Panama Papers: A Shot Heard Round The World

April 5, 2016

Standing on Shaky Ground

An anonymous person has leaked more than 11 million documents documenting how the rich and powerful hide their money in offshore tax havens. The documents were published Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper, and several news organizations around the world, including the BBC, after a yearlong investigation. The actions described in the documents are not necessarily illegal, but some of the documents reveal a clandestine web of shell companies, their real owners concealed under layers of secrecy, and connections to firms in different tax havens. A coalition of more than 100 news organizations published a review of the documents yesterday. USA Today describes the treasure trove,

The cache exposes assets of everyone from political officials to billionaires to celebrities to sports stars that were previously undisclosed. The documents expose holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials worldwide. Included: At least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of links to wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist groups or rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran. According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the Munich-based newspaper that obtained the trove of documents more than a year ago from an anonymous source tied to Mossack Fonseca [a law firm in Panama with 40 offices around the world], the “Panama Papers” include approximately 11.5 million documents — more than the combined total of the Wikileaks Cablegate, Offshore Leaks, Lux Leaks and Swiss Leaks.

The leak of documents shows how the rich and famous can exploit offshore tax shelters and reveals an unprecedented pattern of corruption worldwide for 40 years, including maneuvers by major banks who created the hard-to-trace companies. World leaders or associates who have embraced anti-corruption platforms are featured throughout. The papers also allege a billion-dollar money laundering ring run by a Russian bank tied to associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Difficult at this point to determine who violated any laws. Tax avoidance is a lawful standard-operating procedure for the rich. Tax evasion, however, and money laundering are crimes. The use of multiple transactions by shell companies that consist of little more than a name and a P.O. box, together with nominee owners who conceal the real parties in interest is inherently suspicious. Mossack Fonseca, the Panama law firm, specializes in creating opaque financial transactions involving equally opaque offshore banks.

Sorting through it all is going to take some time.


Is George Zimmerman About to be Charged with Perjury?

June 26, 2012

We have a bond hearing coming up on Friday, but I do not believe Zimmerman has a realistic chance to get bail. The recorded jailhouse telephone calls leave no doubt that he and his wife conspired to conceal the $155,000 that they had at their disposal when they were claiming indigency. She actually lied under oath in court and there is little doubt her husband put her up to it.

Then there is the troubling matter of the passport . . .

She cannot testify because she is charged with perjury and her lawyer will advise her not to testify because anything she might say can and most assuredly will be used against her.

He is in the same position, even though he is not charged with perjury, yet.

That’s right, folks.

Just because he has not been charged with perjury, does not mean that he won’t be charged.

So let’s take a look at the subject of accomplice liability for criminal behavior.

Section 2.06(3) of the Model Penal Code defines an accomplice:

A person is an accomplice of another person in the commission of a crime if:

(a) with the purpose of promoting or facilitating the commission of the offense, he

(i) solicits such other person to commit it; or

(ii) aids or agrees or attempts to aid such other person in planning or committing it; or

(iii) having a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offense, fails to make proper effort so to do; or

(b) his conduct is expressly declared by law to establish his complicity.

By now, I think most of us have listened to the recorded jailhouse conversations between GZ and SZ. Although I do not recall a conversation in which GZ and SZ specifically discussed a strategy to use in court to conceal the $155,000 he had received in donations to his PayPal account, there is no question that, pursuant to his instructions, she moved all of that money around in amounts less than $10,000 each time between three accounts (theirs and his sister’s) during the four-day period before the bond hearing.

When she was questioned at the bond hearing regarding whether she could estimate how much money was in the PayPal account, she responded that she had no idea. That response is the basis for the perjury charge.

The issue is whether GZ acted as her accomplice. If he did, he also committed perjury and is just as responsible as his wife under the law, even though he is not the one who lied in court.

To successfully prosecute GZ for perjury, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, for the purpose of concealing the $155,000 asset from the court in order to be found indigent at the bond hearing, he solicited or aided SZ to deny the existence of that asset while testifying as a witness under oath at the bond hearing.

The unusual machinations with the money by themselves demonstrate an effort to conceal the money, albeit an unsophisticated one. For example, bank to bank transfers do not meet the definition of currency. Therefore, there is no legal requirement imposed on a bank or credit union to report transactions exceeding $10,000 to the IRS. If SZ had transferred the entire $155,000 in one transaction, the credit union would not have generated a Currency Transaction Report to the IRS.

By structuring the transaction in amounts less than $10,000 however, the credit union would have generated a Suspicious Activity Report to the IRS, which likely will investigate what happened.

The final ironic twist is that the $155,000 is a non-taxable gift to GZ.

They went to all of that trouble to conceal the money and only succeeded in drawing unnecessary attention to themselves.

The question is, did they go to all that trouble to conceal the money from the IRS or did they do it to conceal the money from the court, or both?

Moving the money around coupled with the lie in court indicates both.

I think the prosecution needs SZ’s cooperation to prosecute GZ for perjury, so I believe it will be willing to play let’s make a deal with her to nail him by providing the evidence that proves the shared intent element of accomplice liability.

That brings me back to the two passports.

Were they planning a quick trip out of the country with the money, if the case started to go sideways? For example, were they planning to to wait and see how the SYG hearing went and if GZ lost, were they going split?

Then again, maybe they were just attempting to conceal the money from the lawyer, who was being an incredibly nice guy for taking the case on a pro bono basis because he liked GZ and believed they did not have any money.

Do you think SZ decided on her own to lie to the court?

Will she snitch to avoid a felony conviction and a likely prison sentence?

If she flips, do you think the deal might come together before the bond hearing?

I imagine the prosecution certainly would love to flip her before the hearing this Friday because it would guarantee that Judge Lester would deny GZ’s motion for bond and enormously complicate his already shaky defense against the murder charge.


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