The Pandora Papers are Exposing Corruption of World Leaders

A HUGE hat tip to the investigative journalists over the intensive and dedicated work on exposing tax evaders and money laundering across the globe.The Big Picture: Real estate in some of the world’s most coveted neighborhoods is owned by anonymous companies registered in notoriously secretive jurisdictions, like the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Behind many of these offshore firms are political elites — including heads of state — who are often trying to avoid taxes or, in some cases, launder money.

?? Dictator’s Family in London: Family and close associates of Azerbaijan’s president — including his teenage children — secretly purchased $700 million worth of London real estate. Read more.

?? Czech PM in France: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš set up a British Virgin Islands company in 2009 that secretly loaned €15 million to other shell companies he owned in the U.S. and Monaco. The money was eventually used to buy luxury French real estate. Read More.

?? Zelensky’s Offshore Network: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, who won Ukraine’s presidency on an anti-corruption platform, was co-owner of an offshore network. Even now, his family appears to still be able to profit from one of the companies. Read More.

?? Russian Money in Croatia: The family of a wealthy Croatian tycoon with ties to Vladimir Putin secretly took over a real estate developer. The family then funnelled suspicious funds from a Russian pipeline company to this real estate firm, using an opaque trust. Read More.

?? Kazakh Oligarchs and a ‘Tokal’: Two oligarchs are linked to $30 million worth of transfers to the alleged unofficial third wife (or tokal) of Kazakhstan’s former president, who remains arguably the most powerful man in the country. Read More.

?? Serbian PEP’s Properties: When our Serbian colleagues reported that Siniša Mali, then the mayor of Belgrade, had bought 24 properties on Bulgaria’s coast, he denied the allegations and offered a challenge: “If you determine I’m the owner of these apartments, they’re all yours…”

Well, the Pandora Papers prove he is the properties’ owner, without a shadow of doubt. We’re still waiting for the keys. Read More.

Other finds in the data: ?? A Slovenian cosmetics fraudster.


OCCRP was one of 150 media outlets to investigate leaked documents from 14 service providers. Here are some highlights from our colleagues outside of the OCCRP network. 

?? Tony Blair’s Taxes: Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in property taxes when acquiring a London office building from an offshore company. Read more in the Guardian.

?? Kenyan Dynasty: The family of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta secretly owned a web of offshore companies in Panama and the BVI. Read more in Finance Uncovered. 

?? Pakistan PM’s Inner Circle: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has surrounded himself with people who have secret holdings hidden offshore. Read more in ICIJ. 

?? King of Jordan in the U.S. and U.K.: Jordan’s long-ruling monarch King Abdullah II has secretly owned 14 luxury homes in the U.K and the U.S., which he purchased through front companies registered in notorious tax havens. Read more in ICIJ.

? Latin American PEPs: One of Central America’s most prestigious law firms, Alcogal, set up offshore companies for 160 politicians and public officials — including some accused of looting their own countries. Read more at ICIJ.


?? Pakistan: Prime Minister Khan welcomed the Pandora Papers in a tweet, vowing to investigate citizens named in the investigation.

?? Czech Republic: The Czech national police announced they will “act upon” the Pandora Papers’ revelations into the prime minister, who is up for reelection this week.

?? Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s anti-corruption commission will reportedly investigate the assets of any politician named in the Pandora Papers, which includes ex-minister Nirupama Rajapaksa.

Find more impact at ICIJ

The U.S. government has long condemned prominent offshore financial centers, where liberal rules and guarantees of discretion have drawn oligarchs, business tycoons and politicians.

But a burgeoning American trust industry is increasingly sheltering the assets of international millionaires and billionaires by promising levels of protection and secrecy that rival or surpass those offered in overseas tax havens. That shield, which is near-absolute, has insulated the industry from meaningful oversight and allowed it to forge new footholds in U.S. states.

Explore the latest stories in our groundbreaking Pandora Papers investigation:

Odebrecht Files for Bankruptcy Protection

When a huge global construction conglomerate like Odebrecht ends up in a John Podesta email released by Wikileaks, one should take some notice, right?

