Monday, December 29, 2008

Swindlers, Crooks, Thieves - They Are Everywhere!

Disappeared into Thin AirDouglas J. Hagmann, Director & Judi McLeod, Founding Editor, Canada Free Press
19 June 2009: Good morning America! On June 3, either an attempted attack on the economy of the U.S. on an unprecedented scale was narrowly averted–or a criminal conspiracy involving the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve that would legitimize the most radical of globalist conspiracies of all time–was exposed. In either event, a deliberate media blackout was employed in the U.S. When news of the event gained traction in the foreign media, the U.S. media was compelled to report it as well, but only after facts could be changed and damage control employed by the highest levels of the U.S. government, aided and abetted by faceless global powerbrokers.
The event involves the smuggling of $134.5 billion in U.S. government bearer bonds, which by no coincidence, happens to be the exact amount remaining in the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP] as announced by the Department of the Treasury on March 30, 2009.
But the beginning of this story should go back to September 18, 2008, the day when a now, all but forgotten rare money market run nearly destroyed the entire US economy.In the words of Paul Kanjorski, Democrat member of Congress from Pennsylvania, to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on January 27, 2009:
“On Thursday at about 11 o’clock in the morning, the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous drawdown of money market accounts in the United States, to the tune of $550 billion was being drawn out in a matter of an hour or two. The Treasury opened up its window to help. It pumped $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn’t be further panic out there.”
Now, getting back to the smuggling of $134.5 billion in U.S. government bearer bonds:
Even as we report this, the story is continuing to evolve, not by erroneous first reports, but by the deliberate scrubbing and sanitizing of facts. Not only are the facts being scrubbed, but the perpetrators are disappearing just like a murderer who attempts to scrub clean the blood from the crime scene. But even the best attempts are never enough to rid all traces of the crime.
Since this crime was initially reported in the German and Japanese media exactly one week ago, professional investigators from the Northeast Intelligence Network and veteran journalists from Canada Free Press teamed up to uncover as many facts about this case as possible. During the course of our investigation, we quietly contacted and interviewed a number of law enforcement and intelligence sources from three countries on two continents. Exhaustive research into not only the facts of this case, but into related areas and historical events was also performed during our coordinated investigation.
The following represents our initial but very disturbing findings, with additional information promised to follow.
The Crime
On Wednesday, June 3 2009, Italian police arrested two “unidentified Japanese nationals” illegally crossing the border from Italy into Switzerland carrying $134.5 billion dollars in US government bearer bonds in a false-bottomed briefcase. The men were arrested in Chiasso, on the border between Italy and Switzerland by Italy’s financial police (Guardia Italiana di Finanza).
The securities confiscated by authorities were identified as follows: 249 certificates worth $500 million each, and ten certificates, further identified as “Kennedy Bonds” worth $1 billion each. A bearer bond is a debt security issued by governments or large corporations, and is much like cash because it does not require any ownership registration, thus providing anonymity to those possessing such an instrument. The large face amounts and the anonymity of ownership obviously make bearer bonds enviable to possess. In this case, the bonds were reportedly issued by the U.S. government.
It is relevant to note here, however, that such bearer bonds have not been legitimately issued by the U.S. Treasury Department since 1982, at least according to public reports by the U.S. Treasury. This is important to point out due to the reasonable speculation that there is not $134.5 billion of bearer bonds left in the market, thus bringing up the possibility that the bonds in the possession of the two men are counterfeit. This possibility, as it turns out, is extremely important to the U.S. for two reasons. First, it would mitigate the potential impact on the U.S. economy by asserting that the bonds are indeed counterfeit. Secondly, it would provide the U.S. Federal Reserve a vital alibi for a much larger crime being perpetrated on the American people. That crime would be the secret, “off-the-books” issuance of securities to other nations to finance deficits, among other purposes.
The latter would provide a great deal of legitimacy to the so-called conspiracy theorists who have suspected such illicit activity involving the U.S. money supply, the Federal Reserve, and the direct involvement or complicity of numerous U.S. administrations over the last 75-plus years. The ramifications of this scenario would be extreme.
To give the reader of this report an idea of the enormity of the amount of securities possessed by the two men, consider that the value of the bearer bonds would be equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of New Zealand. Possession of the bonds would also make these men the fourth largest creditor of the U.S. Again, $134.5 billion happens to be the exact amount remaining in the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP] announced by the Department of the Treasury on March 30, 2009.
The Perpetrators
Central to this aspect of the story are the two Japanese nationals who were caught “red handed” with the booty. According to official reports, they were caught as they traveled on a local train normally used by laborers traveling from Italy to Switzerland. They were well-dressed and carrying briefcases. Imagine, then, two well-dressed Japanese nationals carrying briefcases among a train load of Italian day laborers. Obviously, they were not attempting to avoid scrutiny by customs or border agents.
Who are these men and where are they now? Perhaps we might never know as both men are (surprise) reportedly MISSING.
Since we began our investigation, news reports have been published that provide many of the details and offer interesting possibilities. On June 17, 2009, an article by William Pesek titled Suitcase With $134 Billion Puts Dollar on Edge appeared on at this link. Joe Weisenthal of The Business Insider has published various reports and appeared on The Glenn Beck Program.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has assured the media and the world that the bonds were indeed forgeries and that the Italian Mafia did it. That, of course, should be the end of it. It was all just a botched forgery attempt. There is nothing more to see here - move along, folks. And right on cue, the mainstream media is indeed, moving along.
