Spies and shadowy allies lurk in secret, thanks to firm’s bag of tricks

Panama Papers reveal how spies and CIA gun-runners use offshore companies to stay hidden

Offshore world blurs the line between legitimate business and the world of espionage

‘You can’t exactly walk around saying that you’re a spy’

Offshore corporations have one main purpose – to create anonymity. Recently leaked documents reveal that some of these shell companies, cloaked in secrecy, provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.

One day during his presidential re-election campaign in September 1996, Bill Clinton walked into a room in Westin Crown Center hotel in Kansas City, Mo. At stake was a quarter-million dollars in campaign fundraising. Clinton turned to his generous host, Farhad Azima, and led the guests in song.

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you….”

Azima, an Iranian-born American charter airline executive, had long donated to both Democratic and Republican administrations. He visited the Clinton White House 10 times between October 1995 and December 1996, including private afternoon coffees with the president. Years later, as Hillary Clinton stood for election to the Senate in December 1999, Azima hosted her and 40 guests for a private dinner that raised $2,500 a head.

Azima’s Democratic fundraising activities provided an interesting twist in the career of a man who has found himself in a media storm of one of America’s major political scandals, the Iran-Contra affair, during the Republican Reagan Administration.

Adnan Khashoggi arrives to the opening night ceremony and premiere of the film “Blindness” during the 61st International film festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 14, 2008. // Lionel Cironneau / AP
Lionel Cironneau / AP
Adnan Khashoggi arrives to the opening night ceremony and premiere of the film “Blindness” during the 61st International film festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 14, 2008.
In the mid-1980s, senior Reagan administration officials secretly arranged to sell weapons to Iran to help free seven American hostages then use the sale proceeds to fund right-wing Nicaraguan rebels known as the Contras. On a mission to Tehran in 1985, one of Azima’s Boeing 707 cargo planes delivered 23 tons of military equipment, The New York Times reported. Azima has always claimed to know nothing about the flight or even if it happened.

“I’ve had nothing to do with Iran-Contra,” Azima told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). “I was investigated by every known agency in the U.S. and they decided there was absolutely nothing there,” said Azima. “It was a wild goose chase. The law enforcement and regulators fell for it.”

Now, records obtained by ICIJ, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners, including McClatchy, reveal new details about one of America’s most colorful political donors. The records also disclose offshore deals made by another Iran-Contra figure, the Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi.

The more than 11 million documents – which stretch from 1977 to December 2015 – show the inner workings of Mossack Fonseca & Co., a Panamanian law firm that specializes in building labyrinthine corporate structures that sometimes blur the line between legitimate business and the cloak-and-dagger world of international espionage.

Offshore corporations – The secret shell game
Offshore corporations have one main purpose – to create anonymity. Recently leaked documents reveal that some of these shell companies, cloaked in secrecy, provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.
Sohail Al-Jamea and Ali Rizvi / McClatchy

Spies’ offshore dealings

The documents also pull back the curtain on hundreds of details about how former CIA gun-runners and contractors use offshore companies for personal and private gain. Further, they illuminate the workings of a host of other characters who used offshore companies during or after their work as spy chiefs, secret agents or operatives for the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

“You can’t exactly walk around saying that you’re a spy,” Loch K. Johnson, a professor at the University of Georgia, says in explaining the cover that offshore firms offer. Johnson, a former aide to a U.S. Senate committee’s intelligence inquiries, has spent decades studying CIA “front” companies.

Millionaire businessman and confidant of Saudi kings, Kamal Adham is pictured in 1991. He is also the founder of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency. // Ali Mahmoud / AP
Ali Mahmoud / AP
Millionaire businessman and confidant of Saudi kings, Kamal Adham is pictured in 1991. He is also the founder of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency.
According to the Panama Papers, Mossack Fonseca’s clients included Sheikh Kamal Adham, Saudi Arabia’s first intelligence chief who was later named by a U.S. Senate committee as the CIA’s “principal liaison for the entire the Middle East from the mid-1960s through 1979,” and who controlled offshore companies later involved in a U.S. banking scandal; retired Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rubianogroot, Colombia’s former chief of air intelligence, who was a shareholder of an aviation and logistics company; and Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Ndahiro, doctor turned spy chief to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.

Adham died in 1999. Ndahiro did not respond to requests for comment. Rubianogroot confirmed to ICIJ partner and Colombian investigative journalism organization, Consejo de Redacción, that he was a small shareholder in West Tech Panama, which was created to buy an American avionics company. The company is in liquidation.

“We conduct thorough due diligence on all new and prospective clients that often exceeds in stringency the existing rules and standards to which we and others are bound,” said Mossack Fonseca in a statement. “Many of our clients come through established and reputable law firms and financial institutions across the world, including the major correspondent banks…If a new client/entity is not willing and/or able to provide to us the appropriate documentation indicating who they are, and (when applicable) from where their funds are derived, we will not work with that client/entity.”

Even wannabe spooks can be found.

“’I’ll suggest a name like ‘World Insurance Services Limited’ or maybe ‘Universal Exports’ after the company used in the early James Bond stories but I don’t know if we’d get away with that!” wrote one financier to Mossack Fonseca in 2010 on behalf of a client creating a front company in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Universal Exports was a fictional company used by the British Secret Service in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

The files further show that Mossack Fonseca also incorporated companies named Goldfinger, SkyFall, GoldenEye, Moonraker, Spectre and Blofeld after James Bond movie titles and villains and was asked to do the same for Octopussy. There is correspondence from a man named Austin Powers, apparently his real name and not the movie character, and Jack Bauer, whom a Mossack Fonseca employee entered into the firm’s database as a client and not the television character after the employee “met him at a pub.”

But Mossack Fonseca’s connection to espionage is more often fact, not fiction.

Men in their flying machines

The secret documents show that Farhad Azima incorporated his first offshore company with Mossack Fonseca in the BVI in 2000. The company was called ALG (Asia & Pacific) Limited, a branch of his airline Aviation Leasing Group, a U.S.-based private company with a fleet of more than 60 aircraft.

It was not until 2013 when the firm ran a routine background search on the shareholders of a new company that Mossack Fonseca discovered media articles on Azima’s alleged ties to the CIA. Among the allegations found in online articles shared by Mossack Fonseca employees were that he “supplied air and logistical support” to a company owned by former CIA agents who shipped arms to Libya. Another article quoted an FBI official who said he had been warned by the CIA that Azima was “off limits.”

The firm asked Azima’s representatives to confirm his identity. But it appears that Mossack Fonseca never received a reply. The files indicate that he remained a client and that internal surprises continued.

In 2014, one year after discovering online reports of his connections to the CIA, Hosshang Hosseinpour, was cited by the U.S. Treasury Department as helping companies move tens of millions of dollars for companies in Iran, which at the time was subject to economic sanctions.

The files show that Azima and Hosseinpour appeared on corporate documents of a company that planned to buy a hotel in the nation of Georgia in 2011. That was the same year Treasury officials asserted that Hosseinpour, who co-founded the private airline FlyGeorgia, and two others first began to send millions of dollars into Iran, which led to sanctions being taken against him three years later.

The documents show that Hosseinpour briefly held shares in the company from November 2011. However, in February 2012 company administrators told Mossack Fonseca that he was not part of the company and his shares had been issued in an “administrative error.” The company, Eurasia Hotel Holdings Limited, changed its name to Eurasia Aviation Holdings and bought a Hawker Beechcraft 400XP corporate jet in 2012 for $1.625 million, files show.

Azima told ICIJ that the company was only used to buy an aircraft and that Hosseinpour had never been involved in the company.

The plane was not going to be used in the U.S., Azima said, so couldn’t be registered in the U.S. and the choice of the BVI was not for tax purposes. “I’ve filed every tax known to mankind,” Azima told ICIJ.

Hosseinpour could not be reached for comment. In 2013, before the sanctions came into force, he told The Wall Street Journal that he had no connections to Iran and “nothing to do with evading sanctions.”

