Prosecutors in U.S.A. v. Kozel accuse Mr. Todd Kozel former CEO of Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd., of hiding assets by using lawyers, shell companies & trusts. The prosecutors claim Mr. Kozel fraudulently concealed assets from his ex-wife Ashley Kozel during the former couple’s Sarasota County Florida divorce. Mr. Kozel’s alleged scheme is believed to have occurred from about February 2012 to about December 2018. Among other things, Mr. Kozel allegedly tried to evade a July 2015 $34 million judgment entered in favor of Ashley Kozel.
A) Lawyers, Shell Companies & Trusts
Mr. Kozel’s alleged scheme for hiding assets reportedly involved:
- Coral Gables, Florida lawyer Michael J. Freeman;
- Zurich, Switzerland-based lawyer Markus Hugelshofer;
- shell companies possibly formed in New York; Lebanon; & Belize;
- an offshore trust formed in the Isle of Jersey known as The Gokana Trust & another trust known as Emeralp Trust Ltd.
Mr. Hugelshofer’s law firm is thought to have established the Gokana Trust and believed to be its trustee. However, Mr. Kozel seemingly controlled the Gokana Trust through his Emeralp Trust Ltd. &/or shell companies. Mr. Kozel is suspected of secretly transferring 29 million oil company stock share certificates to the Gokana Trust. Additionally, Mr. Kozel reportedly purchased a New York City condominium by using the Gokana Trust & his alleged 212 West 18 LLC shell company. Meanwhile, Mr. Hugelshofer is thought to have hired Mr. Freeman to manage the 212 West 18 LLC shell company.
B) Mr. Kozel’s Criminal Complaint & Indictment
As a result of Mr. Kozel’s suspected scheme to conceal assets, prosecutors filed Mr. Kozel’s 12/14/18 criminal complaint & his 6/19/19 indictment. The criminal complaint & indictment in USA v. Kozel, alleged Mr. Kozel: conspired to commit wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1349); committed wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2); & conspired to commit money laundering (18 U.S.C. § 1956(h)). Page 3 ¶ 8 at Mr. Kozel’s criminal complaint also claimed Mr. Kozel failed to file tax returns for years 2011 through 2014. This was supposedly true even though Mr. Kozel is believed to have earned an average of about $10 million each of those years.
C) Mr. Freeman’s State Bar Complaint
Given Mr. Freeman’s alleged role in helping Mr. Kozel hide assets, The Florida Bar filed its 11/19/19 ethics complaint against Mr. Freeman. The complaint in Florida Bar v. Michael J. Freeman, Case No. SC19-1946, alleges Mr. Freeman committed a fraud on the Court. It basically accuses Mr. Freeman of creating and using backdated documents which hid Mr. Kozel’s true beneficial ownership of the New York City condo. As of this writing, Florida Bar v. Michael J. Freeman has been stayed pending the outcome of other recent litigation in Florida state court.
Copyright 2020 Fred L. Abrams