Kenneth Rijock

Kenneth Rijock

Sunday, November 19, 2017

RANKING OF CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES THAT OFFER ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP IS FLAWED



The ongoing controversy, and rivalry, among the half dozen nations in the East Caribbean that offer economic citizenship, totally ignores important negative aspects of these programs, which cannot be ignored, should an accurate calculation about which country's passports are superior to that of another, be made. Applicants should not rank one over the over, simply because of the number of visa-free nations that may be visited; that is hogwash, and misleading.

What about those negative, but not mentioned, aspects of these Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs:

(1) Was the country ever, or presently, a known tax haven a/k/a offshore financial center ? If so, nationals from those countries may still be under law enforcement scrutiny, by US and EU law enforcement agencies, especially regarding money laundering, and other financial crimes.

(2) Have any high-profile economic passport holders from the country been arrested abroad, for serious financial crimes ? That fact that economic citizenship holders from a country have major felony convictions attracts even more unwanted law enforcement attention elsewhere. Do applicants really want guilt by association issues ?

(3) Is the Rule of Law not observed in the country's court system ? If so, applicants should fear that they are destined to lose any commercial dispute that arises there, as aggrieved parties, against locals or the government, even though the law is on their side.

(4) Does the government have a history of cancelling an economic citizenship, when the holder gets in trouble abroad ? If so, what is to stop it from taking that same step, for political or economic reasons, against innocent CBI citizens ?

Given the long and sordid history, of criminals abusing economic citizenship for illicit financial gain, applicants should NOT rely upon industry calculations, but seek out competent legal advice, regarding accurate assessment of risk, when seeking a second passport. To do any less invites a subsequent shock, when the new passport holder realizes that he or she has merely bought into a problem, not a solution.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

WHO ARE THE BUYERS OF THE TRUMP OCEAN CLUB INTERNATIONAL HOTEL ?



Panamanians are reportedly concerned about the fact that they cannot identify the ultimate owners of the iconic Trump Ocean Club International Hotel, which was sold earlier this year for $24.5m. Financing was arranged through Canal Bank. The purchaser was reported to be Ithaca Capital Partners and/or Ithaca Capital Investments, but information on those entities is minimal, and raises more questions than it answers.

Ithaca Capital Investments Ltd., SA is a Panamanian corporation. Ithaca Capital Partners Ltd., is a corporation organized and existing pursuant to the laws of the United Kingdom.

Ithaca Capital Partners website lists as its sole US address a residential condominium apartment in downtown Miami, but real estate records indicate that it was sold last month. A social media page states that the company is located in Cyprus, but only lists the US address, though it has not qualified to conduct business in the State of Florida.



 Partners' US-based director, Orestes Fintiklis, who is also affiliated with Dolphin Capital, a Greek-based firm with major interests in Cyprus, is a lawyer who previously worked in the UK. He is not admitted to the practice of law in Florida. There is no information regarding the company's business activities, if any, within the Continental United States, and why it maintains an office in Miami.

Ithaca Capital Partners Director Orestes Fintiklis
The owners of Ithaca Capital, according to its press release, are a number of "family offices" located on several continents. A family office is a group of legal and financial professionals who manage the investments of high net-worth individuals. As these professionals are most likely employing shell companies to make their investments in Ithaca, there is no accurate way to determine who their clients, the beneficial owners of the Trump Ocean Club Hotel, are.

The fact that both companies are closely connected to Cyprus, which is a known offshore financial center for wealthy Russian nationals, may be the reason for the Panamanians' concern about who the new owners of the Trump Ocean Club may be. 




TRIAL JUDGE RULES ON PENDING MOTIONS IN ADVANCE OF TRIAL OF REZA ZARRAB'S TURKISH BANKER


After hearing oral argument from attorneys from Halkbank deputy CEO Mehmet Atilla, the Court, in the Reza Zarrab oil-for-gold Iran sanctions evasion case, denied the defendant's motion to dismiss. the trial is scheduled for November 27, and Atilla appears to be the only defendant who will actually go to trial, as the principal defendant, Reza Zarrab, is either cooperating with the authorities, or other arrangements have been made, which could mean a prisoner exchange with Iran.

Atilla's counsel also argued his Motion in Limine, which sought to exclude the introduction of what was alleged to be highly prejudicial evidence; the Court ruled upon that motion, but since the order entered was oral, only through reference to the transcript of the proceedings can one learn details of the decision, and that document is not yet available.

Jury selection has been set for November 20, and a Pretrial Conference has been scheduled for the 21st. Whether Mr. Atilla will change his plea to guilty prior to trial, given the strength of the Government's case against him, remains a question, as is the whereabouts of Reza Zarrab, who allegedly knows where Iran's missing billions of dollars in illicit oi profits is located, and which he may personally control.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

SEC FINES WELLS FARGO'S BROKER-DEALER DIVISION $3.5m FOR AML FAILURES


 The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has levied a $3.5m civil penalty upon Wells Fargo Advisors LLC, the bank's broker-dealer subsidiary, for failure to timely file Suspicious Activity Reports, and other AML issues. Readers who wish to review the complete text of the Cease & Desist Order may access it here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DC COURT SETS ORAL ARGUMENT IN WAKED OFAC APPEAL



The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has, sua sponte,* set Oral Argument in the Waked civil appeal of the District Court's adverse decision, regarding their OFAC designations. The case has generated a lot of interest, irrespective of the procedural & substantive issues, due in part to the criminal indictment, and recent change of plea to guilty, of one of the leaders of what the Government refers to as the Waked Money Laundering Organization, a group of legitimate Panamanian companies allegedly engaged in laundering narco-profits of Colombian & Mexican cartels.

