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

Archive for the Category ‘Corporate/Wall St.’

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.

Exclusive: Confessions of a Citibanker

Is Citibank Spain a tax cheat?
New Internationalist, Aug 2006
Citigroup

With help from a whistleblower, I followed the money trail through the offshore operations of Citigroup, the world’s biggest bank, and discovered that Spanish bankers handling their client’s offshore accounts were getting commissions via an internal accounting system instead of on the regular books.

It is the same internal system that Citigroup used in the 1970s to compensate currency traders in Paris, London, Frankfurt and elsewhere who “booked” trades in the tax haven Nassau, the Bahamas. They were exposed by an insider, were investigated by the SEC and Congress, and had to pay millions in back taxes. Is this happening again?

Citigroup: a culture and history of tax evasion

Citigroup: a culture and history of tax evasion

This report describes and details a history of tax evasion by the world’s largest
financial conglomerate, Citigroup. Going back decades, it is a story of
repeated, aggressive tax evasion for itself and clients, depriving governments
and therefore citizens of huge amounts of funds and carried out with relative
impunity.

France & UK Ignore Corporate Bribery: One Hand Launders the Other

France & UK Ignore Corporate Bribery: One Hand Launders the Other

Inter Press Service (IPS), Dec 29, 2006

Investigators find evidence that Siemens (German electronics & engineering firm), Total (French oil company), and BAE (British arms conglomerate) paid multi-millions of dollars in bribes through bank accounts in Switzerland and other offshore centers.
Siemens, Total, BAE logos

France and the UK argue “national security” to block inquiries. Concern is more likely the “security” of top officials who got kickbacks.

Spain’s discovery that funding for Basque terrorist group ETA goes through tax havens is dramatic proof that “national security” lies not in protecting but in dismantling the global offshore secrecy network.

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.

US/Haiti: Govt Corruption Suit Stalls for Lack of Funds

US/Haiti: Govt Corruption Suit Stalls for Lack of Funds

Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 26, 2006

The U.S. Justice Department is withholding agreement to share assets seized from Haitian drug traffickers to finance a lawsuit by the Haitian government charging former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide with taking bribes.

The suit is based on allegations by a former executive of the telecom company IDT that before Aristide left the country in 2004, he took hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from IDT, which is connected to prominent U.S. Republicans.

Justice Dept. Criminal Division chief wrote “lawyer’s letter” clearing GOP ex-congressman’s firm

Justice Dept. Criminal Division chief wrote “lawyer’s letter” clearing GOP ex-congressman’s firm

Sept 18, 2006
Is top Justice official protecting a former client accused of bribery?

The Justice Department’s Criminal Division, headed by a Bush political appointee who gave legal advice to a company accused of bribing Haiti’s former president, is blocking an agreement to share seized Haitian drug money that would help Haiti pursue the bribery case in U.S. courts. The accused company is run by a former Republican congressman.

Alice Fisher

The Criminal Division chief, Alice Fisher, formerly a registered lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by the father of Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, is a recess appointee. Her approval was blocked by Senators concerned about her qualifications and about her participation in a government meeting on abusive interrogations at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo.

Fees for Our Friends: The Scandal that Taints Andrew Cuomo

Fees for Our Friends: The Scandal that Taints Andrew Cuomo

By Lucy Komisar
Aug 22, 2006 [Part 1]

When Andrew Cuomo became HUD Secretary in 1997, he reversed the policy of selling defaulted mortgages so that families could keep their homes. Instead, he chose to foreclose on mortgages, which meant that families lost their homes and insiders cleaned up on fire-sale priced properties. The program he axed had saved the U.S. $2.2 billion between 1994 and 1997. Cuomo fired the former HUD official whose company designed the program.

That wasn’t the only money big money lost under Cuomo. HUD reported at the time that $59 billion was missing! It couldn’t say where the money went, because it failed to produce audited financial statements.