Like no other time in America, before the truth gets swallowed up in time, the burning demand of We the People should be: “Show us the money!”
USA Tomorrow Newspaper Ponzi Scheme UncoveredBy NWV News writer Jim Kouri
February 18, 2009
With scam artists and Ponzi scheme manipulators making headlines these days, a new twist was discovered by investors and potential investors in what they believed was a legitimate opportunity to invest in creating a news organization to rival USA Today.
Jeff Lowrance is accused of defrauding investors and garnering huge amounts of money with the promise of creating a US news publication to be called USA Tomorrow. According to the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a Ponzi scheme is essentially an investment fraud wherein the operator promises high financial returns or dividends that are not available through traditional investments.
Instead of investing victims' funds, the operator pays "dividends" to initial investors using the principle amounts "invested" by subsequent investors. The scheme generally falls apart when the operator flees with all of the proceeds, or when a sufficient number of new investors cannot be found to allow the continued payment of "dividends."
This type of scheme is named after Charles Ponzi of Boston, Massachusetts, who operated an extremely attractive investment scheme in which he guaranteed investors a 50 percent return on their investment in postal coupons. Although he was able to pay his initial investors, the scheme dissolved when he was unable to pay investors who entered the scheme later.Lowrance, who claimed he was a billionaire from Panama, ran what is suspected to be a global con-game of enormous proportion, according to investigative journalist Ed Snook.
"Lowrance enticed and relieved investors from around the globe of over 60 million dollars over the past four-years. He has recently exposed himself as a fraud," said Snook. When discovered to be a scam artist, Snook said that Lowrance hired the US~Observer last September to protect him from the angry investors he bilked. Lowrance reportedly believed his victims were going to travel to Panama "to exact their revenge upon him."Officials at the US~Observer, based in Grants Pass, Oregon, state that its purpose as an Internet news and commentary organization is to keep the innocent free, the public informed, and our form of government controlled by the people.
Snook alleges that he conducted business with Jeff Lowrance in 2008 he had agreed to assist Lowrance. The one stipulation, according to the veteran journalist, was that Lowrance would run an open and honest operation. The two men signed a contract on September 18, 2008 and, according to Snook, Lowrance claimed that he had "the complete principle of every investor who had money invested with First
Capital Savings & Loan (FCSL) on deposit.
Snook writes in the US~Observer that Jeff Lowrance agreed "to provide this guarantee in writing – he also agreed to provide... a complete list of his investors."
However, Snook said that he didn't receive the written guarantee until almost two months later, on November 10, 2008. Snook also received a list of investors/clients around the same time.
During a telephone interview with, Snook said, "Lowrance owed me $150,000.00 but informed me [on September 18, 2008], that he was broke and only had $185,000.00 left besides the investor’s principle, which according to Lowrance was in a fund that could not be touched [until December 5, 2008], or he would lose a great deal of the money due to early withdrawal penalties."
Snook went on to say that Lowrance assured him that he was re-financing some condominiums he owned in Panama and that he would be paying Snook from those funds.
"At this time I advised Lowrance that he should update his investors before they became any more inflamed. I also advised Lowrance that he should tell them he would have their principle returned by January 5, 2009, because it would take him some time to acquire the money and time to wire it to investors. Lowrance agreed and sent this information via email to all his investors.
Investigation by reveals that Lowrance had problems with officials in the state of California. The state's Business, Transportation and Housing Agency issued a "cease and refrain order" to Jeff Lowrance and his Mentor Investing Group, Inc.
"Pursuant to Section 29542 of the California Commodity Law of 1990, Mentor Investing Group Inc., Jeff Lowrance and are hereby ordered to desist and refrain from the further offer or sale of commodities, including but not limited to foreign currency contracts, or from the further offer to enter into, or from entering into, as sellers or purchasers, any commodity contracts, in the state of California, unless and until such activity is not in violation of Corporations Code section 29520 of said law."
As early as November the US~Observer began investigating Lowrance and FCSL. On November 14, 2008 Jeff sent an email to an impeccable source who said he had $42 million dollars on deposit – Snook and the US~Observer continued their investigation of Lawrence’s activities.
Snook states that he was contacted by Carlos Almos, Jeff’s FCSL manager in Panama. According to Snook, writing in the Observer, Carlos stated that he had confronted Lowrance about making restitution to the investors. According to Almos, Lowrance informed him that he wasn't about to return the money to his victims.
"This coincides with the Observers opinion that Lowrance has millions of dollars tucked away with which he refuses to part," stated Snook.
After that, 64 investors hired the US~Observer to go the money allegedly stolen from them by Jeff Lowrance. According to Snook, there were over 440 people swindled by Lowrance during his USA Tomorrow scam.
The US~Observer set the date of January 28, 2009, as the final date they and Snook would accept contracts from investors and, according to Snook, on the 29th he had a phone conversation with Lowrance."I confronted Lowrance with the fact that I had received calls from two new investors of his – one investor told me that he invested $200,000.00 with Jeff in October under his new program and that this investor had just learned of Jeff’s severe problems with FCSL clients," Snook wrote in his report. According to Snook's report, at this point Lowrance had been trying to tell Snook he was broke, while mentioning not one word about the funds he supposedly had on deposit, so Snook asked him, “What about all the money from your new investors?” According to his report, Jeff Lowrance had claimed the money was all gone and he offered to show Snook the spread sheets. "I told him I wasn’t interested and I wasn’t interested in listening to any more of his lies," said Snook
Everyone associated with Lowrance knows or should know that he is a pathological liar. According to numerous witnesses he is currently trading large amounts of money successfully, wrote Snook.
