Articles by Tyler Durden

As details about yesterday’s shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas started trickling out, witnesses and police sources shared how one brave man with a rifle confronted and shot  suspected killer Devin Kelly, forcing him to flee.

A  high-speed pursuit ensued, which ended when Kelly’s car crashed into a ditch. Police said they found Kelly dead in his vehicle, but it isn’t clear how he died.

However, two men who reportedly helped stop the shooter are now being hailed as selfless heros – “good guys with guns” who potentially saved dozens of lives by stopping the killer before he could murder more innocent people.  As Sheriff Joe Tackitt pointed out in an interview with CNN, “there’s another church right down the road,” suggesting that the killer could’ve headed there next after murdering more than half of First Baptist’s congregation if he had not been stopped.

My San Antonio is now reporting that the man who confronted Kelly outside the church is Stephen Willeford, a sharp-shooting plumber with no military background who managed to shoot Kelly – who was reportedly dressed in tactical gear – prompting him to flee the scene. Earlier media reports identified Willeford as being a neighbor of the church.

Stephen Willeford

As Willeford exchanged gunfire with Kelly outside the church, a second man – identified as Johnny Langendorff – pulled over when he witnessed the carnage and saw Kelly speed off. Willeford saw Langendorff and quickly rushed to his car.

Here’s more from My San Antonio:

Johnny Langendorff was one of the men who chased after suspected killer Devin Kelley, a 26-year-old from Comal County, he told KSAT  in a television interview.

 

“I pulled up to the intersection where the shooting happened and I saw two men exchanging gunfire,” Langendorff said, noting the shooter and another local were shooting at each other.

 

Once the gunman fled the church grounds in his vehicle, Langendorff said the other man came to his car.

 

“The other gentleman said we needed to pursue (the shooter) because he shot up the church,” he said. “So that’s what I did. I just acted.”

 

“So we were doing about 95 mph, going around traffic and everything,” he added.

 

The pair chased the man down FM 539 headed North before the shooter lost control and ran off the roadway. Langendorff said the other man with him jumped out of the car and drew his rifle on Kelley.

 

“He didn’t move after that,” Langendorff said.

According to the New York Post, Texas Department of Public Safety chief Freeman Martin said Willeford “grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect” after Kelley left the First Baptist Church. An area resident told the paper that Willeford, an avid biker who attends another church, learned about the shooting when his daughter called to say a man clad in body armor was shooting worshipers.

The local said that although Willeford has no military background, he didn’t hesitate when he came face to face with the suspect — and managed to squeeze off a round that struck the gunman, who had dropped his Ruger AR-15 variant.

Kelley had taken a hostage in his SUV’s passenger seat before fleeing, the local man told the paper.

Devin Patrick Kelley

According to Langendorff, it took cops about five to seven minutes to arrive. In the meantime, they kept a gun trained on Kelley.

“The police arrived and they pushed us back and they took care of the rest,” he said.

Langendorff’s girlfriend, Summer Caddel, said Kelley died a few feet away from Langendorff.

Johnny Langendorff

The local man, who knows both heroes, said Willeford made sure Kelley’s hostage was outside the vehicle when they approached the SUV.

Authorities are now reporting that between 12 and 14 children were among the 26 fatalities of the shooting. Another 20 people were injured. Police said not all of the victims were shot inside the church, but declined to elaborate.

Yesterday’s church shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history, and the deadliest shooting at a church in US history.
 

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The first stage of Donald Trump’s five-nation tour of Asia began well with the President playing golf with Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, describing their relationship as “really extraordinary”.

This suggested progress following the awkward moment during their previous meeting in February 2017. Abe was the first foreign leader Trump met after his election victory and Trump was mocked on social media after refusing to give Abe his hand back during their 19-second handshake. Today their budding relationship was tested as Trump lashed out at Japan’s unfair trade practices and his related attempts at humour. In rhetoric that sounded familiar to his campaign speeches Trump complained that Japan has been “winning” on trade, alluding to the $69 billion trade deficit in 2016.

“We want fair and open trade. But right now, our trade with Japan is not fair and it’s not open. The US has suffered massive trade deficits with Japan for many, many years.

One way that Trump is aiming to fix the trade deficit by making it easier for Japanese companies to do business in the US. However, his decision to highlight the auto industry was perhaps unfortunate. Nonetheless, Trump lamented.

“Many millions of cars are sold by Japan into the United States, whereas virtually no cars go from the US into Japan…Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. That’s not too much to ask. Is that rude to ask?

Last year Japanese automakers manufactured approximately 4.2 million cars and 4.5 million engines in the US, so the criticism was somewhat unjustified. Besides Japanese companies making more products in the US, Trump is keen to gain better access for US companies in Japanese markets. He stated.

“As president, I‘m committed to achieving fair, free, and reciprocal trading relationship. We seek equal and reliable access for American exports to Japan’s markets in order to eliminate our chronic trade imbalances and deficits with Japan.

On that note, Trump had some words of advice for the Japanese leader for reducing the deficit by buying US missiles to combat North Korea. As Reuters notes.

Trump also pressed Japan to lower its trade deficit with the United States and buy more U.S. military hardware.

 

“He (Abe) will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States,“ Trump said, referring to the North Korean missiles.

 

”The prime minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should. And we make the best military equipment by far.”

Abe’s calmly responded that Japan would shoot down missiles “if necessary”. Having described Japan as a “majestic country” and praising its ancient culture and customs as “terrific”, there was another awkward moment as Trump compared Japan’s economy to the US. According to the FT.

