Follow the money
Tag Archives: offshore
Great story by Barron’s on Russian tax officials and cops involved in a 230 million USD scam. An intricate web of offshore companies is involved and several people died in “Russian” circumstances. The whistle blower who brought light in the case, Sergei Magnitsky, died in jail where he was interrogated by the same people he was accusing. Interestingly enough the same group of offshore company formation agents, GT Group, that the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reported on are involved in the case. Latvian banks have again been used as in many other instances where major fraud and money laundering schemes have been pulled off.
This short video tutorial explains how to find out if citizens of your own country are involved with companies based in the offshore haven of Panama. All it takes is a little creativity and the Daniel O’Huiginn’s scraped database of Panama companies. This is a follow up to a previous video tutorial that indicates how to navigate the more complicated Panama official registry of companies. Happy fishing!
About two weeks ago I posted a blog entry and a video tutorial on how to get corporate records from the official Panama registry of companies. It turns out there is an even better way to look for data on Panama based companies. Dan O’Huiginn created an awesome tool that adds functionality to Panama company searches and allows investigators to also search by names of companies’ directors. The official database only allows searches by companies’ names. O’Huiginn scraped the database, re-indexed it and posted it online here: http://ohuiginn.net/panama The added functionality allows you to search by names of directors, find out the names of companies they own and then go back to the official registry to get the official records.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (www.reportingproject.net) just published, in Romania, an investigation uncovering the ultimate beneficiaries of a number of offshore based companies. These ultimate owners are controversial politicians and businessmen. Some of them are indicted for organized crime activities or financial fraud. It’s the first time in Eastern Europe that ownership of offshore entities is revealed through documents and a lot of digging. Mihai Munteanu of OCCRP extensively used resources attached to the Investigative Dashboard and combed through thousands of documents in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The investigation was published by www.hotnews.ro and, in the first few hours, attracted more than 10,000 readers. An English version to follow on www.reportingproject.net
Mauritius, a small island off the southeast coast of Africa known for its offshore status, for money laundering and for being a transshipment point for South Asian heroine, vowed to clean up its act. The Mauritian government says it will enact its first asset recoveryˆ legislation in April. According to the International Association for Asset Recovery, the island has been long criticized by foreign governments for the lack of transparency in providing data on beneficial ownership of locally established companies. According to the same source: “Eva Joly, president of the European Parliament’s Development Committee, said: <<It’s a mystery that Mauritius wasn’t listed on any of the 2009 watch-lists for [corruption]. There is no requirement for accounts to be audited, no public register of companies, and above all there is the possibility to use nominees to obscure assets.>> She cited a 2008 study that found <<nine people who administer 1,500 companies, which makes economists burst out laughing.>>”
Similarly, French investigative magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke joked that despite the proposed changes, “I recommend Mauritius to those with dirty money to launder. Whenever a judge asks for information from Mauritius during an investigation, there’s no response.”
For now, the official website of the Mauritius government only provides information on the requirements for establishing a company but doesn’t offer any possibility of identifying companies through an online registry of companies.
The website of a major offshore formation agent lists a comparison chart between offshore havens. Important points in this chart are why to choose, for example, Panama over other offshore jurisdictions. Secrecy is the word of the day and by studying this chart you’ll be able to understand why criminals and crooked politicians choose offshore havens as their operational base.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP) investigated the world of offshores. Offshore Crime, Inc reveals how criminals have used offshore companies as fronts for drug trafficking, money laundering, weapon smuggling, monopolizing industries, privatization fraud and corrupting politicians and government officials. Worldwide, they are used by Mexican drug lords to launder money, terrorism groups to wage war, Iran and North Korea to evade sanctions and run guns and a host of other criminal acts yet undiscovered.
The investigative series is work in progress with new important findings to be published next week. All we can tell is that, in complete legality, OCCRP reporters managed to obtain bank records of some of the most important players in the offshore company formation turf