When asked if anyone complained to the authorities, Snook told that about 40 people reported the scam to the FBI.
"I'm not very confident in the FBI or IRS, especially since there are so many cases [of Ponzi schemes] occurring," said Snook.
According to Snook's US~Observer article, Lowrance is no longer able to travel to Panama without being arrested for financial dishonesty. The FBI and other agencies have been repeatedly contacted and informed about Lowrance and they have done nothing to date about this mess to our knowledge.
"Jeff [Lowrance] has raised about 60 million dollars over the past 4 yrs. Lowrance has a total of 440-plus people who have invested their life savings with him, some of whom have been totally destroyed. Lowrance committed fraud against me on January 5, 2009, as he was supposed to pay me the approximate $150,000.00 that he owed me," said Snook during a telephone interview.
According to the US~Observer story, Lowrance committed fraud when he sold “distributorships” to well over 100 people around the country. The distributorships were for people who wanted to make a “great supplemental living” from distributing Jeff’s now defunct newspaper USA TOMORROW.
Jeff owes many employees their wages and some employee’s money they invested with him. Lowrance owes print and storage bills to businesses that extended him credit, wrote Snook.
"Last but not least, Jeff Lowrance owes his lovely wife and son a huge debt for deserting them in Panama," said Snook.
$50 billion at stake after Wall St broker Bernard Madoff is arrested over ‘world’s biggest swindle’Bernard Madoff: 'stunning fraud'Tim Reid in Washington
From The Times
December 13, 2008 Some of America’s wealthiest socialites were facing ruin last night after the arrest of a Wall Street big hitter accused of the largest investor swindle perpetrated by one man.
Shock and panic spread through the country clubs of Palm Beach and Long Island after Bernard Madoff, a trading powerbroker for more than four decades, allegedly confessed to a fraud that will cost his wealthy investors at least $50 billion – perhaps the largest swindle in Wall Street history.
Mr Madoff, 70, a former Nasdaq stock chairman, was apparently turned in by his two sons and arrested on Thursday morning at his Manhattan apartment by the FBI. Andrew Calamari, a senior enforcement official at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, described the scheme as “a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions”.
The FBI’s criminal complaint states that when two federal agents arrived at Mr Madoff’s apartment, he told them: “There is no innocent explanation.” The agents say that he told them “he paid investors with money that wasn’t there”, that he was “broke” and that he expected to go to jail.
Many of his investors came from the enormously wealthy enclaves of Palm Beach, Florida and Long Island, New York, where people had invested billions in Mr Madoff’s firm for decades. He was a fixture on the Palm Beach social scene, and was a member of some of its most exclusive clubs, including the Palm Beach Country Club and Boca Rio Golf Club, where he drummed up much of his business.
The FBI claims that three senior employees of Mr Madoff’s investment firm turned up at his apartment on Wednesday to ask questions about the company’s solvency. Two of them are believed to be his sons, Andrew and Mark, who have worked for their father for two decades.
Mr Madoff told them that he was “finished”, that he had “absolutely nothing”, and that “it’s all just one big lie”. He said the investment arm of his firm was “basically a giant Ponzi scheme”, and that it had been insolvent for years.
A Ponzi scheme, named after the swindler Charles Ponzi, is a fraudulent investment operation that pays abnormally high returns to investors out of money put into the scheme by subsequent investors, rather than from real profits generated by share trading.
The FBI complaint states that Mr Madoff told his sons that he believed the losses from his scheme could exceed $50 billion. If that is the case, his fraud would be far greater than past Ponzi schemes and easily the greatest swindle blamed on a single individual.
There has been scepticism for years on Wall Street over how Mr Madoff managed to pay such consistently high returns. Ponzi schemes inevitably collapse, and Mr Madoff found himself to be no exception. This month, clients asked for $7 billion to be returned, the FBI says.
Mr Madoff ran the scheme separately from his main business and his sons had no involvement in it.
Mr Madoff has been charged with a single count of securities fraud. He declined to enter a plea in Manhattan’s US District Court and was released on $10 million bail. He faces up to 20 years in jail and a $5 million fine if convicted. His lawyer, Dan Horwitz, said that his client was “a person of integrity. He intends to fight to get through this unfortunate event.”
One investor told The Wall Street Journal: “This is going to kill so many people. It’s absolutely awful.” Ira Roth, from New Jersey, said that his family had $1 million invested, and that he was in a state of panic.
Hook, Line and Sinker: Ten of the Most Audacious Swindles EverList compiled by David BudworthNovember 01, 2007
Ever since the invention of money there have been con artists out there ready to swindle the unwary out of their cash. Last year around 28 million Britons were targeted, according to the government, and £1 billion was lost in financial scams.
Fortunately, most victims suffer a greater dent to their pride than their bank balance. But some involve the loss of millions or even billions of pounds and cause real financial hardship. Here are ten of the most audacious financial swindles ever.