Many observers were surprised when the District Court case was filed, wondering of the level of arrogance these known money launderers had, believing that they could prevail in seeking to have OFAC SDN sanctions removed, when classified, incriminating evidence against them would certainly be redacted from any response to a request for information. Moreover, case law definitely favors the Government position.

 Oral Argument has been scheduled for January 29, 2018 at 9:30 AM.   







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* On the Court's own authority, and without a motion or request from the parties.


ALERT ON ANY WEALTHY ZIMBABWEANS MOVING "FLIGHT CAPITAL"


Though the news cycle is barely covering it, due to other more relevant stories, the military has apparently initiated a coup in Zimbabwe, in response to the country's president, Robert Mugabe,  attempt to place his unqualified wife, Grace in the line of succession. Dubbed "Gucci Grace," due to her luxury spending habits, she is a former typist from the secretarial pool, and unfit for office.

Given that Zimbabwe has been wallowing in rampant corruption for decades of Mugabe rule, be alert for any Zimbabwe PEPs seeking to move large amounts of US Dollars (the country's unofficial currency), lest it be eventually seized by the next government. Grace has been seen previously at a number of international financial centers, so you may assume that her supporters, and party loyalists, are already there, moving dirty money. We note that the military in Zimbabwe has sought to control charter flights, but some of the PEPs surely got out in time.

Note that these corrupt players may have second and even third, passports (St Kitts & Dominica), so check the place of birth, to determine true nationality, please. Zimbabwe, with over 90% reported unemployment among adults, needs that stolen cash, and decline to transfer any suspicious funds, referring the matter to your bank counsel, unless you want the negative publicity which exposure of your bank's role will generate.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS REZA ZARRAB ?


 His trial is scheduled for November 27, but Reza Zarrab, the principal defendant in the pending Federal Iran "Oil-for-Gold" sanctions evasion trial in New York, is missing in action. He has been dropped from the Bureau of Prisons database, showing "released" to inquiries, though the US Attorney's Office has reportedly affirmed that he is still in custody. His attorneys have failed to file the usual pre-trial pleadings. Has he made a deal, and will eventually plead out ? Or will he be quietly sent to the Islamic Republic of Iran, to face the probable death penalty, for stealing billions, in some sort of diplomatic exchange ?

Right now, it is impossible to determine whether Zarrab is in WitSec, the witness protection program, so we must reserve judgment on the wisdom of his legal defense team, in suspending their pre-trial actions. Given the probable strength of the Government's case, pleading out would seem to the best avenue, to avoid a Draconian sentence after conviction, but we are puzzled at this point.

The most important issue is whether others will be indicted, based upon his cooperation, if it is now ongoing, and we imagine a number of potential defendants who are Iranians, Malaysians, and Dominicans share that thought as well.

Monday, November 13, 2017

DEATH THREATS AGAINST PANAMA'S ATTORNEY GENERAL AND ANTI-CORRUPTION PROSECUTORS



The wide reach of the Odebrecht bribery investigation, underway in the Republic of Panama, has resulted in the issuance of multiple death threats, against both Kenia Porcell, the Atttorney General of Panama, as well as several of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutors, who have brought the various cases. These threats confirm the strength of the Government's cases, which includes the sons of Panama's fugitive former leader, Ricardo Martinelli, who both richly deserve a long term of imprisonment for their roles in the bribe scandal.

While the identities of the guilty parties are not known, there are a large number of bribe recipients whose names have been revealed by prosecutors.

 

PARADISE PAPERS REMINDS US AGAIN OF DANGERS POSED BY CAYMAN ISLANDS



The global attention that has focused upon the Cayman Islands, due to the disclosures appearing in the Paradise Papers scandal, is not the first time we have taken a close look at the situation in that Caribbean tax haven, and voiced our concerns. Our previous articles have detailed the risks involved when foreign investors place their assets in the Cayman Islands.

We have covered those issues in depth, but to summarize them:

(1) Cayman insiders have named at least a dozen cases, in which groups of investors have been defrauded or tricked, losing their entire investment, yet Cayman regulators and law enforcement agencies, while investigating those matters, ultimately failed to either arrest the perpetrators, or assist in the recovery of stolen funds. The negligence appears to be even more pronounced when the fraudsters are Cayman Islands residents. Apparently, the fear of a major scandal causes government there to fail to act, to the damage and detriment of the victims. If you do not believe this, try searching Cayman media for stories of local money laundering arrests; I doubt that you will be successful.

(2) While Cayman spin masters have been busy, since the Paradise Papers story broke, with damage control, discussing the virtues of local regulatory agencies, regarding Cayman corporations, many Cayman financial services professionals acquire BVI corporations for their clients, knowing that identification of the beneficial owners of such entities is ritually impossible. Their publicists tout the transparency of the jurisdiction, while their corporate formation specialists use the BVI or Belize to better hide client identities.

The fact that the Paradise Papers showed that, at least for the documents uncovered, compliance is ineffective or nonexistent in the Cayman Islands, is therefore no surprise.

  

Friday, November 10, 2017

WHAT IS THERE IN MARTINELLI'S HABEUS PETITION THAT IS RESTRICTED ?


 The pleadings in former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli's Habeus Corpus petition are not available to the public, and we are wondering under what authority the Court has sealed the file. Even the Government's responses are restricted. What could be in the petition that makes it unsuitable for general viewing ?

