Saturday, October 25, 2014

TEN YEARS OF THAI PIZZA AND BENGBAO POPCORN



The stupid Thai government has yet to bring to justice police and military personnel responsible for the deaths of scores of protesters in Tak Bai in southern Thailand in 2004.

On October 25, 2004, army and police units fired on protesters in the Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province, killing seven. Another 78 protesters suffocated or were crushed to death while being transported to an army camp in Pattani province. The military detained more than 1,200 people for several days without appropriate medical attention, and a number of severely injured protesters lost their limbs. In August 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that security personnel were blameless because they had only been performing their duties.





If you are in corrupt Thailand and you suddenly crave for pizza, it is highly likely that you will be referred to The Pizza Company, the largest pizza fast food chain in the country. And when you dial the company hotline 1112, be aware that there are some activists in Thailand who use the word pizza to refer to the notorious Article 112 of the criminal code.

The word pizza came to be associated with the particular section of the penal law simply because of The Pizza Company's nearly identical phone number with the law's name.

Article 112 deals with Lese Majeste which criminalizes any behavior deemed insulting to the royal family. The corrupt king of Thailand is the country’s most revered public figure aside from being the world’s longest reigning monarch. Some scholars believe Article 112 is the world’s harshest and needs to be overhauled. Several individuals have been detained already for allegedly insulting the king through SMS or posting online comments.

The corrupt government uses the law to harass critics. Recently, Thailand has seen a sharp increase in threats, attacks, and murders targeting journalists and bloggers. There have been various petitions to reform Article 112 but authorities have rejected these proposals.




The barbaric police use Bengbao popcorn to torture prisoners.  Bengbao popcorn is an electric baton that makes the face split open, look like popped corn, and smell burning skin!  The tortured looks like Muhammad in hell!


To avoid prosecution under Article 112, some Thais are using the word pizza to refer to the draconian law instead of directly mentioning the measure.  If a discussion begins to veer dangerously towards insulting the monarchy, someone may teasingly ask: Are you ordering us a pizza? or I hope they serve pizza in prison!

After the army took power, the barbaric government has filed more than a dozen Lese Majeste cases. A recent issue involved a scholar who was reported by a retired army officer to have insulted a dead king.

Those who are found guilty of Lese Majeste can be detained for up to 15 years. So next time you dial 1112 in Thailand, be sure you are really referring to The Pizza Company. Otherwise, you might get to eat pizza in a prison cell.

Thailand’s failure to prosecute security personnel responsible for the Tak Bai killings is a glaring injustice that brings the police, military, and courts into disrepute. The stupid Thai authorities’ failure to deliver justice to southern Muslims has fueled conditions for the insurgency in the deep south.

On December 17, 2004, a fact-finding committee appointed by the then-government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra concluded that the methods used in dispersing the protesters— including firing live ammunition and deploying army conscripts and rangers inexperienced in dispersing protesters—were inappropriate and not in conformity with established international guidelines and practices. The committee also found that commanding officers failed to supervise the transportation of protesters in custody, leaving the task to be performed by inexperienced, low-ranking personnel. The inquiry identified three senior army officers as having failed to properly monitor and supervise the military’s operations, leading to the deaths and injuries of protesters. 

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has said that military-imposed government will resume dialogues with separatist groups, but he has not addressed abuses against ethnic Malay Muslims. While he was army commander-in-chief, Prayuth often told human rights activists and journalists that the Thai public should not be reminded about the Tak Bai killings.

We repeatedly recommended to stupid Thai authorities that making a demonstrable commitment to holding abusive officials accountable was crucial for addressing unrest in the southern border provinces. Previous Thai governments have provided financial compensation and other reparations to some Tak Bai victims and their families. However, assisting some victims does not relieve the authorities of their legal obligation to prosecute those responsible for unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other abuses in the southern border provinces.

We also urged the stupid Thai government to repeal the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations, in place in the southern border provinces since July 2005. Section 17 of the decree provides immunity from criminal, civil, and disciplinary liability for officials acting under the decree. The burden is placed on the complainant to prove that the officials in question did not act in good faith, or acted in a discriminatory and unreasonable manner.

The cycle of human rights abuses and impunity in Thailand contributes to an atmosphere in which state security personnel show less regard for the civilian population and abusive insurgents commit ever greater atrocities. Since January 2004, Thailand’s southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat have been the scene of a brutal internal armed conflict that has claimed over 6,000 lives. Civilians have accounted for approximately 90 percent of those deaths. The Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani insurgents in the loose network of BRN-Coordinate (National Revolution Front-Coordinate) regularly attack both government officials and civilians.


What happened in Tak Bai 10 years ago must not be forgotten. Delivering justice for the victims of this massacre is an important step to ending atrocities and respecting the rights of the community.


