated office to sell his phony CDs

State aided suspect in huge swindle

Miami Herald, July 5, 2009 –

Winner of second place for Business News, the National Headliner Awards

Years before his banking empire was shut down in a massive fraud case, Allen Stanford swept into Florida with a bold plan: entice Latin Americans to pour millions into his ventures — in secrecy.

From a bayfront office in Miami in 1998, he planned to sell investments to customers and send their money to Antigua.

But to pull it off, he needed unprecedented help from an unlikely ally: The state of Florida would have to grant him the right to move vast amounts of money offshore — without reporting a penny to regulators. He got it.

The Real AIG Scandal: How the Game is Rigged at Wall Street’s Casino

The Real AIG Scandal: How the Game is Rigged at Wall Street’s Casino

AlterNet, March 26, 2009 –

Congress has deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse, which will make a few million in bonuses seem like peanuts.

Most legislators at a House Finance subcommittee hearing last week deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse. Instead, they homed in on the public relations disaster of hundreds of top AIG officials and staff getting $165 million (later revealed as over $218 million) in bonuses.

The key issue ignored by the congressmen and women was the potential catastrophe represented by as much as $2.7 trillion in AIG derivative contracts and how AIG and the U.S. government are dealing with them. To put that number in context, we’ve so far provided the company only about $170 billion.

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.

Questions Linger About Bushes and BCCI

Questions Linger About Bushes and BCCI

Inter Press Service (IPS), April 4, 2007

Now that the U.S. Congress is investigating the truth of President George W. Bush’s statements about the Iraq war, they might look into one of his most startling assertions: that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

BCCI logo on buildingCritics dismissed that as an invention. They were wrong. There was a link, but not the one Bush was selling. The link between Hussein and Bin Laden was their banker, BCCI. But the link went beyond the dictator and the jihadist — it passed through Saudi Arabia and stretched all the way to George W. Bush and his father.

US/Haiti: Top Republicans Leave Telecom Accused of Bribery

US/Haiti: Top Republicans Leave Telecom Accused of Bribery

Inter Press Service (IPS) – Nov 6, 2006

The company is under investigation by the SEC, the United States Attorney in Newark, New Jersey, and a U.S. federal grand jury for allegedly paying bribes to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former president of Haiti. Five nationally prominent US Republicans, the independent board members of a corporation that has been charged with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get a sweetheart telecom deal in Haiti, are leaving its board. The company is IDT, the world’s third-ranked international phone company.

IDT is run by James Courter (shown here), a former New Jersey Republican congressman. The other Republicans are Rudy Boschwitz, former senator from Minnesota; James S. Gilmore III, former Virginia governor; Thomas Slade Gorton III, former senator from Washington State; Jack Kemp, former congressman from New York and 1996 vice presidential nominee; and Jeane Kirkpatrick, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN under President Ronald Reagan.

The Fall of a Titan

The Fall of a Titan

AlterNet, March 17, 2005.

Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, one of the world’s richest men, and head of AIG, one of the world’s largest financial companies, was forced to resign this week as prosecutors closed in on him and the company.

Given his economic and political power, the fall of Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the 59th richest man in America and CEO of the American International Group (AIG), the world’s second-largest financial conglomerate (after Citigroup), is stunning.

Take The Money And Run Offshore

Take The Money And Run Offshore

AlterNet, Dec 22, 2004

How insurance companies are aiding tax evasion by over-charging in America and shipping the money to offshore firms.

Terry Mills was working in Wilmington, DE, for J. Montgomery, one of the largest insurance agencies in the region, when in 1993 he was called in to get to the bottom of a messy insurance problem. Little did he know that he would uncover a story – as yet unreported – about tax evasion through offshore firms, but with a twist. The scheme Mills came across seemed to be taking place with the aid of AIG, a major U.S. insurance giant.

Cooking the Insurance Books: A Decade of Lax Regulation Lays Groundwork for Scandal

Cooking the Insurance Books: A Decade of Lax Regulation Lays Groundwork for Scandal

CorpWatch, Nov 17, 2004

In October, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit against the world’s largest insurance broker, Marsh, accusing it of rigging bids and receiving kickbacks in order to defraud clients such as other corporations, city governments, school districts and individuals of billions of dollars through inflated premiums.

“Greedy trial lawyers were the usual excuse for premium increases. Now we know that greedy corporations also have a starring role,” Spitzer said, accusing several insurance companies as co-conspirators in making phony or inflated bids and paying kickbacks to the brokerage to get business.

Cooking the Insurance Books

Cooking the Insurance Books

Nov 2004

Insurance giant AIG has used offshore structures in Barbados and Bermuda to circumvent or violate U. S. state laws regarding reinsurance and to help at least one crooked client evade taxes.

In the late 90s, four state insurance departments were aware that AIG was secretly hiding its debts offshore but, despite substantial evidence of wrongdoing, no sanctions were ordered.

The Case That Kerry Cracked

The Case That Kerry Cracked

AlterNet, Oct 22, 2004

As a senator, John Kerry was a tenacious investigator and exposed BCCI, an international criminal bank, and its murderous clients. The experience should serve him well in dealing with the international threats we face today.

One gets an eerie sense of déjà vu watching John Kerry battle the Bush clan. He’s done it once before, against the old man, President Bush’s father, though many voters have probably forgotten. That battle involved the first Bush administration’s attempt to put the lid on an investigation that connected a worldwide criminal bank to narco-traffickers, terrorists, and to Middle East money men who helped the Bush family make piles of cash. Those links connect to people now on the U.S. post-9/11 terrorist list.