Haiti Telecom Kickbacks Tarnish Aristide

Haiti Telecom Kickbacks Tarnish Aristide

CorpWatch, Dec 29, 2005

Two U.S. lawsuits charge that former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his associates accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from politically connected U.S. telecom companies.

Lawsuits filed this Fall challenge the former priest’s image of political purity and raise claims that both he and U.S. corporate executives scammed illegal profits off the hemisphere’s poorest population.

In one suit, a fired executive charged his former employer, the U.S. telecom IDT (Newark, NJ), with corruption, defamation, and intimidation under the New Jersey anti-racketeering law. In the second, the government of Haiti contends that IDT, Fusion (New York, NY) and several other North American telecoms violated the federal RICO anti-racketeering statute. Both suits allege that Aristide, now in exile in South Africa, and his associates, took kickbacks.

Follow Aristide’s Money Offshore: How Haiti was looted with the help of tax haven shell companies & secret bank accounts and U.S. citizens & corporations

Follow Aristide’s Money Offshore: How Haiti was looted with the help of tax haven shell companies & secret bank accounts and U.S. citizens & corporations

Haiti Democracy Project, Nov 10, 2005

Add former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the long list of corrupt and repressive officials who have used Western banks and companies and offshore tax havens to plunder their countries and launder the stolen money.

Aristide and his associates looted government coffers, wrote checks to front companies for nonexistent purchases, padded invoices to get kickbacks from vendors, secretly owned companies that cheated Haiti of taxes, and laundered the money they stole through shell companies and secret bank accounts set up in the United States and the offshore tax havens of Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands.

Check from account of Aristide

Nearly $20 million has been documented as stolen between 2001, when Aristide took office as president for the second time, and 2004, when he fled or was forced out of the country according to varying accounts.

Tax Activists: Big Business Must Pay Its Fair Share

Tax Activists: Big Business Must Pay Its Fair Share

Pacific News Service – April 12, 2005

A new global movement is tracking the increasing number of offshore tax shelters and pressuring governments to make multinationals pay up.

As Americans fret over their personal income taxes, there is a movement afoot to reduce the tax burden on ordinary people by getting corporations and wealthy individuals to pay their fair share.

Last month, the Tax Justice Network (www.taxjustice.net/) issued a report based on publicly available statistics from the Bank of International Settlements and Merrill Lynch, the investment company. The data showed the following:

–Approximately $11.5 trillion of assets are held offshore by high net-worth individuals, or about a third of the total global GDP, the value of goods and services, which in 2003 was $36.2 trillion.

–The annual income that these assets might be expected to earn amounts to $860 billion annually.

–The tax not paid as a result of these funds being held offshore would exceed $255 billion a year.

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.

Offshore Banking: The Secret Threat To America

Offshore Banking: The Secret Threat To America

Hound-Dogs, March 2004
(Same title but not same article as in Dissent 2003)

This is a story about a massive money-laundering operation run by the world’s biggest banks. It hides behind the “eyes-glazing over” technicalities of the international financial system. But it could be one of the biggest illicit money-moving operations anyone has ever seen. And it’s allowed to exist by the financial regulators who answer to Western governments.

In these days of global markets, individuals and companies may be buying stocks, bonds or derivatives from a seller who is Clearstreamhalfway across the world. Clearstream, based in Luxembourg, is one of two international clearinghouses that keep track of the “paperwork” for the transactions.

Menatep paper trail

Menatep paper trail

The Russia Journal, Nov 5, 2003

The charges against key shareholders in Yukos are enormous and very varied in scope. The Yukos tale is a long, complex and controversial one, requiring lengthy and painstaking substantiation. Public interest in the Yukos controversy is very high.

However charges and counter charges, mostly of a political nature, are being flung so wildly about in the media that The Russia Journal believes it essential at this stage to focus on the evidence in the accusations against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partners. His innocence of the charges that have been filed against him must be presumed until a competent trial is held.