Another colorful connection to the CIA in the Mossack Fonseca files is Loftur Johannesson, now a wealthy, silver-haired 85-year-old from Rekyavik, also known as “The Icelander.” Johannesson is widely reported in books and newspaper articles to have worked with the CIA in the 1970s and 1980s, supplying guns to anti-communist guerrillas in Afghanistan. With his CIA paychecks, The Icelander reportedly bought a home in Barbados and a vineyard in France.

Johannesson himself emerges in Mossack Fonseca’s files in September 2002, long after his retirement from secret service. He was connected to at least four offshore companies in the BVI and Panama linked to homes in high-priced locales, including one located behind London’s Westminster Cathedral and another in a beachfront Barbados complex where a similar home is now selling for $35 million. As recently as January 2015, Johannesson paid thousands of dollars to Mossack Fonseca for its services.

“Mr. Johannesson has been an international businessman, mainly in aviation-related activities, and he completely rejects your suggestions that he may have worked for any secret intelligence agencies,” a spokesman told ICIJ.

Agent Rocco and 008: license to incorporate

Another connection to the Iran-Contra scandal is Adnan Khashoggi. The Saudi billionaire, once thought to be the world’s most extravagant spender, negotiated billions of dollars in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and played “a central role for the U.S. government” with CIA operatives in selling guns to Iran, according to a 1992 U.S. Senate report co-written by then-Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is now the U.S. secretary of state.

Khashoggi appears in the Mossack Fonseca files as early as 1978, when he became president of the Panamanian company ISIS Overseas S.A. Most of his business with Mossack Fonseca appears to have taken place between the 1980s and the 2000s through at least four other companies.

Mossack Fonseca’s files do not reveal the purpose of all Khashoggi’s companies. However, two of them, Tropicterrain S.A., Panama, and Beachview Inc., were involved in mortgages for homes in Spain and the Grand Canaries islands.

President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, with wife Imelda, gestures from the balcony of Malacanang Palace, Feb. 25, 1986, after taking the oath of office. Hours later, Marcos resigned and fled to the U.S. Air Force’s Clark Air Base, 50 miles northwest of Manila, as he prepared to accept an American offer to fly him out of the Philippines. // Alberto Marquez / AP
Alberto Marquez / AP
President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, with wife Imelda, gestures from the balcony of Malacanang Palace, Feb. 25, 1986, after taking the oath of office. Hours later, Marcos resigned and fled to the U.S. Air Force’s Clark Air Base, 50 miles northwest of Manila, as he prepared to accept an American offer to fly him out of the Philippines.
There is no indication that Mossack Fonseca investigated Khashoggi’s past even though the firm processed payments from the Adnan Khashoggi Group in the same year that he made global news when the U.S. charged him with helping Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines, loot millions. Khashoggi was later cleared. Mossack Fonseca’s files show the firm ceased business with Khashoggi around 2003.

The Mossack Fonseca files indicated the company did not discriminate between Cold War foes.

Another customer was Sokratis Kokkalis, now a 76-year-old Greek billionaire once accused of spying for the East German Stasi under the alias “Agent Rocco.” A German parliamentary investigation found that in the early 1960s Kokkalis regularly informed on acquaintances and contacts during his time living in Germany and Russia. Until 2010, Kokkalis owned the Greek soccer club Olympiakos, and he now owns Greece’s largest telecommunications company.

Mossack Fonseca discovered Kokkalis’s connections to espionage in February 2015 as part of routine background checks of one of his companies, Upton International Group. Kokkalis “was accused by East German officials of espionage, fraud, and money laundering in the early sixties, but the case was acquitted,” an employee wrote colleagues after an Internet search. Mossack Fonseca’s files reveal that Kokkalis’ agent did not respond to the firm’s requests for details about Kokkalis and his company, including its purpose.

Khashoggi could not be reached for comment. Kokkalis, who did not respond to requests for comment, has previously denied charges and accused “political personalities” and newspapers of a “war” against him.

In 2005, Mossack Fonseca employees learned with some alarm that someone on their books went by the name of Francisco P. Sánchez, who Mossack Fonseca employees assumed to be Francisco Paesa Sánchez, one of Spain’s most infamous secret agents. “The story… was really scary,” wrote the person who first discovered Paesa’s background. Mossack Fonseca had incorporated seven companies of which P. Sanchez was a director.

Born in Madrid before the outbreak of World War II, Paesa amassed a fortune hunting down separatists and a corrupt police chief before fleeing Spain with millions of dollars. In 1998, Paesa faked his own death; his family issued a death certificate that testified to a heart attack in Thailand. But in 2004, investigators tracked him down in Luxembourg. Paesa himself later explained that reports of his death had been a “misunderstanding.” In December 2005, a Spanish magazine reported on what it called Paesa’s “business network” that built and owned hotels, casinos and a golf course in Morocco. Without mentioning Mossack Fonseca, the article listed the same seven companies incorporated in the BVI.

In October 2005, Mossack Fonseca had decided to distance itself from the companies of which P. Sanchez was a director. “We are concern [sic] of the impact it may have in Mossfon’s image if any scandal arises,” the firm wrote an administrator to explain its decision to cut ties with P. Sanchez’s companies.

“We believe in principle that when a client is not up front with us about any facts that are relevant for his or her dealings with us, especially their true identity and background, that this is sufficient reason to terminate our relationship with them,” wrote a senior employee.

Paesa could not be reached for comment.

Werner Mauss and his wife, from Germany, are presented to the media in Medellin, Colombia, after their arrest at Medellin’s airport on Nov. 17 1996, in this image taken from TV. The German’s are accused of paying off rebels and trying to smuggle their kidnap victim out of the country. The kidnap victim Brigitte Schoene was abducted on Aug. 16 1996, by guerillas who demanded a million dollar ransom. // AP
AP
Werner Mauss and his wife, from Germany, are presented to the media in Medellin, Colombia, after their arrest at Medellin’s airport on Nov. 17 1996, in this image taken from TV. The German’s are accused of paying off rebels and trying to smuggle their kidnap victim out of the country. The kidnap victim Brigitte Schoene was abducted on Aug. 16 1996, by guerillas who demanded a million dollar ransom.
Two names, nine fingers

Another Internet search, this time in March 2015, alerted the firm that another of its clients – a “Claus Mollner” – had been a customer for nearly 30 years. Among unrelated results from Facebook, a family tree or two and an academic linguistic review, there was one article from the University of Delaware.

“Claus Möllner (the name that Werner Mauss always used to identify himself),” said the article.

Mollner or Mauss, also known as Agent 008 and “The Man of Nine Fingers,” thanks to the lost tip of an index finger, claims to be “Germany’s first undercover agent.” Now retired, Mauss’s website boasts of his role in “smashing 100 criminal groups.”

Colombian authorities briefly held Mauss in 1996 on charges, later dropped, that he conspired with guerillas to kidnap a woman and keep part of the ransom payment. Mauss claims the hostage takers were not rebels, that he never received ransom money and that “all operations carried out worldwide. . . have always been effected with the cooperation of German governmental agencies and authorities.”

While Mauss’s real name never appears in Mossack Fonseca’s files, hundreds of documents detail his network of companies in Panama. At least two companies held real estate in Germany.

Mauss did not personally own any offshore companies, Mauss’s lawyer told ICIJ partners Suddeutsche Zeitung and NDR public television. All companies and foundations connected to him were to “secure the personal financial interests of the Mauss family,” Mauss’s lawyer said, were disclosed and paid applicable taxes.

Mauss’s lawyer confirmed that some companies that appear in Mossack Fonseca’s files were used for “humanitarian operations” in peace and hostage negotiations “for forwarding of humanitarian goods such as hospitals, surgical instruments, large amounts of antibiotics etc.,” in order to “neutralize” extortion.

In the files it appears that in March 2015, a Mossack Fonseca employee clicked on the Google search result that linked Mollner to Mauss. Yet there is no other suggestion that Mossack Fonseca discovered his true identity. His companies continued to be on Mossack Fonseca’s books into 2015.

