Tag Archives: Panama Papers

Things I Want To See: Funny Money Edition

All right, no more pungent posts for the moment, but there are some items the odor of which has attracted my attention.  Here’s a partial list —

Trump’s Tax Returns

In 2011 the Orange Foolious told the nation if President Obama would release his birth certificate (responding to OF’s false claims of ‘birtherism’) then OF would release his tax returns.  Of course nothing happened. As of April 16, 2017 the New York Daily News had published a handy list of the number of equivocations and outright lies OF told about releasing his tax returns as of that date. As of July 2, 2018 the tax returns remain a mystery.  Let’s be clear, there are some stiff penalties for lying (and this occupant of the Oval Office has a penchant for that activity) on IRS returns.  Federal prosecutors may decide to bring charges for false statements, such as omitting important information on a return.  Prosecutors may also file perjury charges.  A perjury conviction can lead to a three year jail term and a $100,000 fine. If the return is deemed fraudulent then the authorities can seek a $10,000 fine and a year in prison.  When a person hits one year in prison that’s felony territory.  Criminal penalties aren’t the only issue.  There’s the 75/25 bit involved in civil penalties.  75% of the unpaid taxes due in fines for willful fraud, and a cap at 25% of the unpaid taxes due in fines for unintentional non-payment.

There’s ample room for speculation about the rationale for OF’s refusal to release the returns — he’s not as rich as he said he is, he’s taken money from sources he’d rather we not know about, and/or he’s got some shady deals under wraps — or all of the above and in addition he’s lied about it to the Internal Revenue Service.

 Wilbur Ross and the Bank of Cyprus

Here’s a finely tangled net.  March 6, 2017 the New York Times reports that Ross “is no friend of the Russians” having forced out several Russians from roles in the Bank of Cyprus. However, before accepting this as evidence of Ross’s purity, note that one Viktor Vekselberg remained associated with the bank.  The New York Times will report Mr. Vekselberg was interviewed by the Mueller team before May 4, 2018.  On November 6, 2017 Vox reported  Ross’s business dealings (Bank of Cyprus) with the son-in-law of Vladimir Putin. This was important as the first linkage between the Trump cabinet and the Russians, specifically Mr. Putin.  November 28, 2017 Newsweek reports another connection, this time between both Putin’s son-in-law and daughter with Ross and the Bank.  Mr. Vekselberg returns to the headlines in a May 4, 2018 New York Times article concerning sanctions against Russian oligarchs. [Mother Jones]

If Ross and Vekselberg are bystanders then further revelations of their dealings would exonerate them, at least in the court of public opinion.  However, there are sufficient superficial connections of enough specificity to give sentient minds something to ruminate upon.  Click over to the Mother Jones article for further enlightenment.

Trump and the Paradise (Panama) Papers

This is a classic Trumpian business model. Let others take the financial risks, then “sell” the “rights” to the Trump brand to the owners, in this instance Mossack Fonseca. [DC McClatchy 4/29/16]  We know that all enterprises with Trump in the name aren’t necessarily Trump controlled, some appear to be barely under any financial control at all. We also know that Trump is a brand.  He monetizes it, and then collects licensing fees and royalties.  We also know that he was ever so please to be associated with the Panama operation:

“And we’re now doing a great, great project in Panama that’s selling like hotcakes, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the world,” Trump said, speaking in the collective and sounding like an investor. “So I’m really honored to be involved in Panama.”  [DC McClatchy 4/29/16]

But wait, here we go name dropping again.  Whose names?  These may sound familiar: Oleg Deripaska and Paul Manafort?  As of April 29, 2016 there was “nothing to see here” move along. Not. So. Fast.  I suspect there’s more to be untangled here than a Cayman Islands court case for $26 million.  I for one would like to see more.

This, and we’ve not even begun to explore the wonders of the loans from Deutsche Bank and its loan officer relative of recently retired US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Nor have we yet heard from the Mueller team dealing with money laundering and possible financial crimes — see Andrew Weissman.   Granted the obstruction of justice report will likely be the first one off the blocks, but there’s the collusion element, and the looming financial report which may well make Stormy Daniels look like a mere tropical depression.  There are more things I want to see.