Odebrecht, the Brazilian company that is synonymous with corruption, decided to file for bankruptcy protection on Monday after years of graft scandals and trials involving top Latin American businessmen and politicians. Founded in 1944 as a construction company, Odebrecht expanded into the chemical and energy industries to become one of Brazil’s largest conglomerates. It counts among its building achievements the Miami International Airport, the Lisbon metro, and Brazil’s Transnordestina railway. At one point, its global success was seen to have symbolized Brazil’s economic boom.

In part published in 2017:

Odebrecht has confessed to paying $98 million in bribes to the governments of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and of his successor Nicolás Maduro over the last decade. If the allegations are true, Venezuela has received the most bribes from the construction group outside of Brazil. Next on the list is Panama with $59 million for which 17 executives and former officials have been charged while President Juan Carlos Varela has been accused. Varela, who had been advocating for proposed charges to be filed, became implicated in February by one of the partners of Mossack Fonseca —the law firm at the center of last year’s Panama Papers scandal —who said Varela admitted to him he accepted bribes from Odebrecht, accusations Varela has denied. Peruvian authorities, similarly to Varela, had been taking aggressive measures to fight Odebrecht-related corruption involving $30.4 million in bribes until their own names became implicated. Toledo, as well as former President Alan García, are being investigated by Operation Car Wash while a third former president, Ollanta Humala, has been implicated by Marcelo Odebrecht himself, but he has not been named in the investigations.

Notable projects in the U.S. include:

The first Brazilian company to complete a public project in the country, Odebrecht celebrates 20 years of operations in the United States in 2010. The construction company has completed 55 projects throughout its history and is currently present in Florida and Louisiana. In the country, Odebrecht has also been in California, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Odebrecht arrived to U.S. soil after it won the public bid to build a stretch of the Metromover, Miami’s above-ground subway. Soon after, in 1992, Odebrecht was responsible for building Route 56, a highway in the region of San Diego, California.
After these projects, the rhythm of the work continued to be intense. The following year, after winning the bid to work on the Santa Ana River chute, the company earned an important contract: The Seven Oaks Dam project in California, in the amount of US$ 168 million, with a construction period of 52 months. During this same year, 1993, the Company was responsible for the construction work on the Merrill Barber Bridge and the Golden Glades viaduct, which extends 2,464 meters to serve those who use the I-95 system, the federal highway that goes from Southern Florida to Canada. As a result of these experiences, Odebrecht was chosen to erect Garcon Point Bridge in Santa Rosa Bay, at the border between Florida and Alabama.
In the building construction area, Odebrecht was responsible for the American Airlines Arena, a sports and cultural complex in Miami, where it competed for the contract with major U.S. companies. It also built the Fortune House building, an apart hotel with 29 floors, the Ocean Steps building, with 15 residential floors, and the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne Resort & Spa, a residential hotel project.
One of the company’s main clients is Miami-Dade County – with projects in the sector of aviation and mass transportation. The partnership has existed since 1993, when the construction company was responsible for building the American Airlines cargo building. Currently, Odebrecht is responsible for expanding the North Terminals of the Miami International Airport, building the lightweight vehicle that will run on the tracks (Mia Mover) and extending the subway (Airport Link).
The North Terminal Development Program, which involves investments of US$ 2.85 billion, is the center of a bigger venture, worth US$ 6.2 billion, called the “Capital Improvement Program.” Undertaken by Miami-Dade County, it was developed with aims of expanding and improving the aviation system. The complete project includes 52 new gates, four train stations, new installations for the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services, 123 counters, 119 self-service kiosks, 72 federal inspection service posts and a new luggage system. In September, the Sky Train operation began running, connecting the ends of the four main areas of the North Terminal in under five minutes. It is estimated that the program will be completed in 2011, while the construction work for the South Terminal began in 2001 and was completed in 2007. The project included Concourse J, a lobby with 15 departure gates for national and international flights, Concourse H, which already existed and was modernized, as well as a patio that surrounds the area of these buildings.
Also at the Miami International Airport, Odebrecht is heading the construction of the MIA Mover, an automatic vehicle that runs on tracks and will connect the Miami International Airport (MIA) to the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC), a terminal that connects different transportation services. The development, the result of a US$ 256 million investment, will be completed in September 2011.
Another project underway is the construction of the Airport Link, which will connect MIC at the airport to the Earlington Heights subway station. With an investment of US$ 360 million, the project extends nearly four kilometers, with the construction of three subway substations, a bus stop and highway access points.
Odebrecht was also at the Orlando Airport, working on the North Transversal taxi strip and South Terminal Complex. The project also involved the construction of access ramps and new viaducts.
In New Orleans since 2006, Odebrecht won two new contracts in 2010 in the city. In August, it signed a contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers to undertake preventive construction work for floods. In May, the company began constructing four water pumping stations, with aims of preventing floods caused by hurricanes. Recently, the company also delivered projects at Cataouatche Lake and in the region of Chalmette, work designed to reconstruct and fortify containment dikes. The construction works are part of the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS), which consists of 250 different projects and involves total investments of US$ 15 billion.

