According to the Washington Post, U.S. Army Major John Cockerham, his sister, and wife were all recently arrested for hiding the proceeds of the largest bribery case in Iraq by money laundering.  As the Washington Post further mentioned, Major Cockerham allegedly received $9.6 million in bribe money, (and was awaiting another 5.4 million), for giving favorable contracts to military contractors.  The Washington Post also reported the following allegations: (1) that  Major Cockerham’s wife had admitted that she had deposited $800,000 of the bribe money into a Kuwaiti bank; (2) that a company known as TransOrient had, (through the persons of Mr. Ajmal and Mr. Ismail of Detroit), deposited $300,000 into a Jordanian bank as bribe money;  (3) and that investigators had in December 2006 found ledgers relevant to the bribery scheme which implicated Major Cockerham, his sister, and wife.

Based on information in the complaint and Special Agent’s affidavit from the criminal prosecution, Major Cockerham and his wife each face up to twenty years and a $500,000 fine if convicted of money laundering pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §1956 (h).  The conspiracy and fraud charge, (pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 371), is additionally punishable by  a maximum of up to five years and a fine of $250,000.  The 18 U.S.C. § 201 bribery charge against Major Cockerham also carries a penalty of up to fifteen years and a fine of $250,000.

The Special Agent’s affidavit also claims that in December 2006, both Major Cockerham and his wife admitted that Mrs. Cockerham had deposited over $1 million of the bribe money in safe deposit boxes in Kuwait and Dubai.  Furthermore, the scheme to hide assets allegedly included the following shell companies: Worldwide Trading Co.; D & J Trading; Abdullah American Trading; and Triad United.  Offshore bank accounts were also allegedly established at: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, the Commercial Bank of Kuwait, Union National Bank in Dubai, the Sharjah Islamic Bank, and the now defunct First Curacao International Bank, N.V.  According to that same special agent, seized documents demonstrated that Major Cockerham had even opened offshore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands at Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Ltd. and the First Caribbean International Bank (Cayman) Ltd.

Assuming for the limited purposes of this blog post that all of the above is true, we can understand how the government reached its conclusion that Major Cockerham was hiding assets in a money laundering circuit.  For example, although the Cayman Islands amended anti-money laundering laws on June 1, 2007, it remains committed to a tradition of bank secrecy laws.  Major Cockerham’s bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, (along with the offshore bank accounts or safe deposit boxes in Jordan, Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the Dutch Antilles), suggest he was hiding assets.  His use of: offshore bank accounts; safe deposit boxes; shell corporations; and nominees like his wife would further suggest the existence of laundering links part of a money laundering circuit.  By using laundering links to make financial transfers, Major Cockerham could have easily concealed his true beneficial ownership of any bribe money.  The above criminal complaint however is not evidence of Major Cockerham’s guilt; so we must therefore still presume that Major Cockerham, his wife, and any others arrested are innocent.

Copyright 2007 Fred L. Abrams