$45 and you can prove yourself a True Believer Trump fan


AP/Sebastian Scheiner

” Before their Oval Office meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lavished praise on US President Donald Trump for, among other things, declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowing to fix or scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

In doing so, the Israeli leader likened Trump to Harry Truman, Lord Balfour — and Cyrus the Great.

” What gives with Cyrus?…Jewish tradition has been consistent in treating him as a pagan agent of God’s divine plan for Jews to return to the Land of Israel from their exile in Babylon…

” The idea that Trump is a modern-day Cyrus is particularly popular among evangelical Christians, in part to explain the gap between Trump’s, ahem, personal behavior and his support for policies that advance their agenda…Mike Evans told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Cyrus “was used as an instrument of God for deliverance in the Bible, and God has used this imperfect vessel, this flawed human being like you or I, this imperfect vessel, and he’s using him in an incredible, amazing way to fulfill his plans and purposes…”

John Fea, a professor of evangelical history at Messiah College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told Vox. “It’s the theopolitical version of money laundering, taking Scripture to … clean [up] your candidate.”

Um, OK. Theological money laundering probably makes as much sense as any other social or political attempt to make our fake president a savior.

Billion dollar crook — Busted!


Click to reach the video/complete article at the AlJazeera site. 28 minutes long

❝ Altaf Khanani is a wanted man. He leads a syndicate that launders billions of dollars for the world’s biggest drug cartels and armed groups, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda…He evaded authorities for decades…

❝ “Altaf Khanani was the number one international controller as far as organised crime and terrorist funding was in the world at that time,” says David Stewart of the Australian Federal Police. “And we knew that he was causing significant impact on multiple countries throughout the world, and that’s why we had to take some action…”

❝ 101 East goes inside the year-long undercover sting to catch the world’s most-wanted money launderer.

Real James Bond stuff. Good journalism.

Trump’s Personal Lawyer Brags That He Got Preet Bharara Fired

❝ Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations.

Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you,” according to a person familiar with Kasowitz’s account.

❝ Those who know Kasowitz say he is sometimes prone to exaggerating when regaling them with his exploits. But if true, his assertion adds to the mystery surrounding the motive and timing of Bharara’s firing.

❝ New presidents typically ask U.S. attorneys to resign and have the power to fire them. But Trump asked Bharara to stay in his job when they met in November at Trump Tower, as Bharara announced after the meeting.

In early March, Trump reversed himself. He asked all the remaining U.S. attorneys to resign, including Bharara. Bharara, a telegenic prosecutor with a history of taking on powerful politicians, refused and was fired March 11.

As ProPublica previously reported, at the time of Bharara’s firing the Southern District was conducting an investigation into Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Tom Price…

❝ The Southern District of New York conducts some of the highest profile corporate investigations in the country. According to news reports…the office is…looking into Russian money-laundering allegations at Deutsche Bank, Trump’s principal private lender…

❝ …More than three months after Bharara was fired, Trump has not nominated anyone to fill the Southern District job or most of the other U.S. attorney positions.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, either.

A cluster of politicians, spies, and a Trumpkin – run a casino in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

On a tiny island in the western Pacific, at the end of a duty-free mall wedged between a one-story laundromat and a cell-phone shop, you’ll find what may be the most successful casino of all time.

The awkwardly named Best Sunshine Live hardly looks like a high-roller hub. Construction workers bet $5 or $10 at a time on roulette and baccarat in a fug of nicotine. Clustered in a far corner are a handful of tables for so-called VIP gamblers, which at 8:30 p.m. on a September Saturday are almost empty. A nearby bar has just a couple of patrons.

Nothing about the facility, which opened last year on the U.S. island of Saipan, hints at the money flowing through it — table for table, far more than at the biggest casinos in Macau, the world’s number-one gambling capital. Nor is there any sign of the connections of its owner, Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd., which has a market value of $2.4 billion.

It’s a power list that includes a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and three former U.S. governors, including past chairmen of both the Democratic and Republican National Committees. Behind them all: a Donald Trump protege, Mark Brown, who ran the Republican president-elect’s Atlantic City casino empire and is now Imperial Pacific’s chief executive officer.

With that backing, Best Sunshine is posting numbers that stagger industry veterans. The daily reported revenue for each of its VIP tables in the first half of the year, about $170,000, is almost eight times the average of Macau’s largest casinos. Its 16 VIP tables alone generate revenue that’s more than half of the receipts from 178 high-stakes tables at Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s flagship casino in the Chinese territory, a 20-story palace with three Michelin-starred restaurants.

The revenue figures, or actual wins by the house, are just a fraction of total bets. In September, Imperial Pacific reported a record $3.9 billion in bets at its casino — meaning the 100 or so high-rollers who it says come through its doors monthly each wagered an average of $39 million.

Those volumes of cash are drawing the attention of law-enforcement officials. The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is responsible for alerting prosecutors and other authorities of suspicious financial flows, has taken notice of the activity at Best Sunshine…

Nothing new about accusations of money laundering via casinos whether overtly owned by the mob like the old days in Las Vegas or contemporary arrangements stacked with public figures from the world of American politics and covert intelligence. Beacoup funds passing through an operation that can’t even attract regular air flights.

