Hiding assets via jewelry or other portable valuable commodities and former Turks & Caicos premier Michael Misick:

  1. On the trail of Michael Mastro: how to flee the law when you are 87” is about Michael & Linda Mastro.  These two might have secretly transferred bankruptcy estate assets by shipping a Range Rover full of jewelry, (i.e. portable valuable commodities), to Lisbon.  The post “Secreting Assets Without A Border Trace” similarly describes the fact pattern of a Ponzi schemer who had conceivably concealed diamonds by traveling as an airline passenger from the U.S. to Zurich, Switzerland.
  2. The April 21, 2012 Asset Search News Roundup states that former Turks & Caicos premier Michael Misick was the subject of an arrest warrant, reportedly over alleged corruption and supposed money laundering.  This past June 30th, the Turks & Caicos Weekly News published “Mike Misick Fighting Extradition.”   It discusses Misick’s April 13, 2013 re-arrest in Brazil and the effort to extradite him to the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Copyright 2013 Fred L. Abrams

U.S. prosecutors issued a press release yesterday announcing the extradition of former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo.  Mr. Portillo’s extradition to the United States was based on his alleged money laundering.

Yesterday, Mr. Portillo was also arraigned in federal court in Manhattan.  Although Mr. Portillo was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal, the Court’s docket reveals that Mr. Portillo will be applying for bail within the next two weeks.

As outlined by a 12/1/2009 indictment, prosecutors accuse Mr. Portillo of participating in a public corruption scheme.  The Forfeiture Bill of Particulars filed by prosecutors, lists Mr. Portillo’s alleged illicit assets reportedly laundered during the scheme.

These assets consisted of funds supposedly washed through bank accounts in multiple jurisdictions, including New York, Miami, Paris, Luxembourg and Switzerland.  Pages 8-9 of an IRS Special Agent’s August 9, 2012 declaration, chart the suspected movement of the funds:

(Click Below To Read The Entire Declaration)

This Asset Search News Roundup discusses the Secrecy for Sale Project and the indictment of a NY attorney along with a Swiss banker:

I)  The US-based  International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, (“ICIJ”), analyzed more than 2.5 million documents in its Secrecy for Sale Project.  The Project began after the ICIJ received a computer hard drive in the mail, which contained the so-called leaked documents.  The Project’s goal was to uncover money launderers, tax cheats, kleptocrats and anyone else with assets hidden offshore.

The Project detected secret foreign bank accounts or other assets allegedly maintained by individuals ranging from American doctors and dentists to Bayartsogt Sangajav, the deputy speaker of Mongolia’s Parliament.  Among other things, the Project investigated a nominee incorporation service known as the Portcullis TrustNet Group.  According to the Project’s webpages, the overall investigation was carried out through link charts generated by NUIX computer software, data mining and “old fashioned shoe leather reporting“.

II)  Hiding Assets Through Gatekeepers With Accounts Across The Globe highlighted the problem of lawyers, accountants, etc., who orchestrated asset concealment schemes.  One such case may involve New York attorney Edgar Paltzer and Swiss banker Stefan Buck.  A press release asserts that the two supposedly employed Swiss bank accounts as part of a conspiracy to hide millions from the IRS.  They were indicted on April 16th in U.S.A. v. Paltzer, et  al., U.S. District Court, S.D.N.Y., Index No. 13-cr-00282.

Copyright 2013 Fred L. Abrams

The ACAMS / MoneyLaundering.com article “FATF’s Focus on Asset Forfeiture Could Challenge Some Nations”, especially raises the issue of recovering corruption proceeds.  Near the end of this article, I am mentioned as saying that as part of their effort to crack down on corruption, Financial Action Task Force examiners may expect jurisdictions to track bribes paid by local companies to foreign governments:

FATF’s Focus on Asset Forfeitures Could Challenge Some Nations¹

October 31, 2012, By Brian Monroe

An intergovernmental group’s revised expectations of how countries should seize looted assets may prove difficult to meet, and could lower the mutual evaluation scores nations receive for their anti-money laundering controls.

Earlier this month, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) outlined in guidance how jurisdictions should best assist one another with asset forfeitures, calling for the implementation of formal and informal mutual legal assistance arrangements and the creation of specialized units to expedite responses to intergovernmental inquiries.