At a press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Trump joked that the US economy was more powerful than Japan’s, in an awkward moment during an otherwise positive visit where the two leaders focused on North Korea.

 

“The Japanese people are thriving. Your cities are vibrant and you’ve built one of the world’s most powerful economies,” Mr Trump said. “I don’t know if it’s as good as ours, I think not. OK? And we’re going to try and keep it that way, but you’ll be second.”

We have a strong sense that Trump’s efforts at persuasion will have little impact on the US trade deficit with Japan. Indeed, we suspect that Abe is following the traditional Japanese approach of listening carefully, responding politely and carrying on regardless. That has been the tactic so far with the Japanese also highlighting that the current deficit is a significantly lower proportion of the total US trade deficit than it was in the past. Furthermore, as the FT explains, Japan was irritated when the Trump Administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

While Mr Trump and Mr Abe are aligned on how to tackle the threat from North Korea, the trade relationship remains a thorny issue. The US is trying to push Japan to enter into bilateral trade talks. Japan was disappointed when Mr Trump in January withdrew the US from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that was the economic pillar of Barack Obama’s Asia “pivot”.

Efforts as recently as last month to improve US/Japan trade relations foundered, as Reuters explains. Note the use of the term “Indo-Pacific”.

In a second round of economic talks in Washington last month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as deputy premier, failed to bridge differences on trade issues. The two sides are at odds over how to frame future trade talks, with Tokyo pushing back against U.S. calls to discuss a bilateral free trade agreement. Trump also said earlier that an Indo-Pacific trade framework would produce more in trade that the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact pushed by his predecessor but which he announced Washington would abandon soon after he took office. The 11 remaining nations in the TPP, to which Japan’s Abe is firmly committed, are edging closer to sealing a comprehensive free trade pact without the United States.

During the press conference with Abe, Trump described his Asian trip as his “first visit to the Indo-Pacific” region. This seems to be part of the Trump Administration embryonic Asian strategy. The term was first used by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, last month in a speech that praised India while criticising China for undermining the international order. The former Asia adviser to George W Bush, Dennis Wilder, told the FT that the Trump Administration is seeking a response to China’s “Belt and Road”.

Dennis Wilder, former, said Mr Trump was trying to find a way to respond to Chinese efforts to build economic and security ties across Asia. “The concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific region is a maritime centric concept that goes back to the great naval thinker [Admiral] Mahan,” said Mr Wilder.

 

“In some ways, the Trump team is trying to answer Xi Jinping’s big idea of the Belt and Road Initiative with their own big idea. The challenge is to put some substance to this concept.”

Besides a lack of progress on trade with Japan, our sense is that aligning more closely with India is unlikely to counter China’s carefully constructed Eurasian strategy, to any meaningful extent. That is, absent a catastrophic bursting of China’s credit bubble which could set the Middle Kingdom back several years.

Meanwhile, there are plenty more stops on Trump’s Asian – especially China – for more gaffes, golf (?) and awkward moments as this FT diagram shows.

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Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,
Everybody and his uncle, and his uncle’s mother’s uncle, believes that the stock markets will be zooming to new record highs this week…

And probably so, because it is the time of year t…

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According to DownDetector.com, and numerous twitter complaints, Comcast’s internet service, Xfinity, is suffering an outage across the country. DownDetector.com shows XFinity internet being down around the United States, mostly on the east coast, but a…

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With President Donald Trump arriving in Japan today to kick off a 10-day Asia tour, the Washington Post is reporting that the only way to locate and secure all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites “with complete certainty” would be …

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War is coming…

This weekend’s chaos in the middle east just got considerably more serious.

Yesterday we detailed reports that the Saudis intercepted a ballistic missile over the nation’s capital Riyadh…

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At the time, Al Jazeera reported that Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they launched the Yemeni-made, long-range ballistic missile Burqan 2-H (with a range of 500 kilometers) from the Saudi-Yemeni border before being intercepted.

But tonight, according to a statement from the Saudi coailition carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the missile that targeted Riyadh has been called “a direct military aggresion” by Iran against Sauid Arabia,  that “could rise to be considered an act of war.” Furthermore, the Saudi-led coalition has closed all Yemen’s land, sea and air ports after missile targeted Riyadh.

Following on what the Coalition had previously announced regarding the ballistic missiles launched by the Iranian-controlled Houthi militias from within Yemeni territory that targeted the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the most recent of which was the flagrant military aggression by the Iranian-controlled Houthi militias which targeted the city of Riyadh on November 11, 2017 (Corresponding to 15/2/1439 Hijri) using a ballistic missile with a range of more than 900 Km.

 

And, after the thorough examination of the debris of these missiles, including the missile launched on July 22, 2017 (Corresponding to 28/10/1438 Hijri) by experts in military technology, has confirmed the role of Iran’s regime in manufacturing these missiles and smuggling them to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the Kingdom, its people, and vital interests.

 

The Coalition’s command considers the Iranian regime’s action in supplying the Houthi militias that it commands with these missiles to be a blatant violation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions that prohibit nations from arming these militias, specifically UNSC Resolution (2216). Further, Iran’s role and its direct command of its Houthi proxy in this matter constitutes a clear act of aggression that targets neighboring countries, and threatens peace and security in the region and globally.

 

Therefore, the Coalition’s Command considers this a blatant act of military aggression by the Iranian regime, and could rise to be considered as an act of war against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and thus affirms the legitimate right of the Kingdom to defend its territory and people in accordance with Article (51) of the U.N. Charter. The Coalition Command also affirms that the Kingdom reserves its right to respond to Iran in the appropriate time and manner, in accordance with international law and based upon the right of self-defense, including the defense of its territory, its people, and its vital interests, which is enshrined in international agreements and conventions including the UN Charter.