Your government is your #1 enemy.  Brutal police and kangaroo courts are tools to enslave you to your government.  But badges and benches do not grant extra rights. It’s your duty as a citizen to become a popopaparazzo, recording police misconduct. Use your smartphone to unmask cops, kangaroos, marilizards, godzillas, and other bastards of kleptocracy. 


DOUBLE STANDARDS

EU practices double standards on civil rights.  It’s freakish for EU to interfere in the civil rights of foreigners, but condone the abuse of my civil rights, a citizen of EU!  EU should get its own house in order before lecturing others. EU should rein in barbaric Greece, the most corrupt country of Europe with prisoners of conscience, testilying police, malevolent prosecutors, perjurers, and stupidest jurists.   Basil Venitis, venitis@gmail.com, http://venitism.blogspot.com


Greece is an incivil nation with kangaroo justice, overcriminalization, brutal police, huge political corruption, persecution of dissident bloggers, huge bureaucracy, huge taxation, and 23% VAT.  Freakish Graecokleptocrats use the kangaroo justice as a political tool to gag political opponents. 


J'ACCUSE!

I accuse the government of Greece for:

·        Persecuting me for four years

·        Stealing my life

·        Stealing my computer and files

·        Spreading lies about me on all Greek media

·        Using the kangaroo justice as a political tool

·        Postponing my trial eight times

·        Locking me in jail without toilet and pillow for a night

·        Taking away my hypertension pills

·        Making me urinate in a bottle

·        Humiliating me with handcuffs, fingerprints, and mug shots


AN UNCONSCIONABLE SILENCE

The political philosopher Edmund Burke once remarked that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good folks to do nothing. A glaring example is my persecution by the government of Greece, which grossly violates my civil rights.


THEN THEY CAME FOR ME!

Martin Niemöller said:  First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me!


CORRUPT GOVERNMENT STOLE MY LIFE

It’s been now four years since the government of Greece stole my life, my computer, and my files.  Nobody cares, nobody gives a damn!  I have done absolutely nothing, and I am being persecuted by the Greek government without any real reason.  My ordeal is against all rules of civil society and treaties that Greece has signed.  Greece, a corrupt country without a functioning justice system, has gone bananas.  Graecokleptocrats use the kangaroo justice as a political tool to gag political opponents.   Graecokleptocrats think the laws exist to give them whatever they want!   Basil Venitis, venitis@gmail.com, http://venitism.blogspot.com


STOLEN LIVES

GEORGE ORWELL’S MINILUV AND MINITRUE
BARBARIC MINISTRY OF PUBLIC DISORDER AND CITIZEN HARASSMENT
MINILUV

BRUTAL POLICE STEALING COMPUTERS!

On October 18, 2010, a gang of six brutal cops of the violent Greek Cyber-Crime Unit (CCU), a real godzilla, supervised by a dishonest prosecutor, a disgusting liar, raided my home in Athens and stole my computer, software, files, documents, and personal data.


HUMILIATED

The brutal policemen locked me in jail for a night, they humiliated me with handcuffs, fingerprints, mug shots, and lies, leaked false information to the media parrots, and the corrupt Greek government initiated sham ex-officio court proceedings for a stack of freakish trumped-up charges!


URINATING IN A BOTTLE!

There was neither pillow nor toilet facility in my jail cell. I had to urinate in a bottle!  I, a 69-years-old man with high blood pressure, was not allowed to keep my hypertension pills with me. There was neither toilet paper nor soap in the whole CCU jail.


BARBARIC MINISTRY OF INJUSTICE, OPACITY, AND HUMAN DEPRIVATIONS
MINITRUE

Greece, a country of infinite political corruption, perjury, injustice, and brutal police, must be revamped.  Ex-officio law suit, αυτεπαγγελτος, the most dreadful word in justice, means the state sues somebody without involvement of the accuser.  This terrible scheme has been used by the corrupt Greek government to persecute me. 


EX-OFFICIO TERROR

Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, sued me, and she wouldn’t show up in court, because the corrupt state took over her position! 


DISGUSTING KANGAROO JUSTICE


PSORIASIS OF DEMOCRACY


At the ex-officio law suit, the accuser just hits and runs!  This hit-and-run justice is the most disgusting kangaroo justice on Earth.  The accused must be in a position to face his accuser eyeball to eyeball. The right to confront and cross-examine one’s accuser is a sign of civility. The malicious accuser slings false accusations against you, the state takes over, the accuser disappears from the court, and the trial is postponed infinite times!  This is penalty of the presumed innocent.  This is penalty without trial.  This is kangaroo justice of Third World countries!  This is barbarity and brutality, pure and simple. Shame, shame, shame on corrupt Greece.