How willingly nations cooperate with one another will be an important factor in how FATF evaluates their anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorism financing regimes going forward, according to an individual familiar with high-level discussions within the intergovernmental group.

“Asset confiscation and recovery is a very important objective and an indicator of the success of the overall regime,” said the person, who asked not to be named. The issue is linked to FATF’s increased focus on fighting corruption, the individual said.

In February, individuals involved in FATF talks told ACAMS MoneyLaundering.com that the group was revising how it scored regimes to emphasize efficacy, and would consider forfeiture sizes, conviction rates and other factors. The shift follows FATF’s decision to streamline its AML and counterterrorism financing standards earlier this year.

As part of that effort, the group plans to grade countries on both technical compliance and how effectively they implement financial crime controls, including asset forfeitures, sources said this month. The two separate grades will be combined in an overall score included as part of each mutual evaluation.

But meeting FATF’s asset forfeiture standard, as outlined in its Oct. 19 best practices, will be challenging for nations of all stripes, according to Tom Lasich, a former head of training at the Switzerland-based International Centre for Asset Recovery and a former Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator.

Continue Reading Recovering Assets By Cracking Down On Corruption Proceeds

Recovering corruption proceeds and related issues:

  1. At a news release, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development notes that in twelve years, French authorities had just five convictions in cases arising out of the bribery of foreign officials.  The news release claims that French authorities have a “lacklustre response” to cases involving actual or alleged foreign bribery.
  2. The Role of Financial Intelligence Units in Fighting Corruption and Recovering Stolen Assets is a white paper provided by The Egmont Group of financial intelligence units.  It mentions how government authorities may detect corruption proceeds because  of tips / suspicious activity reports, supplied by financial institutions.  Page 13 of the paper reveals how illicit assets from a politician’s extortion scheme were uncovered as a result of suspicious activity reports, (i.e “SARs”), generated by three  banks:

 

Copyright 2012 Fred L. Abrams

The name of a whistleblower is reportedly leaked and concealing assets in Luxembourg:

  • press release and “Ex-IRS examiner charged with naming whistleblower ” refer to the criminal complaint against Dennis Lerner of Edgewater, N.J.  Mr. Lerner is accused of violating 26 U.S.C. § 7213 (Unauthorized disclosure of information), 18 U.S.C. §§ 207 (Restrictions on former officers, employees, etc.) & 208 (Acts affecting a personal financial interest).  The Court’s docket report reveals that Mr. Lerner was arrested and would be released from custody by way of a $300,000 personal recognizance bond.
  • As a haven for concealing assets, Luxembourg has few rivals.  Some of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme proceeds or other assets were hidden in Luxembourg.  The ex-president of Guatemala, Alfonso Portillo, is thought to have similarly laundered corruption proceeds through offshore accounts in Luxembourg and elsewhere.  Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau also mentioned Luxembourg at his  May 5, 2012 op-ed piece.  At the piece, Mr. Morgenthau too stated: “When I was the Manhattan district attorney, we learned of offshore accounts only through whistle-blowers, cooperators and serendipity.”

Copyright 2012 Fred L. Abrams

  1. Transparency International’s April 17th post “Who owns what? Trying to clean dirty money in the EU”,  highlights the importance of identifying the beneficial ownership of assets.  Among other things, it mentions Teodorin Nguema Obiang, who is a suspected kleptocrat.  A Wall Street Journal blog post meanwhile, describes the French arrest warrant concerning Nguema.
  2. Former Turks & Caicos Premier Michael Misick is another suspected kleptocrat who is the subject of a fresh arrest warrant.  Like Nguema, Mr. Misick’s warrant is reportedly over supposed corruption and alleged money laundering.  Asset Search Blog posts regarding Mr. Misick include:

Target Of Corruption Probe Sues Hip-Hoppers For Supposed Fraud

Could Former Premier Misick Face U.S. Forced Collection Proceedings?

New Jersey Lawsuit Involving Former Premier Misick Settles

The Former Premier’s Nexus To Hip Hop Weekly Magazine

The Actress, An Ex-Premier & Hip Hop Weekly Magazine

Copyright 2012 Fred L Abrams

 

A letter rogatory from Kenya and the February 24th return of Mayan artifacts to Guatemala.