1. Dave Rhodes, whoever he or she may be, has a lot to answer for. His is the name at the top of the most famous chain letter in the world – which more often than not is sent by e-mail nowadays. The original letter titled “Make Money Fast” and signed by Rhodes began doing the rounds about 20 years ago. Who the original Dave Rhodes was, or if he even existed, has never been ascertained. (A website reputed to be by the original Dave Rhodes is thought to be a hoax.)
Recipients are usually told to send money to the first name or names on a mailing list and then copy the letter to hundreds of other addresses. In return, they are promised huge profits for their small investment. “It is an undeniable law of the universe,” goes one letter promising £40,000 in cash within the next 60 days, “that first we must give to receive. Do this with a big smile on your face because “as ye sew (sic), so shall ye reap.” If you say so.
2. Canadians are usually thought of as law-abiding and frankly boring souls. But they were implicated in one of the nastiest swindles of recent years – the Canadian lottery scam. This involved organised criminals telephoning unsuspecting Brits – often elderly people – claiming they had won a fortune on the Canadian lottery. To claim the prize you had to send money to cover processing fees. In some cases, victims lost more than £40,000.
Those targeted were often chosen because they appeared on “sucker lists” circulated among criminal gangs because they had fallen victim to similar cons in the past.
3. The notorious Women Empowering Women pyramid selling scheme made headline news in 2001 after it swept across the country and left people with heavy losses. The swindle claimed to have women’s interests at heart. “Our main goal is the empowerment of women by providing for them the financial and emotional abilities to support themselves, their loved ones and the community", claimed the schemes’ gushing mission statement.
The scheme encouraged women to sign up family and friends by promising that they would generate £24,000 for each person who invests a £3,000 stake. While a few profited, thousands lost their £3,000 'joining' fee. The scheme resurfaced in 2003, in a more exclusive mode, under the name Hearts, targeting well-heeled society figures including Lady Elizabeth Anson, the Queen’s cousin, and celebrities such as Cilla Black.The government has since attempted to outlaw such scams, but driven by greed, it can only be a matter of time before it rears its ugly head again.
4. Have you ever received an unsolicited e-mail claiming to be from the family of a dead Nigerian dictator or someone high up in that country’s civil service? They will almost certainly have desperately needed help getting the family’s millions out of the country (their bank accounts have been frozen, you see). Did they ask you to provide them with money and supply your bank account details to help them transfer money out of the country? Then you’ve been targeted by the infamous Nigerian “419” scam. In return for your help they promise a handsome reward: in reality they empty your bank account.
These 419 scams have been so widespread that some enterprising individuals have started to fight back by scamming the scammers with some very funny results. Check out or
5. They say love is blind, which is perhaps why fraudsters are increasingly targeting victims through online dating services. It’s the ideal time to catch you with your defences- and maybe even your pants - down. Malihu Ramu, a married Singaporean woman was sentenced to six months in jail earlier this year after conning a man in America out of $45,000 (£22,000) after she promised to marry him.
Ramu used a false name and photographs of Bollywood actress Gayatri Joshi on an online chat room to seduce her prey. Using all the arts of seduction, she asked for the money to cover her mother's funeral expenses and for a friend's wedding. It was only when she asked him for more cash that his suspicions were aroused and he called in the police. To find out more take a look at
6. One of the most popular scams is the pyramid scheme, and in 1920 trickster Charles Ponzi gave his name to the granddaddy of them all – the Ponzi scam. Ponzi raked in millions of dollars from Americans who were taken in by his promise to double their money in 90 days by trading hoax postal coupons. About 40,000 people invested about $15m (£7m) all together – which is worth about $150m in today’s money.
Returns were paid to the first investors out of the funds received from those who invested later – with Ponzi siphoning off a large chunk of the cash for himself. The simple arithmetic of the scheme meant that soon thousands and then millions of people were needed to keep passing money up through the pyramid chain. The scheme collapsed, Ponzi ended up in jail and the swindled investors got back only about a third of their funds, but it hasn’t stopped it being replicated thousands of times since.
7. Millions of Albanians lost their life savings in what must the most damaging pyramid selling trick ever: it caused rioting in the streets, brought down the government and sparked a near civil war in this desperately poor Balkan state in south-west Europe. About two-thirds of the population of the former Communist dictatorship were duped by a series of these schemes in the 1990s, which initially received the support of the government.
Thousands sold their houses and farmers flogged their livestock to invest in them, entranced by the promise of huge riches- more than 100 per cent a year at the peak of the mania. The dream didn’t last and the schemes crumbled leaving many Albanians penniless while thousands died in the ensuing violence.
8. Most con men are shady characters who try to keep a low profile, but they don’t always hide from the public gaze. The Barlow Clowes affair is one of Britain’s most notorious frauds. In the eighties, the firm attracted the savings of 18,000 private investors who believed they were putting their money into risk-free government bonds. In fact, hundreds of millions of pounds of this money was being diverted into the bank account of co-founder Peter Clowes, who spent the cash on private aircraft, cars, homes and a luxury yacht. Barlow Clowes collapsed in 1988 after the con was uncovered.
9. Some con-artists really know how to tug on the heartstrings. Eugene and Kathryn Stabe were charged with swindling $13,000 out of people in their home town of Huntington Indiana by claiming their daughter was dying of leukaemia. They said they wanted to fulfil as many of her dreams as possible before she passed away and used the generous donations to take the whole family to Disney World in Florida. The child was in fact in perfect health.