 

To address the vulnerabilities in the current inspection procedures that led to the continuation of the supply of ballistic missiles and military equipment to the Houthi militias which enabled them to continue to commit crimes against the Kingdom, the Yemeni people, and the peoples of countries in the region, which constitutes blatant violations to international humanitarian laws, the Coalition’s Command has decided to temporarily close all Yemeni ground, air, and sea ports. These measures will be implemented while taking into consideration the continuation of the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and crews in accordance with the Coalition’s updated procedures.

 

The Coalition Command calls upon all relevant parties to adhere to the inspections, entry, and exit procedures to and from Yemeni ports of entry designated by the Coalition that will be announced later. All necessary legal steps will be taken against violators of these procedures. The Coalition Command calls upon the brethren Yemeni people and all civilian and humanitarian crews to avoid areas of combat operations, areas populated by the Houthi armed militia, areas and ports exploited by this Iranian-controlled militia to smuggle weapons, and areas from which this militia launch its attacks against the Kingdom. The Coalition also calls upon diplomatic missions to avoid areas that are not controlled by the Legitimate Government of Yemen.

 

The Coalition Command calls upon the international community and the United Nations Security Council including the sanctions committee established by the Council for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2216, to take all necessary legal measures to hold Iran accountable for its violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, primarily resolution 2216, in addition to its violations of provisions and principles of international law that criminalize the aggression against other states, due to: Iran’s direct involvement in the unlawful smuggling of weapons to the Houthi Militia under its control, which threatens international peace and security; its aggression against the territory and people of Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries; and its continued support for the Houthi militia in violation of international resolutions that aim to restore legitimacy in Yemen.

The timing is fascinating.

What better way to get the price of oil up before an Aramco IPO – which President Trump just happened to mention out of the blue.

And amid increasing evidence of Saudi rapprochement with Russia and China – and the growing de-dollarization of the anti-unipolar world – a Saudi war with Iran would require the latter to be supported by Washington to survive… which perhaps could be quid pro quo for ending any chatter about the death of the petrodollar.

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Donna Brazile’s shocking revelations about how the Clinton campaign rigged the 2016 primary to favor Hillary and disadvantage the insurgent press of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have exposed a divide in the Democratic Party that is manifesting itself in the stark difference in tone between establishment figures, who’ve crticized Brazile and sought to rebut her claims, and members of the party’s progressive wing, who’ve offered messages of support.

Nowhere is this contrast more evident than in the responses from Tom Perez, who took over from Brazile as permanent DNC Chairman late last year, and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who had challenged Perez’s bid for the chairmanship of the party.

As USA Today pointed out, at issue are the joint funding agreements signed by the presidential campaigns for Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, which allowed whoever won the nomination to take control of the party. Perez explained in a statement that the joint fundraising agreements were the same for both Clinton and Sanders.

While both men pledged to reform the party in the wake of revelations that Obama left it in debt and that it was financially ill-prepared for the 2016 race,

“Our understanding was that the DNC offered all of the presidential campaigns the opportunity to set up a JFA and work with the DNC to coordinate on how those funds were used to best prepare for the general election,” Perez said.

 

Here’s a note Tom Perez sent out to DNC members. Says agreement was same for both Clinton and Sanders campaigns pic.twitter.com/9VfHjuLHto

— Scott Detrow (@scottdetrow) November 3, 2017

Meanwhile, Ellison, who was handed the party vice-chairmanship as a sop following his surprisingly strong challenge against Perez, said in a statement published by the Washington Post that Brazile’s allegatins shouldn’t be ignored.

“We must heed the call for our party to enact real reforms that ensure a fair, open and impartial nominating process in elections to come,” he said in a statement published Friday by The Washington Post.

 

“I’m committed to working with Chairman Perez to make the DNC more transparent and accountable to the American people, whether that’s by ensuring that debates are scheduled far ahead of time or by guaranteeing that the terms of joint fundraising agreements give no candidate undue control or influence over the party.”

Still, both Perez and Ellison emphasized that they would work with the DNC’s Unity Reform Commission on reforms for the party.

Meanwhile, Perez appeared on NBC’s State of the Union to push back against Brazile’s claims about Clinton’s health.

“She was tireless she was a workhorse what saddens me more than anything is that after people read that….they’ll start wondering about other claims in the book.”

In an interview, former Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said that the JFA, by its nature, benefited the candidate who could set up high-dollar fundraisers, and that the DNC did not help Sanders organize large donors.

“Who are the wealthy people Bernie was going to bring to a fundraiser?” Weaver asked. “They never set up a single event.”

Zerlina Maxwell, formerly the director of progressive media for the Clinton campaign, took to CBS to respond to Brazile’s claims. The aide’s tone was critical, but during the interview, she appeared to corroborate what Brazile said.

“She is correct that under Obama the DNC languished and that DWS didn’t do a good enough job. The committee was broke when the 2016 election came around.

Maxwell added that relitigating the 2016 race doesn’t help the party move forward.

“As a party, relitigating 2016 doesn’t get us anywhere.”

She also made the absurd claim that the party was too broke and incompetent to rig the primary.

“The Democratic party was broke; they didn’t have the capacity to rig the election against Bernie. I think the timing couldn’t be worse in terms of where the party needs to go going forward. We need space for us to be more transparent as a party and focus on what the opposition is, which is the Trump administration, and the policies they’re putting forward.”

Overall, some of her rebuttals echoed those listed in an open letter to Brazile signed by more than 100 Clinton campaign staffers.