Main Completed Projects
South Terminal of the Miami International Airport – Miami, Florida
Containment Dike at Lake Cataouatche – New Orleans, Louisiana
Containment Dike at Chalmette Loop – New Orleans, Louisiana
American Airlines Arena – Miami, Florida
Expansion of the FIU Football Stadium
Expansion of the Northeast Terminal of the Orlando International Airport – Miami, Florida
Seven Oaks Dam – San Bernardino, California
Carnival Center for the Performing Arts – Miami, Florida
Miami International Airport Dolphin Garage Building – Miami, Florida
M-DWASD Head Office – Coral Gables, Florida
South Road System Extension – Miami International Airport – Miami, Florida
Miami International Airport North Terminal Extension – Miami, Florida
Fine Air Hangar at the Miami International Airport – Miami, Florida
Metromover – Miami, Florida
Western “U” Apron at the Miami International Airport – Miami, Florida
Fort Lauderdale International Airport Yard – Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Merrill Barber Bridge – Vero Beach, Florida
Santa Rosa Bridge – Santa Rosa County, Florida
Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne Resort & Spa – Miami, Florida
Route 56 – San Diego, California
Miami International Airport Lobby “A” – Miami, Florida
American Airlines Terminal – Miami, Florida
Federal Express Terminal – Miami, Florida
Challenge Air Cargo Terminal – Miami, Florida
Miami International Airport Western “U” Cargo Terminal – Miami, Florida
Miami International Airport Control Tower – Miami, Florida
Golden Glades Viaduct – Miami, Florida

Odebrecht Organization
Founded in Bahia in 1944, Odebrecht Engenharia & Construção is currently the largest company in the sector in Latin America. With earnings of over R$ 18.7 billion in 2009, 70% of its revenues originate from projects abroad. It is present on the three Americas, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and employs some 87,000 people.
The company, which has already completed nearly 2,000 projects in 35 different countries, provides integrated services in the areas of engineering, supply, construction, assembly and management of projects in the civil construction, industrial and special technology areas. Odebrecht Engineering & Construction includes six companies, consolidated in 2010, based on the business or geographic area of operations: Odebrecht Energia, Odebrecht Industrial, Odebrecht Infraestrutura, Odebrecht Latin America and Angola, Odebrecht Venezuela and Odebrecht International.
In 2009, Odebrecht finished building the Doraleh container terminal in Djibuti, and started the construction work to rebuild over 240 km of railroad for Arcelor Mittal in Liberia. Among its current projects, worthy of note are the Tripoli Airport (Libya) and the construction of an ethanol plant in Ghana.

The Bribery Schemes

According to its admissions, Odebrecht engaged in a massive and unparalleled bribery and bid-rigging scheme for more than a decade, beginning as early as 2001. During that time, Odebrecht paid approximately $788 million in bribes to government officials, their representatives and political parties in a number of countries in order to win business in those countries. The criminal conduct was directed by the highest levels of the company, with the bribes paid through a complex network of shell companies, off-book transactions and off-shore bank accounts.

