American names surface in Panama Papers
Hundreds of American executives have been identified in the Panama Papers including some who have been accused or convicted by U.S. authorities for ties to Ponzi schemes. The identities of the Americans emerged from the treasure trove of documents obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and hundreds of other media organizations. Perhaps few Americans used Panama to hide their shady dealings; perhaps that was as intended.
There are at least 200 scanned individual U.S. passports. Some appear to be American retirees purchasing real estate in places like Costa Rica and Panama. Also in the database, about 3,500 shareholders of offshore companies who list U.S. addresses. And almost 3,100 companies are tied to offshore professionals based in Miami, New York, and other parts of the United States. some U.S. citizens enjoy dual citizenship and open accounts under foreign passports. Among those companies is the Russian Sberbank, whose U.S. investment banking branch recently enlisted the services of the Podesta Group.
According to its lobbying registration form, the firm will work on banking, trade, and foreign relations issues. One of the three lobbyists working on the account is Tony Podesta, a bundler for the Clinton campaign and the brother of campaign chairman John Podesta, who co-founded the firm. Others appeared to be American retirees purchasing real estate in places like Costa Rica and Panama. Some of those identified include:
- Benjamin Wey , a Wall Street financier, was charged in September with securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering for using family members to help him stealthily amass ownership of larger blocks of stock in companies through so-called “reverse merger” transactions
- Igor Olenicoff, the Russian-born billionaire and commercial real estate mogul, was listed as a shareholder of Olen Oil Management Limited in the leaked data. He was sentenced in 2007 to two years of probation for tax evasion and forced to pay a $52 million fine for failing to declare more than $200 million stashed in offshore shell companies. Olenicoff’s California-based firm owns thousands of residential and commercial properties.
- Robert Miracle, of Bellevue, Wash., was sentenced in 2011 to 13 years in prison and three years of supervised release for mail fraud and tax evasion for his part in a $65 million Ponzi scheme involving an Indonesia oilfield.
- John Michael “Red” Crim was convicted in Philadelphia in 2008, along with two associates, for being part of a plot in which he recruited investors to use phony trusts to cheat the IRS out of $10 million in revenue.
The scope of the activity exposed so far is disturbing. Current and former heads of state have been implicated in the leaks, raising serious questions about the source of the money. The documents also connect celebrities and wealthy individuals to the Panama-based law firm.