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It’s not my TV screen that’s too small: Coverage of the Investigation

Wow, the cable news outfits are obsessed about discovering Special Counsel Robert Mueller has questioned Son of the Old South Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. First, was there anyone in this fine nation who Didn’t think the Special Counsel would have inquiries for the  Attorney General, who recused himself from the Russian probe because he was ever so likely to be a witness?  Yes, this does imply interest in the obstruction of justice question associated with Oval Office behavior.  There’s nothing like reassuring Russians in a White House visit that the “nut-job” (Director Comey) had been taken care of, and going on national TV to tell Lester Holt that firing the FBI Director was related to the investigations into the Russia Matter, to lead a person to wonder not If but How Much the Oval Office Oaf meant to obstruct any serious investigation of Russian interference in 2016.  However, this is only part of a larger picture. We should remember that criminal law specialist Michael Drebeen isn’t the only member of Team Mueller. There are more.

Those who followed the Enron Case will recall Andrew Weissman. Mr. Weissman is a specialist in bribery and fraud, as in foreign bribery cases and big frauds like Enron. From the entangled mess that was Enron accounting Mr. Weissman plucked the pertinent threads and followed them until Jeffrey Skilling learned about life in the Federal prison system.  Maybe it would also serve to remember the Oval Office Oaf declaring last July that his business and his family business records were “off limits.”  Really? And the banter began: “Oh, yes Officer, you can certainly search my car, just don’t look in the trunk!”

Weissman won’t have to go plunging among the lug wrenches and spare tires to search for Trump financial records. One interesting set is coming from Deutsche Bank as of early in December 2017. [Guard] There are two points worth remembering about Deutsche Bank, one — it was the only bank willing to lend OOO money after he’d bankrupted several businesses and gave investors such hair cuts their financial heads were bald, and two — Deutsche Bank has a record of dancing cheek to cheek with Russian Bears of questionable integrity. As in money laundering? As in highly suspect banking practices? As in big fines?  As in getting some fines reduced by the OOO Administration? This widens the probe a bit, but there’s still another facet.

While Mr. Weissman is the man most often cited in matters financial, there’s another Follow The Money man on Team Mueller — Greg Andres, who supervised the case against $8 billion Ponzi Scheme con man Robert Stanford and was associated with the prosecution of the Bonnano crime family.

Aaron Zebley is also a member of Team Mueller.  There’s nothing like having a counter-terrorism specialist on board for an investigation of possible conspiracy charges.  Perhaps making life in the West Wing even more interesting, Mr. Zebley is more specifically a cybersecurity expert.   He has some help in this department from another expert in counter-terrorism.

Zainab Ahmad has her own reputation in counter-terrorism and international cases. She’s prosecuted 13 terrorism cases since 2009 without losing a single one. Let’s assume that people who can follow and correctly interpret the plethora of financial and surreptitious paths of Al Qaeda won’t have all that much more trouble discerning what patterns are associated with good old fashioned money laundering and international criminal behavior.

And while we are speaking of money laundering, yet another member of Team Mueller is Kyle Freeny.  GOP apologists for the White House may fume that Freeny donated something near  a grand total of $750 to Democratic candidates since 2008, but her expertise is — money laundering — the kind wherein nefarious types move money out of one country and try to “launder” it in what appear to be legitimate investments.  There are other members of Team Mueller, and one who is fluent in Russian.  The point of all this is that coverage on cable news, no matter how extensive these days is not even the tip of a possible iceberg.

So, instead of becoming breathlessly enthralled by news coverage about a possible “wind up” of the Obstruction of Justice probe — leaving us to believe we might miss The Big Moment if we change channels — it’s good to have a periodic reminder of the types of investigators working on Team Mueller and their areas of expertise.

We know AG Jeff Sessions has been interrogated by Team Mueller. We don’t know how many forensic accountants are pouring over Deutsche Bank records. We don’t know who has been asking questions of whom concerning bank loans, condominium sales, and other financial transactions of interest.  We don’t know if someone is carefully examining the records released in the Panama Papers.