As part of the scheme, Odebrecht and its co-conspirators created and funded an elaborate, secret financial structure within the company that operated to account for and disburse bribe payments to foreign government officials and political parties. By 2006, the development and operation of this secret financial structure had evolved such that Odebrecht established the “Division of Structured Operations,” which effectively functioned as a stand-alone bribe department within Odebrecht and its related entities. Until approximately 2009, the head of the Division of Structured Operations reported to the highest levels within Odebrecht, including to obtain authorization to approve bribe payments. After 2009, this responsibility was delegated to certain company business leaders in Brazil and the other jurisdictions. To conceal its activities, the Division of Structured Operations utilized an entirely separate and off-book communications system, which allowed members of the Division of Structured Operations to communicate with one another and with outside financial operators and other co-conspirators about the bribes via secure emails and instant messages, using codenames and passwords.

The Division of Structured Operations managed the “shadow” budget for the Odebrecht bribery operation via a separate computer system that was used to request and process bribe payments as well as to generate and populate spreadsheets that tracked and internally accounted for the shadow budget. These funds for the company’s sophisticated bribery operation were generated by the Odebrecht Finance Department through a variety of methods, as well as by certain Odebrecht subsidiaries, including Braskem. The funds were then funneled by the Division of Structured Operations to a series of off-shore entities that were not included on Odebrecht’s balance sheet as related entities. The Division of Structured Operations then directed the disbursement of the funds from the off-shore entities to the bribe recipient, through the use of wire transfers through one or more of the off-shore entities, as well as through cash payments both inside and outside Brazil, which were sometimes delivered using packages or suitcases left at predetermined locations.

Odebrecht, its employees and agents took a number of steps while in the United States to further the scheme. For instance, in 2014 and 2015, while located in Miami, two Odebrecht employees engaged in conduct related to certain projects in furtherance of the scheme, including meetings with other co-conspirators to plan actions to be taken in connection with the Division of Structured Operations, the movement of criminal proceeds and other criminal conduct. In addition, some of the off-shore entities used by the Division of Structured Operations to hold and disburse unrecorded funds were established, owned and/or operated by individuals located in the United States. In all, this conduct resulted in corrupt payments and/or profits totaling approximately $3.336 billion.

Braskem also admitted to engaging in a wide-ranging bribery scheme and acknowledged the pervasiveness of its conduct. Between 2006 and 2014, Braskem paid approximately $250 million into Odebrecht’s secret, off-book bribe payment system. Using the Odebrecht system, Braskem authorized the payment of bribes to politicians and political parties in Brazil, as well as to an official at Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. – Petrobras (Petrobras), the state-controlled oil company of Brazil. In exchange, Braskem received various benefits, including: preferential rates from Petrobras for the purchase of raw materials used by the company; contracts with Petrobras; and favorable legislation and government programs that reduced the company’s tax liabilities in Brazil. This conduct resulted in corrupt payments and/or profits totaling approximately $465 million.

Legislation Proposed on Front Co.’s/Foreign Investment

Frankly, Britain has a much worse issue, but big hat tip to Senator Rubio. There are cities in America which are pockets of some nasty dark money in real estate.

There needs to be some real reform to CFIUS, Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States.

Crackdown on dirty money shook Miami real estate. Now, Rubio wants to take it national

In a move with significant implications for the U.S. housing market, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is seeking to take a Treasury Department crackdown on dirty money in luxury real estate and expand it from a few high-priced enclaves to the entire nation.

Rubio says his proposal is an attempt to root out criminals who use illicit funds and anonymous shell companies to buy homes — a form of money laundering that hides the cash’s tainted origin from law enforcement and banks. The widespread practice enables terrorism, sex trafficking, corruption, and drug dealing by providing an outlet for dirty cash, according to transparency advocates.