It probably suited Mollner – or Mauss – just fine.

As a journalist who interviewed him in 1998 observed, “The secret of his real identity was always Werner Mauss’s capital.”

THIS STORY IS PART OF A LARGER SERIES, INVOLVING MCCLATCHY AND OTHER NEWS ORGANIZATIONS, WORKING UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF THE NONPROFIT INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS.

BY WILL FITZGIBBON
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
APRIL 5, 2016 1:55 PM
Find this story at 5 April 2016

Copyright http://www.mcclatchydc.com/

Panama Papers: Links revealed to spies and Iran-Contra affair Documents show ex-CIA gun-runners, contractors use offshore firms for personal gain

Adnan Khashoggi: Saudi billionaire negotiated billions of dollars in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and played “a central role for the US government” with CIA operatives in selling guns to Iran, according to a 1992 US Senate report co-written by then-Senator John Kerry, now the US secretary of state. Photograph: Getty Images
Adnan Khashoggi: Saudi billionaire negotiated billions of dollars in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and played “a central role for the US government” with CIA operatives in selling guns to Iran, according to a 1992 US Senate report co-written by then-Senator John Kerry, now the US secretary of state. Photograph: Getty Images

One day during his presidential re-election campaign in September 1996, Bill Clinton walked into a room in Westin Crown Center hotel in Kansas City. At stake was a quarter-million dollars in campaign fundraising. Clinton turned to his generous host, Farhad Azima, and led the guests in song.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you….”
Azima, an Iranian-born American charter airline executive, had long donated to Democratic and Republican administrations. He visited the Clinton White House 10 times between October 1995 and December 1996, including private afternoon coffees with the president. Years later, as Hillary Clinton stood for election to the Senate in December 1999, Azima hosted her and 40 guests for a private dinner that raised $2,500 a head.
Azima’s Democratic fundraising activities provided an interesting twist in the career of a man who has found himself in a media storm of one of America’s major political scandals, the Iran-Contra affair, during the Republican Reagan Administration.
In the mid-1980s, senior Reagan administration officials secretly arranged to sell weapons to Iran to help free seven American hostages then use the sale proceeds to fund right-wing Nicaraguan rebels known as the Contras. On a mission to Tehran in 1985, one of Azima’s Boeing 707 cargo planes delivered 23 tons of military equipment, the New York Times reported. Azima has always claimed to know nothing about the flight or even if it happened.
“I’ve had nothing to do with Iran-Contra,” Azima told ICIJ. “I was investigated by every known agency in the US and they decided there was absolutely nothing there,” said Azima. “It was a wild goose chase. The law enforcement and regulators fell for it.”
Now, records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners including The Irish Times reveal new details about one of America’s most colourful political donors. The records also disclose offshore deals made by another Iran-Contra figure, the Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi.
The more than 11 million documents – which stretch from 1977 to December 2015 – show the inner workings of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that specializes in building labyrinthine corporate structures that sometimes blur the line between legitimate business and the cloak-and-dagger world of international espionage.
Spies’ Offshore Dealings
The documents also pull back the curtain on hundreds of details about how former CIA gun-runners and contractors use offshore companies for personal and private gain. Further, they illuminate the workings of a host of other characters who used offshore companies during or after their work as spy chiefs, secret agents or operatives for the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
“You can’t exactly walk around saying that you’re a spy,” says Loch K Johnson, a professor at the University of Georgia, in explaining the cover that offshore firms offer. Johnson, a former aide to a US Senate committee’s intelligence inquiries, has spent decades studying CIA “front” companies.
The documents reveal that Mossack Fonseca’s clients included Saudi Arabia’s first intelligence chief who was named by a US Senate committee as the CIA’s “principal liaison for the entire the Middle East from the mid-1960s through 1979”, Sheikh Kamal Adham, who controlled offshore companies later involved in a US banking scandal; Colombia’s former chief of air intelligence, retired maj gen Ricardo Rubianogroot, who was a shareholder of an aviation and logistics company; and Brig Gen Emmanuel Ndahiro, doctor-turned-spy-chief to Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame.
Adham died in 1999. Ndahiro did not respond to requests for comment. Rubianogroot confirmed to ICIJ partner and Colombian investigative journalism organisation, Consejo de Redacción, that he was a small shareholder in West Tech Panama, which was created to buy an American avionics company. The company is in liquidation.
“We conduct thorough due diligence on all new and prospective clients that often exceeds in stringency the existing rules and standards to which we and others are bound,” said Mossack Fonseca in a statement. “Many of our clients come through established and reputable law firms and financial institutions across the world, including the major correspondent banks . . . If a new client/entity is not willing and/or able to provide to us the appropriate documentation indicating who they are, and (when applicable) from where their funds are derived, we will not work with that client/entity.”
Even wannabe spooks can be found.
“I’ll suggest a name like ‘World Insurance Services Limited’ or maybe ‘Universal Exports’ after the company used in the early James Bond stories but I don’t know if we’d get away with that!” wrote one financier to Mossack Fonseca in 2010 on behalf of a client creating a front company in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Universal Exports was a fictional company used by the British Secret Service in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.
The files further show that Mossack Fonseca also incorporated companies named Goldfinger, SkyFall, GoldenEye, Moonraker, Spectre and Blofeld after James Bond movie titles and villains and was asked to do the same for Octopussy. There is correspondence from a man named Austin Powers, apparently his real name and not the movie character, and Jack Bauer, whom a Mossack Fonseca employee entered into the firm’s database as a client and not the television character after the employee “met him at a pub.”
But Mossack Fonseca’s connection to espionage is more often fact, not fiction.
Men in their flying machines
Panama Papers: Tax officials to consider international action
John McManus: TDs have much to gain from publishing their tax returns
Countries begin to look beyond narrow national interests to tackle tax avoidance
The secret documents show that Farhad Azima incorporated his first offshore company with Mossack Fonseca in the BVI in 2000. The company was called ALG (Asia & Pacific) Limited, a branch of his airline Aviation Leasing Group, a US-based private company with a fleet of more than 60 aircraft.
It was not until 2013 when the firm ran a routine background search on the shareholders of a new company that Mossack Fonseca discovered media articles on Azima’s alleged ties to the CIA. Among the allegations found in online articles shared by Mossack Fonseca employees were that he “supplied air and logistical support” to a company owned by former CIA agents who shipped arms to Libya. Another article quoted an FBI official who said he had been warned by the CIA that Azima was “off limits”.
The firm asked Azima’s representatives to confirm his identity. But it appears that Mossack Fonseca never received a reply. The files indicate that he remained a client and that internal surprises continued.
In 2014, one year after discovering online reports of his connections to the CIA, Hosshang Hosseinpour was cited by the US Treasury Department as helping companies move tens of millions of dollars for companies in Iran, which at the time was subject to economic sanctions.
The files show that Azima and Hosseinpour appeared on corporate documents of a company that planned to buy a hotel in the nation of Georgia in 2011. That was the same year treasury officials asserted that Hosseinpour, who co-founded the private airline FlyGeorgia, and two others first began to send millions of dollars into Iran, which led to sanctions being taken against him three years later.
The documents show that Hosseinpour briefly held shares in the company from November 2011. However, in February 2012 company administrators told Mossack Fonseca that he was not part of the company and his shares had been issued in an “administrative error”. The company, Eurasia Hotel Holdings Limited, changed its name to Eurasia Aviation Holdings and bought a Hawker Beechcraft 400XP corporate jet in 2012 for $1.625 million, files show.
