Wednesday, April 1, 2015


If you were eagerly waiting for today to arrive, to learn precisely what the newly-discovered evidence is, that Viktor Bout's attorneys believe qualifies him for a new trial, you will have to wait yet another month. The Russian-speaking member of Bout's legal team was unable to renew his passport timely, as the Russian Consulate in Houston, and was therefore unable to travel outside the United States, to assist in the ongoing investigation. The Court gave counsel another 30 days.

There are some hints in the motion of counsel's theory of the case:
(1) A CI for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) allegedly was also reporting to another country's intelligence agency, and there is a document that verifies this information.
(2) there is additional information, on a reputedly cloned copy of the CIs hard drive, available in Russia.  Allegedly, the CI knew in advance of the efforts to sting Bout, and this has some bearing on the defense's motion for a new trial.

We shall continue to follow all developments in this case.


Multiple authoritative Middler Eastern sources have reported that Hezbollah is now receiving guided warhead technology for its existing missile stocks. The equipment is said to have come from its primary sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This adds a new dimension to the next conflict between Hezbollah and the State of Israel, whose advanced anti-missile systems have coped easily with unguided missile systems, but may not be able to intercept guided missiles with the 90% accuracy seen in the conflict with Hamas, as the trajectory of guided systems cannot be anticipated. Hezbollah may choose to attack Israel, employing its new technology.

In the event that Israel was to sustain major loss of civilian life, and/or destruction of its airport and port facilities, any measured, proportional response would be doubtful, and all Lebanon's infrastructure, including its Beirut international financial center, would probably be targeted, resulting in massive physical damage that could take many months to recover from.  Loss of life would include financial professionals and support staff. The consequences for Country Risk would be almost too high to calculate.

Inasmuch as many observers have opined that Hezbollah of late has become increasingly aggressive in patrolling the border area with Israel, as well as its combat rule in aiding the regime in the Syrian civil war, the risk of another armed conflict with Israel, in 2015 or 2016, should be considered high at this time. Kindly factor all this in when assessing Country Risk for Lebanon.   


Panama's new reformist Varela government is seeking to clean up the country's court system, but corruption is deeply rooted, and frankly the only way to assure that the rule of law will finally prevail is to clean house. This means the judiciary, the prosecutors, and yes, even the dirty lawyers, all will have to go.

Many prominent attorneys pay off the judges, and the prosecutors, to delays cases for years, if their client is the defendant, and for a quick resolution, should the client be the plaintiff, irrespective of the facts, and the state of the law. As we have often repeated, the rule of law simply does not exist in the courts of Panama.

On of the biggest corrupters in Panama City is attorney Alcides Bartolo Peña Villar, known around town as "the Fixer," due to his regular payoff of prosecutors and judges. Peña openly boasts of his close relationships with members of the Supreme Court of Justice, most of whom are now losing their positions, due to corruption. If you wanted a case delayed indefinitely, that is pending at Panama's Supreme Court, payments to the justices, made by people like Peña, were the order of business.

Peña has been known to drag out lawsuits pending against his clients for five years of more; in one case he has been accused of forging documents, stealing and destroying documents and court files, having cases abruptly transferred, so to delay their normal progress, and having prosecutors on his payroll seek to dismiss valid criminal charges against his clients. One of the prosecutors listed in that case is Maria de Lourdes Estrada Villar, and I will leave it for you to judge, based upon these facts, whether she has been paid to delay the proceedings.

One of Peña's most infamous clients is the fugitive Ponzi schemer, American businessman Gary James Lundgren, who is currently facing criminal charges for fraud and theft of millions of dollars of real estate. Lundgren, who operates as an unlicensed securities dealer, advertises bogus "high-yield" investments to American investors, through a network of friends and associates. Most of these investments are unregistered securities, and Lundgen himself has no broker-dealer license in Panama, but Peña has managed, through the payment of bribes, to evade any enforcement activity within Panama, though he is reportedly under investigation in the united States. Lundgren openly brags about how he has managed to pervert justice in Panama, through illicit payments, made by his attorney, to judges and prosecutors.

Without a fair and free judicial system, foreign investors and businessmen with a valid claim simply cannot prevail in the Panamanian court system, without breaking corruption laws in their home country; financial criminals use this to commit repeated crimes against them, and bribe the court system to deny the victim any legal redress. Since you cannot get justice in Panama, it is humbly suggested that you stay out of the country, with any business plans, until and unless court corruption is abolished, which is a tall order. President Varela, please clean up your country's courts. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


By now, most readers have become familiar with the details of the non-Prosecution Agreement, between the US Government, and the Swiss private bank, BSI SA, especially the $211m civil penalty, but buried within the information released are techniques, employed by bank staff, that are typically used by money launderers, not legitimate bankers. Therein lies the shame of this case, as no individuals apparently are being indicted for their crimes & transgressions.

Here are a couple of the tricks used by the BSI bankers:

(1) Giving their American tax-cheating clients blank debit cards, drawn on two US banks, which allowed them to draw on their Swiss cash. I would surely love to know which banks were involved.

(2) Using Panamanian corporations, possessing, of course, bearer shares, to totally conceal beneficial ownership of the assets.

(3) Placing the clients' funds into accounts allegedly owned by a bogus insurance company ( known to BSI as an insurance wrapper).

(4) Formation of trusts. and other non-transparent vehicles, purely to conceal their clients' identities.