Through an amendment to an unrelated major spending bill, Rubio will ask Treasury to study whether government regulators should force shell companies that buy homes priced at $300,000 or more in cash nationwide to disclose their owners. That could be a figure as high as 10 percent of the nation’s real-estate deals.

A similar reporting requirement affecting transactions priced at $1 million or more has already had a chilling effect on all-cash corporate sales in Miami-Dade County, which has been under Treasury’s microscope since 2016.

“Shell companies involved in shady activities are a big problem, especially throughout South Florida,” Rubio said in a statement to McClatchy and the Miami Herald. “With this provision, a study would be conducted to look at requiring all shell companies that make cash transactions, regardless of their area, to disclose their identities.”

The amendment builds on a previous Treasury disclosure order that applied only to certain markets, including South Florida.

That order — which forced shell companies buying homes with cash to reveal their true owners to the government — has been in place in some areas since March 2016 at various price points. Its effects were immediate and stunning. As soon as the order took hold, shell companies buying homes with cash dropped off the map, a recent study by academic economists found. In Miami-Dade, the number of corporate cash sales plummeted 95 percent, although a strong overall market suggests creative buyers found ways to circumvent the rules, researchers said.

Before the crackdown, corporate cash sales accounted for roughly a third of home-sale volume in Miami-Dade, which is popular with foreign investors.

The amendment has the support of the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, as well as Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. Both have tried to widen disclosure of true owners of shell companies, which can be listed in the names of lawyers, accountants, and other fronts. The lack of corporate transparency frustrates law-enforcement officials, who say it stymies their investigations.

A vote is expected on the overall bill as soon as this week, Rubio’s office said.

The powerful real-estate industry has fought attempts from the government to have it act as a watchdog against money laundering, as banks, precious-metals dealers, money-service businesses, and other financial institutions are required to do. Many Realtors and developers say their clients are simply wealthy buyers seeking privacy, not criminals.

But over the past two years, Treasury has moved with force into what had been a largely unregulated sector of the U.S. financial system. Starting in Miami-Dade County and Manhattan two years ago, Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) began requiring anonymous shell companies to disclose their true owners when they bought pricey homes with cash.

The temporary directives — called “geographic targeting orders” or GTOs — were later expanded to other housing markets in Florida, New York, Texas, California, and Hawaii where foreign and anonymous investors are gobbling up real estate and driving up prices. The rules require title agents to identify the owners of shell companies buying homes with cash and disclose their names to the federal government.

“The GTOs are working, and it’s time they were expanded. Laundering money through real estate isn’t new, but [what is new is] an effective approach to combat dirty money,” said Clark Gascoigne, deputy director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, a watchdog nonprofit.

Rubio’s proposal to take the project national, Gascoigne added, “sends a strong message that we’re serious about protecting the U.S. financial system, the real-estate market, and communities across the country.”

Stephen Hudak, a spokesman for FinCEN, declined to comment.

Cracking down

The Rubio amendment asks Treasury to consider expanding the FinCEN directive to include all cash real-estate transactions over $300,000 anywhere in the United States.

It would give Treasury 180 days to submit a study to Congress providing details about the data that has been collected by FinCEN since 2016 and how it is being used. The agency is also being asked to determine if it needs more authority to combat money laundering and whether expanding the targeting order would be of use. In addition, FinCEN is asked if a registry of company owners — something supported by a bipartisan cast of federal legislators — would help authorities fight money laundering, tax evasion, election fraud, and other illegal activities.

Previously, the FinCEN disclosure requirement kicked in for corporate cash sales that were priced at $3 million or higher in New York City, $1 million or higher in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, and at different price points in other states. In May, FinCEN enacted a new directive that secretly lowered the number to $300,000 in all GTO areas. Sources familiar with the agency’s thinking say the new order was kept confidential because regulators don’t want to give money launderers a road map for structuring their transactions to avoid reporting.

Rubio’s amendment would start at that lower price point, covering a major chunk of home sales nationwide. Last year, the median U.S. home sold for a price of $247,200, according to the National Association of Realtors.