Most notably, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the party needs to change its procedures for selecting candidates, and if changes aren’t made the party will have “a real problem.”

“My reaction to it is the conversation I had with Tom Perez...I said look Tom your number one job is to bring in Bernie and Bernie supporters and the people in this country who don’t have confidence in the Democratic Party and its process…you need to ensure that the Democratic party works for the people…not the other way around.”

 

Warren added that Perez is “being tested” and that there are negotiations going on to possibly change the rules surrounding the selection of the next nominee, and that the rules going forward “are rules that are fair for everyone.”

The DNC will meet next month to hear recommendations from a “unity commission” that has met four times, in four cities, to research problems with the primary process and debate reforms. Multiple state Democratic chairs are lobbying specifically for new language in the party bylaws about JFAs, an issue that might be forced at a later meeting.

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One year after the Panama Papers revealed billions in assets are held in offshore “tax haven” accounts by some of the world’s most powerful and wealthy individuals, on Sunday a huge new leak of financial documents disclosed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – a global network that won the Pulitzer Prize this year for its work on the Panama Papers – and its 94 media partners has revealed how the powerful and ultra-wealthy, including the Queen’s private estate, secretly invest vast amounts of cash in offshore tax havens. Of particular interest for the US media will be the discovery that Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, is shown to have a stake in a firm dealing with Russians sanctioned by the US, including Vladimir Putin’s immediate family, which Ross failed to clearly disclose prior to his confirmation.

The leak, dubbed the Paradise Papers, contains 13.4 million documents, mostly from the Bermuda-based offshore finance law firm, Appleby, has been investigated by 95 media groups, with the findings released today.  The records expand on the revelations from the leak of offshore documents that spawned the 2016 Panama Papers investigation. The new files shine a light on a different cast of underexplored island havens, including some with cleaner reputations and higher price tags, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

The year-long investigation exposes offshore interest and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders. That includes ties between Russia and U.S President Donald Trump’s billionaire commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. It also highlights the offshore activities of another 12 Trump allies.

 

The Paradise Papers’ key findings summarized:

  • Reveals offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II, and 13 advisers, major donors and members of U.S. President Donald J. Trump
  • Exposes the tax engineering of more than 100 multinational corporations, including Apple, Nike and Botox-maker Allergan
  • Reveals tax haven shopping sprees by multinational companies in Africa and Asia that use shell companies in Mauritius and Singapore to reduce taxes
  • Shines a light on secretive deals and hidden companies connected to Glencore, the world’s largest commodity trader, and provides detailed accounts of the company’s negotiations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for valuable mineral resources
  • Provides details of how owners of jets and yachts, including royalty and sports stars, used Isle of Man tax-avoidance structures

That said, as the BBC admits, “the vast majority of the transactions involve no legal wrongdoing.”

The BBC reports that as with last year’s Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. Sunday’s revelations form only a small part of a week of disclosures that will expose the tax and financial affairs of some of the hundreds of people and companies named in the data.

The most detailed revelations emerge in decades of corporate records from the white-shoe offshore law firm Appleby and corporate services provider Estera, two businesses that operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016. At least 31,000 of the individual and corporate clients included in Appleby’s records are U.S. citizens or have U.S. addresses, more than from any other country. Appleby also counted clients from the United Kingdom, China and Canada among its biggest sources of business.

Nearly 7 million records from Appleby and affiliates cover the period from 1950 to 2016 and include emails, billion-dollar loan agreements and bank statements involving at least 25,000 entities connected to people in 180 countries. Appleby is a member of the “Offshore Magic Circle,” an informal clique of the planet’s leading offshore law practices. The firm was founded Bermuda and has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and other offshore centers. Appleby has a well-guarded 100-year reputation and has avoided public scrapes through a mixture of discretion and expensive client monitoring.

Appleby, for example, is one link in a chain of offshore actors who helped sports stars, Russian oligarchs and government officials to purchase jets, yachts and other luxury items. The offshore experts helped Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two Russian billionaires and childhood friends of President Putin, buy jets worth more than $20 million in 2013. U.S authorities blacklisted the Rotenbergs in 2014 for their support of “Putin’s pet projects” and for having banked “high price contracts” through the Russian government. Appleby cut its ties with the brothers but, in one case, received approval from the Isle of Man government nearly two years after sanctions were imposed to disburse fees to keep one of the brothers’ companies on the business register. The Rotenbergs did not reply to Süddeutsche Zeitung’s requests for comment. Clients prize Appleby for its expertise, efficiency and global network of professionals. Its peers repeatedly crown it Offshore Law Firm of the Year.

But decades of private documents also show that even one of the offshore industry’s brightest stars has hidden shortcomings: accepting questionable clients and failing to monitor multimillion-dollar money flows.

The leaked files also include documents from government business registries in some of the world’s most secretive corporate havens in the Caribbean, the Pacific and Europe, such as Antigua and Barbuda, the Cook Islands and Malta. One-fifth of the world’s busiest secrecy jurisdictions are represented in these databases.

* * *

Many of the stories focus on how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures of trusts, foundations and shell companies to protect their cash from tax officials or hide their dealings behind a veil of secrecy.  In the United States, the the Appleby files show how Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, has used a chain of Cayman Islands entities to maintain a financial stake in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company whose top clients include the Kremlin-linked energy firm Sibur. Among Sibur’s key owners are Kirill Shamalov, Putin’s son-in-law, and Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire the U.S. government sanctioned in 2014 because of his links to Putin. Sibur is a major customer of Navigator, paying the company more than $23 million in 2016. When he joined Trump’s Cabinet, Ross divested his interests in 80 companies. But he kept stakes in nine companies, including the four that connect him to Navigator and its Russian clients. These revelations come against a backdrop of growing concerns about hidden Russian involvement in U.S. political affairs.