“A legitimate high-stakes gambler wouldn’t want to spend time in this place,” said Greg Hunter, plaintiff in a suit against the Saipan casino law, said of Best Sunshine. “Have you seen it? It’s a duty-free store with a fresh coat of paint and some chandeliers.”

RTFA. A delightful piece of investigative journalism and writing by folks who usually report on economics and high finance throughout Asia for Bloomberg. Impressive.

We don’t need Panama — the US is home to lots of sleazy tax havens


250,000 American corporations hide in this building

The single-story brick building at 1209 North Orange St. in downtown Wilmington, Del., looks bland and innocuous. But the building, home to the Corporation Trust Company, has an intriguing claim to fame. In the last few years, it has served as the registered address for more than 250,000 businesses, giving companies around the world access to Delaware’s business-friendly laws.

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama criticized Caribbean tax havens. He mentioned one building in the Cayman Islands that is the registered home of more than 12,000 U.S.-based corporations, saying, “That’s either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam on record.” But as the example of 1209 North Orange St. demonstrates, the same activity is going on in President Obama’s backyard.

A massive leak of confidential documents from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama that helped wealthy clients set up anonymous companies in tax havens, is highlighting how the global offshore industry secretly invests massive amounts of wealth around the globe. The 11 million leaked documents cover 40 years of the law firm’s operations and allegedly touch on the financial dealings of 12 current or former heads of state, as well as 60 more people linked to world leaders.

The documents…show connections between offshore accounts set up by Mossack Fonseca and money laundering, bribery and tax evasion, among other charges…

But one of the least recognized facts about the global offshore industry is that much of it, in fact, is not offshore. Indeed, some critics of the offshore industry say the U.S. is now becoming one of the world’s largest “offshore” financial destinations…

Offshore isn’t so much a destination anymore as “a set of capabilities,” which include ensuring secrecy, minimizing taxes, managing assets, and providing clients security and access to their wealth from anywhere in the world…The Tax Justice Network ranks the U.S. third in terms of the secrecy and scale of its offshore industry, behind Switzerland and Hong Kong but ahead of the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg…

Responsible politicians in equally responsible countries are setting up regulations to stop the illegitimate uses of shell corporations, e.g., money laundering for criminals and terrorists, fraud, tax avoidance, etc.. No one is surprised at the difficulty encountered trying to get similar efforts through Congress.

RTFA for the details and designs. Think about nudging your Congress-critter to show a little gumption and stand up to corporate class tax fraud.

Jail time needed for Citigroup’s Mexican drug money-laundering


Banamex branch in San Diego, now closedCoStar Group

❝When Antonio Peña Arguelles opened an account in 2005 at Citigroup’s Banamex USA, the know-your-customer documents said he had a small business breeding cattle and white-tailed deer, ranch-raised for their stately antlers. About $50 a month would come into the account, according to the documents.❞

❝A week later, Peña Arguelles wired in $7.09 million from an account in Mexico, allegedly drug money from Los Zetas, a violent cartel founded by former Mexican soldiers, documents in his money-laundering case in Texas say. In all, Peña Arguelles shuttled $59.4 million through the account, according to a confidential report by banking regulators that berated Banamex USA in 2013 for its failure to comply with anti-money-laundering rules.

❝Banamex USA didn’t file a suspicious activity report about the account, according to regulators, even after Peña Arguelles’s brother Alfonso was killed in late 2011, his body dumped at the Christopher Columbus monument in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, with a banner draped above it accusing Antonio of being a money launderer and stealing from the Zetas. The bank didn’t produce an activity report after U.S. prosecutors asked for the account documents at the end of that year or when Peña Arguelles was indicted in early 2012 for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. And it didn’t file one until May 2013, months after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the California Department of Business Oversight issued a written order in August 2012 demanding the bank check old accounts.❞

❝So in June 2013, when more than a dozen Citigroup and Banamex USA executives walked into a meeting to discuss progress on satisfying that order, they faced a group of angry state and national regulators. “Management and board supervision of the bank’s affairs has been critically deficient,” the FDIC and the California agency wrote about Banamex USA in the confidential report, reviewed by Bloomberg, which has never been publicly disclosed. “The willingness to accept and maintain a customer relationship identified with major illicit activity is revealing as to the board’s appetite for reputational and money laundering risk.” The report blasted Banamex USA for looking the other way and for failing to fix problems…❞

❝What the regulators’ account of the Peña Arguelles case and interviews with more than a dozen former Citigroup employees and consultants show is that Banamex USA tolerated a culture of negligence during years of moving money across the U.S.-Mexico border. And they provide a rare look into how Citigroup failed to oversee a small but risky business in one corner of its global operation. Regulators use the words failed and failure more than 60 times in their report to describe how Banamex USA didn’t comply with anti-money-laundering rules before and after being ordered to do so. The lapses are now the subject of a government investigation that could cost Citigroup hundreds of millions of dollars in fines…❞

RTFA. It goes on and on, detailing criminal practices at the behest of some of the most dangerous and corrupt gangsters on Earth.