10. It only had to be a matter of time before financial scams made it into the virtual word. Earlier this year, Ginko Financial, a bank in the life simulation game Second Life tempted customers with the promise of unrealistically high returns of 40 per cent to 60 per cent. It quickly collapsed leaving some people nursing large real life losses. Then another bank, imaginatively called “The Bank” became embroiled in another scandal after it stopped processing customer withdrawals and its owner “Jasper Tizzy” and his staff – Paydayloan Lindman and Teanna Nomura - disappeared In Second Life players use "Linden dollars", which are converted into and out of real cash using a special exchange. Some residents lost 2.5m Linden dollars when the bank went bust – that’s the equivalent of about £5,000.
Whether these were actual scams or business mistakes have yet to be ascertained. But with no official law and order in Second Life, one thing is guaranteed: investors can wave good bye to the money they have lost.
The 10 Most Infamous Heists... EverList compiled by Lauren Thompson
March 26, 2008
From priceless art thefts to infamous bank robberies, here are a few of the most sensational heists from around the world.
1. ScreamEdvard Munch's famous painting, The Scream, was sensationally stolen twice from the National Gallery of Norway.
In 1994 two men took just 50 seconds to climb a ladder, smash through a window of the Gallery and cut the painting from the wall with wire cutters.
A few months later the thieves offered the painting back in exchange for a $1 million ransom, but the offer was refused. Luckily a sting operation held in May 1994 successfully recovered the painting, and four men were convicted and sentenced for the theft in 1996.
Ten years later, the painting was stolen again, this time alongside Munch's Madonna. Two armed, masked robbers burst into the Oslo museum in August 2004, snatching the artworks from the walls as horrified tourists looked on.
Police recovered the works in August 2006, but found they were scratched and torn and showed signs of damp. They have now been restored and are hanging back in the Gallery – where visitors are subjected to tighter security checks.
2. The biggest art heist in history?The culprits of this 1990 heist are still at large today.
Just a few hours after Boston's St. Patrick's Day festivities ended, two men dressed as policemen knocked on a side door at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.
The guards let them in – only to then realise to their horror that these were not police officers, but art thieves. The guards were handcuffed, gagged and dragged into the basement while the thieves cut three Rembrandt's from their frames, as well as "The Concert" by Johannes Vermeer and "Landscape with an Obelisk" by Govert Flinck.
In total they snatched 12 paintings worth an estimated £300 million – the paintings have never been found, and the museum never reimbursed.
3. America’s most notorious hijacker“D. B. Cooper” is still at large after 35 years of being on the run. On November 24 1971 he hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines flight 305 with a briefcase "bomb." He handed a flight attendant a note saying "I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked."
The flight attendant alerted the pilot, who was instructed by radio control to comply with Cooper's requests, which were a parachute and $200,000.
Passengers were dropped off at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, in exchange for the parachute and cash. Loot in hand, Cooper instructed the pilot to take to the skies again, this time headed for Mexico.
When Cooper jumped from the plane, it was flying through a heavy rainstorm with no light source coming from the ground due to cloud coverage. Because of the poor visibility, his descent went unnoticed by the jet fighters tracking the airliner. He is believed to have landed around Ariel, Washington, although his precise landing zone remains unknown.
The whereabouts of the man (or his remains) has been described as “one of the great crime mysteries of our time.”
4. The Great Train RobberyThis notorious robbery involved a 15-member gang, led by Bruce Reynolds and including Ronnie Biggs, who took £2.6 million from a Royal Mail train in Buckhamshire in 1963.
The men brought the Glasgow to London mail train to a halt by tampering with the signals. They then swarmed onto the train, badly injuring the driver, and grabbed 120 mail bags containing used bank notes. Most of the gang members were caught after police discovered their fingerprints at their hideout at Leatherslade Farm, near Oakley, Buckinghamshire. The robbers were tried, sentenced and imprisoned.
Ronnie Biggs escaped from prison 15 months into his sentence and moved to Brazil – but he returned to the UK in 2001 to serve the remainder of his 30-year sentence. Charlie Wilson also escaped prison and lived in a quiet suburban street in Canada – unfortunately for him, his wife made the mistake of telephoning his parents in England, enabling Scotland Yard to track him down.
5. Brinks MatIn 1983 six robbers broke into the Brinks Mat warehouse at Heathrow Airport, England. They were going to steal £3 million in cash; but when they arrived they found ten tonnes of gold bullion, worth £26 million.
The gang got into the warehouse thanks to security guard Anthony Black, who was the brother-in-law of the raid's architect Brian Robinson. Scotland Yard quickly discovered the family connection and Black confessed to aiding and abetting the raiders, providing them with a key to the main door and giving them details of security measures.
Robinson was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for armed robbery; Black got six years, and served three.
Three tonnes of stolen gold has never been recovered. It is claimed that anyone wearing gold jewellery bought in the UK after 1983 is probably wearing Brinks Mat.
6. Shergar“Shergar the wonder-horse”, who was worth around £10 million, was kidnapped from a stables owned by the Aga Khan in Ireland in 1983. The theft came just before the breeding season, where Derby winner Shergar was due to mate with up to 55 mares.
Shergar was never found and his kidnappers have never been officially identified – but most evidence points to the involvement of the IRA. The thieves demanded a ransom of £2 million, but the horses’ shareholders refused to pay. Insurers also refused to pay out without evidence of the horse’s death.
