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Thursday, April 4, 2013

The massive corruption behind our current dysfunction

The international Consortium of Investigative Journalists has just published summaries of leaked documents demonstrating the massive scale of worldwide financial corruption in this country (and world). In my last blog post I explained why there really is a "one percent," why the concentrated weatlh and power have not been a good thing, and some other things about the one percent that I found disturbing. But this latest revolution takes the cake, and explains why the current system needs worldwide reforms.

The One percent is a problem because they tend to band with the mega-rich. They don't all have the access to offshore accounts the super rich do, and so they are as much prey as predator for their wealthier relations. The article lists a bullet list of findings about the mega rich that ought to disturb anyone:

  • Government officials and their families and associates in Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and other countries have embraced the use of covert companies and bank accounts.
  • The mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages and anonymity not available to average people.
  • Many of the world’s top’s banks – including UBS, Clariden and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways.
  • A well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other operatives has helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money laundering or other misconduct.
  • Ponzi schemers and other large-scale fraudsters routinely use offshore havens to pull off their shell games and move their ill-gotten gains.

Tip of an Iceberg

Lest the moderately rich think this system is good for them, the lower half of the one percent are those purveyors of Ponzi schemes are their targets. Looks like Bernie Maddoff was the tip of an iceberg in more than one way.

And the article exposes some typical behaviors that come with this Virgin Islands Territory. It details for instance how Tony Merchant, a Canadian Businessman hid his money and lied about his income. It tells how "Between 2002 and 2009, he often paid his fees to maintain the trust by sending thousands of dollars in cash and traveler’s checks stuffed into envelopes rather than using easier-to-trace bank checks or wire transfers, according to documents from the offshore services firm that oversaw the trust for him." Obviously this guy is small fry. Most folks involved in this sort of thing have their lawyers do the dirty work so they can hide behind client confidentiality, but his wife is a Canadian Senator.

The list of names includes a lot of foreign despots, and others we are already familiar with such as the wife of Mark Rich, Denise Rich, who was famous in the 90's for Clinton pardoning him. Today's list was only a sampler of a few dozen out of thousands of names.


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