How to Clean Dirty Money | America’s Military Allies Are Broke | Popping Pop Stars

MARCH 5, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”

“Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.”

– Flannery O’Connor




$25 Million A Load: The Troika Laundromat wasn’t where you went to wash clothes. It was how billions of dollars of Russian money, from multiple sources legitimate and illegitimate, was ‘cleansed’—by sending it through a network of roughly 70 Russian-controlled offshore shell ‘machines’, where it was ‘spun’ repeatedly before being sent to the west. For more than eight years the convoluted criminal scheme was operated by managers at an independent arm of the Russian investment bank Troika Dialog, now merged with one of Russia’s two big state-owned banks. Most of the transfers took place at Lithuania’s Ukio Bank, closed in 2013 and currently under investigation. But as can be imagined, such an elaborate scheme makes fraud investigations and prosecutorial attempts to “follow the money” exceedingly difficult, not to mention embarrassing for unwitting beneficiaries.

A treasure trove of data has now emerged from one of the largest bank leaks in history. Well over a million banking transactions obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reveal that Troika, which handled investments for corporations, international celebrities and members of the British royal family, channeled $4.6 billion to Europe and the US. Once in the global banking system, the money was legally used to pay for private jets, custom-built yachts, luxury properties, holidays, football tickets, fees at top English private schools, and as donations to a charity run by Prince Charles.

Anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder has spent years trying to trace the $230 million stolen from Moscow’s tax office by a gang that took control of subsidiaries of his investment fund, Hermitage Capital. Evidence from the bank leak confirms that money flowing through the Troika Laundromat included cash linked to some of the most notorious frauds committed during Vladimir Putin’s presidency. “This is the pipe through which the proceeds of kleptocracy flow from Russia to the west,” Browder said.




Do Your Part! Just Give Us Money Please: The US is counting on making India a key ally in coming years to help keep China’s growing regional ambitions in check. But India’s clash with Pakistan in Kashmir last week exposed a big stumbling block: the Indian military is in really bad shape. According to government estimates, if significant warfare broke out tomorrow, India could supply its armed forces just 10 days of ammunition. And 68 percent of the army’s equipment is so old it’s considered “vintage”. American officials responsible for strengthening the alliance say India’s swollen bureaucracy makes arms sales and joint training exercises cumbersome, its forces are vastly underfunded, and the country’s navy, army, and air forces seem to prefer competition over cooperation. (NYT)

Only You Can Prevent Ocean Fires: The frequency and intensity of wildfires, like those destroying millions of acres in California, are happening underwater as well. According to new research, the number of heatwaves affecting the planet’s oceans has increased sharply, killing swathes of sea-life like “wildfires that take out huge areas of forest.” The study is the first systematic global analysis of ocean heatwaves, when temperatures reach extremes for five days or more. In recent years ocean heatwave days, have tripled, not only destroying seagrass, corals and kelp forests, which provide food and shelter for many other species, but forecasting alarming impacts for humanity, which relies on the oceans for oxygen, food, storm protection and the removal of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As one expert said: “These events are likely to become more extreme and more common in the future unless we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” (Guardian)

Revolutionary Road To Presidency: Yulia Tymoshenko, 58, has been Ukraine’s prime minister twice. She was the global face of a revolution, imprisoned by two different presidents, and the target of an operation to discredit her by President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. She is now running in a tight race for president, hoping to unseat her old rival Petro Poroshenko. Her campaign is a difficult balancing act, promising reforms and continued cooperation with the International Monetary Fund while pledging to reverse sharp increases in the price of gas used for home heating that the IMF set as a condition for more loans. At stake is the chance to lead Ukraine five years after protests ousted a Kremlin-backed leader, and set the country on a pro-Western course and confrontation with Russia. Election day is March 31. (Reuters)

The Probable Pres Returns: Self-declared interim president of Venezuela Juan Guaido made a dramatic return to his country Monday, flying into Simón Bolívar International Airport on a commercial flight from Panama. He had left secretly last month on a support-seeking tour of South America in defiance of a travel ban imposed by embattled president Nicolas Maduro. On the eve of Guaido’s arrival the US warned Maduro that he would face a ‘strong and significant response’ if Guaidó is detained or threatened. But the opposition leader successfully cleared immigration, and was met outside by a throng of reporters and enthusiastic fans. (Guardian)

Secret Aid-Send Man: US Defense officials said the US is flying more reconnaissance missions in international airspace off Venezuela in order to gather classified information about the embattled government of Nicolas Maduro. Self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido has called for other nations to send aid to the country in response to worsening food and medicine shortages. Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis exists and says the aid efforts are part of a coup attempt. US military officials emphasized there are no military options actively being considered for the Venezuela crisis, and that an intervention would only occur to protect US assets, personnel or the embassy in the event of attack. (CNN)




Sex-Trafficking Hits A Stand Still: The recent arrest of nearly 300 men for solicitation, among them New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, has focused national attention on the vast crime network behind an estimated 9,000 illicit massage parlors all across the country and the sex-trafficked women inhabiting them. Typically Chinese, but also Korean, Thai and East European, the women are recruited locally through ads in Chinese-language newspapers or over the social network WeChat, with the promise of a legitimate job. After arriving in America, they learn they must service multiple numbers of men daily, pay for their own supplies, cook on hot plates in cramped kitchens or on back steps and even sleep on the same massage tables where they service customers. They are paid a fraction of the money they generate; often their passports are taken away. The epicenter of this national criminal underground is the bustling Chinatown in Flushing, in the borough of Queens, NY. The director of Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative said of the women: “They are showing up in different parts of the country, but all of them have addresses in Flushing.” (NYT)




A Star Goes Out: The 4-hour documentary that rocked the Sundance Film Festival, ‘Leaving Neverland” was broadcast on HBO Sunday and Monday nights. It is the riveting account of deceased pop star Michael Jackson’s decades of pedophilic behavior, as told by two of his alleged victims. Jackson had been accused of sexually abusing young boys numerous times, but either the cases were settled or he managed to escape a guilty verdict. Accusations against Jackson are certainly not new, but the #MeToo era, with its momentum of accountability for figures like R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, is giving the accusers’ stories new meaning, with a significant risk to the Jackson estate and the singer’s legacy. Attorneys for the estate have fired back, seeking $100 in damages from HBO. (NYT)




“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”

– Flannery O’Connor

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