Azima told ICIJ that the company was only used to buy an aircraft and that Hosseinpour had never been involved in the company.
The plane was not going to be used in the US, Azima said, so couldn’t be registered in the US and the choice of the BVI was not for tax purposes. “I’ve filed every tax known to mankind,” Azima told ICIJ.
Hosseinpour could not be reached for comment. In 2013, before the sanctions came into force, he told the Wall Street Journal that he had no connections to Iran and “nothing to do with evading sanctions.”
Another colourful connection to the CIA in the Mossack Fonseca files is Loftur Johannesson, now a wealthy silver-haired 85-year-old from Rekyavik, also known as The Icelander. Johannesson is widely reported in books and newspaper articles to have worked with the CIA in the 1970s and 1980s, supplying guns to anti-communist guerrillas in Afghanistan. With his CIA paychecks, The Icelander reportedly bought a home in Barbados and a vineyard in France.
Johannesson emerges in Mossack Fonseca’s files in September 2002, long after his retirement from secret service. He was connected to at least four offshore companies in the BVI and Panama linked to homes in high-priced locales, including one located behind London’s Westminster Cathedral and another in a beachfront Barbados complex where a similar home is now selling for $35 million. As recently as January 2015, Johannesson paid thousands of dollars to Mossack Fonseca for its services.
“Mr Johannesson has been an international businessman, mainly in aviation related activities, and he completely rejects your suggestions that he may have worked for any secret intelligence agencies,” a spokesman told ICIJ.
Agent Rocco and 008: license to incorporate
Another connection to the Iran-Contra scandal is Adnan Khashoggi. The Saudi billionaire, once thought to be the world’s most extravagant spender, negotiated billions of dollars in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and played “a central role for the US government” with CIA operatives in selling guns to Iran, according to a 1992 US Senate report co-written by then-Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is now the US secretary of state.
Khashoggi appears in the Mossack Fonseca files as early as 1978, when he became president of the Panamanian company ISIS Overseas S.A. Most of his business with Mossack Fonseca appears to have taken place between the 1980s and the 2000s through at least four other companies.
Mossack Fonseca’s files do not reveal the purpose of all Khashoggi’s companies. However, two of them, Tropicterrain SA, Panama, and Beachview Inc, were involved in mortgages for homes in Spain and the Grand Canaries islands.
There is no indication that Mossack Fonseca investigated Khashoggi’s past even though the firm processed payments from the Adnan Khashoggi Group in the same year that he made global news when the US charged him with helping Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines, loot millions. Khashoggi was later cleared. Mossack Fonseca’s files show the firm ceased business with Khashoggi around 2003.
The Mossack Fonseca files indicated the company did not discriminate between cold war foes.
Another customer was Sokratis Kokkalis, now a 76-year-old Greek billionaire once accused of spying for the East German Stasi under the alias “Agent Rocco.” A German parliamentary investigation found that in the early 1960s Kokkalis regularly informed on acquaintances and contacts during his time living in Germany and Russia. Until 2010, Kokkalis owned the Greek soccer club Olympiakos, and he now owns Greece’s largest telecommunications company.
Mossack Fonseca discovered Kokkalis’s connections to espionage in February 2015 as part of routine background checks of one of his companies, Upton International Group. Kokkalis “was accused by East German officials of espionage, fraud, and money laundering in the early sixties, but the case was acquitted”, an employee wrote colleagues after an Internet search. Mossack Fonseca’s files reveal that Kokkalis’ agent did not respond to the firm’s requests for details about Kokkalis and his company, including its purpose.
Khashoggi could not be reached for comment. Kokkalis, who did not respond to requests for comment, has previously denied charges and accused “political personalities” and newspapers of a “war” against him.
In 2005, Mossack Fonseca employees learned with some alarm that someone on their books went by the name of Francisco P Sánchez, who Mossack Fonseca employees assumed to be Francisco Paesa Sánchez, one of Spain’s most infamous secret agents. “The story . . . was really scary,” wrote the person who first discovered Paesa’s background. Mossack Fonseca had incorporated seven companies of which P Sanchez was a director.
Born in Madrid before the outbreak of the second World War, Paesa amassed a fortune hunting down separatists and a corrupt police chief before fleeing Spain with millions of dollars. In 1998, Paesa faked his own death; his family issued a death certificate that testified to a heart attack in Thailand. But in 2004, investigators tracked him down in Luxembourg. Paesa himself later explained that reports of his death had been a “misunderstanding”.
In December 2005, a Spanish magazine reported on what it called Paesa’s “business network” that built and owned hotels, casinos and a golf course in Morocco. Without mentioning Mossack Fonseca, the article listed the same seven companies incorporated in the BVI.
In October 2005, Mossack Fonseca had decided to distance itself from the companies of which P Sanchez was a director. “We are concern [sic] of the impact it may have in Mossfon’s image if any scandal arises,” the firm wrote an administrator to explain its decision to cut ties with P Sanchez’s companies.
“We believe in principle that when a client is not up front with us about any facts that are relevant for his or her dealings with us, especially their true identity and background, that this is sufficient reason to terminate our relationship with them,” wrote a senior employee.
Paesa could not be reached for comment.
Two Names, Nine Fingers
Another Internet search, this time in March 2015, alerted the firm that another of its clients – a “Claus Mollner” – had been a customer for nearly 30 years. Among unrelated results from Facebook, a family tree or two and an academic linguistic review, there was one article from the University of Delaware.
“Claus Möllner (the name that Werner Mauss always used to identify himself),” said the article.
Mollner or Mauss, also known as Agent 008 and “The Man of Nine Fingers,” thanks to the lost tip of an index finger, claims to be “Germany’s first undercover agent.” Now retired, Mauss’s website boasts of his role in “smashing 100 criminal groups”.
Colombian authorities briefly held Mauss in 1996 on charges, later dropped, that he conspired with guerillas to kidnap a woman and keep part of the ransom payment. Mauss claims the hostage takers were not rebels, that he never received ransom money and that “all operations carried out worldwide . . . have always been effected with the co-operation of German governmental agencies and authorities”.
While Mauss’s real name never appears in Mossack Fonseca’s files, hundreds of documents detail his network of companies in Panama. At least two companies held real estate in Germany.
Mauss did not personally own any offshore companies, Mauss’s lawyer told ICIJ partners Suddeutsche Zeitung and NDR public television. All companies and foundations connected to him were to “secure the personal financial interests of the Mauss family”, said Mauss’s lawyer, were disclosed and paid applicable taxes.
Mauss’s lawyer confirmed that some companies that appear in Mossack Fonseca’s files were used for “humanitarian operations” in peace and hostage negotiations “for forwarding of humanitarian goods such as hospitals, surgical instruments, large amounts of antibiotics etc”, in order to “neutralize” extortion.
In the files it appears that in March 2015, a Mossack Fonseca employee clicked on the Google search result that linked Mollner to Mauss. Yet there is no other suggestion that Mossack Fonseca discovered his true identity. His companies continued to be on Mossack Fonseca’s books into 2015.
It probably suited Mollner, or Mauss, just fine.
As a journalist who interviewed him in 1998 observed: “The secret of his real identity was always Werner Mauss’s capital.”

Tue, Apr 5, 2016, 19:00 Updated: Tue, Apr 5, 2016, 19:10
Will Fitzgibbon
Find this story at 5 April 2016

© 2016 THE IRISH TIMES

Agenten nutzten Panama-Firmen für CIA

Spione und ihre Helfer transportierten Waffen in Maschinen, die für den US-Geheimdienst flogen.

Geheimdienstler und ihre Zuträger nutzten offenbar in erheblichem Umfang die Dienste der Kanzlei Mossack Fonseca in Panama. Sie ließen Briefkastenfirmen gründen, um ihre Aktionen zu verschleiern. Unter ihnen sind auch Mittelsmänner aus dem Umfeld des amerikanischen Auslandsgeheimdienstes CIA. Das geht aus den Panama Papers hervor, die der Süddeutschen Zeitung zugespielt worden sind.