In the words of Jerry Robinette, a former JP Morgan compliance officer, “Until you start sending people to jail, the pockets are there to satisfy the penalties…” The Department of Justice acts more like an elementary school principal than a federal agency dedicated to upholding the law. Ruling time and again that fines are sufficient punishment for moneybags banks – and the crooks who run them on behalf of thugs lower down the social ladder – is about as phony as the average Congressional re-election campaign.

If you’re a bank, big enough and powerful enough to assure drug lords safe haven for their ill-gotten gains apparently you’re also big enough not to have any of your pimps go to jail. That should end and it should end, now.

Slain “hero” cop actually staged suicide after stealing, laundering money for years

Authorities say an Illinois police officer, whose fatal shooting this summer led to a large-scale manhunt, staged his death after committing a series of criminal acts over a seven-year period.

George Filenko, Lake County major crimes task force commander, announced Wednesday that the death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz in September was a “carefully staged suicide.”

Filenko said that Gliniewicz had “been stealing and laundering money” from the police department’s “Explorer Post,” a program for young adults interested in law enforcement careers, and had used thousands of dollars for personal expenses, mortgage payments and adult websites.

Filenko said authorities also recovered electronic messages deleted from Gliniewicz’s personal and work cell phones that included incriminating statements.

The investigation also found that Gliniewicz had “intentionally left a staged trail of police equipment,” including pepper spray and a baton in an effort to “mislead” first responders and investigations into believing his death was a homicide, Filenko said, adding that Gliniewicz had experience staging mock crime scenes for police training purposes.

“There are no winners here,” Filenko said. “[Gliniewicz] committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community…”

Gliniewicz’s death set off a large manhunt, with hundreds of officers searching houses, cabins and boats on area lakes. Helicopters with heat-sensing scanners and K-9 units scoured the area for days. Officials also ordered commuter trains halted, roads blocked and area schools locked down as they conducted a widespread search in a wooded area about 40 miles north of Chicago near the Wisconsin border…

Around 50 suburban Chicago police departments and sheriff’s offices assisted, racking up more than $300,000 in overtime and other costs…

Gliniewicz became known as a hero to young people because of his work with the Explorers program – that he stole from. Always nice to have a bit of oversight where money is concerned, folks.

Secret Service agent bound for prison for stealing what he was investigating


Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

A former U.S. Secret Service agent pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the theft of $820,000 in bitcoins in the Silk Road website probe.

Shaun Bridges, 32, a forensic analyst involved in the federal investigation which shut down the drug marketplace website, was the second agent caught stealing digital cash. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges during a San Francisco federal court hearing Monday.

During the probe, Bridges used his access authority to move 20,000 bitcoins to an account he controlled. The majority of transactions on the Silk Road website were made using bitcoins, a payment method not involving any government-backed currency.

The website was shut down in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbrecht, received life imprisonment in May for operating the site, and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Carl Force pleaded guilty in July to three charges in connection with the theft of more than $700,000 in bitcoins…

Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

I would sentence the dude, tomorrow. He’s already pleaded guilty as charged. Are we supposed to let someone from law enforcement disappear into the judicial fog and maybe be allowed a kinder, gentler sentence?

Call for investigation of NRA fraud, political misuse of donations

sensible-gun-laws

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requested the Internal Revenue Service open an examination into the finances of the National Rifle Association after the group failed to disclose more than $33.5 million it spent on political activity over six years. CREW also called on the Federal Election Commission to audit the NRA’s campaign arm, the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), and its lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), after the group apparently violated federal election law by soliciting donations for the NRA-ILA that went instead to the NRA-PVF.

Between 2008 and 2013, the NRA-ILA, an internal division of the NRA, reported to the FEC and in annual financial statements that it spent more than $33.5 million on political activity. However, for each of those years, the NRA stated on its Form 990 tax return that it did not engage in any political activity at all, and the group did not once file a Schedule C disclosing its political expenditures. This failure to disclose political activity appears to violate federal law and, if it was intentional, could violate several criminal statutes. The NRA blamed the failure to disclose its political activity on a “clerical error” but did not express any intention to amend its Form 990 returns or file Schedule Cs…

The NRA-ILA reported to the FEC nearly $11 million in independent expenditures and member communications expressly advocating election or defeat of candidates for federal office between 2008 and 2013, and disclosed on annual financial statements prepared by an independent auditor spending more than $22.5 million on fundraising and administrative expenses for its political action committee, NRA-PVF, during the same period. All of these expenditures were for political activities that needed to be reported on the organization’s tax filings but were not.

CREW also called on the FEC to audit the NRA-PVF and NRA-ILA because it appears these groups may have solicited donations in violation of federal election law by failing to disclose to donors that their money would be used for political purposes. The NRA also appears to have violated federal election law by soliciting donations from the general public, which it is prohibited from doing as a member organization, and by failing to disclose the employer and/or occupation of its contributors.

It’s always heartwarming to witness rightwing nutball organizations like the NRA ignoring essential transparency requirements while they blather about conspiracies against their pet demento issues. Perish the thought they actually live up to anything approaching ethical standards -0 like any normal business entity.

They set the standard for corruption even higher than Congressional Republicans.