I suggest you review the complete text of the stipulated Statement of Facts* to fully understand the depths to which BSI bankers sank, to protect their clients from the taxman.
*Statement of Facts


Monday, March 30, 2015


Panamanian airports remain the principal destination of flights of illicit bulk cash, originating from Venezuela; the volume has increased to the point where Panama's principal organized crime syndicate has found it necessary to open its own business jet operation, from a hangar located at the Albrook Marcos A. Gelabert International,* general aviation airport. In addition to the Caracas-Panama route, the company is offering flights throughout the Caribbean tax haven region, and even into the Continental United States.

Regular readers of this blog know that the members of Panama's organized crime syndicate, most of whom are of Middle Eastern ancestry, and are related through blood ties, own portions of, and in some cases, have 100% ownership in, many of the country's local banks and NBFIs. It is therefore in the group's best interests to facilitate transport of "flight capital," much of which ends up in their own banks.

It had been hoped that the new, reformist government in office in Panama would shut down all the illegal bulk cash smuggling operations at Marcos Gelabert, which is the best known private aviation facility in the country, but it seems to be that smuggling business there has continued uninterrupted. When will Panama's self-styled "reformers" finally shut down money laundering ?

* Better known as the former Albrook Air Force Base, when it was part of the US-administered Canal Zone; before 1947, it was designated the Albrook Army Airfield. Rwy is 5900 ft.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


According to confirmed information from China, there is a "priority list " of more than 150 corrupt Chinese PEPs, all wanted on criminal charges by the Peoples' Republic, and believed to be living in the United States. Deemed "Economic Fugitives' by China, they are accused of money laundering, and other major crimes, in their native country.

Reports indicate that the United States is actively seeking out these individuals; though it appears that Federal criminal charges have only been filed against two of them to date. There is no extradition treaty between the US and China at present, and any extradition request would raise issues of whether a fair trial would be granted, and whether the death penalty was being considered. Money launderers have frequently been executed in China, and laundering was conspicuously missing from reform legislation in China, where some white-collar crimes were declared no longer subject to the ultimate penalty. The death penalty has never been available in the US for money laundering offenses, and this is an obvious sticking point with the Department of Justice. We have previously covered the use of capital punishment in China for money laundering offenses.

 The names on the list of 150 have not been released to the public, which creates an identification issue for US financial institutions, since it is believed that these fugitive PEPs have accounts with US retail banks. Given that in the active case involving those Chinese PEPs known to have been charged, the defendants lied about the source of funds, which was embezzled from a state-run funds. They alleged that the money, which was used to purchase real estate in British Columbia, was from the sale of two privately-owned corporations, and hid their PEP status. They moved the money into the US through shell companies.

It is suggested that you conduct a comprehensive review of all your large expat Chinese account holders, especially those who have moved into the United States during the past five years, to rule out your clients as possible fugitives from justice, banking dirty money in your shop.

 Canadian bankers please note that real estate inside Canada was the investment of choice in the one known case, even though the PEPs resided in the United States. You may also want to revisit your newest Chinese clients, especially those with millions of dollars in liquid assets, on deposit in Canadian banks, or invested in real estate.


The primary objective of any country's economic citizenship/economic passport program is to drive local economic development. Unfortunately,  a major aspect of the program being offered to wealthy foreign nationals, by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, may have violated that prime directive. It may also have, unwittingly, facilitated access, by criminal elements, to a passport from a Commonwealth of Nations jurisdiction, with all the privileges appurtenant thereto.

There's a reason that economic citizenship programs require applicants to purchase, and establish, a residence in the country they are seeking a passport from: those new properties must be built, by local labor, using materials obtained from local businesses, and subsequently maintained by locals. Taxes must, eventually, be incurred, and paid, by the property owner. All this creates local jobs, adds to the tax base, and develops the economy.

Antigua's Citizenship by Investment Program has chosen to allow applicants for its economic passport program to qualify, not be purchasing a residence in Antigua or Barbuda, but overseas, in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, through what must be a lucrative arrangement with local builders in the UAE. Both the Antiguan Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister, have visited the Ajman headquarters of UAE-based Sweet Homes, who is building the structures that qualify investors to apply for the A & B Citizenship by Investment project.

These new residences, not being located in Antigua, neither benefit the Antiguan construction work force, nor its local businesses and suppliers of construction materials. I fail to see how any direct payments to Government will be an adequate substitute for the purchase of land from the public, the creation of new local jobs, both during constriction, and post-completion infrastructure/vendors/ service suppliers, and the purchase of construction materials by the developers & builders.

Furthermore,  the Antiguan economy still has not fully recovered from the imprisonment of its formerly largest employer, Ponzi schemer Allan Stanford. Its working class needs as much in the way of new job opportunities as the government can furnish, and by participating in a scheme where only funding ( which could be diverted through corruption) direct to government occurs, there will most likely be little, or none, in the way of trickle-down, to its blue-collar majority. Are the people being cheated ?

Also, how many of these Middle Eastern nationals, who are purchasers in Ajman, and that therefore will be awarded Antiguan passports in the program, will be from countries where broad-based international sanctions are in place, or who are of dodgy backgrounds, but are passed nevertheless ?

Whether Antiguan economic passports will become, like those issued in St. Kitts & Nevis, suspect by definition, and therefore not qualified for a waiver on visas, remains to be seen, but you can be sure that  the Government of Canada will take a hard look at the identities of the holders when they travel, especially if they are Iranian- or Afghan-born. Some immigration authorities may agree, conclude that Antigua has sunk to a new low, and act accordingly, to restrict the entry of these new passport holders. American Customs & Immigration could follow suit, and who could fault such an action ? The granting of economic passports raises risk levels for compliance officers; any country that is playing fast & loose with the process could find itself with clients whose passports are more of a problem than they bargained for.