Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

Secret Files Expose Offshore’s Global Impact

Friday, April 12th, 2013

– This story is going to have legs for a long time, folks.  High net worth individuals and politicos all over the globe must be crapping themselves wondering what’s going to come out of this story.

– All us small folk are paying higher and higher taxes while the disparity between the rich and poor grows wider and wider and the folks on the top are clearly not paying their share.  They are, in fact, working very hard to pay little or nothing.

– Corporations and the rich are gaming the situation to push the tax burdens down on the middle classes and that’s one of the reasons why the middle classes are beginning to look like an endangered species.

– This can only go so far and there will be a backlash.   This, if carried far enough, is the stuff revolutions are made of.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Dozens of journalists sifted through millions of leaked records and thousands of names to produce ICIJ’s investigation into offshore secrecy ­

A cache of 2.5 million files has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con men and the mega-rich the world over.

The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways.

They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program.

The leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.

The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.

The hoard of documents represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010.

– More…

 – Later breaking stories on this subject…

Secrets of the Rich

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

– Another brilliant piece by George Monbiot of the UK’s Guardian.   I just cannot applaud him enough.

– dennis

————————————–

Billionaires are hiding behind a network of “independent” groups, who manipulate politics on their behalf.

Conspiracies against the public don’t get much uglier than this. As the Guardian revealed last week, two secretive organisations working for US billionaires have spent $118m to ensure that no action is taken to prevent manmade climate change(1). While inflicting untold suffering on the world’s people, their funders have used these opaque structures to ensure that their identities are never exposed.

The two organisations – the Donors’ Trust and the Donors’ Capital Fund – were set up as political funding channels for people handing over $1m or more. They have financed 102 organisations which either dismiss climate science or downplay the need to take action. The large number of recipients creates the impression that there are many independent voices challenging climate science. These groups, working through the media, mobilising gullible voters and lobbying politicians, helped to derail Obama’s cap and trade bill and the climate talks at Copenhagen. Now they’re seeking to prevent the US president from trying again(2).

This covers only part of the funding. In total, between 2002 and 2010 the two identity-laundering groups paid $311m to 480 organisations(3), most of which take positions of interest to the ultra-rich and the corporations they run: less tax, less regulation, a smaller public sector. Around a quarter of the money received by the rightwing opinion swarm comes from the two foundations(4). If this funding were not effective, it wouldn’t exist: the ultra-rich didn’t get that way by throwing their money around randomly. The organisations they support are those which advance their interests.

A small number of the funders have been exposed by researchers trawling through tax records. They include the billionaire Koch brothers (paying into the two groups through their Knowledge and Progress Fund) and the DeVos family (the billionaire owners of Amway)(5). More significantly, we now know a little more about the recipients. Many describe themselves as free market or conservative think tanks.

Among them are the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Hudson Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Reason Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Mont Pelerin Society and the Discovery Institute(6). All of them pose as learned societies, earnestly trying to determine the best interests of the public. The exposure of this funding reinforces the claim by David Frum, formerly a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, that such groups “increasingly function as public-relations agencies”(7).

One name in particular jumped out at me: American Friends of the IEA. The Institute of Economic Affairs is a British group which, like all the others, calls itself a free market thinktank. Scarcely a day goes by on which its staff are not interviewed in the broadcast media, promoting the dreary old billionaires’ agenda: less tax for the rich, less help for the poor, less spending by the state, less regulation for business. In the first 13 days of February, its people were on the BBC ten times(8).

Never have I heard its claim to be an independent thinktank challenged by the BBC. When, in 2007, I called the institute a business lobby group, its then director-general responded, in a letter to the Guardian, that “we are independent of all business interests”(9). Oh yes?

The database, published by the Canadian site desmogblog.com, shows that American Friends of the IEA has received (up to 2010) $215,000 from the two secretive funds(10). When I spoke to the IEA’s fundraising manager, she confirmed that the sole purpose of American Friends is to raise money for the organisation in London(11). She agreed that the IEA has never disclosed the Donors’ Trust money it has received. She denied that the institute is a sockpuppet organisation: purporting to be independent while working for some very powerful US interests.