Sean O'Callaghan, a convicted murderer who turned into a supergrass against the IRA, wrote a book called The Informer in which he claims the horse died because its IRA captors could not handle the animal.
"To handle Shergar, the IRA recruited a man who had once 'worked with horses'. But working with horses is one thing: dealing with a thoroughbred stallion, which can be a difficult, highly-strung creature at the best of times, is another story altogether," he said. He goes on to claim that the horse got out of control in its horsebox, injured itself and died within days.
7. Bull semen …From prize horses to… bull semen. It may be unsavoury, but it is worth a lot of money. In November 2005, a farmer at Stonewood Acres in Smithburg, Maryland returned to his farm to discover that a 70-pound tank filled with bull semen had been opened up, with sixty-five "straws" containing the sperm of nearly 50 bulls missing.
The missing straws were worth about $75,000. The farmer, who had taken years to build up his supply, was planning on selling the semen at a cattle show.
“Frozen bull semen is big business because it saves on the transportation cost of putting a bull and a cow into the same pen to breed. Frozen semen can also last for many years, outliving the bull who produced it,” according to the Washington Post.
The number of potential suspects was limited because of the specialized knowledge and equipment required to keep and sell the semen – yet the culprit was never found.
8. Oscar jewelry theftThis year thieves broke into the showroom of an Italian jeweler and stole £10 million worth of diamonds while its owners were in Los Angeles hosting a party to celebrate the Oscars.
The heist took place at the Damiani showroom in Milan’s fashion district as celebrities such as Tilda Swinton were sporting Damiani jewelry at the Oscar ceremony.
The thieves had spent more than a month digging a tunnel from a disused cellar in an adjoining building. Police said that the drilling had been heard for weeks but was presumed to be part of continuing building works next door.
The four men, disguised as police officers, overpowered the staff and tied them up with electrical cable, sealed their mouths with tape and locked them in the washroom. They then helped themselves to jewellery from the safe-deposit boxes and left the way they had come.
Police said that the entire operation had taken little more than 40 minutes. The employees managed to free themselves and raise the alarm, but by then the gang was long gone. The thieves, who Police say may have had “inside assistance”, have still not been caught.
9. Bank tunnel robbery
Thieves in Brazil netted $65 million after digging a 200m tunnel into a bank from a nearby house. The heist, which occurred in August 2005, is Brazil’s largest ever bank robbery. Around 10 men are thought to have spent three months digging a hole from a house that was rented in the name of a fake gardening business.
The theft happened over the weekend, but was not discovered until Monday morning because the bank was closed. Neighbours reported seeing vanloads of material being removed each day.
Only two suspects have been caught and only $500,000 has been recovered.
10. Castle tourist theftIn August 2003 a painting worth up to £50 million – Madonna with the Yarnwinder – was snatched from the Duke of Buccleuch's home at Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland. The painting was stolen by two men who joined a public tour and overpowered a guide.
Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register, said such a heist "would probably be easier to do it when it was open to the public rather than at night when all the alarms were set".
The painting is still missing despite the offer of a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest of the thieves.
Blowing the Vaults
By David Dionisi
August 1, 2007
During World War II, Nazis raped Europe seizing everything from objects of art to the gold fillings of concentration camp victims. Systematic stripping of human life for wealth is a real side of every war. Rape occurs in many forms and current US wars highlight this as taxpayers are in the process of being stripped of over $1 trillion dollars and much more when deteriorated social uplift programs are considered. Unlike Germany’s $5 billion settlement for World War II victims announced in 2000, wealth stolen by Japan during World War II has never been returned.
Understanding that much of this wealth was used for secret US operations opens a window into how the combination of wealth and secrecy is still threatening America’s democracy.
Japan’s war elite once ran an efficient and ruthless operation that unfortunately is repeated by today’s US war elite. This part of War World II history, called Golden Lily, remains classified even after a half century. The reason is that understanding Golden Lily illuminates how presidents since Truman have funded black-bag intelligence operations without Congressional oversight.
Golden Lily’s roots go back to at least January 18, 1932 when five Japanese intelligence agents incited Chinese in Shanghai by singing offensive songs. The outraged Chinese lynched one of the Japanese on the spot. This false-flag provocation was staged to give Japan an excuse to protect its citizens and conduct a series of “rapes” across East and Southeast Asia. The most famous Japanese “rape” occurred on June 1, 1937 with the rape of Nanking where approximately 300,000 defenseless people were slaughtered.
At about the same time as the rape of Nanking, prior Japanese plundering operations were formalized into Golden Lily. The purpose of Golden Lily was to steal treasure from twelve Asian countries. Prince Chichibu, Emperor Hirohito’s brother, founded and led the organization. To accelerate Golden Lily operations, over 35,000 kempeitai (undercover agents who wore a chrysanthemum on the underside of a lapel) were deployed throughout Asia. Detailed wealth inventories were produced by the kempeitai so that the military could quickly secure bank vaults and other high-value targets.
In 1943 the US navy successfully cut off Japan’s naval traffic from the Philippines. The devastation from US submarine torpedoes forced General Yamashita Tomoyuki to create secret treasure vaults. Vaults were constructed in the Philippines because Japan’s leadership was confident they would retain the Philippines in any post-war settlement. The vaults were intended to guarantee that if Japan lost the war militarily, it would not lose financially. In total, 175 imperial treasure vaults were constructed. To keep the operation secret, on June 1, 1945, all 175 chief vault engineers were gathered 220 feet underground and executed. General Yamashita, in a massive vault lined with gold bars, thanked the Japanese engineers before leaving for the surface. Soon after Yamashita left, dynamite explosives collapsed the access tunnels and the men were buried alive.