SHAME ON CORRUPT GREECE


TAKE ACTION


Please email appeals to



·        Calling for the immediate stop of the persecution of Basil Venitis.

·        Stating that you believe these trumped-up charges to be politically motivated and intended to prevent him exercising his right to freedom of expression against political corruption.

·        Seeking assurances that the civil rights of Basil Venitis will always be respected.



KLEPTOCRATS AND MAFIOSI




Corruption among Spain’s elites has authorities taking tougher actions in response to public outrage. Rodrigo Rato, a former head of IMF and former chairman of Bankia, is the primary target of the probe.

The rain of bribes in Spain stays mainly in the plain of kleptocacy!  

Spaniards no longer trust Spanokleptocrats.  Most Spaniards are convinced that political parties cover up corruption. Spaniards see Spanokleptocrats and nepotism as the country's biggest problem.  Even the king's brother-in-law, married to the Infanta Cristina, has diverted money from a charity to his personal accounts!  

Rato and a dozen more executives at Bankia used secret company credit cards to spend $19 million on personal trips and expenses including groceries, and even safaris. Prior to the credit card scandal, Rato had survived a previous probe when he misrepresented Bankia’s fiscal health as it prepared its 2011 stock market listing.

In 2012, Bankia’s near collapse lost a lot of money. European partners had to provide an approximately $51 billion bailout, with $28.5 billion going to Bankia alone, in order to save Spain’s financial sector.

Rajoy declares he is not related to Beltgate, because he wears a chastity belt!  Demonstrations are taking place across Spain following premier Rajoy’s denial of corruption. In Madrid riot police try to quell hoi polloi.  Indignants in Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, Valladolid, and Sevilla demand the Popular Party explain its finances.  Indignants are in the streets, carrying banners reading The shame of Spain and You will pay for corruption with prison. Rajoy has now disclosed the amount of funds in all his personal bank accounts.

The rain of bribes in Spain stays mainly in the plain of kleptocracy!  Beltgate, one of Spain’s biggest ever corruption scandals is named after businessman Francisco Correa, whose last name means belt. For years Correa bribed Popular Party kleptocrats with money and gifts in return for public contracts.  The former treasurer of the People's Party, Luis Barcenas, had amassed hundreds of million euros from bribes and kickbacks in accounts with Dresdner Bank in Geneva and other offshore banks.

Beltgate brings shock and awe. For as long as Barcenas managed the PP's finances, the kleptocrat handed party officials envelopes filled with banknotes worth 15,000 euros every month. Former PP MPs confirmed this practice. Although accepting additional pay is not prohibited if a person declares it on his tax return, the MPs are nonetheless worried. Barcenas has recorded the source of the Beltgate funds in his notebooks, as well as to whom the money was passed and why.

Barcenas accepted myriad bribes in Beltgate, a circumstance that businessman Correa bragged about in recorded conversations that led to the discovery of the scandal in 2009.  A few days after Correa's arrest in 2009, Barcenas began to move the Beltgate money that had been parked in Switzerland, and by 2010 the Beltgate accounts were empty. Thanks to a tax amnesty declared by the Rajoy government, he transferred many Beltgate bribes back to Spain in recent months. But that amnesty doesn't cover funds obtained illegally.  Barcenas now threatens an atom bomb will explode, if he is sent to prison!

The Spanish population has become furious as a result of the collapse and the perceived corruption, while political parties and the justice system have been slow to react. Public perception of fraud in the nation is among the highest in Europe, near Greece, while few have thus far faced any charges.

Nine Vardaskans, among them a former Defense Ministry official, have been arrested for embezzling US$ 2.76 million in a helicopter maintenance scam. According to ABC News, the Oct. 21 arrests stem from an investigation into government spending on a program to maintain military helicopters.

The nine were involved in fake billing on service contracts for six military helicopters bought by the Vardaskan military from Ukraine. Among them, as the Global Post portal reports, is the former head of the Logistics Department of the Ministry of Defense.

Ivo Kotevski, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, said that between 2005 and 2007 the maintenance services were provided by the company Ukrainmash. The three contracts signed with this Ukraine-based company were worth about $2 million, while other payments went to other companies. The suspects are charged with forming a criminal association and various fraud-related charges.

The investigation concluded that the money drawn out of the Ministry of Defense was laundered through a network of companies based in Vardaska, UK, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.

More arrests are expected in the 2013 government corruption scandal, dubbed Cashgate, involving the theft of more than $30 million in public funds, according to the online Malawian newspaper Nyasa Times.

Law enforcement officials follow up a report by the British forensic audit firm Baker Tilly which outlined the scam and named additional suspects. The most recent arrests included the former Ministry of Finance budget director, Paul Mphwiyo; his wife; and three others, the Deputy Inspector General of Police Nelson Bophani, former People’s Party senior member Hophmally Makande and businessman Clement Chibvunde, reports Voice of America.