Team Mueller doesn’t leak like the White House Sieve.  So, we don’t know how many e-mails and other items of correspondence the Russian expert is translating and analyzing, and we don’t know to whom she has spoken and for what purpose.

We don’t know who is talking to whom about real estate or other transactions including the Chinese, the Russians, the Russian oligarchs, and assorted other characters.  We don’t know who is talking to whom about loans, forgiven, repaid, or otherwise. We don’t know who has been missed talking to a Grand Jury because the press on stake out haven’t a clue who the person might be.  This would probably be sufficient to fill up two more television screens.

Indeed, if we were to have coverage of all the people associated with all the angles in this investigation we should buy out the monitor inventory of the local Best Buy?  Install wall to wall, floor to ceiling, flat screens… and we’d still miss something.  What the press can give us are only bits and pieces of a larger, much more complex picture.  it would be a good thing to recall this isn’t a sporting event with a clock, or a game with a set number of innings to play; it isn’t a 40 minute script for a television show or even a multi-episode series.  It’s an investigation of the hodgepodge farrago which is the Trump brand of business and governance entanglements.   It isn’t going to be over at the end of a tidy episode.  It may not be completely over after a season.

The total investigation won’t be over until Team Mueller has completed investigations of money laundering, bribery, cyber-security transgressions, illegally established accounts, equally illegal withdrawals and payments for equally illegal purposes, and all the other facets of the mess OOO has made of his financial and political life.

This isn’t an investigation which calls for popcorn unless you’ve planted at least 40 acres of the stuff.

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Numbers of the Day

Barn Door Closing 1,205: The number of corporate entities subject to a request for information regarding a “Resignation of Registered Agent” inquiry as representatives of Mossack-Fonseca.  [LVRJ]  Translation: The number of companies associated with the Panama Papers operations of Mossack-Fonseca.  But, here’s the kicker:

“Corporate filings are administered by the secretary of state’s office, although laws governing their oversight are enacted by the Legislature. Nevada and states such as Delaware and Wyoming have some of the most liberal corporation laws in the nation. They do not require proof of identification when setting up a company, a task that can be accomplished in a few hours by paying only a few hundred dollars.”  [LVRJ]

The Secretary of State announced she’s putting together a “working committee” to review statutes pertaining to business registration – How about requiring some identification? To registered agent requirements, and concerning “the maintenance of related records.”

It’s nice to be “business friendly,” but it would also be nice to know that Nevada isn’t being used by tax evaders, swindlers, hucksters, money launderers, and other frauds as a “friendly place to do business.”

Gee Whiz Graph 1 9: The number of graphs tweeted out by Donald Trump to “prove” the Obama Administration’s a failure.  0: The number which are accurate and not misleading. [Washington Post]



Curiel 1953: The year Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in Indiana.  The judge hearing the Trump University case has come in from some anti-immigrant bashing from Mr. Trump. Interesting because Curiel’s father came to the U.S. in the 1920’s while Mr. Trump’s mother didn’t get here until the ‘30s and didn’t become a citizen until 1942. [TPM]

Starbucks 2: The number of African Americans associated with Seattle University who were racially assaulted in a Starbucks by a man spitting and yelling racial epithets. 0: the number of restaurant patrons who protested against the assault. 1: Restaurant manager who assisted in the filing of a police report. [C&L]

Unemployment BLS

The unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage point to 4.7 percent in May, and nonfarm payroll employment changed little (+38,000). Employment increased in health care. Mining continued to lose jobs, and employment in information decreased due to a strike.” [BLS]

Yes, 38,000 is not a major indicator of job creation, but take a look at what was happening during the Recession 2006-2009. 

Blackburn 3: The number of entities (two Planned Parenthood facilities and  StemExpress Inc. who are being investigated by Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s committee for violations of HIPAA requirements.

“These accusations are the latest step in an investigation that has never had any reason to exist. The House panel was formed after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released deceptively edited videos purporting to reveal that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit. Since then, repeated investigations have found no evidence that Planned Parenthood did anything wrong, and members of the Center for Medical Progress have been indicted for their activities.” [NYT]


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