Ever wondered where the profits from dodgy deals and crime end up? Here are eleven places that have been used to hide ill-gotten gains.
As we launch a new campaign to stop the Trillion Dollar Scandal that deprives people in developing countries of more than $1 trillion each year, we’re digging into the web of secrecy that makes it all possible.
Some were easy to find, but as you might expect others were tougher and took investigators years to track down.
1. 40 Wall St, New York
In 1982, Joseph J. and Ralph E. Bernstein bought this tower block in the heart of New York’s financial district. They were later found to be acting on behalf of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the corrupt President of the Philippines, who stole billions.
In August 2014, the US seized more than $480 million in assets hidden by former Nigerian military dictator Sani Abacha and his associates. That included about $303 million in two bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey, a small island near France ruled by Britain.
3. A yacht
Tunisian authorities recovered a luxury yacht belonging to the brother-in-law of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country’s former dictator. Found in Spain, It was put on sale with a value estimate of €8m.
In 2011, eleven sports cars worth more than US $4 million were seized by French police in Paris. They belonged to Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the vice-president of Equatorial Guinea (and son of the current president), who has been accused of spending more than $300 million on luxury goods while more than one in seven children under the age of five were dying from preventable diseases inside his country and poverty remains rampant.
American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work “Hannibal” was seized from a Manhattan warehouse by US investigators as part of a probe into Edemar Cid Ferreira, a former Brazilian banker who stole millions.
Maryam Abacha, the widow of Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, was stopped at Lagos airport with 38 suitcases full of money shortly after he died. And when Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos fled to Hawaii from the Philippines, they had 24 1kg gold bars fitted into a $17,000 hand-tooled Gucci briefcase with a solid gold buckle.
7. A tea room
After Viktor Yanukovych was deposed as president of Ukraine, investigators found 200 folders of documents dumped in a lake. They dried them in the sauna and found (amongst other things) receipts for payment of $2.3m for a tea room.
The Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Centre found that Mr Yanukovych’s home was owned by a company called Tantalit, which was owned by an Austrian company, which in turn was 35% owned by a British shell company, Blythe (Europe) Ltd, and 65% owned by an Austrian bank. Blythe was owned by a trust based in Lichtenstein, a tiny Alpine country tucked between Austria and Switzerland where many trusts find a home.
The son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi owned a $10m house in London’s leafy Hampstead, via a phantom firm based in the British Virgin Islands. It had its own swimming pool and cinema.
10. A think tank
US Lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon set up the “American International Center” as a think tank to hide their money, gained from Washington corruption. It was run by two childhood friends of theirs: yoga instructor Brian Mann and lifeguard David Grosh.
If your initials are VM, you might like to bid for jewellery belonging to Vladimiro Montesinos, Peru’s corrupt former intelligence chief. He is serving a 20 year stretch for corruption, and his jewellery, watches and other goodies are being sold off. On the other hand, you might not share his tastes: it was pretty bling.