“Prosecutors Expect More Arrests in Art-Fraud Scheme”

August 19, 2013

The New York Times on August 19, 2013 released the following:

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

“Federal prosecutors handling the case against an obscure art dealer charged in one of the most audacious art frauds in recent memory told a judge on Monday that they expected more arrests in the continuing investigation. They also said they expected the case against the art dealer to be resolved soon.

The disclosures came at the arraignment of the dealer, Glafira Rosales, in United States District Court in Manhattan.

Ms. Rosales was arrested on money laundering and tax charges in connection with the scheme in May. She was arraigned Monday before Judge Katherine P. Failla on new charges contained in a superseding indictment that was handed up last week by a grand jury. She pleaded not guilty during the five-minute proceeding.

During the arraignment, Judge Failla asked one of the prosecutors, Jason P. Hernandez, an assistant United States attorney, if more arrests were expected.

“Yes,” he said.

Mr. Hernandez also said that the case against Ms. Rosales, which was the result of a lengthy F.B.I. investigation, was to be resolved in the coming weeks. He did not elaborate.

A lawyer for Ms. Rosales, Steven R. Kartagener, declined to comment on the new charges.

The charges issued last week revealed for the first time that all of the 63 phony art works at the heart of what prosecutors have described as a sweeping fraud scheme stretching over more than a decade were created by a single painter. The indictment identified him only as a painter who lives in Queens and said he had produced the canvases — purported to be by the hands of Modernist masters like Willem de Koonig, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and others — in his house and garage.

People briefed on the matter said he was Pei-Shen Qian, a struggling 73-year-old Chinese artist who came to the United States in 1981.

While he was paid a few thousand dollars for the canvases, they were later sold as works by Modernist masters for more than $80 million.

The indictment and other court papers said the painter who created the fake canvases was discovered selling his own art on the streets of Lower Manhattan in the early 1990s by Ms. Rosales’s boyfriend and business partner, an art dealer named Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, who recruited him to make paintings in the style of celebrated Abstract Expressionists. The indictment does not name Mr. Bergantiños Diaz, but his identity is confirmed by other court records.

It is unclear whether Ms. Rosales has begun cooperating with the federal authorities since her arrest in May. But while the prosecutors handling her case initially argued then that she posed “a substantial flight risk” and that no bail conditions could assure her return to court, convincing a judge to detain her without bail, last week, after the new indictment was handed up, the prosecutors did not oppose her release on a $2.5 million bond.

Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and an F.B.I. spokesman, James M. Margolin, declined to comment. Mr. Kartagener has refused to characterize his discussions with the prosecutors on the case, Mr. Hernandez and Daniel W. Levy.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. Seizes $150 Million in Alleged Hezbollah-Linked Cash

August 21, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on August 20, 2012 released the following:

“By Samuel Rubenfeld

U.S. officials said Monday they seized $150 million connected to a scheme in which entities linked to Hezbollah allegedly used the U.S. financial system to launder money through West Africa and back to the group’s base of Lebanon.

The seizure stems from a civil lawsuit filed last year by federal prosecutors in Manhattan against defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank, or LCB, and two Lebanese exchange houses seeking more than $480 million in funds allegedly derived from drug trafficking and other criminal activity passing through the U.S. financial system.

The seizure was reported by The Wall Street Journal, and there’s more here.

Hezbollah is a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. The group’s leadership has denied engaging in money laundering to finance its activity.

Prosecutors said Monday they seized $150 million from a New York correspondent account of Lebanon’s Banque Libano Francaise SAL, or BLF. Société Générale de Banque au Liban, which bought LCB in September 2011 for $580 million, paid for part of the transaction through BLF. The seized funds are substitutes for the money in the LCB account in escrow at BLF, prosecutors said.

The warrants to seize the funds were issued August 15, but made public Monday. Neither BLF nor Société Générale de Banque au Liban were accused of wrongdoing, prosecutors said.

“Money is the lifeblood of terrorist and narcotics organizations, and while banks which launder money for terrorists and narco-traffickers may be located abroad, today’s announcement demonstrates that those banks and their assets are not beyond our reach,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.