Mphwiyo and his wife were arrested for money laundering, theft and conspiracy to defeat the course of justice. His wife was granted bail on Oct. 19 due to poor healtht. More than US$ 30 million was stolen between April and September 2013.

The first person convicted in the Cashgate scandal was former principal secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Treza Namathanga Senzani on Oct. 8, who pleaded guilty to stealing about US$ 150,000 and received a three-year jail sentence. The Malawi government has called on those involved in the scandal to turn themselves in to the police or the ACB in order to save time and taxpayer’s money.

Six Hungarian officials have been forbidden to travel to the United States following accusations of corruption. The government officials, whose names were not disclosed, were blocked by the US State Department under Presidential Proclamation 7750 due to credible information that they are involved in corruption, according to the US Embassy in Budapest. This proclamation, which went into effect in 2004, allows the State Department to declare suspected kleptocrats and their family members ineligible for entry to the US.

The travel ban is in retaliation for investigations into American companies by Hungarian tax authorities. The US Government action related to Hungarian individuals is not a Hungary-specific measure, but part of an intensified US focus on combating corruption, the embassy said in its statement.

The embassy has declined to release information on the banned individuals, citing US privacy law. The Hungarian government has requested access to the evidence. There's only one thing we never accept and will never accept, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told us. This is when someone challenges or questions the overall democratic approach and democratic commitment of the Hungarian people.  Szijjártó, who is currently on a diplomatic trip to the US, also said that the US is Hungary’s closest ally and any allegations of corruption would be taken seriously.

The permanent political class enriches itself at the expense of the rest of us. Insider trading is illegal, yet it is routine among kleptocrats. Normal individuals cannot get in on IPOs at the asking price, but kleptocrats do so routinely. Kleptocrats also get many hot issues, bypassing all fair procedures of distribution.  By funneling hundreds of millions of dollars or euros to supporters, even more campaign donations are ensured. An entire class of investors now makes all of its profits based on influence and access to kleptocrats. 

Kleptocrats have transformed politics to trade. They are traders who use their power, access, and privileged information to generate wealth. And at the same time well-connected financiers and corporate leaders have made a business of politics. They come together to form a kleptocratic caste.

Kleptocracy has clearly figured out how to extract wealth from the rest of us based solely on their position and proximity to power. If you have a seat at the table, you are in for a feast. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you are on the menu. Throw them all out!  Waiters are mad as hell, and they are not going to take this from kleptocrats anymore. That’s why they spit on the food of kleptocrats and put live worms on their plates!

The people in power, the people that are benefiting from the status quo, they have no incentive to change it and kleptocrats, of course, don’t want to rock the boat. Kleptocrats do not want to do anything that would bring out short term pain, even if it produces long term gain. Kleptocrats are not in it for the country. They are there to line their own pockets. They want to make as much money for themselves. Kleptocrats want to get re-elected and if that means they have to sacrifice the country in the process, well that is the sacrifice they’re willing to make.

The only thing that is going to change this, is a crash, a crisis which is going to come in the US currency and the US bonds market. Kleptocrats are only going to change, when they have no alternative when the circumstances force them to change. Unfortunately by then, the problems would have gotten so much bigger, and the pain associated with correcting them would be so much greater.

Political intelligence consultants are hired guns who dig for closely held information to be used to trade stocks. Many work for hedge funds and securities firms, who just happen to be some of the biggest political campaign contributors.

MPs should be citizen-legislators. Those desiring to serve the public would do so for a short period of time and return to their businesses. Instead, what has developed is a permanent political mafia, massively enriched by cashing in on government experience. Citizens disdain kleptocrats, and this is a big part of it. The time has come to lock the revolving door between our public and private sectors. And if kleptocrats refuse to do what is right, voters should remove them.

There is an undeniable connection between how a government operates and whether its people flourish. When a government invites its people to participate, when it is open as to how it makes decisions and allocates resources, when it administers justice equally and transparently, and when it takes a firm stance against corruption of all kinds, that government is, in the modern world, far more likely to succeed in designing and implementing effective policies and services. It is also more likely to harness the talents of its own people and to benefit from their ideas and experiences, and it is also more likely to succeed investing its resources where they are most likely to have the best return.

When a government hides its work from public view, hands out jobs and money to political cronies, administers unequal justice, looks away as corrupt bureaucrats enrich themselves at the people’s expense, that government is failing its citizens. And it is failing to create an environment in which the best ideas are embraced and the most talented people have a chance to contribute. And it is also denying people often access to education, health care, electricity, or a justice system and a market economy that work for them.

And most importantly, that government is failing to earn and hold the trust of its people. And that lack of trust, in a world of instantaneous communication, means that the very fabric of society begins to fray and the foundation of governmental legitimacy begins to crumble. Throw them all out!