(1)Does it contain details of Martinelli's prior Confidential Informant status, with a US law enforcement agency ? Is that the reason he was allowed to enter the US, when as a known corrupt former government official, he should have been barred ?

(2) Was Martinelli an asset of an American intelligence service, as was General Manuel Noriega ?

(3) Did the totally amoral Martinelli, his back literally to the wall, expose embarrassing secrets he acquired from his illegal surveillance program, about the US Embassy, or US law enforcement activity in Panama ? No wonder all the pleadings are restricted; even the Government response is blocked, which might mean that its filings also disclose details that are deemed sensitive by those who hold security clearances.

Panamanians are tiring of the Martinelli Miami extradition treadmill; is an agency of the United States Government deliberately delaying the actual extradition ? 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

TRIAL JUDGE APPROVED LAST-MINUTE DEPOSITIONS IN TURKEY IN THE ZARRAB IRAN SANCTIONS CASE


 Defendant Mehmet Atilla's eleventh hour request to take four depositions in Turkey, in a case scheduled for trial on November 27, has been granted. Atilla is the Halkbank executive charged with facilitating Reza Zarrab's billion dollar Iran oil-for-gold sanctions evasion case. The Court declined to again postpone the trial. The names of the individuals who are to be deposed have been redacted from the pleadings; the Court expressly stated that it has not ruled on the admissibility of the testimony.

Jury selection will begin on November 20. There was one loose end exposed by defense counsel this week: a sealed filing, by the Government, designated classified, and therefore not available to the defense, but reportedly involving criminal conduct of another party, not Atilla. If the defense had not asked for it to be made available, we would not have even known about it. Query: are there to be others indicted ?

WHEN REGULATORS HIDE FINES & PENALTIES, WE ALL LOSE



Perhaps the most alarming disclosure appearing this week in the new "Paradise Papers" is news that the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) fined Appleby $500,000 for compliance failures, and hid that event from the public. When regulators conceal their disciplinary actions, investors are denied information they need for risk management purposes, and often incur more risk than they intended to take on. Prospective clients are also harmed, because many would engage another law firm if the one they had in mind was publicly scolded and fined for violations.



Unfortunately, it is not only the Tax Havens of the Caribbean that fail to disclose offenses timely; I have written several articles about the opaque nature of Canada's Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), which quietly levies fines, without any publicity, leaving investors there totally in the dark. We published news of one, also for $500,000, not made public. Is this fair to everyone engaged in the sale of securities ?



American regulators often delay publishing news of fines for months, which is a disservice to compliance officers who are unaware of the illegal conduct, and would have steered clear of the offending bank, had they only known of the civil fines & penalties. We hear about fines, but when we go to the regulator's websites, we see that the offenses have not yet been made public.

Who regulates the regulators ?







 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

FATF ISSUES GUIDANCE ON AML/CFT ISSUES WITH FINANCIAL INCLUSION



The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has issued a Guidance on Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Measures, and Financial Inclusion. If you have concerns about serving the so-called "unbanked," and your exposure to potential money laundering or terrorist financing, I suggest you review it. The complete can be found here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

VENEZUELA GIVES NOTICE IT INTENDS TO DEFAULT UPON ITS OBLIGATIONS



The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has advised that, though it paid its most recent billion dollar debt shortly after it was due, it will not be able to honor future indebtedness, and will seek restructuring of its massive debt. When taken with the fact that one Bolivar* has now sunk to 1/10 of one US Cent in value, and is essentially worthless as an international currency, compliance officers that have not yet red-lined the nation for Country Risk purposes, are well advised to do so, for prudent risk management reasons.
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* 44,347 Bolivars to $1USD.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT; INTERESTING FLOW CHART


Sunday, November 5, 2017

NOW IT'S THE PARADISE PAPERS



Readers who see this term in the media, please be advised that it is the tagline the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is using to describe the documents it is publishing, in its investigation into the Bermuda & Caribbean offshore law firm, Appleby. It has already released some information, which will probably give some associates of President Donald Trump indigestion, including at the Cabinet level.


WAKED ORGANIZATION FILES ITS REPLY BRIEF IN OFAC APPEAL



Abdul Mohammed Waked Fares, whose attorneys are appealing the sweeping OFAC designation of his family's Panama business empire, has filed his Reply Brief of Appellant. It does not appear to raise any new issues, or present any new arguments.

The issues presented:

(1) OFACs limited disclosure, in response to a request, violates Due Process, as it is devoid of any evidence. (All the Law Enforcement Sensitive material was redacted). Only a summary of the facts was included in the OFAC request for information.

(2) The OFAC response violates Due Process, as it is too vague for a meaningful rebuttal. The information was insufficient to allow Appellant to challenge the factual basis for the designation.

(3) Pursuant to the Kingpin Act, OFAC is allowed to withhold evidence which is classified, but it can them rely upon such undisclosed information, to defend a merits challenge of the designation in court. The result is an absurdity.

These issues were previously raised in the Appellant's Initial Brief; it appears that the vast majority of appellate challenges to adverse rulings of OFAC designations have not been successful.