A lawyer for LCB declined to comment to the Journal.

The U.S. Treasury Department designated LCB as a “primary money-laundering concern” under the Patriot Act in February 2011, accusing it at the time of facilitating money laundering by a network of drug traffickers spanning South America, Europe, the Middle East and West Africa.

Société Générale de Banque au Liban acquired LCB’s assets and liabilities following the Treasury’s finding.

According to the civil complaint filed last year, the alleged scheme involved cash sent from Lebanon to the U.S. between January 2007 and early 2011 to buy used cars that were later sold in West Africa for cash.

The money from from the car sales was then allegedly transferred back to Lebanon with proceeds from narcotics trafficking and other crimes, prosecutors said in the complaint.

Correction: The seized funds came from the New York correspondent account of Lebanon’s Banque Libano Francaise SAL, not from a U.S. account at Société Générale de Banque au Liban.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Man Offers Guilty Plea, Upending Terror Case

June 14, 2012

The New York Times on June 13, 2012 released the following:

“By BENJAMIN WEISER

A terrorism case in Manhattan that raised key questions about government interrogation tactics ended abruptly on Wednesday after the defendant pleaded guilty to conspiring to support a Somali terrorist group.

The defendant, an Eritrean man named Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, admitted in Federal District Court that he trained in a camp run by the Somali group, Al Shabab, in 2009. The case had been seen as a potential test of the Obama administration’s strategy of interrogating terrorism suspects for both intelligence and law enforcement purposes.

Indeed, the plea came as the judge, P. Kevin Castel, was poised to rule on a motion by Mr. Ahmed’s lawyers seeking suppression of statements he had made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he was in custody in Nigeria; his lawyers argued that the statements had not been voluntary and, thus, were inadmissible.

“I have in my hand a 60-page draft of the decision on the motion to suppress,” Judge Castel, holding up a thick document, said in court before accepting Mr. Ahmed’s plea. The judge did not reveal how he would have ruled on the motion, but said that the ruling itself would “now be suppressed.”

Mr. Ahmed, 38, who had lived in Sweden, was scheduled for trial on July 9. He had been accused of providing material support to a terrorist group, receiving training and bomb-making instruction in Shabab military camps in Somalia in 2009 and using a firearm in a crime of violence. The firearm count alone carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. As a result of Mr. Ahmed’s plea — to two conspiracy counts — he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years when he is sentenced on Nov. 2, the judge said in court.

Mr. Ahmed’s lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, said after the proceeding, “I’m sure Mr. Ahmed would have liked to have challenged the actions of the United States.” But, she added, given the difference between a maximum 10-year sentence and what could have resulted from a guilty verdict, it would have been a “humongous risk” to go to trial.

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Mr. Ahmed had “traveled a long way from his home in Sweden to Somalia, where he took up the cause of Al Shabab, a deadly terrorist organization and sworn enemy of the United States and its people.”

Mr. Ahmed told the judge that in Somalia, he contributed 2,000 euros to Al Shabab and trained in one of its military camps, knowing that the United States considered it a terrorist organization.

Mr. Ahmed was taken into custody by Nigeria in 2009 under suspicion of being an agent for Al Qaeda. He was later interrogated by separate groups of American officials, known colloquially as “dirty” and “clean” teams.

The first team questioned him for intelligence purposes, without advising him of his rights, prosecutors have said. About a week later, a second team, of F.B.I. agents, read him his rights, which he waived, and he began to make incriminating statements, the government says. An issue before the judge had been how separate the American officials kept the two interrogations.

A prosecutor, Benjamin Naftalis, told Judge Castel that had the case gone to trial, the evidence would have included Mr. Ahmed’s statements and testimony from cooperating witnesses. Prosecutors have said a former Shabab military commander has been cooperating; although he has not been identified, his description resembles that of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali captured by the United States military last year and questioned aboard a naval vessel for about two months.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. Inquiry Grows Over Olympus Payout

October 28, 2011

The New York Times on October 27, 2011 released the following:

“BY BEN PROTESS AND HIROKO TABUCHI

Federal authorities are intensifying an investigation into the large fees that the Japanese company Olympus paid to an obscure American brokerage firm. The Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators have now begun their own inquiries into the $687 million payout, according to people briefed on the inquiries.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened the case only two weeks ago, but the inquiry has now grown to touch nearly every corner of the federal law enforcement arsenal. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have jumped on the case, while the S.E.C. has begun an examination of the now-defunct brokerage firm, Axes America.