Zur Kundschaft von Mossack Fonseca gehören oder gehörten demnach etwa Figuren der Iran-Contra-Affäre, eines amerikanischen Skandals um geheime Waffenlieferungen der CIA an Teheran. Zudem tauchen unter den gegenwärtigen oder früheren Kunden hochrangige Geheimdienstverantwortliche aus mindestens drei Ländern auf, konkret aus Saudi-Arabien, Kolumbien und Ruanda. Darunter ist auch der saudische Scheich Kamal Adham, der in den Siebzigerjahren als wichtigster Ansprechpartner der CIA in der Region galt. Ferner sind in dem Material Unternehmer zu finden, die immer wieder in Verdacht geraten sind, dem US-Geheimdienst geholfen zu haben. Einer von ihnen ist der US-Geschäftsmann Farhad Azima, ein Exil-Iraner, der Flugzeuge vermietet. Eine seiner Maschinen soll in den Achtzigerjahren im Auftrag der CIA Waffen nach Teheran geliefert haben, der Fall wurde später als Iran-Contra-Affäre bekannt. Azima bestreitet, von der Operation gewusst zu haben.

Ein weiterer Kunde Mossack Fonsecas ist der Isländer Loftur Jóhannesson, der im Zusammenhang mit mindestens vier Briefkastenfirmen genannt wird. In mehreren Büchern und Artikeln heißt es, Jóhannesson habe im Auftrag der CIA Waffen in Krisenregionen geliefert, unter anderem nach Afghanistan. Eine dieser Firmen betrieb auch ein Frachtflugzeug, das im Frühjahr 1974 in der Nähe von Nürnberg auf mysteriöse Weise abgestürzt ist. Der “Nelkenbomber” hatte neun Tonnen Nelken an Bord.

Jóhannesson ließ über einen Sprecher erklären, er sei Geschäftsmann im Luftfahrtgeschäft und nicht für Geheimdienste tätig. Mossack Fonseca erklärte auf Anfrage, die Kanzlei überprüfe ihre Kunden gründlich: “Sollte ein neuer Mandant/eine juristische Person nicht willens oder in der Lage sein, uns angemessene Nachweise über seine Identität und ggf. die Herkunft seiner Mittel zu erbringen, so werden wir mit ihm/ihr nicht zusammenarbeiten.”

In Europa ging unterdessen die Debatte über mögliche Konsequenzen aus den Panama Papers weiter. Bundesfinanzminister Wolfgang Schäuble legte einen Zehn-Punkte-Plan vor. Der CDU-Politiker will unter anderem den internationalen Datenaustausch intensivieren und Steueroasen auf eine schwarze Liste setzen. Auch der britische Premier David Cameron will den Kampf gegen Steuerflucht und Geldwäsche verstärken. Er erläuterte seine Pläne am Montag vor dem Parlament in London.

Die globalisierungskritische Organisation Attac bezeichnete Schäubles Pläne als “heiße Luft”. Der neue Chef des Bundesverbands deutscher Banken, Hans-Walter Peters von der Berenberg-Bank, warnte vor zu viel Regulierung und einer pauschalen Vorverurteilung derjenigen, die Briefkastenfirmen nutzen.

11. April 2016, 18:59 Uhr
Panama Papers
Von Nicolas Richter und Ulrich Schäfer, Washington/München
Find this story at 11 April 2016

Copyright http://www.sueddeutsche.de

Panama Papers indicate spies used Mossack Fonseca to ‘conceal’ activities

Secret agents from several countries, including intermediaries of the CIA, reportedly used the services of Mossack Fonseca law firm to hide their schemes. The claims are the latest in the Panama Papers leak.

German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on Tuesday that “secret agents and their informants have made wide use of the company’s services” and opened shell companies to conceal their activities wrote the newspaper. “Among them are close intermediaries of the CIA,” the newspaper reported.
Data breach
The Munich-based newspaper obtained a huge stash of 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca and shared them with more than 100 media groups through the International Consortium.
The massive data breach implicated tax dodgers from Reykjavik to Riyadh. On Tuesday, the “Süddeutsche” reported that Mossack Fonseca clients also included “several players” in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, which saw senior US officials facilitate secret arms sales to Iran in a bid to secure the release of American hostages and fund Nicaragua’s Contra rebels.

The Panama Papers also reveal that “current or former high-ranking officials of the secret services of at least three countries… Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Rwanda” are listed amongst the company’s clients, the paper said.
Among them was Sheikh Kamal Adham, the former Saudi intelligence chief who died in 1999. Adham “spent the 1970s as one of the CIA’s key intermediaries” in the Middle East, the daily said.
Political leaders iplicated
The huge leak, which hit headlines on April 3, shed light on how the world’s rich and powerful have used offshore companies to stash their assets. As a result, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned and pressure has mounted on a slew of other leaders around the world, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, who revealed that he had inherited an offshore fund, set up by his father.

ksb/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Date 12.04.2016

Find this story at 12 April 2016

© 2016 Deutsche Welle

Panama Papers Link Offshore Company with Colombian Paramilitary

Hollman Carranza, the son of the late Victor Carranza, appears in the Panama Papers among 850 other Colombian citizens involved in the scandal.
The confidential files leaked Sunday known as Panama Papers showed a connection between offshore firms and the son of late Victor Carranza, a prominent figure of Colombian paramilitarism, the U.S. channel Univision and Colombian local media revealed Monday.

In the 1980s, Victor Carranza was known as the “emerald tsar” as he owned emerald mines in the Boyaca mountains, near the capital. He was investigated in 2012 for allegedly funding paramilitary groups in the 1990s, according to the testimony of a former leader of one of the main paramilitary group at the time, the United Self- Defense Forces of Colombia, named Fredy Rendon Herrera.

He died from cancer one year later; his company Tecminas remains the biggest emerald trader in the country.

Hollman Carranza’s name appeared in the Panama Papers among 850 more Colombian citizens, all involved in the scandal of tax evasion via the creation of offshore companies in Panama. Most of them live in Bogota, Medellin and Baranquilla. As the investigation unravels, the number of Colombian citizens involved in the scandal could still rise, informed El Espectador.

However, the Colombian law does not consider illegal the creation of offshore companies, unless the money comes from illegal sources, or if the money is not included in tax declarations.

According to RCN Radio, the government tried to label Panama as a tax haven in 2014 so money transfers could be taxed, but later abandoned the measure under the pressure of Panama’s government on the one hand, and the four most powerful and influential people in Colombia on the other.

Published 4 April 2016

Find this story at 4 April 2016

Copyright http://www.telesurtv.net/

Panama Papers Include Companies Named After James Bond Movies

Shadowy offshore tax havens have long been associated with spy tales and James Bond villains, and now it seems some of the people implicated in the huge Panama documents leak weren’t immune to the fantasy either.

Among the 11 million documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that specializes in setting up complex offshore corporate structures, are files showing that the firm established companies named after James Bond movies and villains, according to theconsortium of journalists that published the leaks.

The files include companies named Goldfinger, SkyFall, GoldenEye, Moonraker, Spectre and also Blofeld, the arch Bond nemesis fond of remote island lairs, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which investigated the files alongside 100 other media outlets, wrote in an article.

The files also include “correspondence from a man named Austin Powers, apparently his real name and not the movie character, and Jack Bauer, a real person whom a Mossack Fonseca employee entered into the firm’s database as a client after the employee “met him at a pub,” the reporting project wrote.

Jack Bauer was also the character portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland in the hit TV series “24.”

The investigations around the so-called Panama Papers began being published Sunday, and have shone an unusual light on the closed world of offshore corporations. The documents are the biggest whistleblower leak in history and, so far, the alleged revelations have appeared to lay bare the financial dealings of former spy chiefs, criminals and officials, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin and relatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Using offshore structures is often perfectly legal and has many legitimate purposes, but they can also facilitate opaque transfers of cash and other dubious practices, making them attractive to criminals, as well as to intelligence services. The names of many real spies and their bosses were found in the files, including Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and a number of alleged CIA agents and gun-runners, according to the investigative group.

Some of those reportedly mentioned in the documents seem aware that some of their prospective clients’ practices would be familiar to the world of Bond.

“I’ll suggest a name like ‘World Insurance Services Limited’ or maybe ‘Universal Exports’ after the company used in the early James Bond stories but I don’t know if we’d get away with that!” an intermediary to Mossack Fonseca is reported to have written on behalf of a client looking to set up an alleged front company.