Reputed Waked Money Laundering organization partner, Nidal Waked, recently changed his plea to guilty, in a criminal case in the Southern District of Florida. This matter is unconnected to the civil appeal of the OFAC designation, but his subsequent cooperation could result in additional indictments of Waked principals, their controlled corporations, and other participants in the alleged conspiracy.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

NOTE TO US IMMIGRATION; ALL DOMINICA DIPLOMATIC PASSPORTS SOLD TO FOREIGNERS RECITE DOMINICAN NATIONALITY

He is a bloody Brit, not a Dominican; look at his passport
 If you have ever spent any time studying the law of diplomacy and international relations, you know that a diplomatic passport does NOT confer nationality or citizenship upon the holder. Unfortunately, the corrupt senior government officials in the Commonwealth of  Dominica, are involved in the extremely lucrative trade of making bogus "diplomats" out of foreign nationals, most of whom  are the usual dodgy suspects (read: gypsies, tramps & thieves), and all those passports state that the holder is a citizen of Dominica. What's wrong with this picture ?

Only bona fide Dominicans, who are legitimate diplomats (there aren't many), with designated missions, and approved by their receiving country, may hold such passports.  All others are in violation of the UN agreement, namely the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Individuals designated as Honorary Consul are not diplomats, as such a position is more ceremonial than anything else, and it does not confer immunity from prosecution. Notwithstanding that fact, several Honorary Consuls maintain what they allege are consulates.

Note to United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors: while the Minister of Foreign Relations of the Commonwealth,  Francine Baron, has refused to disclose who holds diplomatic passports, which are believed to exceed 500, sources inside Dominica have generously supplied these names for the benefit of both law enforcement, and North American and EU bank compliance officers:

1.    DAMIAN WHITCHURCH-AIRD, Honorary Consul for Sweden. ( HHV Whitchurch offices)
2.    DR. GERALD GRELL, " Royal (Honorary) Norwegian Consul.
3.    OSVALDO COBACHO, Cuban Ambassador to Dominica.
4.    CARMEN MARTINEZ DE GRIJALVA, Venezuelan ( not Dominican) Ambassador.
5.    ANTHONY ASTAPHAN., Dutch Consul General (no longer the Honarary Dutch Consul in Dominica; his sister Henevieve is).
6.    BRENDAN BROWNE, Ex-High Commissioner in Canada.
7.   CLARKSON THOMAS, Dominica's Ambassador to Cuba.
8.   UDO CARSTEN DEPPISCH, Czech businessman. UNESCO.
9.   YU CHING HSIU
10. MERIEM GAFSI. UNESCO.
11.  MAK ROLO, UNESCO.
12.  THIERRY EZEGHELIAN.
13.  DR. ALY EL DAKROURY.
14.  REBECCA CHANG.
15.  PAOLO ZAMPOLI. Italian associate of President Donald Trump.
16.  CHRISTOS VARDKOS.
17.  CLAUDE LEON MARTIN SKALAWSKI, UNESCO delegate.
18.  DIDIER VIDAL. UNESCO.
19.  BOBBY JONES.
20.  BOBBY WAHL.
21.  JONATHAN SEKER REED, British national, has unofficial "consulate" on Miami's Brickell Key.

Does Dominica need more representatives to UNESCO than it maintains at most of its embassies abroad ? Clearly, these appointments are bogus.

I could go on and one, and post more, but you get my message. You know Monfared,  Duezani, and all the more prominent ones, I am sure. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I wonder what ever happened to the study that the Government of Dominica commissioned back in February, to inquire into the foreign diplomatic passports holders ? After none months, it appears to have been buried deep in Minister Baron's pile of pending matters.


READ PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW BY TURKISH MEDIA



Readers who wish to review the second part of my question-and-answer session with Turkish media, concerning the Zarrab case, may access the complete text here.

Friday, November 3, 2017

ALL THE SIGNS POINT TO REZA ZARRAB ENTERING A PLEA BEFORE TRIAL



His trial is scheduled for November 27, but Reza Zarrab's attorneys have not made any of the usual pre-trial filings, either required or expected, giving further credence to the theory that he will eventually plead guilty, in an arrangement which will spare him the full force of the indictment for massive Iran oil sanctions evasion, where payments went through New York banks.

His co-defendant's attorney has stated that Zarrab counsel has ceased to cooperate with them, proposed jury instructions have not been prepared and sent, and anticipated motions were also not  filed. This leaves the Halkbank senior executive, Mehmet Atilla, in a precarious position. Will he also plead out at the last minute ?

More importantly, Iranians, Turkish bankers, Malaysian offshore financial service providers, and Dominica leaders, are all wondering whether they will be charged, after Zarrab enters into an agreement to cooperate, and testifies before the Grand Jury. Who will be next to be indicted ? We cannot say, but stay tuned.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

FIRST CONVICTION IN MOSSACK FONSECA SCANDAL



Panama's Second Office anti-corruption prosecutors have announced that they have obtained the first conviction in the massive investigation into the law firm of Mossack and Fonseca. An unidentified Panama City banker has, in essence, agreed to plead guilty, and a five year (60 month) sentence imposed, which was validated by a Court.

According to reports in Panama, the banker has identified the signatories, and final beneficiaries of the different bank accounts used to transfer and receive illicit money, from acts of corruption of public servants abroad. The case involved is part of the Petroecuador corruption scandal. Petroecuador is a state-owned oil company. Mossack name partner, Jurgen Mossack, has denied that his law firm has any connection to the Petroecuador case.



Unfortunately, neither the identity of the banker, nor the name of his bank, have yet been identified, which is disturbing. We trust that disclosure of this information will be forthcoming in the immediate future.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

GOVERNMENTS' RESPONSE IN MARTINELLI HABEUS CORPUS IS RESTRICTED



The reply, filed by counsel for the US Government defendants in Ricardo Martinelli's pending Federal Habeus Corpus petition, has been restricted, and unavailable for public viewing, as is the petition. It is the former Panamanian President's last hope, before the Secretary of State has the Marshals pick him up for transport to Panama City.