Among the key stories being released on Sunday are:

  • Wilbur Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, shares business interests with Vladimir Putin’s immediate family, and he failed to clearly disclose those interests when he was being confirmed for his cabinet position
  • About £10m ($13m) of the Queen’s private money was invested offshore
  • Justin Trudeau’s close adviser, Stephen Bronfman, helped move huge sums offshore
  • A key aide of Canada’s PM has been linked to offshore schemes that may have cost the nation millions of dollars in taxes, threatening to embarrass Justin Trudeau, who has campaigned to shut tax havens
  • Lord Ashcroft, a former Conservative party deputy chairman and a significant donor, may have ignored rules around how his offshore investments were managed. Other papers suggest he retained his non-dom status while in the House of Lords, despite reports he had become a permanent tax resident in the UK

How is the Queen involved?

The BBC reports that the Paradise Papers show that about £10m ($13m) of the Queen’s private money was invested offshore. It was put into funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda by the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the Queen with an income and handles investments for her £500m private estate. There is nothing illegal in the investments and no suggestion that the Queen is not paying tax, but questions may be asked about whether the monarch should be investing in offshore finance. There were small investments in the rent-to-buy retailer BrightHouse, which has been accused of exploiting the poor, and the Threshers chain of off-licences, which later went bust owing £17.5m in tax and costing almost 6,000 people their jobs.

The Duchy said it was not involved in decisions made by funds and there is no suggestion the Queen had any knowledge of the specific investments made on her behalf. The Duchy has in the past said it gives “ongoing consideration regarding any of its acts or omissions that could adversely impact the reputation” of the Queen, who it says takes “a keen interest” in the estate.

The records show that as of 2007, the queen’s private estate invested in a Cayman Islands fund that in turn invested in a private equity company that controlled BrightHouse, a U.K. rent-to-own firm criticized by consumer watchdogs and members of Parliament for selling household goods to cash-strapped Britons on payment plans with interest rates as high as 99.9 percent.

Wilbur Ross’ Russian connection

Of bigger impact to the US news cycle will be the revelation that Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross has retained an interest in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, which earns millions of dollars a year transporting oil and gas for a Russian energy firm whose shareholders include Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law and two men subject to US sanctions.

The leaked files showed a chain of companies and partnerships in the Cayman Islands through which Ross has retained his financial stake in Navigator.

As NBC details, Ross — a billionaire industrialist — retains an interest in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, that was partially owned by his former investment company. One of Navigator’s most important business relationships is with a Russian energy firm controlled, in turn, by Putin’s son-in-law and other members of the Russian president’s inner circle.

In Ross’s case, the documents give a far fuller picture of his finances than the filings he submitted to the government on Jan. 15 as part of his confirmation process. On that date, Ross, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for commerce secretary, submitted a letter to the designated ethics official at the department, explaining steps he was taking to avoid all conflicts of interest. That explanation was vital to his confirmation, because Ross held financial interests in hundreds of companies across dozens of sectors, many of which could be affected by his decisions as commerce secretary. Any one of them could represent a potential conflict of interest, which is why the disclosures, by law, are supposed to be thorough.

“The information that he provided on that form is just a start. It is incomplete,” said Kathleen Clark, an expert on government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis. “I have no reason to believe that he violated the law of disclosure, but in order … for the Commerce Department to understand, you’d have to have more information than what is listed on that form.”

 

Ross, through a Commerce Department spokesperson, issued a statement saying that he recuses himself as secretary from any matters regarding transoceanic shipping, and said he works closely with ethics officials in the department “to ensure the highest ethical standards.”

 

The statement said Ross “has been generally supportive of the Administration’s sanctions of Russian” business entities. But the statement did not address the question of whether he informed Congress or the Commerce Department that he was retaining an interest in companies that have close Russian ties.

In his submission letter to the government, Ross pledged to cut ties with more than 80 financial entities in which he has interests.

However, NBC News claims that the documents seen by the news organization along with a careful examination of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, “tell a different story than the one Ross told at his confirmation. Ross divested most of his holdings, but did not reveal to the government the full details of the holdings he kept.”

In his letter to the ethics official of the Commerce Department, Ross created two lists: those entities and interests he planned to get rid of and those he intended to keep. The second list consisted of nine entities, four of which were Cayman Islands companies represented and managed by the Appleby law firm, which specializes in creating complex offshore holdings for wealthy clients and businesses. The Wilbur Ross Group is one of the firm’s biggest clients, according to the leaked documents, connected to more than 60 offshore holdings.

The four holdings on the list of assets that Ross held onto were valued by him on the form as between $2.05 million and $10.1 million. These four, in turn, are linked through ownership chains to two other entities, WLR Recovery Fund IV DSS AIV L.P. and WLR Recovery Fund V DSS AIV L.P., which were listed in Ross’ financial disclosure prior to confirmation, but were not among the assets he declared he would retain. According to an SEC filing, those entities hold 17.5 million shares in Navigator, which constitutes control of nearly one-third of the shipping firm.

The value of Ross’ investment could change substantially by the time the funds that hold Navigator shares wind up – and holds a significant upside. If the funds performs well enough, the general partnerships in which he is invested stand to receive 20 percent of the entire funds’ profits. In addition, Ross has reported billions in assets to Forbes magazine that did not appear on his government disclosure forms, which he later told the magazine he had placed in trusts that benefit his family members.