Would the BBC allow someone from Bell Pottinger to discuss an issue of concern to its sponsors without revealing the sponsors’ identity? No. So what’s the difference? What distinguishes an acknowledged public relations company taking money from a corporation or a billionaire from a so-called thinktank, funded by the same source to promote the same agenda?

The IEA is registered with the Charity Commission as an educational charity(12). The same goes for Nigel Lawson’s climate misinformation campaign (the Global Warming Policy Foundation(13)) and a host of other dubious “thinktanks”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is outrageous that the Charity Commission allows organisations which engage in political lobbying and refuse to reveal their major funders to claim charitable status(14).

This is the new political frontier. Corporations and their owners have learnt not to show their hands. They tend to avoid the media, aware that they will damage their brands by being seen to promote the brutal agenda that furthers their interests. So they have learnt from the tobacco companies: stay hidden and pay other people to do it for you(15).

They need a network of independent-looking organisations which can produce plausible arguments in defence of their positions. Once the arguments have been developed, projecting them is easy. Most of the media are owned by billionaires, who are happy to promote the work of people funded by the same class(16). One of the few outlets they don’t own – the BBC – has been disgracefully incurious about the identity of those to whom it gives a platform.

By these means the ultra-rich come to dominate the political conversation, without declaring themselves(17,18). Those they employ are clever and well-trained. They have money their opponents can only dream of. They are skilled at rechannelling the public anger which might otherwise have been directed at their funders: the people who have tanked the economy, who use the living planet as their dustbin, who won’t pay their taxes and who demand that the poor must pay for the mistakes of the rich. Anger, thanks to the work of these hired hands, is instead aimed at the victims or opponents of the billionaires: people on benefits, the trade unions, Greenpeace, the American Civil Liberties Union.

The answer, as ever, is transparency. As the so-called thinktanks come to play an ever more important role in politics, we need to know who they are working for. Any group – whether the Institute of Economic Affairs or Friends of the Earth – which attempts to influence public life should declare all donations greater than £1000. We’ve had a glimpse of who’s paying. Now we need to see the rest of the story.

– To the original and its references:  

Anonymous Hacks US Government Site, Threatens Supreme ‘Warheads’

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

– This YouTube video makes for interesting viewing and it sets out a number of  grievances Anonymous has with the U.S. government’s escalating abuses of the rights of U.S. citizens.   It’s well worth a watch.

– Will it cause the U.S. government to change its ways?   I doubt it.  Most of the people involved on the U.S. government side are simple people doing their jobs who haven’t the courage or the imagination to see that the jobs they are increasingly doing are not in defense of the principles upon which the U.S. was founded but rather in defense of those powerful forces who are in the processing of capturing the U.S. system for their own gains.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

The hacktivist group Anonymous hacked the U.S. federal sentencing website early Saturday, [January 26th, 2013] using the page to make a brazen and boisterous declaration of “war” on the U.S. government.

The group claims mysterious code-based “warheads,” named for each of the Supreme Court Justices, are about to be deployed.

As of midnight Pacific time, the front page of Ussc.gov — the Federal agency that establishes sentencing policies and practices for the Federal courts — is filled with a long screed in green on black, together with this YouTube video:  ➡

 – research thanks to Mashable

A Choice For Corporate America: Are You With America Or The Cayman Islands

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

By Senator Bernie Sanders
February 9, 2013

When the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the largest financial institutions in the United States took every advantage of being American. They just loved their country – and the willingness of the American people to provide them with the largest bailout in world history. In 2008, Congress approved a $700 billion gift to Wall Street. Another $16 trillion in virtually zero interest loans and other financial assistance came from the Federal Reserve. America. What a great country.

But just two years later, as soon as these giant financial institutions started making record-breaking profits again, they suddenly lost their love for their native country. At a time when the nation was suffering from a huge deficit, largely created by the recession that Wall Street caused, the major financial institutions did everything they could to avoid paying American taxes by establishing shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.

On and on it goes. Wall Street banks and large companies love America when they need corporate welfare. But when it comes to paying American taxes or American wages, they want nothing to do with this country. That has got to change.