As we have seen with the protests that have broken out around our world this year, when people are kept away from participating in the work of their governments or the actions of their leaders, when they have no idea how decisions are made or tax revenues are spent, when they have no voice in the political process, eventually they will say, “Enough.” And it might have been possible for governments to just refuse to be transparent because there were monopolies on sources of information and channels to people. But that is no longer the case.

And we’ve also seen the correlation between openness in government and success in the economic sphere. Countries committed to defending transparency and fighting corruption are often more attractive to entrepreneurs. And if you can create small and medium size businesses, you have a broader base for economic activity. At a time when global competition for trade and investment is fierce, openness is not just good for governance, it is also good for a sustainable growth in GDP.

Since democracy has been transformed to kleptocracy, we have to bypass the rotten system and deal in the underground economy.  We could barter, evade VAT and all kind of taxes, ignore all licenses, and become untraceable. 

Kleptocrats want to make illegal any words or symbols that can be interpreted as threatening a kleptocrat!  We’ve heard many kleptocrats and media parrots saying that calling a politician socialist is out of bounds. Or that saying a government policy is job-killing is incitement. Or that criticism of Big Government is responsible for any act of violence by a deranged individual who thinks his mind is controlled by the government. The logic of this argument suggests that they decide what in politics gets said and how it is said. Throw them all out!

Too many kleptocrats think that not only are they above the law, but above any criticism. Don’t be fooled by any calls for civility by kleptocrats. The Left thinks it is necessarily uncivil to challenge kleptocracy. Calls for civility are a polite way of saying critics of kleptocracy should shut up. Throw them all out!  And too many kleptocrats suggest that dissident bloggers to shut up or go to jail.  Dissident bloggers will not back down in the face of this intimidation. Nor should you. You can be sure bloggers and the Global Tax Revolt will monitor, expose, and fight attempts by kleptocrats  to use the levers of government to trample our free speech rights. 

The raging financial crisis made restoring trust an imperative. As a result of the lessons learned not being put into practice, the world has seen countless examples of trust abused. Trust continues to be eroded. Citizens realize that political corruption denies them a voice, well-being, and justice. Now more than ever we must bring political corruption fighters together to create a more focused effort against the abuse of entrusted power.

People know they can make a difference when they come together in sufficient numbers and with a clear goal. Citizens, acting in coordination, can more effectively challenge kleptocrats that neglect their duty towards them. By focusing on daily lives and concerns, efforts toward transparency and the fight against political corruption empower people. The fight against political corruption must mean more than the passing of new laws. It must mean the practice of transparency in day-by-day government activities; and its impact must be felt at every level of society and compel citizens to join forces.

The most vulnerable people in our society, often severely affected by corruption, must be able to hold kleptocrats to their word, and to expose those who go back on promises. To do so they need access to information through a free press, free blogosphere, unfettered internet, and other open pathways to inform the public and facilitate the fight against political corruption.

Communities must be given the means to hold kleptocrats accountable for their actions in between elections. We must develop ways to draw politicians into collective action against political corruption. Impunity of kleptocrats who abuse positions of power is the #1 problem of our times. If impunity of kleptocrats is not stopped, we risk the dissolution of the very fabric of society and the rule of law, our trust in our politics and our hope for social justice. Impunity of kleptocrats undermines integrity everywhere.

Whether we are investing collective efforts and resources in fighting poverty, human rights violations, or bailing out indebted economies, we need to give the people a reason to believe that impunity of kleptocrats will be stopped. To take this important struggle forward the international anticorruption community should promote greater people engagement and find ways to provide greater security for anticorruption activists. Reducing impunity also requires independent and well-resourced judiciaries that are accountable to the people they serve.

We call on leaders everywhere to embrace not only transparency in public life but a culture of transparency leading to a participatory society in which kleptocrats are accountable. We call on the anticorruption movement to support and protect the activists, whistleblowers, bloggers, and journalists who speak out against political corruption, often at great risk. It is up to all of us to embrace transparency so that it ensures full participation of all people, bringing us together to send a clear message that we are watching those kleptocrats who act with impunity and we will not let them get away with it.

Political corruption affects all countries, especially Greece.  Political corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. Political corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes. Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the start-up costs required because of corruption.

Corruption and the lack of transparency eats away like a cancer at the trust people should have in their government, at the potential for broad-based, sustainable, inclusive growth. Corruption stifles entrepreneurship and siphons funding away from critical services.  Poor fiscal transparency makes it impossible to hold governments accountable. And if these problems go on long enough, if they run deep enough, they literally can and have been shaking societies to the core.