  1. Following a money trail through multiple jurisdictions may necessitate letters rogatory.  Such a letter rogatory was filed October 12, 2011 in In Re: Request from Kenya, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Index No. 11-mc-00213.  The Delaware Federal Court ultimately issued this Kenyan letter rogatory on behalf of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, which has since been replaced by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.  As the Kenyan letter rogatory reveals, a public corruption investigation was underway in connection with the Postapay electronic funds transfer service offerred by Kenya’s postal system.
  2. The January 4, 2011 and / or  July 13, 2011 Asset Search News Roundups explain that common vehicles for concealing assets include: portable valuable commodities, checks and wire transfers, trade-based money laundering and bulk-cash smuggling.  Smuggled cultural artifacts can too be a tool for secretly transferring assets, although less frequently and in smaller amounts.  Eight Mayan artifacts seemingly smuggled into the United States, were returned to Guatemala at a February 24th repatriation ceremony.  The ceremony is described by a press release and here is one of the now-returned artifacts–

 

Photo: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Copyright 2012 Fred L. Abrams

The Financial Action Task Force updates its standards and two politically exposed persons are criminally charged in the Turks and Caicos Islands¹:

  1. The Financial Action Task Force has revised its 40 Recommendations for fighting money laundering and terrorist financing.  A February 16th press release states these revisions include “[m]ore effective international cooperation including exchange of information between relevant authorities, conduct of joint investigations, and tracing, freezing and confiscation of illegal assets.”  Some of the changes address tax crimes, public corruption and laundering by politically exposed persons.  Such laundering easily happens in cases where a corrupt politically exposed person exercises direct power over a bank, as I suggest at the Moneylaundering.com article International Groups Say Corrupt PEPs Can Often Loot With Impunity
  2. The Special Investigation and Prosecution Team researching alleged public corruption by ex-Turks & Caicos Premier Michael Misick, recently filed criminal charges against two politically exposed persons.  The two are former Turks & Caicos Minister
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 McAllister 
Hanchell and Turks and Caicos Progressive National Party leader Clayton Greene, who is an attorney.  The Turks & Caicos Sun reported that Mr. Hanchell is accused of conspiring to collect bribes.  Mr. Hanchell was mentioned at pp. 253-255 of a Commission of Inquiry Report,³ which earlier said Mr. Hanchell should be criminally investigated for possible corruption.  Mr. Greene is accused of washing corruption proceeds through his attorney trust account.  Attorney trust accounts are sometimes used in money laundering circuits, as highlighted at the February 6th Asset Search News Roundup.

 

¹The Turks and Caicos Islands, SN/1A/5038 contains parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v1.0.

²International Groups Say Corrupt PEPs Can Often Loot With Impunity, Copyright 2011 Alert Global Media, reprinted with permission.

³Commission of Inquiry Report, is reproduced under the terms of Crown Copyright Policy Guidance issued by HMSO.

Copyright 2012 Fred L. Abrams

An October 25th press release describes a forfeiture effort pursued by the U.S. Government against Teodorin Nguema Obiang, Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Forestry and Agriculture and the first son of Equatorial Guinea’s head of state.  For me, this press release raises another issue:  Could Equatorial Guinea nationals commence a lawsuit in the U.S. against Nguema and Equatorial Guinea?

Such a lawsuit might claim that Nguema collected vast sums of monies during an alleged public corruption scheme originating in Equatorial Guinea.  It could also allege that Nguema had possibly used the supposed corruption proceeds to help fund his lavish lifestyle which included the purchase of this palatial Malibu, California mansion at 3620 Sweetwater Mesa Road:

Among the many questions this prospective lawsuit raises, are: Would the claimants who are Equatorial Guinea nationals, possess a cognizable claim in a lawsuit filed in the U.S.?;  and Could Equatorial Guineas’ immunity from lawsuits, (as contemplated by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act), be avoided because of the “commercial activity” or “takings” exceptions at 28 U.S.C. §§ 1605(a) (2) or (a) (3)?

Continue Reading Suing Teodorin Nguema Obiang For His Malibu Mansion, Gulfstream Jet, Etc.