Universal Exports was a fictional company set up by the British intelligence services in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

Apr 6, 2016 1:07 PM EDT by ABC News
Find this story at 6 April 2016

Copyright http://www.abccolumbia.com/

Panama Papers: Spy agencies widely used Mossack Fonseca to hide activities

Intelligence agencies from several countries, including CIA intermediaries, have abundantly used the services of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to “conceal” their activities, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) says, citing leaked documents.

Both “secret agents and their informants have used the company’s services,” wrote the newspaper, which earlier this month published online materials based on 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm. It has been called the largest leak on corruption in journalistic history.

“Agents have set up shell companies to conceal their activities,” the Munich-based newspaper reported, adding that there are CIA mediators among them.

According to SZ, Mossack Fonseca’s clients also included some of those involved in the so-called Iran-Contra affair, in which several Reagan administration officials secretly facilitated arms sales to Iran in the 1980s in order to secure the release of US hostages and fund Nicaragua’s Contra rebels.

Read more
© RT‘Who’s funding this?’ CIA & MI5 whistleblowers question credibility of Panama Papers coverage
The Panama Papers also claim to reveal that some “former high-ranking officials of the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Rwanda” are listed amongst the company’s clients. Among them was Sheikh Kamal Adham, the former Saudi intelligence chief, who according to SZ, was “one of the CIA’s key intermediaries in the 1970s” in the Middle East region.

The Panama leak claims to expose the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and provides data on the financial activities of 128 other politicians and public officials from different countries. Newspapers around the globe had plenty of world leaders to choose from, – from President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

With high-profile figures on the menu, the majority of the international media rushed to accuse Vladimir Putin of corruption, even though neither he nor any members of his family were mentioned in the Panama Papers leak.

Last week WikiLeaks tweeted that the US government and American hedge-fund billionaire George Soros allegedly funded the Papers to attack Putin. According to the international whistleblowing organization, the US government’s funding of such an attack appeared to be a serious blow to its integrity.

Read more
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest outside Downing Street in Whitehall, central London, Britain April 9, 2016 © Neil HallCrowds march in London to demand Cameron resignation following Panama Papers leak (IMAGES)
One former CIA officer told RT that the fact that the Western media has been unanimously using the Russian leader as the “face” of the Panama Papers leak can be explained by one simple look at the organizations behind these news outlets.

“Everyone in corporate press is controlled by corporations that profit on wars and have an interest in creating tensions – all these people in the Western press, like the Guardian, are blackening Putin [for being] a designated villain here. Curiously, his name is not in these documents,” Ray McGovern said, adding that it was “a major mistake made by the leaker” to hand the documents over to the corporate media, instead of leaking them to trusted independent journalists.

There were many raised eyebrows particularly over little mention of the exposed offshore dealings of UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s late father. Last week the British PM admitted that he benefited from shares in an offshore trust set up by his father. Cameron, who is facing outrage over revelations concerning his private finances, told ITV that he had received £300,000 (about $420,000) in inheritance from his father, who died in 2010. Yet he claimed that he didn’t know whether any of that money came from an offshore source. A massive protest gathered in front of PM David Cameron’s residence at 10 Downing Street on Sunday, calling for his resignation.

Published time: 12 Apr, 2016 13:22
© Rodrigo Arangua / AFP
Find this story at 12 April 2016

© Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”, 2005–2016.

US-Agenten nutzten offenbar Briefkastenfirmen

Die CIA bemühte über Mittelsmänner anscheinend die Dienste der Kanzlei Mossack Fonseca: Laut einem Bericht der “SZ” ließen Agenten in den Achtzigern Briefkastenfirmen gründen, um ihre Aktionen zu verschleiern.

US-Geheimdienstler sollen “in erheblichem Umfang” die Dienste der Kanzlei Mossack Fonseca in Panama genutzt haben. Das geht laut der “Süddeutschen Zeitung” (“SZ”) aus den Panama Papers hervor. Demnach ließen Agenten Briefkastenfirmen gründen, um ihre Aktionen zu verschleiern. Unter ihnen seien auch Mittelsmänner aus dem Umfeld des amerikanischen Auslandsgeheimdienstes CIA.

Zur Kundschaft von Mossack Fonseca gehörten demnach in den Achtzigerjahren etwa Figuren der Iran-Contra-Affäre. Dabei ging es um geheime Waffenlieferungen der CIA an Teheran. In diesem Zusammenhang wird unter anderem ein US-Geschäftsmann genannt, der Flugzeuge verlieh. Mit einer seiner Maschinen sollen laut dem Bericht in den Achtzigerjahren im Auftrag der CIA Waffen nach Teheran geliefert worden sein. Der Geschäftsmann bestreitet, von der Operation gewusst zu haben.

Auch weitere Unternehmen, die immer wieder in Verdacht geraten sind, dem US-Geheimdienst geholfen zu haben, tauchen der “SZ” zufolge in dem Material auf.

Außerdem seien unter den gegenwärtigen oder früheren Kunden hochrangige Geheimdienstverantwortliche aus mindestens drei Ländern zu finden, konkret aus Saudi-Arabien, Kolumbien und Ruanda – auch der saudische Scheich Kamal Adham, der in den Siebzigerjahren als wichtigster Ansprechpartner der CIA in der Region galt.

Ein weiterer Kunde Mossack Fonsecas ist nach Angaben der “SZ” der Isländer Loftur Johannesson. Er werde im Zusammenhang mit mindestens vier Briefkastenfirmen genannt. Der SPIEGEL bezeichnete ihn Anfang der Neunziger in einem Artikel über die “guten Kunden der CIA” als Kontaktperson des Geheimdienstes. In mehreren Büchern und Artikeln heißt es, Johannesson habe im Auftrag der CIA Waffen in Krisenregionen geliefert, unter anderem nach Afghanistan, so die “SZ”.

Johannesson habe über einen Sprecher erklären lassen, er sei Geschäftsmann im Luftfahrtgeschäft und nicht für Geheimdienste tätig. Die Kanzlei in Kanada erklärte laut dem Bericht zudem, sie überprüfe ihre Kunden gründlich. Sollte ein Mandant seine Identität oder die Herkunft seiner Gelder nicht angemessenen nachweisen, so werde sie mit ihm nicht zusammenarbeiten.

12. April 2016, 00:03 Uhr
Find this story at 12 April 2016

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2016

CIA middlemen and other spies used Panama Papers law firm to hide activities, report says

Secret agents from several countries, including intermediaries of the CIA, have used the services of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in order to “conceal” their activities, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Tuesday.
“Secret agents and their informants have made wide use of the company’s services,” wrote the newspaper, which obtained a massive stash of 11.5 million documents from the company that is sending shockwaves around the globe.
“Agents have opened shell companies to conceal their activities… Among them are close intermediaries of the CIA,” the newspaper reported.
China’s elite hiding billions overseas

The Munich-based newspaper said Mossack Fonseca’s clients included “several players” in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, which saw senior US officials facilitate secret arms sales to Iran in a bid to secure the release of American hostages and fund Nicaragua’s Contra rebels.
The Panama Papers also reveal that “current or former high-ranking officials of the secret services of at least three countries… Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Rwanda” are listed amongst the company’s clients, the Sueddeutsche said.
Hong Kong’s rich face exposure in tax-haven leak

Among them was Sheikh Kamal Adham, the former Saudi intelligence chief who died in 1999. Adham “spent the 1970s as one of the CIA’s key intermediaries” in the Middle East, the daily said.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung received the huge stash of Mossack Fonseca documents from an anonymous source and shared them with more than 100 media groups through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
A week after the first revelations, the documents have shed light on how the world’s rich and powerful have used offshore companies to stash their assets, forcing Iceland’s prime minister to resign and putting pressure on a slew of other leaders around the world.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2016, 1:49pm
Agence France-Presse

Find this story at 12 April 2016

Copyright © 2016 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.