So, what is not deemed suitable for public release in this case ? Martinelli's act as a Confidential Informant for US law enforcement while in office ? Is he wearing a wireless listening device in Miami, and attempting to obtain incriminating testimony from a target of the Department of Justice ? We cannot say, but we surely would like to know what all the secrecy is about.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT DOMINICA'S POWER LAWYER ANTHONY ASTAPHAN (BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK)



I often receive questions about Dominica's attorney-kingmaker, Anthony Astaphan, said to be the power behind the throne, the country's Mad Monk Rasputin, always pulling the strings behind the scenes in government.

The most popular query I receive: Why is he not serving in Dominica's House of Assembly, (what the country calls its Parliament) and why is he not a minister in Prime Minister Skerrit's Cabinet ?

To answer that, we must first review a bit of the Astaphan family history. Tony's father, Waddy (d. 2016), arrived in Dominica from Surinam, as a Dutch citizen, as that country was still a colony of the Netherlands. Tony's sister, Genevieve M. Astaphan, is the holder of a Dutch passport, as Waddy's daughter, and has admitted as such to a number of Dominican friends and acquaintances. We must assume that Tony, who was also so entitled by Dutch law, has one as well, as they allow the holder visa-free travel to the United States.



Does he also have Dominican citizenship, and what problems does that create ?

Dutch law prohibits dual citizenship, and individuals in that situation forfeit their Dutch status, and the benefits that it brings, and should Tony actually be holding that Dominican passport that he repeatedly refuses to confirm, without disclosing it to the Dutch authorities, he would be in violation of a number of laws of the Netherlands, which I understand is considered a serious matter.



You may recall that Tony Astaphan was, while he resided in Dominica, the Honorary Consul for the Netherlands, which position was taken by his sister, Genevieve, when he moved to Florida.

While an individual may serve as a Member of Dominica's House of Assembly with dual nationality, such nationality must be held in another British Commonwealth nation, or he or she cannot stand as a member. Tony's Dutch citizenship precludes his service in the Assembly, which provides us with the answer to that nagging question about why he, or any sibling, is not in government in Dominica.


No wonder Tony* refuses to answer when anyone from Dominica asks him if he holds a diplomatic passport issued by Dominica. We know he has one identifying him as Dutch Consul General, which further connects him to his Dutch passport and nationality. He produced it at the US Embassy in Barbados, and it reportedly created a problem for him.  There is no Dutch Consulate in Roseau.
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* In our next article, we shall detail the facts surrounding Tony Astaphan's profitable, and arguably illegal under Dutch law, active role in the Dominica CBI program.

READ MY FRANK TAKE ON REZA ZARRAB PLEA IN TURKISH MEDIA


Ahval News
 Readers who have been wondering when, or even if, Reza Zarrab will enter a guilty plea in his Iran Oil-for-Gold sanctions evasion case in Federal Court in New York, and what may happen if he does, may want to read my blunt comments on the subject, which appeared on the website of Ahval, Turkish media. You may access the article here.

Many other potential defendants in the case, living in Iran, Turkey, Malaysia and Dominica, are openly wondering whether they will be next to experience the proverbial "Knock on the door," and be arrested for conspiring to assist Zarrab, Babak Zanjani & Alireza Monfared in a global sanctions evasion scheme that brought literally billions in oil profits to Iran, notwithstanding UN sanctions.

WILL CARIBBEAN OFFSHORE FINANCIAL CENTERS BE TARGETED IN TRUMPGATE ?

St Vincent Coat of Arms

The fact that indicted Trumpgate defendant Paul Manafort employed two St Vincent & the Grenadines companies in his financial transactions could focus increased law enforcement attention upon Caribbean offshore financial centers, as well as unwanted negative publicity upon the "services" that those jurisdictions offer. Manafort formed shell companies in a number of tax havens, to conceal income from the US taxman, and to allegedly launder millions of dollars.

Additionally, his travel has come under scrutiny, as Manafort reportedly held three valid US passports, and engaged in extensive foreign travel to jurisdictions known to be abused by wealthy Americans for tax crimes, including the Cayman Islands, a favorite of affluent evaders. As additional Trumpgate defendants are indicted, we may see more Caribbean corporations, and if so, expect to see increases in Country Risk assigned to Caribbean jurisdictions that sold those shell (or shelf) companies to officials in  the Trump election campaign, due to the Russian connections, as well as points of origin of the funds.

The intense amount of media attention, surrounding every aspect of the Trumpgate investigation, reminds compliance officers that the use of ANY Caribbean tax haven companies, by bank clients, should trigger enhanced due diligence investigations. If you are old enough to remember Watergate, you may recall the negative publicity that Republic National Bank of Miami suffered when it was revealed that the Watergate burglars, Miami residents with CIA backgrounds, had their attorneys fees paid, via Mexico, through that bank.

I would wager that the bankers of known Trumpgate targets are now looking closely at their clients' foreign transactions, and that even a hint of a Caribbean shell corporation will set off alarms, and immediate calls to bank counsel for advice.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

ZARRAB'S CODEFENDANT FEARS BEING TARRED WITH HIS CLIENT'S SINS



The Turkish banker, Mehmet Atilla, who is scheduled for a November trial in the Reza Zarrab Iran oil-for-gold sanctions violation case, has filed a Motion In Limine*, seeking to have the Court bar specific trial testimony that he asserts is overly prejudicial, inflammatory or irrelevant. He clearly fears that expert testimony will bury him, along with Zarrab, at trial, and with good cause, for the documentary evidence, and anticipated expert testimony, is damning. The assistance that Atilla, through Halkbank, allegedly provided to Zarrab, to evade international sanctions, appears to be overwhelming.