A cash transaction is one in which there is no mortgage and the property is purchased outright. Cash doesn’t just mean stacks of greenbacks; it also includes such financial instruments as wire transfers, checks, and money orders. Unlike mortgages, cash deals don’t involve heavy scrutiny from banks, which can identify potential money laundering and file suspicious-activity reports to the feds.

The 2016 publication of the Panama Papers spotlighted how anonymous shell companies in faraway tax havens were used to camouflage property purchases in the United States by politicians, drug traffickers, and financial fraudsters. Housing analysts argue that the flow of anonymous money is driving up prices.

“There’s hardly a metropolitan area in the country that is not experiencing a real public-policy issue regarding affordable housing,” said Ned Murray, a housing expert and associate director of Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center. “The whole focus of the real-estate industry is on … supplying homes for wealthy investors that we don’t know much about. It really is a factor for prices and supply.”

Much of the world has responded to the threat of corruption in real estate by requiring greater ownership disclosure. The United States has done relatively less, although Rubio’s amendment could help close the gap.

Those operating in the shadows of the real-estate market certainly seem aware of the Treasury disclosure requirements — and are working to get around them.

Take Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui, who is the former legal counsel to the Venezuelan Ministry of Oil and Mining. He was recently among those charged in a federal $1.2 billion money-laundering case involving funds stolen from Venezuela’s state oil company.

When Urdaneta prepared to close on a brand-new, $5.3 million condo at the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, he was informed by paperwork from the developer that “taking title [to the unit] under a company or trust may trigger FinCEN reporting requirements,” according to a federal indictment filed last week. He was worried enough about the disclosure that he discussed how to avoid it with a government informant.

Ultimately, Urdaneta set up a company in his wife’s name to do the deal, prosecutors allege.

001 Gil Dezer DS
Developer Gil Dezer’s company built the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, where units sell for millions of dollars to wealthy out-of-towners.
David Santiago [email protected]

Dezer Development did not say why it alerts potential buyers that they might end up on Treasury’s radar.

“All language relating to legal requirements associated with closings was prepared by Dezer Development’s outside legal counsel,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Herald on Monday.

The 60-story Porsche Design Tower is famous for a car elevator that allows owners to park in “sky garages” within their units. On Friday, federal prosecutors indicated that they would move to seize the unit.

Bad for brokers?

While overall home sales held steady even after the FinCEN rule went into place, the real-estate study found, luxury home prices were slightly softer in markets affected by the GTO.

That suggests that expanding the GTO could have a dampening effect on the nation’s real-estate market, said Jeff Morr, a luxury real-estate broker at Douglas Elliman and chairman of the Miami Master Brokers Forum, an industry group.

“Does it stop money laundering? Probably, yes,” Morr said. “Is it good for the real-estate market? Probably, no.”

But at least making the rule nationwide might take some of the heat off Miami, he said.

“It may make Florida less unattractive now that it’s everywhere,” Morr said. “We shouldn’t be treated differently than other areas.”

Real Estate Cycle_Edgewater (4).jpeg
The crane has become the unofficial city bird of Miami during the latest construction boom.
Miami Herald

That was exactly the sentiment of the Miami-Dade County Commission when the rule was first enacted in 2016. At the time, commissioners passed a symbolic resolution asking regulators to stop singling out Miami for special scrutiny. The industry still feels the same way.

Legitimate buyers need privacy, too, said Ron Shuffield, president and CEO of EWM Realty International.

“There are wealthy people who don’t want everyone to know that they live at the end of the block,” Shuffield said. “If someone is determined to launder money, they can pick anywhere in the country to do it, from the smallest city in the Midwest to Miami or New York City. It’s only fair that every area have to report. Otherwise, the rules could be scaring people away from certain markets.”


Anyone Paying Attention to Wilbur Ross, Commerce Sec?

What is Wilbur Ross worth? The answer is a slippery one when you ask Wilbur to respond. There is a dispute when it comes to his financials in the ranger of a billion or two. Further, where did his wealth come from you ask? Well there were allegedly family trusts, hotels, shipping companies, steel, banking in Cyprus and even those Rothschilds. More here from Forbes.