The Covert Roots of the Panama Papers

Panama has long been a haven for money launderers—including the CIA.

It should come as no surprise that the CIA’s finances are a secret. One of the rare glimpses into the agency’s funding came when Edward Snowden leaked a copy of the intelligence “black budget” to The Washington Post in 2013. But if history is any indication, the CIA may well have resources that don’t appear on any congressional document, highly classified or otherwise. Covert operations, by their very nature, often require access to off-the-books funding. The CIA’s first operation was paid for with funds seized from the Nazis, and in the years since, the agency has been notoriously creative about how it obtains its money.

Signal

The Panama Papers underscore how tax havens are used by covert agencies and other shadowy players to launder dirty money, a practice that has a long history in which Panama, in particular, has played a notable part.

Adnan Khashoggi would know. A “principal foreign agent” of the United States, as one Senate report referred to him, the billionaire playboy made a fortune (more than $100 million between 1970 and 1975 alone) from commissions negotiating arms deals with his native Saudi Arabia. He used these windfalls, in turn, to cultivate political clout—including, allegedly, with President Richard Nixon. In the aftermath of Watergate, when Congress began reining in the CIA, Khashoggi helped establish the supranational intelligence partnership known as the Safari Club. Soon after, he aided the CIA in circumventing another congressional impediment. With money borrowed from the Saudi and U.S. intelligence-linked Bank of Credit and Commerce International, he financed the illegal arms sales that set off the Iran-Contra scandal.

One way Khashoggi structured his shadowy holdings during his heyday was through the specialized services of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm that is in the news for having helped global luminaries like Vladimir Putin hide their money. Thanks to a recent report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, we now know Khashoggi to be among a number of former spies and CIA associates implicated by the 2.6 terabytes of offshore financial documents provided to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung last summer.

That his name should appear in an international dark money scandal suggests something about the nature of tax havens that much of the media’s coverage has thus far avoided grappling with. The Panama Papers have largely been presented as an unprecedented insight into how global elites hide their fortunes from tax collectors and other regulators. But they also underscore how tax havens are used by covert agencies and other shadowy players to launder dirty money, a practice that has a long history in which Panama, in particular, has played a notable part.

The Panama Papers date back to 1977. By then, the Carter administration, worried that it could jeopardize negotiations over the Panama Canal, had already willed itself into forgetting what the U.S. government had long known about Panama’s intimate role in the burgeoning South American cocaine trade. Serious allegations against Manuel Noriega, the intelligence chief who would go on to become the country’s ruler, had been brought to the attention of the now-defunct Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs as early as 1971. But the United States’s interests in Panama were at least as strong as those of the emerging coke lords who were using Panama as a stopover for drug shipments headed north. In some cases, their interests were one and the same.

At the time, the Panama Canal Zone played host to the School of the Americas, the U.S. military training academy infamous for the remarkable array of atrocities committed by its highest-achieving graduates. Not far from the SOA facility was the classified U.S. communications network used to coordinate Operation Condor, the cross-border rendition, torture, execution, and assassination program implemented by the South American dictatorships of the era. With its abundance of U.S. surveillance hardware and constant influx of easily disguised foreigners, Panama became a sort of regional outpost for U.S. Cold War intelligence.

A proud SOA alumnus himself, Noriega was recruited by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in 1959 and received his first check from the CIA in 1967. The military coup that broke out that year catapulted him to the top of Panama’s spy agency, a position for which the ruthless, ideologically flexible Noriega proved to be uniquely well-suited.

Noriega had a talent for the double life. He would fly to Washington to meet with CIA Director William Casey one day and to Havana to meet with Fidel Castro the next, positioning himself as a key interlocutor between the sworn enemies and playing one side off the other. He was just as comfortable railing against Yankee imperialism as he was serving up rivals and narco-associates in exchange for DEA commendations. Noriega allegedly charged $200,000 a planeload to protect the Medellin Cartel’s shipment routes. The $200,000 a year he collected from the Reagan administration must have seemed a pittance by comparison.

CIA payments to Noriega were channeled through accounts he maintained at the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the agency’s preferred conduit for its secret dealings with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence and with the heroin-trafficking mujahedeen insurgency in Afghanistan. During the same period, Adnan Khashoggi, who was listed on a 1991 Defense Intelligence Report as having sold machine guns to the Medellin Cartel, was borrowing from the bank to finance weapons sales to Iran—the proceeds for which, like some of Noriega’s earnings, were then funneled to the Nicaraguan Contras. Subsequent federal prosecutions determined BCCI’s Panamanian branch, in particular, to be actively engaged in money laundering for the Colombian drug trade. A Senate subcommittee report called the bank a “fundamentally corrupt criminal enterprise.”

But BCCI was hardly the only Panamanian financial house awash in drug profits and covert intrigue. As a 1985 House Foreign Affairs report explained, it was hard to find a Panamanian bank that wasn’t engaged, to one degree or another, in some form of untoward activity. “With more than one hundred banks, the U.S. dollar as the national currency, and strict bank secrecy laws, Panama is an ideal haven for laundering narcotics money. Unlimited amounts of money may be brought into and out of the country with no reporting requirements, and money laundering is not a crime.” Corruption in government and the military, the committee found, was “endemic and institutionalized.”

Panama, to borrow the words of the Senate’s Iran-Contra report, had become the “hemisphere’s first ‘narco-kleptocracy,’” a major financial clearing house not just for the Colombian cartels, but for illegal groups of all stripes in the region, as well as “legitimate” businesspeople drawn to the exciting new services being offered thanks to the logistical demands and largesse of the drug trade. Americans were sinking millions into this innovative tax haven, and the surplus of available dirty currency actually insulated Panama from the debt crises that were sweeping the region at the time—converting it into a secure, relatively stable place for the Third World rich to hide their money.

“Particularly popular with Latin Americans,” writes Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld in Evil Money, “was a double-shell arrangement, in which the Bahamian cover was overlaid with Panamanian corporate shells. Panamanian lawyers were equally adept at creating fictitious companies. The money would be wired from one corporate account to another without revealing the identity of the real owner.”

Dummy companies of this sort, set up by the White House and registered in Panama, were used to float the Nicaraguan Contras. Noriega’s personal Swiss-based lawyer even helped Marine Colonel Oliver North construct a front for an airfield in Costa Rica. A veritable fleet of aircraft, including planes provided by Noriega and some paid for through a BCCI account, made the circuitous journey from secret runway to secret runway, dropping off weapons in Honduras and Costa Rica, cocaine in the southern United States, and large stacks of small-denomination bills in Panamanian bank vaults.

As we continue to dig through the many layers of corruption, lawbreaking, and bad faith that have accumulated in the intervening years, it’s important to recognize that the quintessentially private practices that now form the basis for the Panama Papers revelations emerged within a context of large-scale state criminality.

The 1989 U.S. invasion that led to Noriega’s arrest only exacerbated the underlying problems of Panamanian governance. As Jonathan Marshall, co-author of the indispensable Cocaine Politics, explained, between “economic sanctions, capital flight, war damage, and a more than a billion dollars’ worth of damage from post-conflict looting,” any new president would have faced significant challenges. It happened that the one the United States installed, Guillermo Endara, had dubious ties to a bank the DEA and FBI both suspected of money laundering. Endara’s appointees for attorney general, treasury minister, and chief Supreme Court justice had each served as director of a bank shut down for its alliance with Colombia’s Cali Cartel. By the U.S. government’s own estimation, trafficking and laundering got worse in the invasion’s aftermath, a legacy that has continued on to the present day. Facing corruption charges, the country’s most recent president has sought refuge in Miami.

After the invasion, a joke started circulating around Panama that seems fairly prescient, in light of the Panama Papers. “They took Ali Baba,” it went, “and left us with the 40 thieves.”

BY STEVEN COHEN
April 8, 2016
Find this story at 8 April 2016

Copyright 2016 © New Republic.

