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Is the cellist an oligarch?

JohnLeCarre_TinkerTailorSoldierSpy

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy

Publisher’s Note: Not since revelations from Wikileaks and Edward Snowden has so much secret material been released to ordinary people around the world, this time about tax evasion of the super rich.

Wikileaks informed us of the shocking killing of innocents in Iraq by gun crazed American soldiers shooting willfully from helicopters.

Citizen Four revealed the pervasive monitoring of people throughout the West by US National Security Agency aided by telecommunications companies. Surveillance is spared no one, not even the mobile phone of Chancellor of Germany,  Ankela Merkel.

Now, if you believe revelations from the Panama Papers, a Russian cellist, godfather to Putin’s daughter, is an oligarch socking away billions in offshore tax havens. The cellist, Sergey Roldugin, is a close friend of President of Russia, Vladmir Putin.

Or is Roldugin merely interested in musical instruments?
Sound a bit like John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?
Surely George Smiley would have got to the bottom of it?

Here is a review of the Panama Papers compiled by Ray Bergmann. He relies mainly on Tyler Durden’s work and is quoting from his articles.

Ian Curr
April 2016

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7296736-3x2-700x467Review of the Panama Papers
It is unlikely that the really shocking dirty linen of Capitalism will be exposed by media and intelligence agencies dropping titbits from the Panama Papers.

Mossack Fonseca had over 400 American clients and McClatchy reports, “the passports of at least 200 Americans show up in this week’s massive leak of secret data on secretive offshore shell companies.” [http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article69943337.html]

And yet, given the high-profile nature of some of the foreign names in the leaks “many of the Americans seem like small fish.” Perhaps few Americans used Panama to hide their shady dealings; perhaps that was as intended.

This ICIJ mob covered themselves legally at the bottom of their “Power Players” article by stating:

“There are legitimate uses for offshore companies, foundations and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Power Players interactive application have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”[https://panamapapers.icij.org/the_power_players/]

Tyler Durden writes at http://www.zerohedge.com/print/528207: “the United States … has become the world’s favourite offshore “tax haven” destination.”

And Bloomberg reports:

“Panama and the U.S. have at least one thing in common: Neither has agreed to new international standards to make it harder for tax evaders and money launderers to hide their money.”

In “Mossack Fonseca: The Nazi, CIA And Nevada Connections … And Why It’s Now Rothschild’s Turn

Tyler Durden writes:

For all the media excitement about the disclosed names in the “Panama Papers” leak, in this case represented by the extensive list of Mossack Fonseca clients, this is not a story about which super wealthy individuals did everything in their power, both legal and illegal, to avoid taxes, preserve their financial anonymity, and generally preserve their wealth. After all, that’s what they do, and it should not come as a surprise that they will always do that, especially following last year’s disclosure by the same ICIJ which revealed a list of 100,000 HSBC clients who had been dutifully avoiding the payment of taxes. What the story is about is the nebulous world of offshore tax evasion and tax havens, which based on data from the World Bank, IMF, UN, and central banks, hide between $21 and $32 trillion, where registered incorporation agents and law firms in small Caribbean countries (and not so small US states) make the laundering of money and the “disappearance” of the super wealthy, into untraceable numbers hidden behind shell companies, possible.

So, in order to learn some more about the real star of this story, the Panamanian lawfirm of Mossack Fonseca, Tyler Durden went to Fusion which has compiled a fascinating story of the company’s history, founders, and key milestone events in its life. [http://interactive.fusion.net/dirty-little-secrets/index.html]

You can read the stories about these including the Nazis, the CIA, Mexican drug lords, and of course, the U.S. there and at http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-04-03/mossack-fonseca-nazi-cia-and-nevada-connections-and-why-its-now-rothschilds-turn where Tyler Durden ends his essay thus:

“And, to top it off, there is one specific firm which is spearheading the conversion of the U.S. into Panama: Rothschild.”

Rothschild, the centuries-old European financial institution, has opened a trust company in Reno, Nev., a few blocks from the Harrah’s and Eldorado casinos. It is now moving the fortunes of wealthy foreign clients out of offshore havens such as Bermuda, subject to the new international disclosure requirements, and into Rothschild-run trusts in Nevada, which are exempt.

For financial advisers, the current state of play is simply a good business opportunity. In a draft of his San Francisco presentation, Rothschild’s Penney wrote that the U.S.

“is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world.” The U.S., he added in language later excised from his prepared remarks, lacks “the resources to enforce foreign tax laws and has little appetite to do so.”

Yes, Mossack Fonseca may now be history, and its countless uberwealthy clients exposed, but none other than Rothschild is now delighted to be able to fill its rather large shoes.

In fact, someone with a conspiratorial bent may decide that the dramatic takedown of the Panama “offshoring” industry was nothing more than a hit designed to crush the competition of domestic “tax haven” providers … such as Rothschild.

The last few days days have been rife with speculation about the motivation, if any, behind the release of the Panama Papers, with the most prominent example coming from Wikileaks two days ago on Twitter which accused the journalist consortium behind the leak, the ICIJ, of being a “Washington DC based Ford, Soros funded soft-power tax-dodge which has a WikiLeaks problem” and adding that “Panama Papers Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID & Soros.”

As we further suggested, the fact that none other than Rothschild, which is trying to corner the US-based “tax haven” sector, stands to benefit from the collapse of the Panama offshoring industry (as international clients who demand to maintain their anonymous status are forced to move to the US), may lead to further questions about a potential conflict of interest behind said release.