An S.E.C. spokesman declined to comment.

While the focus of the investigation is not yet clear, securities lawyers speculate that investigators will potentially examine whether the steep fees were kickbacks to Olympus officials involved in the deal. So far, it is believed that federal authorities are possibly interested in whether the fees amounted to money laundering or other illicit acts. A spokesman for the F.B.I. in New York declined to comment.

The F.B.I. began its examination soon after Olympus fired its chief executive, who had confronted the company’s chairman about the suspect payouts. Japanese regulators are now looking into the matter as well.

The questions arose from Olympus’s 2008 takeover of a British medical device company, the Gyrus Group. Olympus, which runs both a medical equipment business and a less lucrative digital camera business, has described the $687 million payout as a fee to Axes America for advising on that deal.

But when Olympus announced the acquisition, it said only that Perella Weinberg, an independent investment bank, advised on the deal. The company made no mention of Axes America, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

By any measure, the fees were eye-popping. The funds amounted to 36 percent of the value of the Gyrus deal, the PricewaterhouseCoopers report said. Olympus later doled out the bulk of the $687 million to a Cayman Islands company linked to Axes, a firm called Axam Investments.

At a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday, the newly installed president of Olympus, Shuichi Takayama, defended the funds paid to Axes and Axam, saying that Olympus had determined that the fee “would fully pay off.” He said the advisers were hired to give wide-ranging guidance to Olympus, including identifying potential takeover targets in the medical field.

“Olympus sought acquisitions as part of a strategy to find new growth areas and reduce our dependency on endoscopes,” Mr. Takayama said. “These acquisitions were part of that effort.”

Mario Takeno, an official at Japan’s securities watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that the agency would “closely watch” the findings of a third-party committee set up by Olympus to investigate the payments.

“It’s clearly worth investigating,” said J. Mark Ramseyer, a professor of Japanese legal studies at Harvard Law School, who added that the fees were “bizarrely huge.” While the PricewaterhouseCoopers report did not identify “improper conduct,” it said that “given the sums of money involved and some of the unusual decisions that have been made, it cannot be ruled out at this stage.”

Axes America itself presents a curious case.

Just weeks after Olympus closed the deal for Gyrus, the firm shuttered its doors. And after the affiliated Cayman Islands company, Axam Investments, scooped up its portion of the bounty, it too shut down.

It was a peculiar end for both firms. In its 10-year history, Axes America never drew much notice on Wall Street. The firm, run by a longtime Japanese banker, Hajime Sagawa, generated mediocre revenue and never drew the ire of regulators.

Mr. Sagawa could not be reached for comment. A relative in Boca Raton, Fla., said he had planned to return from a business trip late last week, potentially to meet with the F.B.I. But the relative said on Wednesday that Mr. Sagawa had not yet returned to Florida. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Michael C. Woodford, the recently fired Olympus chief, who is British, was in New York on Wednesday meeting with F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors. He declined to provide specifics of the meeting. As Mr. Woodford flew to New York, Olympus fell deeper into turmoil. On Wednesday, the company’s chairman, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, resigned.

At Thursday’s news conference, the executive vice president, Hisashi Mori, did most of the talking.

Mr. Mori said he had been introduced to the advisers by a person in Japan whom he declined to name. The advisers had worked with Olympus in an informal capacity for no fee since around 2004 before being formally hired two years later ahead of the 2008 Gyrus deal, he said.

An official said there had been no discussion of Mr. Woodford’s concerns over the acquisitions before the board voted to oust him.

Tensions flared at the news conference, as reporters berated Mr. Takayama and his colleagues for long-winded responses. “What is the point of this press conference if you are not going to address the main issues?” one reporter asked.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.