Wilbur Ross’ company has been moving LPG for a Russian gas giant.

But now, in what might seem almost an echo of the Red Scare that lasted in America for generations, this business relationship is seen as tainted, an ominous connection to a country that unleashed cyberwar against American democracy and the 2016 election that put Trump in the White House.

Are all connections to Russia now suspect? Or are they sometimes merely an inconvenient consequence of doing business in a country where major corporations often are controlled by the Kremlin?

The latest tie between Russia, Trump and his campaign and administration officials came to light Sunday with news that the U.S. commerce secretary is a part owner of Navigator Holdings, a shipping company that transports LPG produced by Sibur, a big Russian company with ties to the Kremlin.

Some shipping business experts who follow the company are shrugging off the news.

“Russia has a lot of commodities that need to go somewhere else,” said Benjamin J. Nolan, a financial analyst who covers Navigator for Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. He added, “Odds are, they are going to have long term contracts with Western shipping companies.”

The Russian government is a powerful factor in almost every part of the country’s economy. Some of Russia’s biggest banks, such as Sberbank and VTB are state-controlled, with their management answering directly or indirectly to the Kremlin.

Then there is Gazprom, a big gas supplier to Europe, and Rosneft, the oil producer. Both are majority state owned.


Two people associated with Siber are under U.S. sanctions


How about Venezuela? Yup…

Despite U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s bond transactions in international markets and other restrictions against top officials, the Paradise Papers show that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has an important stake in multi-million dollar businesses related with state-oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

As reported by Newsweek on Sunday, Ross still retains interest in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company incorporated in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific that maintains a close relationship with Russia’s energy company SIBUR, which is run by President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov and other individuals who have been sanctioned by the U.S. Navigator Holdings has received millions of dollars every year in earnings due to coastal shipping services provided to PDVSA.

PDVSA is no small client of Navigator Holdings. The state-oil company contributed to 10.7 percent of Navigator’s earnings during fiscal year 2014 and 11.7 percent in fiscal year 2015, according to Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional. The company’s earnings translate into $33.7 million and $36.7 million for each fiscal year thanks to PDVSA’s use of the Navigator’s 29 tankers to carry liquefied petroleum gas during those years.

As he was awaiting confirmation, Ross failed to disclose any business interests with Putin’s family and his stake in the maritime industry. James Rockas, Ross’s spokesman, told the New York Times that the secretary of commerce “recuses himself from any matters focused on transoceanic shipping vessels, but has been generally supportive of the [Trump] administration’s sanctions of Russian and Venezuelan entities.”

But Ross’s businesses pose a potential conflict of interest, ICIJ reported. Ross has “the power to influence U.S. trade, sanctions and other matters that could affect SIBUR’s owners,” the Paradise Papers report added. More here from Newsweek.


WH and State Dept Slowed Walked Russian Sanctions

While many are questioning Robert Mueller’s role into the Russian investigation, be sure to understand Russian operatives had an open door for at least 8 years and earlier than that there were clandestine Russian spy rings functioning across the country.

Much less there are dead Russians in the UK as well as in the United States, the risks are extraordinary.

Thanks to the Democrats and the greed of money where Russia was happy to comply for agreements to all their requests, the Russian probe goes beyond that common term of collusion.

The Obama administration launched the back channels for nuclear talks with Iran in 2009 in Oman. Obama needed the Russian vote, so all things concocted by the Kremlin were given a wink and nod by the Obama White House as well as the Hillary and John Kerry State Department.

So, we now have the Trump White House which has been slow and measured to take additional actions regarding Russia. The ‘why’ has a convoluted answer. There is/was Russian hacking. There were/are Russian trolls and bots in social media. There is Russian involvement in Silicon Valley known as Skolkovo. There is conflicted military airspace in Syria. There is Russian support of the Taliban. There are Russian operations in Cuba, Latin America, Libya, Iraq, Ukraine (…)


Medvedev and Putin have a master plan and they are calculating and effective. One action results in unknown global consequences.