But while these and many other questions will remain unanswered, including why the ICIJ is cherrypicking which names to release especially as pertains to US clients of the Panamanian law firm, earlier today Russian president Putin made his first public announcement on the topic of the Panama Papers. [http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-04-07/putin-denounces-panama-papers-us-plot-destabilize-russia]

According to AP, Putin denied having any links to offshore accounts and described the Panama Papers document leaks scandal as “part of a U.S.-led plot to weaken Russia.” Putin described the allegations as part of the U.S.-led disinformation campaign waged against Russia in order to weaken its government. “They are trying to destabilize us from within in order to make us more compliant,” he said. “You are all journalists here and you know what an informational product is… They’ve plowed through offshore [funds]. [Putin] is not there, there is nothing to talk about. But the task has been assigned! So what have they done? They’ve created an informational product by having found some acquaintances and friends,” the president told the media forum.

Putin defended Roldugin, describing him as a philanthropist who spent his own funds to buy rare musical instruments for Russian state collections. Speaking at a media forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said Western media pushed the claims of his involvement in offshore businesses even though his name didn’t feature in any of the documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm. Putin said Roldugin, a longtime friend, did nothing wrong. He said he was proud of Roldugin, adding that the musician spent his personal money to advance cultural projects. Roldugin used the money he earned as a minority shareholder of a Russian company to buy rare musical instruments abroad and hand them over to the Russian state. “I am proud of people like Sergey Pavlovich [Roldugin] … and am proud to have him among my friends,” Putin said, adding that claims that the cellist has billions are nonsense. “Almost all money that he has earned he spent on buying music instruments abroad, which he then brought to Russia” and gave them to state institutions, Putin said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, who was explicitly named in the ICIJ leaks, had to be defended by Rothschild. As the FT writes, Rothschild Trust, a branch of Rothschild Wealth Management & Trust, on Thursday confirmed signing what it described as a transparent trust arrangement agreement to manage the assets of Petro Poroshenko, “an oligarch with business interests spanning from chocolates to television who was elected president of Ukraine following the 2013-2014 Maidan revolution.”

The emailed statement follows reports and claims of possible impropriety by Mr Poroshenko in setting up a British Virgin Islands-registered company, writes Roman Olearchyk in Kiev. Documents leaked from Panama’s law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed Mr Poroshenko’s registration of a BVI-registered offshore company.

In an emailed statement seemingly aimed to dispel concerns, the Zurich-based company said:

As a matter of principle, we never comment on individuals or client relationships, but on this occasion we have been authorized by our client to confirm that Rothschild Trust has been appointed by Mr Poroshenko as trustee of a blind trust to hold his shares in Roshen. This follows over 12 months of extensive preparation, and the relevant trust deed was signed on 14th January 2016. The trust has been modelled on international standards for politicians requiring trusts to hold their assets while they are in office.

Despite his name explicitly appearing in the ICIJ files, Poroshenko has gotten zero media attention across western countries. We wonder if Rothschild will pen comparable “explanation letters” for other oligarchs or pundits who tend to have a pro-Western bent?

Tyler Durden points out that “Days After Iceland’s PM Resigns Over “Panama Papers”, Its Bankers Are Released From Jail Years Early” at http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-04-07/case-closed-icelands-bankers-released-jail-years-early: How very ironic. Over the weekend, just hours before the Panama Papers were released, we wrote a post that took “A Look Inside Iceland’s Kviabryggja Prison: The One Place Where Criminal Bankers Face Consequences.”

And then, minutes later, the Panama Papers were disclosed by the ICIJ, which had a clear target: to “expose” the “circle of friends close to Putin” (and to Assad), and of course, to reveal the dirty laundry of the Iceland Prime Minister, who resigned just two days after his shady offshore tax dealing were revealed to the world.

There was some “conspiratorial” speculation whether the explicit hit on ex-PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was precisely due to Iceland’s crackdown on the country’s criminal bankers. As a reminder, Iceland is the only nation that sent bankers found guilty of crimes resulting from the financial crisis, to prison.

It turns out there may have been something valid in said speculation, because moments ago, Iceland Monitor reported that three bankers from the defunct Iceland bank Kaupthing are to be released from jail today –after serving just one year of their 5-year sentences. Magnús Guðmundsson, Ólafur Ólafsson and Sigurður Einarsson were three of four men jailed in 2015 in the so-called ‘Al-Thani case’ on charges of breach of trust and market abuse.

Sigurður Einarsson, former chairman at Kaupþing, received a sentence of four years, while Magnús Guðmundsson, former CEO of Kaupthing Luxembourg, and Ólafur Ólafsson, who was the bank’s second largest shareholder at the time, both received a sentence of four and a half years. They will be taken to a halfway house today, where they will be fitted with ankle tags and released under electronic supervision.

Case closed, but the question lingers: is (one of the reasons for the selective exposure of high profile individuals in) the Panama Papers … a warning to anyone in government who dares to put bankers in prison to make sure that their own financial documents are in pristine condition, or else?

U.S. Treasury officials have flagged the cousin of the Syrian president, Rami Makhlouf as a ‘regime insider’ who is found on a sanction list sanctioned by the U.S. and UK for dealing with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Not very surprising!

Ray Bergmann
April 2016

 

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