Offshore tax abuse is not just limited to Wall Street. Each and every year corporations and the wealthy are avoiding more than $100 billion in U.S. taxes by sheltering their income offshore.

Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Pfizer have fought to make it illegal for the American people to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe. But, during tax season, Eli Lilly and Pfizer shift drug patents and profits to the Netherlands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Apple wants all of the advantages of being an American company, but it doesn’t want to pay American taxes or American wages. It creates the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod, and iTunes in the United States, but manufactures most of its products in China so it doesn’t have to pay American wages. Then it shifts most of its profits to Ireland, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Without such maneuvers, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States would have been $2.4 billion higher in 2011.

Offshore tax schemes have become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.

This tax avoidance does not just reduce the revenue that we need to pay for education, healthcare, roads, and environmental protection, it is also costing us millions of American jobs. Today, companies are using these same tax schemes to lower their tax bills by shipping American jobs and factories abroad. These tax breaks have contributed to the loss of more than 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and the closure of more than 56,000 factories since 2000. That also has got to change.

At a time when we have a $16.5 trillion national debt; at a time when roughly one-quarter of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high; it is past time for Wall Street and corporate America to pay their fair share.

That’s what the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act (S.250) that I have introduced with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is all about.

This legislation will stop profitable Wall Street banks and corporations from sheltering profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It will also stop rewarding companies that ship jobs and factories overseas with tax breaks. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated in the past that the provisions in this bill will raise more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade.

As Congress debates deficit reduction, it is clear that we must raise significant new revenue. At 15.8 percent of GDP, federal revenue is at almost the lowest point in 60 years. Our Republican colleagues want to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, the veterans and the most vulnerable by making massive cuts. At a time when the middle class already is disappearing, that is not only a grossly immoral position, it is bad economics.

We have a much better idea. Wall Street and the largest corporations in the country must begin to pay their fair share of taxes. They must not be able to continue hiding their profits offshore and shipping American jobs overseas to avoid taxes.

Here’s the simple truth. You can’t be an American company only when you want a massive bailout from the American people. You have also got to be an American company, and pay your fair share of taxes, as we struggle with the deficit and adequate funding for the needs of the American people. If Wall Street and corporate America don’t agree, the next time they need a bailout let them go to the Cayman Islands, let them go to Bermuda, let them go to the Bahamas and let them ask those countries for corporate welfare.

 

Audit Says Kabul Bank Began as ‘Ponzi Scheme’

Friday, December 28th, 2012

– This is how well the ‘nation building’ in Afghanistan is going.   Oh, American tax money well spent!   

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

KABUL, Afghanistan — Kabul Bank became Afghanistan’s largest financial institution by offering the promise of modern banking to people who had never had a saving or checking account. What it really dealt in was modern theft: “From its very beginning,” according to a confidential forensic audit of Kabul Bank, “the bank was a well-concealed Ponzi scheme.”

Afghan and American officials had for years promoted Kabul Bank as a prime example of how Western-style banking was transforming a war-ravaged economy. But the audit, prepared this year for Afghanistan’s central bank by the Kroll investigative firm, gives new details of how the bank instead was institutionalizing fraud that reached into the hundreds of millions of dollars and obliterated Afghans’ trust after regulators finally seizedthe bank in August 2010 and the theft was revealed.

Going further than previous reports, the audit asserts that Kabul Bank had little reason to exist other than to allow anarrow clique tied to President Hamid Karzai’s government to siphon riches from depositors, who were the bank’s only substantial source of revenue.

At one point, Kroll’s investigators found 114 rubber stamps for fake companies used to give forged documents a more legitimate look. And the auditing firms used by the bank never took issue with loan books that were “almost entirely fraudulent,” Kroll found, recommending that the Afghan government explore suing the last such auditor, A.F. Ferguson & Co., a private Pakistani firm with a franchise under PricewaterhouseCoopers.

When Afghan regulators, aided by American officials, first discovered the extent of the fraud at the bank in the summer of 2010, “we never imagined that the criminality was as deep as it was, that it was so widespread and that it included high-ranking officials and their relatives,” said Abdul Qadeer Fitrat, at the time the governor of the Bank of Afghanistan, the country’s central bank.