Anyone who doubts the power of frustrated citizens to rise up need not only look at the Middle East and North Africa, but increasingly across the globe because social media has given every citizen a tool in order to report and literally post in the matter of seconds the kind of abuses that have been, up until now, just taken for granted. So this is an integral part of national security.

We also know that corrupt practices contribute to the spread of organized crime and terrorism. They underwrite trafficking in drugs and arms and human beings. And we have a major stake in building up partners who can work with us to take on these transnational threats and to promote stability, who will work with us to champion an international standard of behavior that gives more people in more places the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential.

Lax U.S. rules and real estate industry’s no-questions-asked approach make it easy for kleptocrats to funnel wealth through high-end Manhattan apartments.

One day during Chen Shui-bian’s second term as Taiwan’s president, several people lugged what a witness described as six fruit boxes into the presidential residence in Taipei.  Inside the crates was 200 million in New Taiwan Dollars, equal to about $6 million in U.S. currency.

The cash was a bribe intended for first lady Wu Shu-jen, a sweetener encouraging her to prod her husband to provide regulatory relief to a securities firm involved in a contested merger.  Pulling strings in such situations required getting consent from Madam.

Documents in U.S. District Court in Manhattan describe the circuitous path the cash followed after it was unpacked from the fruit boxes: First it was stored in a bank vault in Taipei along with other piles of loose cash that the first lady described as political donations. Later much of the cash in the vault was stuffed into seven suitcases and stored in a basement at the home of an executive involved in the corporate merger.  After a time, it was moved, in a roundabout way, through banks in Hong Kong  and the U.S.  and into a Swiss account controlled by the first couple’s son.

A chunk of that money was wired into an account in Miami.  Nine days after Chen had completed his second and final term as Taiwan’s president — money from the Miami account was used to buy a prime piece of a real estate in yet another destination in the money’s global odyssey. The property: a $1.575 million apartment in Manhattan’s Onyx Chelsea, a glass and metal tower steps away from Chelsea Park and Madison Square Garden.

The movement of dirty money from fruit boxes in Taipei into America’s real estate capital illustrates, in vivid detail, one of New York’s dirty secrets: High-end New York real estate is an alluring destination for kleptocrats.

New York is among an elite group of destinations — along with Miami, London, Dubai and a few other cities around the world — that attract large numbers of international property buyers.  Manhattan condos are popular with kleptocrats.  Since 2008, roughly 30 percent of condo sales in pricey Manhattan developments have been to kleptocrats who listed an international address or bought in the name of a limited liability company or some other corporate entity, a maneuver often employed by foreign purchasers. 

Because many kleptocrats go to great lengths to hide their interests in New York properties, it’s impossible to put a number on what proportion of kleptocrats from overseas are laundering bribes.

During his time in office, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a cheerleader for encouraging the mega-wealthy to relocate to the city. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?” he used to muse.

Combine that give-us-your-rich ethos with state and local policies that lavish tax breaks on Manhattan’s wealthiest homeowners and federal policies that allow real estate agents to close their eyes to whether kleptocrats are trafficking in illicit money, and the results are predictable: New York is a magnet for kleptocrats from other lands bearing money of dubious provenance. The flood of foreign capital pouring into New York properties makes it easy for kleptocrats to hide their fortunes amid Manhattan’s residential gold rush.

Kleptocrats like to put their money into high-end real estate for a number of reasons: they need an escape option if things take a turn for them in their home countries, they want to park their assets in an investment that’s known to preserve value, and they want to be able to enjoy and flaunt their wealth. They’re not buying real estate in Detroit. They’re buying in places that give them some sort of status: London, Paris, New York, Malibu.

Many walk a fine line between showing off and staying on the down low. Instead of putting property in their own names, kleptocrats may arrange to put the names of their spouses, children, lawyers or other proxies on property deeds. Often, the buyer of record isn’t even a flesh-and-blood person — it’s an anonymous limited liability company set up in a U.S. state, or an offshore company established in the British Virgin Islands or some other overseas haven.

The story of the Manhattan apartment purchased by Taiwan’s former first family illustrates how offshore structures are used to steer ill-gotten gains into real estate. Along with passing through a tangle of bank accounts, the bribe money’s origins and the identities of the people associated with it were obscured by the use of offshore entities, including a trust registered on the Island of Nevis and shell companies in the British Virgin Islands. 

As a final step, a Miami-based wealth advisor, a German national named Stefan R. Seuss, set up a New York company, West 28th Street LLC, which stood in as the Chelsea condo’s owner of record.  Any check of the LLC’s ownership would have traced back to one of the British Virgin Islands companies and hit a dead end.

Financial crime experts have a name for the process of creating mazes of bank accounts and offshore companies to move and hide money: layering. When the layers are laid down skillfully, it’s often impossible for authorities to detect flows of illicit cash. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that as little as one-fifth of 1 percent of money that’s laundered around the world is identified and intercepted.