At that time very few people remained with the knowledge of all 175 vaults and a few of them came into US custody. In September 1945 General Yamashita, receiving official notice that the emperor surrendered, presented his sword to a group of US Army officers. Edward G. Lansdale, a future Cold War general, had recently joined the US Army because President Truman shut down the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). To preserve US intelligence assets, General William Donovan assigned former OSS personnel to the military, media, and government. Lansdale’s role is highlighted because he interrogated Yamashita’s staff and in October 1945, Major Kojima Kashii revealed over a dozen vault locations.
Lansdale briefed General MacArthur on the discovery and was sent to Washington to brief President Truman. Truman decided not to tell the American people and use the treasure to fight communism. One of the first funded operations was the US manipulation of the Italian elections in 1948. How the funds are used today to manipulate elections and fund other covert operations is highly classified.
Occasionally the CIA will appear to be revealing the “family jewels” with documents that are declassified after 30 or 40 years. The true family jewels, like Golden Lily and the US program to manage these funds called the Black Eagle Trust, remain classified over a half century later. Americans almost caught a glimpse of this program when the 106th Congress passed Public Law 106-567 on December 27, 2000. This law was to declassify World War II documents and at the last minute a loophole was added allowing the CIA to continue to withhold documents.
Today, fear and false-flag operations give the US an excuse to protect its citizens and conduct a series of “rapes” across the Middle East. On another parallel to the Golden Lily vaults, on September 11, 2001 a modern US vault was destroyed. In addition to the Twin Towers, World Trade Center Building 7 was pulverized at 5:20 p.m. which was 7 hours after the North Tower collapsed. The 47-story Building 7 is not even on the same block as the Towers and is separated by Building 6 and Vesey Street. So how does a building collapse even though it was not hit by an aircraft? My interviews in the Middle East and research confirm that Osama bin Laden is responsible for some of what happened on 9/11. At the same time even Osama bin Laden does not take credit for everything that happened that on 9/11. I am on the record that the US government magnified what happened on 9/11 and what happened at Building 7 is the smoking gun.
The New York Times revealed in November 2001 that Building 7 was the location for a secret CIA office and Sensitive Compartmentalized Intelligence Facility (SCIF). SCIFs are where the most sensitive intelligence information is stored. These facilities are routinely swept for electronic listening devices. They may even have bullet proof windows, air filtration, and independent water supply. Operatives would routinely meet following a classified operation in a SCIF to debrief and identify loose ends to maintain program integrity. Explosives, designed to burn classified documents and equipment, are available if the facility is compromised.
Logic dictates the CIA building was destroyed for a reason. Fire alone cannot result in an all steel building falling at free-fall speed into its footprint. In a clear sign of a coverup, the 567-page 9/11 Commission Report does not explain why Building 7 collapsed. Page 305 does state some people remained in a bunker to “continue conducting operations, even though all civilians had been evacuated from 7 WTC.” Is it possible, like the experience of Japans’ vault engineers, CIA agents were killed from an intentional SCIF explosion which created the Building 7 fire and subsequent decision to pull the entire building? Such a question would appear beyond what is possible if it were not for declassified Top Secret documents like Operation Northwoods that reveal Americans can be targeted by their own government. Given what we already know about Vice President Dick Cheney, it is not hard to imagine his crimes could be on par with General Yamashita Tomoyuki.
We do know some of what happened at Building 7 because the lease-holder, Larry Silverstein, gave an interview on PBS and admitted Building 7 was pulled and collapsed. James Risen of the New York Times revealed special CIA teams were dispatched immediately after the 9/11 attack. Whether the special teams recovered agents that were killed or secured materials is classified. We are left wondering if what happened at Building 7 is related to why the Bush administration resisted the formation of the 9/11 Commission for 441 days.
Someday, under a different administration, a new 9/11 investigation will likely be commissioned. I will offer two questions to help determine if the crimes of the Bush administration far exceed those already visible. The first is “How many and who were the US intelligence agents killed on 9/11?” This inquiry may uncover teams with black-bag demolition backgrounds. The second question is, “Who were the people that elected not to collect millions of dollars in put trades and do they have connections to the CIA?” A put is a securities order when a stock price is expected to drop. The answer to this question may reveal that the put trades were an attempt to grow the CIA’s unaudited slush fund.
In the last few years Congress has been asking many questions that the Bush administration refuses to answer. Their questions and the ones raised by millions of Americans should be answered. A democracy, to function successfully, needs transparency. If it is opaque, its citizens cannot participate intelligently, and their votes become irrelevant. History teaches us that secrecy and money are an explosive combination and nations do sometimes manufacture excuses of protecting their citizens to rape them.
Untold story of Baker Street bank robberyFilm uses informer's revelations on unsolved 1971 crime
Vanessa Thorpe, arts and media correspondent
The Observer, Sunday 11 March 2007
Thirty-six years ago, one of the most remarkable and daring bank raids shocked Britain. The 'walkie-talkie bank job' saw £500,000 - worth £5m today - stolen from Lloyds in London's Baker Street and the crime was never solved.