“At the beginning, I received information from the U.S. Embassy that maybe $150 million or $200 million is gone in bad loans to powerful people,” he said. The number soon climbed close to $900 million, though “we did not know who took the loans and that they were all tied to a few individuals.”

What Kroll’s audit found is that on Aug. 31, 2010, the day the Bank of Afghanistan seized Kabul Bank, more than 92 percent of the lender’s loan portfolio — $861 million, or roughly 5 percent of Afghanistan’s annual economic output at the time — had gone to 19 related people and companies, according to the audit.

– More…

 

New Zealand’s move towards privatizing some prisons

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

– It’s not a good idea.   Data from the U.S., which has been doing this for some time, is bad.   The article, below, is an example of what is happening there.

– Dennis

– To the article…

Stigmatize the Money

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

– Good article over at Truthout on the subject of how big money corrupts American politics and what one alternative to the system might look like.

– Dennis

– To the article…

Regarding the influence of right-wing media on governments…

Monday, May 28th, 2012

– Saw this quote by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair this morning in an article in the New Zealand Herald:

“Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that he couldn’t stand up to the Britain’s media tycoons while in power, telling an official media ethics inquiry that doing so could have dragged his administration into a political quagmire.”

– These big news organizations are, themselves, just one part of the multi-national corporations who are intent on controlling governments and their actions and laws for the ultimate benefit of the corporations themselves.   They influence governments, as shown here.  They take over mass media such as newspapers, radio and television to use them to promulgate their self serving propaganda,   And, for those who are following the Net Neutrality (, , , and ) debates and skirmishes, they are also seeking to control the Internet for their own benefit as well.

– And the irony is that most people do not know this is all going on and, when told, will deny it.

– Wake up people!   The thieves of your freedoms are in the house and well past your locked doors.

– Dennis

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that he couldn’t stand up to the Britain’s media tycoons while in power, telling an official media ethics inquiry that doing so could have dragged his administration into a political quagmire.

Blair’s testimony, briefly interrupted by a heckler who burst into the courtroom to call him a war criminal, shed light on the canny media strategy used to create the “New Labour” image that repackaged his party as more mainstream and business friendly, bringing it back to power after 18 years in opposition.

Blair, who was premier from 1997 to 2007, enjoyed strong press support in his early years, including backing from media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s influential newspapers. But he found himself isolated near the end of his decade in power due in large part to his unpopular decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The greying ex-prime minister said he long had concerns about what he once described as the “feral beasts” of the media but had to tread carefully where press barons were concerned.

– More…

 

Housing NZ head questioned over trips

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

– This is the kind of insider trash that goes on in the U.S. all the time.  I.e., folks work in the government agency that regulates an industry, they meet with folks from that industry, they get cosy with them, then new laws, favorable to the industry, are passed and then the individuals involved leave government service and end up on the boards of the industries they previously regulated.

– I would have hoped that New Zealand was smarter than this but this story would indicate not.

– Dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Two former senior Housing New Zealand executives went on a $35,000 trip to visit a software company in Britain just months before both quit Housing NZ and set up a private company which went into partnership with the same software company.

Labour housing spokeswoman Annette King yesterday questioned Housing NZ chief executive Lesley McTurk about a trip to London and Canada in June 2011 by Stephen McArthur and Roy Baker. The two were senior executives at Housing NZ who left soon afterward to set up their own consultancy firm, Tinakori.

The trip to London was for a conference held by Northgate – a software company Housing NZ has contracted for a major part of an $80 million IT upgrade. Northgate is now also a partner for Tinakori which was set up in February this year. Mr McArthur left HNZ in August 2011 and Mr Baker left in December 2011. Both are now directors of Tinakori.

Mr McArthur was the chief operating officer of Housing New Zealand and Mr Baker was the chief financial officer – both had significant roles in the IT project’s development.

Ms King asked Ms McTurk if she was aware the pair intended to leave Housing NZ when she approved the travel costs and whether there were questions about conflicts of interest.

Ms McTurk said she had no knowledge at that point that they planned to leave and believed it was appropriate the pair went to the conference given their role with the IT upgrade.

– to the original story…