Ross started investing in Navigator in 2011, when WL Ross & Co. acquired a 19.4 percent stake, and his firm was granted two seats on Navigator’s board, one of which Ross filled himself early the next year. A few months later, with a bankruptcy court judge’s approval, WL Ross acquired a block of shares from the bankrupt financial services firm Lehman Brothers, becoming Navigator’s majority shareholder. In November 2013, Navigator went public. Shares that WL Ross had bought for about $8 each were put on the market at $19. Afterward Ross bragged at a conference for shipping investors that the investment had been “a home run.” Ross stepped down from Navigator’s board in November 2014 after he became vice chairman of the struggling Bank of Cyprus, which was well known for its dealings with Russian oligarchs. His Navigator board seat was taken by Wendy Teramoto, managing director and partner of WL Ross & Co., who left in 2017 to become Ross’ chief of staff at the Commerce Department.

“The disclosure requirements weren’t written with Wilbur Ross in mind,” said Kathleen Clark, “and I don’t think adequately provide the public or a government ethics official with an understanding of the wide variety of financial interests that he has.”

 

“You look at all of these names,” Clark said, referring to the financial entities, “and they actually look like a code. And what we actually have to do is find — in a sense — a code that decrypts what these names mean and what these companies actually do.”

She added the way the companies were listed was deliberately vague. “I would say this gives the appearance of transparency,” she said, referring to Ross’s disclosure documents. “It’s sort of fake transparency in a sense.”

The complexity of the offshore structures adds legal and reputational distance and obscures the full extent of Ross’s business relationships even as it allows him to profit from them, according to tax and ethics experts consulted by ICIJ.

The Office of Government Ethics, which is responsible for executive branch oversight, approved Ross’s arrangement, and it was left almost entirely unchallenged by the Senate.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said members of Congress who were part of Ross’ confirmation hearings were under the impression that Ross had divested all of his interests in Navigator. Furthermore, he said, they were unaware of Navigator’s close ties to Russia.

“I am astonished and appalled because I feel misled,” said Blumenthal. “Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies.” Blumenthal said he will call for the inspector general of the Commerce Department to launch an investigation.

A look at Navigator’s annual reports reveal an apparent conflict of interest. Navigator’s second-largest client is SIBUR, the Russian petrochemical giant. According to Navigator’s 2017 SEC filing, SIBUR was listed among its top five clients, based on total revenue for the previous two years. In 2016, Navigator’s annual reports show SIBUR brought in $23.2 million in revenue and another $28.7 million the following year. The business relationship has been so profitable that in January, around the time Ross was being vetted for his Cabinet position, Navigator held a naming ceremony for two state-of-the-art tankers on long-term leases to SIBUR.

One of the owners of SIBUR is Gennady Timchenko, a Russian billionaire on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list. He has been barred from entering the U.S. since 2014 because authorities consider him a Specially Designated National, or SDN, who is considered by Treasury to be a member “of the Russian leadership’s inner circle.”  The Treasury Department statement said that Timchenko’s activities in the energy sector “have been directly linked to Putin” and that Putin had investments with a company previously owned by Timchenko, as well as access to the company’s funds.

Daniel Fried, who was the State Department sanctions coordinator under President Barack Obama, said the connection to Timchenko’s interests should have raised alarm bells. “I would think that any reputable American businessman, much less a Cabinet-level official, would want to have absolutely no relationship — direct, indirect — … with anybody of the character and reputation of Gennady Timchenko,” Fried said. “I just don’t get it.”

Another major SIBUR shareholder is Leonid Mikhelson, who, like Timchenko, has close ties to the Kremlin. One of his companies, Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer, was placed on the Treasury’s sanctions list in 2014.

Included in the Appleby documents are details of an internal discussion that resulted in the law firm dropping Mikhelson as a client in 2014, over concerns regarding his financial affiliations. “I would say to anybody who asked,” said Fried, “treat SDNs as radioactive. Stay away from them.

A third shareholder of SIBUR – and deputy chairman of the board – is Kirill Shamalov, husband of Vladimir Putin’s daughter, Katerina Tikhonova. After the wedding, Shamalov’s meteoric rise to wealth led him to own as much as 21.3 percent of SIBUR’s stock until April, when he sold off around 17 percent for a reported $2 billion.

“It’s a new generation which is currently being prepared and groomed… to inherit whatever power and wealth Putin’s team has accumulated over the past years,” said Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister in Putin’s government who is now working with the opposition. Milov also said companies like SIBUR are often the way sanctioned Kremlin insiders have to keep doing business despite restrictions. 

 

The Commerce Department statement said Ross never met Timchenko, Mikhelson, or Shamalov. It said he was not on the board of Navigator in March 2011 when the ships in question were acquired, and said Sibur was not under U.S. sanctions now or in 2012 when the charter agreement with Navigator was signed. The statement said Ross was on the board of Navigator from 2012 to 2014, and that no funds managed by his company ever owned a majority of Navigator’s shares.

Fried said he has no doubt of the connections between SIBUR and the Kremlin. “If any senior official of the U.S. government, much less a Cabinet secretary … had any business dealings with sanctioned individuals, direct or indirect,” he said, “I would be appalled.”

The news comes at a time when every relationship between the Trump administration and Russia is closely scrutinized: Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, said there needs to a close examination of whether Ross’ testimony to the Senate violated perjury laws. Painter also said Ross must recuse himself from all Russia-related matters because of the SIBUR connection.