The experts for the Government will be testifying about these matters:

(1) Sanctions that exist against Iran, and against terrorism.
(2) The Economic ties between Turkey and Iran.
(3)  OFAC Iran-related sanctions.
(4)  International Banking and the settlement of foreign currency transactions.

Atilla also is objecting to the admission of a Zarrab letter referencing "Economic Jihad,' which his counsel alleges should be precluded for use at trial, as overly prejudicial and inflammatory. Curiously, his attorneys assert that he may be the only defendant to appear at trial, which again raises the question of whether Zarrab is entering a plea prior to trial.

 It is doubtful that Atilla will be successful in his quest to sanitize trial testimony, as the experts will most likely be permitted to testify.
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* A motion, made in advance of trial, to obtain a ruling barring certain testimony or evidence, for being so inflammatory, and prejudicial, as to adversely influence the trier of fact, meaning the jury.



AGENTS OF A SECOND COUNTRY ARE INVESTIGATING DOMINICA FOR CRIMINAL ACTS IN THEIR JURISDICTION



Readers who yesterday questioned why I failed to specifically identify what US government agency is investigating certain members of the leadership of Dominica, please remember that I have no wish to be accused of neither Obstruction of Justice nor a violation of the Intelligence Identifies Information Act'; rest assured, though, that the story is true and correct. The source has a long record of accuracy.

I  do want to add some additional information, inasmuch as there are perhaps a few who require a reality check, regarding how much unwanted attention Dominica has drawn from afar, due in large part to its illicit diplomatic passport sales scheme.There is a second country, in addition to the United States, that has recently sent undercover investigators into Dominica to make inquiries. We know that because the Commonwealth has been repeatedly visited by a few foreign nationals who have been spotted by certain sharp-eyed Dominicans, who kindly passed their names on to me. One of those individuals is known to me to be a career investigator, acting in an undercover capacity, on behalf of a specific nation; again, I have no desire to interfere with their tasks, so they shall remain anonymous.

Whether there will be criminal charges filed in that jurisdiction is not known at this time, but it does indicate that there are Persons of Interest under investigation, for violation of criminal statutes.  


Monday, October 30, 2017

PAUL MANAFORT, CHARGED WITH MONEY LAUNDERING, MOVED MONEY THROUGH CYPRUS



The million dollar New York and Virginia purchases, allegedly made by indicted TrumpGate defendant, Paul Manaford, were made with wire transfers that apparently originated in Cyprus. What bank compliance officers allowed these funds to come into the United States, into obvious shell companies, from such a well-known Russian tax haven ?

And Delaware shell companies, like were used in the Riggs Bank case. Just how much compliance malpractice can you take for one day ? There were so many Cyprus & Delaware companies, it looked like a classroom fact pattern. Let us hope that somebody at FinCEN identifies those banks, and names & shames them sufficiently to scare others into red-lining wire transfers when they should.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

US LAW ENFORCEMENT INVESTIGATION FOCUSES IN ON PM SKERRIT AND ATTORNEY ASTAPHAN

Roosevelt Skerrit
 
According to a reliable source, an overseas office of an American Federal law enforcement agency has been ordered to turn over all information in its possession on Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, and attorney Anthony "Tony" Astaphan, who acts as Skerrit's adviser for the country's diplomatic passport scheme. Readers who might think that the attorney-client privilege applies to any communications between the parties are advised to review Federal case law on the Crime or Fraud Exception to the privilege.

Anthony Astaphan

The requesting agency has not been identified, but is believed to be the Department of Justice.

Dominica has been the subject of international media attention this year, primarily due to controversy over the alleged sale of a large number of Dominica diplomatic passports to a number of Iranians, Chinese, Russians, and other nationals from high-risk countries, some of whom have been arrested, on a variety of charges, in several countries. There are concerns that Dominican passports have been sold to North Korean government agents, after a CNN investigative story disclosed that a Chinese recipient of a Dominican diplomatic passport was acting for a sanctioned state-owned North Korean Bank.

Given the broad reach of US Conspiracy laws, and the extraterritorial application of the money laundering statutes,  Dominica government staff members who are engaged in the production of diplomatic passports for foreign nationals might want to consider consulting with a competent criminal defense attorney.






IS IT NOW THE CARIBBEAN PAPERS ?


Reports that the prominent Bermuda-based law firm, Appleby, was hacked last year, and that the ICIJ, which broke the Panama Papers, will publish the stolen data, have led to speculation that a new scandal this time involving Appleby clients, will further expose rampant client tax evasion, money laundering, and assorted  financial crimes, in the Caribbean tax havens.

Appleby, which acquired a global offshore presence, by merger, and now has offices in the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Mauritius, the BVI, the Seychelles, and China, could take a major hit to its sterling reputation, should the leaked documents expose high net-worth individuals who are tax cheats, corrupt government officials, and other suspected criminals. While  the transactions it assisted in are totally legal, the public perception of misconduct appears to have fatally damaged Mossack's reputation. What will be the outcome for Appleby ?

The exposure of Mossack & Fonseca's illicit acts, in the Panama Papers, caused a widespread exodus of Mossack attorneys and paralegals, and we shall be monitoring unfolding events, to ascertain whether Appleby will suffer the same human resource flight as Mossack.

Regarding possible guilt, we must now reserve judgment, waiting for the information's release, before commenting upon whether any law firm misconduct has occurred; stay tuned.