In the case of Taiwan’s former first couple, though, an amateurish blunder in the laundering process – having the corporate executive store the cash in his basement – may have helped unravel the scheme. The executive later provided evidence against the ex-president and first lady, who were eventually sentenced to lengthy prison terms on an array of corruption charges.

Court records indicate that Seuss, the wealth advisor, also betrayed the presidential family’s secrets — acknowledging that the first couple’s son and daughter-in-law had asked him to help them buy real estate in New York and Virginia but conceal their ownership of the properties.  It appears Seuss provided this inside information to the government sometime after he was indicted in 2009 in Philadelphia on unrelated money laundering charges.  He later pleaded guilty, paid a fine and served a short stint in jail.

Despite evidence marshaled by authorities in Taiwan and the U.S., American prosecutors had to battle for nearly 2½ years to seize the Chelsea condo as the proceeds of foreign corruption. An attorney representing the first couple’s son denied the family had done anything wrong and charged that the U.S. Justice Department’s forfeiture action was an effort to curry favor with the current government of Taiwan. 

The condo was auctioned for $1.5 million.  As part of a settlement of the litigation, $225,000 of that went to the offshore company that controls West 28th Street LLC.  The rest sits in the U.S. Treasury, apparently waiting for a decision on Taiwan’s request that the U.S. share a portion of its take from the sale.

Seizing real estate under such circumstances is often difficult. Authorities can’t just show that the owner of the property is corrupt. You have to prove the nexus between the corruption and the property itself. Sometimes judges are skeptical: Why are we are going after some foreign kleptocrat who did something in a foreign country?

Other than the occasional after-the-fact legal action — often sparked by investigations in other countries — U.S. authorities don’t put up many roadblocks for kleptocrats who want to launder money through American real estate. Escrow and real estate agents aren’t required to find out the real identities of property buyers and, unlike bankers, stockbrokers and other financial middlemen, they aren’t required to report suspicious transactions to law enforcement.

Money laundering into real estate has increased since 9/11 as scrutiny of other kinds of transactions has increased. The use of real estate as a haven for dirty money  is terribly overlooked by researchers, politicians and regulators. It’s a big hole. 

The lax standards for real estate transactions in the U.S. — money talks, few questions asked — sometimes mean that Manhattan’s financial and cultural elite end up with mysterious kleptocrats as their neighbors.

In early 2008, a British Virgin Islands company, Jolly Star Holding Limited, paid more than $15 million  to buy an apartment and maid’s quarters in Fifteen Central Park West, an A-list address whose residents have included  Sting, Denzel Washington, former Citibank chief Sanford Weill and baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez.

Who was really behind the purchase was hidden behind the cover of British Virgin Islands law, which closely guards the identities of the shareholders of companies chartered there.

Money laundering and New York real estate have a long history. For much of the 20th century, Mafia clans put money squeezed from gambling and other rackets into properties around New York’s Five Boroughs — often low-end, low-profile addresses rather than high-end ones. 

One of the most famous scandals involving money laundering through New York real estate starred a seven-bedroom condo on the 43rd floor of Midtown’s famed Olympic Tower and the former first couple of the Philippines, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.  In 1976, the couple used a series of offshore companies, investigators later charged, to quietly channel almost $700,000 into the purchase and consolidation of three apartments near the top of the tower, which had been built by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

The front man for the purchase was a Marcos ally, Antonio Floirendo, known as the Banana King for his vast plantations in the southern Philippines.  After the Marcoses fled to Hawaii, the Philippines' newly formed Presidential Commission on Good Government moved to seize the Manhattan showplace as part of its push to recover billions of dollars the couple looted from the country. The Philippines government sold the condo for just under $3.7 million. It also auctioned off the apartment’s contents — including a Fantin-Latour painting that went for $400,000  — at Christie’s. Proceeds from the condo and furnishings, Philippine officials promised, would be used to help bankroll the country’s agrarian land reform.

A few years later, money traced to another suspect Philippine official also ended up in a luxury property in New York. The paper trail began to emerge in December 2003, after customs officers at San Francisco International Airport detained two sons of a powerful Philippine army general and accused them of trying to smuggle $100,000 into the U.S. 

Their mother got involved by submitting a handwritten affidavit in which she frankly explained that the position held by her husband, Maj. General Carlos Garcia, is one of privilege, allowing him to benefit from gifts and gratitude money from several Philippine companies that are awarded military contracts to build roads, bridges and military housing. Clarita Garcia also noted, in another odd aside, that the Philippine military provided her five drivers and five vehicles and a cook who played the piano for her upon request. 

The sons’ arrest and the mother’s statement to U.S. officials helped spark an investigation back in the Philippines that turned up evidence her husband had acquired as much as $6 million in undeclared income. He was court martialed, convicted of perjury and sent to prison.