Those who support his innocence of the charges are invited to review and comment on this, the first in a Russia Journal series on the case against him and others in Menatep Group.

Taking Stock: Unions join fight against offshore corporations

Taking Stock: Unions join fight against offshore corporations

In These Times, Jan 17, 2003

Trade unions, workers’ pension funds and state officials are taking the lead in a campaign to prevent companies from reincorporating in Bermuda and other tax havens—and to bring back those who’ve already gone.

Arguing that offshore registrations allow corporations to evade taxes, reduce shareholder rights and threaten the security of investments, the AFL-CIO, individual unions and pension funds such as California’s Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) are filing shareholder resolutions and going to court against companies that move their paper headquarters offshore, where corrupt corporate executives have an easier time cooking the books.

Behind the faces of Annan’s finance and development gurus

Behind the faces of Annan’s finance and development gurus

Earth Times News Service, Dec 19, 2002.

There is no little irony in United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan appointing Robert Rubin (shown here), Robert Rubina chairman of Citibank, to serve on an advisory panel that will propose how to help poor countries where over a billion people suffer abject poverty. He might have some interesting conversations with another panel member, David Bryer, director of Oxfam. Oxfam recently condemned practices of banks such as Citibank as a major part of developing countries’ problems.

Clearstream: Explosive Revelation$

In These Times, March 15, 2002

The world’s biggest banks and multinational corporations have set up a shadowy system to secretly move trillions of dollars—a system that can be exploited by tax evaders, drug runners and even terrorists.

In the tax haven of Luxembourg, a little-known outfit called Clearstream handles billions of dollars a year in stock and bond transfers for banks, investment companies and multinational corporations. But a former top official of this “clearinghouse” says Clearstream operates a secret bookkeeping system that allows its clients to hide the money that moves through their accounts.

Shell Game: Citibank attacks money-laundering regulations

Shell Game: Citibank attacks money-laundering regulations

In These Times, Oct 22, 2001

Offshore banking has helped Citibank clients hide millions. Citibank

Citibank Citibankis leading a fight by American banks to gut the anti-moneylaundering laws currently being considered in Congress—laws that could significantly change the way banks do business for their wealthiest clients.

Citibank is seeking an exception to a proposed ban on doing business with shell banks, which have no physical presence and are situated “virtually” in offshore zones to avoid taxes and regulations. The banks are used to hide and launder perhaps billions of dollars a year.

A Book Too Hot For U.S. to Handle? Tracking Terrorist Money

A Book Too Hot For U.S. to Handle? Tracking Terrorist Money

Pacific News Service, Oct 4, 2001

NEW YORK–A controversial European book that might help authorities track terrorist funding sources remains unpublished and relatively unknown in the United States.

”Entitled “Revelation$,”it exposes a secret banking system that might be used by terrorists. At the center is a clearinghouse in Luxembourg called Clearstream, which transfers money for international banks and major companies.

Written by a former high-ranking Clearstream official and a French journalist, its publication last February by Les Arenes in Paris triggered the firing of Clearstream’s top officials, a judicial inquiry in Luxembourg, and invitations to the authors to address members of the European Parliament and the French parliamentary commission on financial crime and money-laundering.

Rubin in UN Finance Panel – a Case of Fox Guarding the Henhouse?

Rubin in UN Finance Panel – a Case of Fox Guarding the Henhouse?

Pacific News Service, Dec 20, 2000

Criminals — drug dealers or dictators — with embarrassing amounts of cash on hand, or corporations trying to avoid taxation, often use false fronts in poor countries to “launder” the funds. Major U.S. banks are heavily involved in this unsavory business, so banker Robert Rubin Robert Rubinmay face some interesting questions from the other members of a UN panel intended to help debtor nations.

There is more than a little irony in the appointment of Robert Rubin, a chairman of Citibank, to a United Nations panel which is supposed to propose methods for helping poor countries.