“Secretary Ross cannot participate in any discussion or decision-making or recommendation about sanctions imposed on Russia or on Russian nationals when he owns a company that is doing business with Russian nationals who are either under sanctions or who could come under sanctions in any future sanctions regime,” Painter said. “That would be a criminal offense for him to participate in any such matter.”

On Nov. 30, 2016, hours after being nominated as commerce secretary, Ross celebrated at Gramercy Tavern, an upscale Manhattan restaurant, an event hosted by Navigator Holdings. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, he and Butters arrived early at the chandeliered private room and had a conversation. “Your interest is aligned to mine,” Butters recalled Ross saying, according to Bloomberg. “The U.S. economy will grow, and Navigator will be a beneficiary.”

Butters told Bloomberg that as other guests arrived and tucked into sherry-sauce sea bass and pear buckle, they took turns congratulating Ross. “It was like – we have a chance now,” Butters told Bloomberg. “We have a chance to make some differences.”

(Much more on Ross’ questionable business dealings can be found here)

* * *

In the ICIJ report, the consortium has put together the following infographic revealing what it calls “The Influencers”, or 13 Trump advisers, donors and cabinet members:

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to fight the power of global elites and told voters he would put “America First.” But surrounding Trump are a number of close associates who have used offshore tax havens to conduct business. Scroll through their offshore stories

* * *

The Paradise Papers also show  Stephen Bronfman, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s adviser and close friend, teamed up with Liberal Party stalwart Leo Kolber and Kolber’s son to quietly move millions of dollars to a Cayman trust. They reveal that Bronfman was involved in the movement of millions of dollars to offshore havens. Stephen Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune, who was instrumental in Trudeau’s successful bid for the leadership of the Canadian Liberal party in 2013 and the premiership two years later, engaged through his family investment business in a complex web of entities in the US, Israel and the Cayman Islands. Multimillion-dollar cashflows between the three jurisdictions might legally have avoided taxes in the US, Canada and Israel.

The leaked documents unveil a close relationship between two wealthy families who collaborated to shift millions of dollars to the Cayman Islands. On one side were the Bronfman family, inheritors of the Seagram distillery fortune in Montreal. On the other side was the Cayman Islands-based trust of Leo Kolber, a former Canadian senator and powerhouse within the Liberal party Trudeau now leads.

* * *

Other royals and politicians with newly disclosed offshore ties include Queen Noor of Jordan, who was listed as the beneficiary of two trusts on the island of Jersey, including one that held her sprawling British estate; Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s foreign minister and a former U.N. General Assembly president, who set up an offshore trust in the Seychelles to manage his personal wealth; Brazil’s finance minister, Henrique de Campos Meirelles, who created a foundation in Bermuda “for charitable purposes”; and Antanas Guoga, a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament and professional poker player, who held a stake in an Isle of Man company whose other shareholders included a gambling mogul who settled a fraud lawsuit in the United States.

In addition to disclosures about politicians and corporations, the files reveal details about the financial lives of the rich and famous – and the unknown. They include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s yacht and submarines, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Cayman Island investment vehicle, and music star Madonna’s shares in a medical supplies company. Pop singer and social justice activist Bono – listed under his full name, Paul Hewson – owned shares in a company registered in Malta that invested in shopping center in Lithuania, company records show. Other clients listed their occupations as dog groomer, plumber and wakeboard instructor.

Madonna and Allen did not reply to requests for comment. Omidyar, whose Omidyar Network donates to ICIJ, discloses his investment to tax authorities, a spokeswoman said. Bono was a “passive, minority investor” in the Malta company that closed down in 2015, a spokeswoman said.

* * *

Glencore

One of Appleby’s top corporate clients was Glencore PLC, the world’s largest commodity trader. The files contain decades of deals, emails and multimillion-dollar loans to bankroll ventures in Russia, Latin America, Africa and Australia. Glencore was such an important client that it once had its own room within Appleby’s offices in Bermuda.

Company board meeting minutes document how Glencore representatives leaned on Daniel Gertler, an Israeli businessman with high-level friends in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to help seal a deal for a valuable copper mine. Glencore lent millions to a company, widely believed to belong to Gertler, described in a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry as a conduit for bribes. Gertler and Glencore were not named in the case.

Glencore said its background checks on Gertler were “extensive and thorough.” The Justice Department investigation “does not constitute evidence of anything against Mr. Gertler,” his lawyers said, adding that he “rejects absolutely any allegations of wrongdoing or criminality by him.” No loans were used improperly or for inappropriate purposes, Gertler’s lawyers said.

(Much more on Glencore here)

* * *

A full list of the politicians implicated in the Paradise Papers can be found here.

* * *

Summarizing much of the data contained in the Paradise Papers, is the following brief primer from the BBC revealing “how to hide your cash in 5 easy steps“:

How to hide your cashhttps://t.co/lig25C5o6s#ParadisePapers pic.twitter.com/i5nToqlubZ

— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 5, 2017

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Submitted by iBankCoin.com

An internet researcher has uncovered what appears to be proof that the FBI was investigating the Uranium One deal back in 2015 – months after the Peter Schweizer book Clinton Cash exposed the scheme, along with an article in the New York Times which laid out allegations of criminal malfeasance by the Clintons, their charitable foundation, and several associates.

Twitter user Katica (@GOPPollAnalyst) – who notably discovered Hillary Clinton’s IT guy ‘Stonetear’ asking Reddit users how to strip Clinton’s name from archived emails – discovered several Preservation and Records requests sent by an FBI special agent to various agencies involved in the approval of the Uranium One deal on August 28th, 2015, as first published by The Conservative Treehouse. Katica found the requests buried in an FBI file released via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Revealing Timeline

While the Clinton email investigation was launched in March of 2015 after it was revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a personal server and non-approved email accounts to conduct government business, reports from August, 2015 revealed that the FBI investigation was actually a criminal probe – though most assumed it was simply covering Clinton’s mishandling of classified information and not the content of her emails.