DOMINICA FAILS TO DENY THAT IT ISSUED ST KITS PM A DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT

The Prime Minister of St Kitts & Nevis, Timothy Sylvester Harris, has denied holding a diplomatic passport issued by the Commonwealth of Dominica, though a copy has appeared on several Caribbean media websites, but the authenticity of the passport has never been disputed by any senior official in Dominica. In fact, the Government of Dominica has been strangely silent regarding the subject, when the normal response would be to either confirm or deny that the document is genuine, and issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It would take Dominica five minutes to examine & reject the document, and the failure to do so speaks volumes regarding the truth. Check the passport number, please, and respond.

At this point, it might be helpful to remember that the Foreign Minister of Dominica has repeatedly refused to publish a comprehensive list of all the 500+ diplomatic passport holders, claiming that to do so would hinder the abilities of these "diplomats" to perform their functions quietly. The problem is that all the foreign diplomatic passport holders are neither properly qualified, nor certified by any accepting jurisdiction where they ate allegedly posted. In short, these foreign buyers of diplomatic passports are legally unqualified to be regarded as diplomats, as they fail to meet the the terms of the Vienna Convention.

We do not know more than a small amount of the names of these bogus Dominican "diplomats, " as well as CBI documents, but those we do know are Iranians, Chinese, Nigerians, Chinese working for North Korea, and others from high-risk countries. Therefore, until we have a complete and accurate list of those who bought their "diplomatic" and CBI status, compliance officers at North American & EU banks must place all Dominica passports as suspect, and high-risk.

That is patently unfair to Dominicans not engaged in transnational white-collar crime, but a sad reality, and the Dominica "infection," meaning close compliance scrutiny, is liable to spread to the other East Caribbean countries that offer CBI products, and diplomatic passports, under the table, to dodgy and unqualified applicants, without transparency.


Friday, October 27, 2017

FORMER MINISTER ASOT MICHAEL HAD NO DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY WHEN ARRESTED IN THE UK



Former minister under UK criminal investigation
Questions have been raised as to whether the recently cashiered ex-Minister of Tourism of Antigua & Barbuda, Asot Michael, could have avoided arrest and interrogation, when he arrived in the United Kingdom. Some have said that he had diplomatic immunity, but this statement is incorrect and misleading, and has no basis in international law.

 We now know that he was questioned, on the orders of the National Crime Authority, due to an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations that bribes were paid to a government official in the East Caribbean, by a UK national, to secure business. Michael's PR statement, that his arrest was either routine, or an error, was intentional disinformation given to the media.

Michael also allegedly made graphic threats, to senior Antigua officials, after he was relieved by them of his ministerial portfolio, after news of his arrest was made public, and those threats may be actionable as assault under the laws of Antigua & Barbuda; we will be covering that in a subsequent article. His reinstatement as a minister, due to these actions, is doubtful.

On to the issues:

(1) Asot Michael, when  Minister of Tourism, was NOT covered by diplomatic immunity, nor has he ever been, while holding that governmental position. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 specifically limits diplomatic immunity to serving, active duty diplomats, who are then formally certified by their foreign office as such, to a specific country or international body, who are duly accepted by the receiving country, and who perform a mission in that country. There is no blanket diplomatic immunity for ministers of any government in the Vienna protocols,  which all United Nations members are obligated to observe, as UN treaty signatories.

(2) The other type of immunity, known as Head of State Immunity, is expressly limited to those senior individuals who represent the State in international relations. This means the Head of State, Head of Government, and the Foreign Minister. Any other official does not qualify; Readers who wish review the relevant material should consult the United Nations document Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction.  here.

PANAMA'S FUGITIVE FORMER PRESIDENT TRIES TO BUY OFF HIS VICTIMS

Coat of Arms of Panama City


Former president, Ricardo Martinelli, facing more than a dozen criminal cases in his native Panama, has made an eleventh-hour attempt to avoid extradition, by offering to pay large but unspecified sums of money to his victims. The former president's attorneys announced that Martinelli will meet with legal representatives of the victims of his illegal video and audio surveillance in Miami, to negotiate a settlement of the damages they suffered, when the country's national security apparatus illegally captured their private lives. It appears that he rightly fears imminent extradition.

Martinelli has also offered to make a public apology, but there is no mention of the former president serving any prison time for his crimes. He is seeking, literally, to evade justice by offering cash payments, but Panamanian reformers among his victims, who want Martinelli to face justice, and serve a lengthy incarceration, will most likely refuse, knowing he is close to extradition from the United States. Besides, the money he would use to pay them off is the proceeds of crime, and funds stolen from the people of Panama. In truth and in fact, accepting dirty money could constitute money laundering.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

WHY WAS ANTIGUA'S TOURISM MINISTER ARRESTED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM ?



Asot Michael, who was removed as Antigua's Minister of Tourism & Investment, after British authorities reportedly arrested him upon arrival in the UK, and subsequently released, has failed to disclose precisely why the Metropolitan Police needed to interview him. His slick public relations-authored press release hinted at his innocence, and even made it seem to be a mistake.

Rest assured, it was anything but routine. British law enforcement does not arrest foreign governmental cabinet officials without just cause. Was it because Minister Michael oversees Antigua's controversial (and often troubled) Citizenship by Investment (economic passport) Program, and there is an ongoing criminal investigation into one or more of the CBI holders ? Or was it because of an investigation into the illegal payment of funds to Antiguan officials, to approve certain investment projects by foreign nationals ? We cannot say at this time.