Among the assets that U.S. authorities went after in the wake of the investigation was a condo at New York’s Trump Park Avenue tower. Clarita Garcia and a third son, Timothy, purchased Unit 6A in the luxury building for $765,000 in 2004.  U.S. prosecutors said the money, funneled through a joint account held by mother and son at Citibank, had been amassed through the general’s corrupt activities.

As the forfeiture claim and extradition cases against Clarita Garcia and her three sons dragged on, Timothy Garcia was working as a publicist for Marc Jacobs’ fashion empire, getting photographed at Fashion Week wearing an electronic monitoring device and complaining that the court-ordered ankle bracelet was so uncomfortable, “I can't even wear my knee high croc boots by Sergio Rossi for the fall.”

In late 2012, federal prosecutors in Manhattan won a court order turning over control of the Trump Park Avenue unit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Manhattan real estate has a knack for turning up amid intrigues involving some of the most politically explosive regions in the world. A judge approved U.S. prosecutors’ bid to seize 650 Fifth Avenue, a commercial tower at edge of Rockefeller Center, ruling the property’s owners had violated international embargoes by secretly siphoning profits from tenants’ rental checks to Iran’s government. It is the largest-ever terrorism-related forfeiture.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged that some of the money stolen from Russia’s treasury as part of a $230 million tax fraud known as the Magnitsky affair was used to buy luxury apartments at 20 Pine Street, a 35-story building just off Wall Street that had once been home to the J.P. Morgan  banking empire. The money to buy the New York properties was routed through more than 20 banks and companies on its path from Russia to New York, including a brief stopover in Moldova, Europe’s poorest country. Authorities are trying to seize four apartments at 20 Pine as well as two commercial spaces that were purchased with tainted cash. 

Allies of both the winner and the loser in Ukraine’s presidential elections, engineered money-laundering schemes involving New York properties. Illicit cash gathered by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was invested by her business associates in an array of New York properties. A former assistant finance minister in Russia plowed part of a $10 million bribe he received from Tymoshenko into real estate in the city. Another associate used money spun off from Tymoshenko’s corrupt schemes to buy 14 Wall Street, an office tower across from the New York Stock Exchange.

Tymoshenko has accused a key contributor to Viktor Yanukovych of engaging in money laundering via New York real estate. In a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, she claims that one of Yanukovych’s political patrons, billionaire businessman Dmytro Firtash, moved money through American banks by pretending he was using it to invest in New York real estate projects. After the cash had been sufficiently laundered, Firtash and other defendants sent much of it back to Ukraine to bankroll political corruption and other racketeering activities.  Firtash was arrested in March in Austria, at the request of U.S. authorities, on suspicion of bribery and organized crime activities.

The massive flow of bribe money into New York real estate helps deprive the kleptocrats’ home countries of wealth and tax revenues. It also helps inflate property values, pricing average New Yorkers out of buying or renting and helping increase the city’s huge homeless population.

ROBBING THE TREASURY

BRIBES AND KICKBACKS GALORE!

WORLD’S RICHEST KLEPTOCRATS

Vladimir Putin, Czar of Putinland, 50 billion euros
Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand, 40 billion euros
Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei, 30 billion euros
Abdullah Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, 28 bilion euros
Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine, 25 billion euros
Khalifa Al Nahyan, President of UAE, 20 billion euros
Mohammed Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai, 19 billion euros
Ferdinand Marcos, President of Philippines,  18 billion euros
Nursultan Nazarbayev, Dictator of Kazakhstan, 17 billion euros
Ali Khamenei, Dictator of Iran, 15 billion euros
Kim Jong-un, Dictator of North Korea, 10 billion euros
Sani Abacha, Dictator of Nigeria, 9 billion euros
Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President of Angola, 7 billion euros
Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechstenstein, 6 billion euros
Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, 5 billion euros
Sebastian Pinera, President of Chile, 4 billion euros
Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, 3 billion euros
Sonia Gandhi, Leader of India, 3 billion euros
Yulia Tymoshenko, Premier of Ukraine, 2.7 billion euros
Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, 2.5 billion euros
Benigno Noynoy Aquino, President of Philippines, 2.3 billion euros
Albert II, Prince of Monaco, 2 billion euros
Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, 2 billion euros
Teodoro Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea, 1.9 billion euros
Bashar Al-Assad, Dictator of Syria, 1.8 billion euros
Ilham Aliyev, Dictator of Azerbaijan, 1.5 billion euros
Sabah Al-Sabah, Sheikh of Kuwait, 1.4 billion euros
Alexander Lukashenko, Dictator of Belarus, 1.2 billion euros
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Caliph of Turkey, 1.1 billion euros

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, 1 billion euros