What Katica discovered is that weeks after the criminal probe began, the FBI sent notices to every agency involved in the Uranium One approval process to preserve records.

This is huge… 

The agencies which received the request included the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI James Clapper), The National Counter Terrorism Center, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Five days after the initial request, the same FBI agent sent another round of notifications to the same agencies, adding the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Secret Service (USSS).

The next day, September 3rd, 2015three more agencies were added to the preservation request: The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Department of Defense (DOD)

At this point, every single member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) which signed off on the Uranium One deal was served with a notice to preserve records. 

As The Conservative Treehouse notes:

It would be intellectually dishonest not to see the very likely attachment of the special agent’s action.  That is to say an FBI probe originating as an outcome of information retrieved in parallel to the timing of the “criminal probe” of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email use.

 

The sequence of events highlights a criminal probe starting [early August 2015], followed by notifications to the “Uranium One” CFIUS participants [late August 2015].

 

If you consider the larger Clinton timeline; along with the FBI special agent requests from identified participants; and overlay the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the leading entity surrounding the probe elements; and the fact that the CFIUS participants were the recipients of the retention requests;  well, it’s just too coincidental to think this is unrelated to the Uranium One deal and the more alarming implications.

FBI Mole 

Let’s not forget a bombshell report from The Hill two weeks ago which revealed that as early as 2009, the FBI – led by Robert Mueller at the time, had a mole in the Russian uranium industry, and that the agency had evidence that “Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow” – a deal which would grant the Kremlin control over 20 percent of America’s uranium supply. 

The mole was forced to sign an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which threatened criminal penalties for revealing information, even to Congress. After a request was made by Reps Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) calling for the Justice department to invalidate the NDA, the gag order was lifted, and the FBI informant was authorized to speak with congress.

BREAKING: DOJ authorizes FBI Informant to speak with Congress concerning alleged corruption involving Clintons & Uranium One. #MAGA #DTS

— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) October 25, 2017

Tony Podesta and Uranium One

While one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort turned himself in to the FBI a week ago on charges of money laundering, let’s not forget what a former Podesta Group executive interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller told Tucker Carlson Tonight: the FBI probe is now focusing on people in Washington who have worked as de-facto operatives on behalf of Russian government and business. To that end, he had quite a bit to say about his former boss Tony and his relationship to the Uranium One deal.

  • In late 2013 or early 2014, Tony Podesta and a representative for the Clinton Foundation met to discuss how to help Uranium One – the Russian owned company that controls 20 percent of American Uranium Production – and whose board members gave over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation.
  • In 2013, John Podesta recommended that Tony hire David Adams, Hillary Clinton’s chief adviser at the State Department, giving them a “direct liaison” between the group’s Russian clients and Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
  • “Tony Podesta was basically part of the Clinton Foundation.”

As far as the current state of the FBI investigation, “They are more focused on facilitators of Russian influence in this country than they are on election collusion,” Carlson’s source told Fox.

Tying it together – previous reports of Federal investigations into the Clinton Foundation: 

Katica’s FOIA discovery corroborates a New York Times report from November 1, 2016, which asserts that an FBI investigation was kicked off based on revelations of pay-for-play in the book “Clinton Cash” written by Peter Schweizer:

The investigation, based in New York, had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book “Clinton Cash,” according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.

 

The book asserted that foreign entities gave money to former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, and in return received favors from the State Department when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state. Mrs. Clinton has adamantly denied those claims. -NYT

The Wall St. Journal also reported last October that five FBI field offices were investigating the Clinton Foundation; New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Little Rock and  Miami, and “were collecting information about the Clinton Foundation to see if there was evidence of financial crimes or influence-peddling, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The FBI field office in New York had done the most work on the Clinton Foundation case and received help from the FBI field office in Little Rock, the people familiar with the matter said. –WSJ

And in November, as tweeted by Wikileaks and reported on by the Dallas Observer, the Clinton Foundation has been under investigation by the IRS since July of 2016, after 64 GOP members of Congress received letters urging them to push for an investigation. The investigation has been notably held at the Dallas IRS office – far away from Washington.

The Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas is an all purpose office complex, a bastion of federal bureaucracy located at 1100 Commerce St. Most people come for a passport or to get business done in front of a federal judge. But inside, a quiet review is underway that has direct ties to the raging presidential election: The local branch of the IRS’ Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division is reviewing the tax status of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

So – while the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton was sold as a simple matter of mishandling of classified material, we now have proof that the FBI set their sights on the Uranium One scandal weeks after they began looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails. We also know that five FBI field offices and the IRS have been investigating the Clinton Foundation on accusations of pay-to-play and other criminal acts. 

Bets on who’s indicted next?

Flashback to October 27, 2016

Wallace Says HARD NEW PROOF Hillary Clinton Foundation/Bill & State Colluded 4PAY4PLAYS via Doug Band #PodestaEmails20 ‘s #Thursdaythoughts pic.twitter.com/CxOpiKtW3w

— ????STOCK MONSTER???? (@StockMonsterUSA) October 27, 2016

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The Federal Reserve’s “smooth transition” from Janet Yellen to Jay Powell is set for a major speedbump.
Just two short days after Donald Trump confirmed what weekly trial balloons had reported for weeks, namely that Janet Yellen is being replaced with …

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