SECURITY THIS WEEK: THE PANAMA PAPERS LAW FIRM HAD SERIOUSLY SHODDY SECURITY

THIS WEEK STARTED off big with the Panama Papers, the largest leak in history. The still-unfolding story uncovered a complex web of global tax evasion perpetuated by world leaders and their friends. Breaking the Panama Papers news required massive coordination: Over 100 journalists used a constellation of encryption tools and methods to help the whistleblower behind the leaks safely deliver 2.6 terabytes of documents.

Turkey had its own data spill this week as well, when an unnamed hacker posted the personal information of 50 million Turkish citizens extracted from poorly secured government servers. In other news, Kate Moussouris, the strategist behind the Department of Defense’s and Microsoft’s bug bounty programs, is branching out as an independent consultant. And a Maryland appeals court ruled that the Baltimore Police Department’s use of cell phone-tracking stingrays requires a warrant, setting a precedent that may inch the stingray debate closer to the Supreme Court.

On a more personal note, people looking for romance online should know they are increasingly common targets for scammers. And now that Facebook has live video, the social media giant is hoping that its users—like you—will help it police inappropriate live content, which will probably include live pornography. And while it might’ve seemed like the FBI’s public brawl with Apple over unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone had finally ended, the government jumped back in the ring by filing an appeal in a New York drug case in a second attempt to compel Apple to break the encryption on another iPhone.

And there was more: Each Saturday we round up the news stories that we didn’t break or cover in depth at WIRED, but which deserve your attention nonetheless. As always, click on the headlines to read the full story in each link posted. And stay safe out there.

The Law Firm at the Heart of the Panama Papers Had Very Lax Security
The computer systems used by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm that was revealed to be a primary conduit for world leaders and corporations seeking off-shore tax havens, are reportedly drastically unsecure. Reports surfaced midweek that its email client had not been updated for years, and that the version of Drupal behind its client portal had at least 25 vulnerabilities. While it’s still unclear who is responsible for the Panama Papers leak, security researchers say details point to a person who was working inside the company.

Judge Approves $15 Million Sony Payout in Class-Action Suit Over Hack
It’s been two and a half years since a group calling itself The Guardians of Peace hacked Sony in an epic breach, revealing the personal information of thousands of the entertainment company’s employees. In a class action lawsuit with 435,000 of its ex-employees, Sony struck a deal with the plaintiffs in what will amount to a $15 million payout, with a maximum of $10,000 awarded to each individual class action member. The hack, which the US government linked back to North Korea, didn’t just reveal employee data, but also exposed private correspondence between Sony executive staff that revealed embarrassing details about the film industry.

Voter Details of 55 Million Filipinos Revealed in Giant Hack
Weeks before the national elections in the Philippines, a hack exposed 55 million voters’ personal information. It’s being called the largest government-related data data breach in history. Reports say that The Philippines’ Commission on Elections was first compromised by Anonymous Philippines; LulzSec Pilipinas subsequently posted personal voter information just days later. Alarmingly, the data was posted in plaintext, including the passport numbers of overseas voters, along with 15.8 million fingerprints. Anonymous Philippines warned the election commission to enact stronger security over the country’s electronic vote counting system.

Signal Now Sends Encrypted Texts Between Mobile and Desktop Clients
The security community’s favorite encrypted text messaging app is now available for desktop chatting. That means that people who use Signal can now chat with other Signal users with both hands and seamlessly between mobile and desktop. Signal’s new service works like Apple’s iMessage and allows you to text friends via your computer. Like iMessage, it also offers a high level of encryption. The main difference between Apple’s iMessage and Signal, however, is that Signal works between Apple and Android devices, a huge deal for security-conscious friends who don’t all use the same products. A version of Signal for desktop was in invitation-only mode for the past few months; the crew at Open Whisper Systems released a public version on Thursday.

The CIA’s Venture Capital Firm Is Investing in a Line of Skincare Products for DNA Collection
The Central Intelligence Agency’s own venture capital firm, In-Q-TelA, is funding … a skincare startup. It’s investing in Skincential Sciences, a startup that created a patented technology to remove a thin layer of skin to help clear away blemishes. According to The Intercept, the CIA is interested in the skincare company’s method of DNA extraction, which intelligence agencies can leverage for a variety of uses, including event security and biometric identification programs. In-Q-Tel has been backing Silicon Valley startups for 17 years now, including popular videogame manufacturers and mapping software that was eventually acquired by Google.

The FBI’s Ability to Hack Into the San Bernardino Shooter’s Phone Only Works on iPhone 5
James Comey, director of the FBI, claimed this week that the agency’s ability to hack into the iPhone 5 used by the San Bernardino terrorist does not work on newer iPhone models, including the iPhone 6s and 5s. The FBI dropped its very public case against Apple two weeks ago, having obtained the ability to unlock the shooter’s phone via unnamed third party software. While the FBI contends that it can share the software with other law enforcement agencies attempting to open model 5 iPhones, evidence obtained would likely not be permissible in court.

APRIL GLASER. APRIL GLASER SECURITY DATE OF PUBLICATION: 04.09.16.

Find this story at 9 April 2016

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Swiss banker whistleblower: CIA behind Panama Papers

Bradley Birkenfeld is the most significant financial whistleblower of all time, so you might think he’d be cheering on the disclosures in the new Panama Papers leaks. But today, Birkenfeld is raising questions about the source of the information that is shaking political regimes around the world.

Birkenfeld, an American citizen, was a banker working at UBS in Switzerland when he approached the U.S. government with information on massive amounts of tax evasion by Americans with secret accounts in Switzerland. By the end of his whistleblowing career, Birkenfeld had served more than two years in a U.S. federal prison, been awarded $104 million by the IRS for his information and shattered the foundations of more than a century of Swiss banking secrecy.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday from Munich, Birkenfeld said he doesn’t think the source of the 11 million documents stolen from a Panamanian law firm should automatically be considered a whistleblower like himself. Instead, he said, the hacking of the Panama City-based firm, called Mossack Fonseca, could have been done by a U.S. intelligence agency.
“The CIA I’m sure is behind this, in my opinion,” Birkenfeld said.
Birkenfeld pointed to the fact that the political uproar created by the disclosures have mainly impacted countries with tense relationships with the United States. “The very fact that we see all these names surface that are the direct quote-unquote enemies of the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, Argentina and we don’t see one U.S. name. Why is that?” Birkenfeld said. “Quite frankly, my feeling is that this is certainly an intelligence agency operation.”

A poolside view overlooking the newer side of the Panama City skyline.
Panama Papers show tax avoidance like a ‘cancer’
Asked why the U.S. would leak information that has also been damaging to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, a major American ally, Birkenfeld said the British leader was likely collateral damage in a larger intelligence operation.
“If you’ve got NSA and CIA spying on foreign governments they can certainly get into a law firm like this,” Birkenfeld said. “But they selectively bring the information to the public domain that doesn’t hurt the U.S. in any shape or form. That’s wrong. And there’s something seriously sinister here behind this.”

The public relations office for the CIA did not immediately return a message for comment.
Birkenfeld also said that during his time as a Swiss banker, Mossack Fonseca was known as one piece of the vast offshore maze used by bankers and lawyers to hide money from tax authorities. But he also said that the firm that is at the center of the global scandal was also seen as a relatively small player in the overall offshore tax evasion business.

The sign in front of the building that houses law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama City, Panama.
Did ‘smart’ people avoid the Panama Papers?
Bradley Birkenfeld, a former banker with UBS AG, walks outside Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution after speaking to the media in Minersville, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 8, 2010.
Why did the US pay this former Swiss banker $104M?

“We knew that firm very well in Switzerland. I certainly knew of it,” Birkenfeld said.
But Mossack Fonseca was just one of a number of firms in Panama offering such services, he said. “The cost of doing business there was quite low, relatively speaking,” he said. “So what you would have is Panama operating as a conduit to the Swiss banks and the trust companies to set up these facilities for clients around the world.”

Eamon Javers CNBC.com
12 April 2016

Find this story at 12 april 2016

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