So, finally the Tillerson State Department provided approval of additional sanctions on Russia and Congress has the list. Is it enough or complete? Too early to know. However, the Magnitsky Act is gaining approval in countries allied to United States and Putin is seeking revenge by any means necessary including through Interpol.


Read on:

WASHINGTON The State Department gave Congress a list Thursday of 39 Russian individuals and entities it says support the Russian government’s intelligence and defense sectors. Early next year, anyone in the U.S. doing business with entities on that list will be hit with sanctions by the Trump administration.

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has authorized the department to issue guidance to the public specifying the persons or entities that are part of or operating on behalf of the defense or intelligence sectors of the government of the Russian Federation,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

After President Trump signed sanctions legislation in August, the administration gave the State and Treasury Departments the authority to draw up a list of entities that enable Moscow’s intelligence and defense sectors. The State Department had a deadline of October 1 to send the list to Congress. Now, nearly a month late, State has done so.

There had been growing criticism that the administration was slow-walking the process. The State Department cited the complexity of the process when asked about the delay. Nauert also explained that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “very hands-on in these types of things.”

Experts on Russia who reviewed the list, which was obtained by CBS News, say it covers most of the Russian defense sector.

“This seems to be a comprehensive list that broadly covers a significant portion of the Russian defense industry,” said Mark Simakovsky, a former Defense Department official and Atlantic Council fellow. “The administration likely took very seriously the review, required of the legislation, and has sought to abide by the terms.”

Five of the six Russian defense contractors listed on the State and Treasury list are among the 100 biggest defense companies worldwide.

Rosoboronexport OJSC, which is on the list, is one of Russia’s largest exporters of defense products. Its partner company, Rostec, promotes technology products in both the civil and defense sectors and is also on the list. On the intelligence side, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) are included.

The State Department is making the entire list public in advance of actual sanctions implementation in order to alert U.S. stakeholders, primarily those who do business with these companies, early notice, so they can draw down those transactions. If they don’t, they, too, will face sanctions.

“These are the types of entities that they can no longer do business with,” State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “So it helps them to at least make their business decisions and be able to decide on the best course of action going forward,” she said.”

Making the list public before sanctions go into effect is a departure from the usual State Department policy of waiting for the sanctions to be announced. Congressional aides acknowledged that this caveat, which essentially enables both U.S. companies and the Russian companies to prepare, was a concern as the legislation was nearing its final hours before passage. In the end, there was no major effort to change this.

Once the Senate passed its sanctions legislation with an overwhelming majority, it put pressure on the House to pass it as well. Democrats applied intense pressure not to change anything because they did not want to water down the bill.

Senator Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the list a “good first step in responsibly implementing a very complex piece of legislation.” Senators Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and John McCain, R-Arizona also welcomed the list as part of the effort to hold Russia accountable for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The two senators noted that questions remain about the implementation of the sanctions. Under the current plan, beginning Jan. 29, individuals involved in “significant” transactions with entities on the list will also be sanctioned. It’s still up to the State Department to determine how the sanctions are applied. McCain and Cardin are concerned about how the agency will come up with the staffing and resources to carry out the sanctions. In their statement they pointed out reports that say the sanctions office has been closed and “a number of its staff have resigned.” The policy planning staff, which doesn’t usually play a role in operations, is being tasked with implementing the sanctions.

Providing dedicated staffing and resources within the State Department will demonstrate the administration’s commitment to carrying out this vitally important law,” wrote McCain and Cardin.

The sanctions law signed by Mr. Trump in August targeted Iran and North Korea, in addition to Russia. It maintains and expands sanctions against the Russian government, Russian crude oil projects and also targets those who evade foreign sanctions and entities that abuse human rights. The legislation also prevents the president from unilaterally easing or lifting sanctions against Russia, a provision that came after Mr. Trump had consistently espoused the idea of a warming of relations with Russia, even in the face of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia had meddled in the 2016 elections.