Most people might immediately question whether UK Customs seized any personal property in the minister's baggage, such as bearer instruments of value, or bulk cash. We cannot form an opinion on this subject, because there has been no information made public, regarding his possessions at arrival.

The most troubling aspect of the minister's very public statement inferred that he had been advised, by some anonymous source, that the police were required to arrest him to interview him. Most international travelers know that, in the event of a query of any sort, airport-based law enforcement staff detain the party, they do not arrest him. The arrest of the minister was no mere friendly talk, it was a predicate to a custodial interrogation, and we surely want to know why. 

MARTINELLI REQUESTS A STAY OF SURRENDER WHILE HIS HABEUS PETITION IS PENDING



Counsel for the former President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, have filed what is captioned Motion to Stay of Surrender pending Appeal, in the Habeus Corpus case filed on September 28, after a US Magistrate Judge ordered Martinelli's extradition, to face criminal charges in Panama.

Unfortunatelty, we are unable to review the details of that motion, because the Court has restricted public access to it, for some unknown reason. We will not have long to wait though, as the response of the US Government defendants, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Acting Warden of FDC Miami, is due shortly, and Habeus proceedings call for an expedited ruling; Stay tuned.

DENIALS FROM ST KITTS PRIME MINISTER RAISE MORE QUESTIONS THAN THEY ANSWER


The strenuous public denials, made on behalf of the Prime Minister of St Kitts, to the effect that he does not now, nor has he ever had, a diplomatic passport issued by the Commonwealth of Dominica, have raised several questions about Dominica in general:

(1) If the diplomatic passport published on several Caribbean media is bogus, who created it and how did they accomplish this act?  It appears, on its face, to comport with the security features of Dominican identity documents. Was the Opposition party in St Kitts to blame, as has been alleged ?

(2) Was the document actually made in Dominica, by unnamed government staff, and did they use official facilities and technology to do it ?

(3) Why hasn't the Foreign Minister of Dominica confirmed that it is a fake ? Is that because it is genuine ? Check the bloody serial number please, minister, and go public with your findings.

(4) Since Dominica will not list all the 500+ holders of its diplomatic passports, how are we to judge whether it is authentic, or a forgery ?

(5) When will Dominica cancel all the diplomatic passports issued to non-Dominicans, who perform no legitimate diplomatic functions, and are therefore in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations ?

Dominica's illicit issuance of diplomatic passports, to foreign nationals, presents a clear and present danger to international banks, to countries that could be the victims of terrorist financing, or even terrorist acts,  and specifically to the United States & Canada, who are rapidly becoming tired of this game being played in Dominica.

The final question: does Dominica now richly deserve a FinCEN Advisory on its passports, like currently existd against St Kitts ? I believe the answer should be in the affirmative.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

LEBANESE ASSASSINS KILLED CRUSADING PANAMA PAPERS JOURNALIST FROM MALTA


Reliable sources in the Middle East have confirmed that the individuals who planted and detonated the car bomb that fatally injured prominent Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia were from Lebanon. The crime has been compared to a similar incident, in which former Lebanese Prime Minister Raffik Hariri lost his life several years ago in Beirut, which is the subject of an international criminal case, where it is alleged that the perpetrators were agents of Hezbollah. It has not yet been determined who ordered that attack, which experts are calling an act of domestic terrorism.

The family of the murdered journalist, who used the disclosures that first appeared in the Panama Papers to assert that senior members in the government of Malta were engaged in corruption, have asserted that these politicians, together with the CBI consultancy, Henley & Partners, were involved in targeting Galizia, in an effort to silence her persistent anti-corruption campaign.

The family specifically named Henley CEO Chris "Kato" Kalin*, as a conspirator in a plan to file bogus civil suits against Galizia, to bankrupt her, which emails published on the internet purport to show was to be covertly arranged and conducted. The Henley firm is a principal adviser to Malta's controversial Citizenship by Investment program, through which wealthy foreign nationals ultimately receive a Maltese Schengen passport.



The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has entered the investigation, according to reports published in Malta. The case is believed to be the first instance of a fatal attack upon a journalist related to the Panama Papers scandal.
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* Compliance officers who have observed both the speed and inaccuracy in which due diligence is supposedly performed upon applicants for East Caribbean CBI passports, have taken to referring to CEO Kalin as such, after the character in "Green Hornet," but curiously, the name also belongs to one of the principal witnesses in the OJ Simpson murder trial.


Friday, October 20, 2017

WE VISIT CBI CONSULTANCY SWALLOW IMMIGRATION'S TEHRAN MONEY LAUNDERING OFFICE



Our recent article, about the New Brunswick, Canada-based Swallow Immigration Consultancy Ltd.,  which is selling CBI passports in Dominica, St Kitts & Grenada, according to its website, and its staff, included a telephone call to the firm's manager, Nusheen Pourjahani. She denied accepting any Iranians, unless they lived outside Iran, and maintained their wealth also overseas, claiming that her clients did not violate sanctions, and their money was clean.



Our follow-up call today yielded confirmation that her story was pure fiction. Pourjahani, according to her office, is traveling to Dubai, to meet clients, and after that, will be in her office in Tehran. That is where she really meets her Iranian clients, so she can obtain Caribbean CBI passports for them, and launder their money through her own accounts, prior to making payment for their passports.



You are looking at photographs taken outside Swallow's Tehran office. Note that there are no signs or indications that it is a business, because it is not open to the public; It is a covert location, to serve Iranian clients, in violation of American, Canadian and United Nations international sanctions. Does this look like a legitimate office ?