Now the film industry is to attempt to explain why the robbery and its investigation have remained secret. The story, which will incriminate high-ranking police officers, the secret service, politicians and a prominent member of the royal family, is to be at the centre of The Bank Job, starring Saffron Burrows and Jason Statham as bank raiders. It was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and results from co-operation with a 'deep throat' informer who was involved in the original investigation.
Reports of the raid were on the front pages of newspapers for a handful of days in September, 1971. Then, oddly, a government gagging order, or D Notice, was imposed to prevent further coverage. The raid had already attracted national attention because of apparent negligence by police who failed to act quickly following a fluke tip-off from a member of the public who overheard the robbers talking on two-way radio.
'This is an amazing, untold story of murder, sex and corruption. It's going to excite and entertain audiences everywhere, but it will also give them plenty to think about,' said the producer of the film, Charles Raven.
A radio ham, Robert Rowlands, heard the robbers as he randomly twisted the dial of his set before going to bed one night at his flat in Wimpole Street, central London. Two voices argued about whether some cutting work should stop or go on all night. The men were covertly working on a tunnel which, it turned out, led to the bank basement.
Excited and alarmed, Rowlands called the local police station in Marylebone and told an officer the police should search all the local banks. The officer simply told him to tape the conversation. The resulting tape, which was transcribed and broadcast on national radio at the time, gives a rare insight into the minds of a gang in the middle of a major crime. It also furnished Clement and La Frenais with authentic dialogue for a screenplay.
The writers, co-creators of The Likely Lads and Porridge, as well as authors of the recent animated Hollywood hit, Flushed Away, have been trying to bring their discoveries about the bank raid to the screen for at least seven years.
Their film, directed by Roger Donaldson and filmed in London and Australia over the past five months, will claim it was the contents of safety deposit boxes in the vault that caused the government to clamp down on reporting. Photographs and other evidence of illicit sexual encounters implicating influential public figures were held at the bank. As well as providing a dramatic plot, Clement and La Frenais were attracted by the picture the case outlines of class divisions and corruption in the Seventies. But it was the conversation recorded by Rowlands that sparked their interest.
'The gang had walkie-talkies and look-outs on the roof,' Clement explained this weekend. 'I read about the robbery at the time and the great remark that Ian and I remember was one of the lookouts saying: "I'm off home now, I'm cold and hungry." A gang member said: "You can't go now, we're almost there." And the reply was: "Money may be your god, but it's not mine and I'm fucking off".'
When the robbery was discovered, Clement now believes MI5 moved in and issued the D Notice. The newspapers went quiet, but not before the Daily Mail had accused the police of ineptitude.
The public believed a police investigation was going on. In fact, the film will argue, the case had been handed over to the intelligence services because of the sensitive issues involved.
Mysteries remain, however: the people involved in infidelities are still unnamed and the writers have not yet revealed the identity of their 'deep throat'.
Also See:
Revisiting the riddle of Baker StreetBy Will Lawrence15 Feb 2008
So what actually happened in the real bank job?• On the night of Saturday, September 11, a gang of thieves tunnelled for 40ft from beneath a nearby handbag store into the vault of Lloyds Bank on Baker Street, central London, cutting through the reinforced concrete floor with a thermic lance.
• The robbers communicated with a look-out via walkie-talkie, the signal being picked up by an amateur radio enthusiast, Robert Rowlands, who was trying to reach friends in Australia.
• After initially believing it to be hoax, the police eventually tuned in, but could not identify which bank was being robbed. A check of 700 banks failed.
• The gang made their escape on Sunday lunchtime, according to the Mirror, but bank security chiefs insisted that all the alarm systems had been working.
• The thieves gained entry through a 15in hole, prompting speculation that a woman or child had entered the vault. A woman's voice was picked up on the radio transmissions.
• Scrawled inside the safe were the words: "Let Sherlock Holmes try to solve this." Four men were jailed in 1973 and Michael X (see main story) was hanged for murder in Trinidad in 1975.
Also See:
How MI5 raided a bank to get pictures of Princess Margaretby Beth Hale
Last updated at 07:55 21 May 2007
In the heady days of the 1960s and 70s, the Caribbean island of Mustique was the exotic playground where Princess Margaret held court.
It was on its shores that she was famously pictured with her lover Roddy Llewellyn.
And, it seems, it could also have been the scene of an even more intriguing photographic scandal, kept firmly under wraps.
A film purporting to be based on fact will suggest that sexually compromising photographs of the princess taken on the island were at the centre of a bank robbery in 1971.
It will claim that the £500,000 raid on Lloyds Bank in Baker Street, London, was, in fact, aimed at securing the steamy snaps.
The Bank Job, clips of which were shown at the Cannes Festival last week, has the photographs being placed in the bank for safe-keeping by Michael X, a well-known criminal originally from the Caribbean.
The £500,000 raid - worth £5million in today's money - made the headlines in September 1971. It became known as the 'walkie-talkie bank job' because of a fluke tip-off from a member of the public who overheard the robbers talking on a two-way radio.
But then mysteriously a government gagging order, a D notice, was imposed to prevent further coverage.
Schiphol Boosts Security After Diamond Heist
March 1, 2005
Military police are to guard valuable cargo at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport after thieves hijacked a security truck in what may have been the country's biggest ever diamond raid, the Dutch government said on Tuesday.
The announcement came as a military police spokesman said the number of detectives investigating Friday's robbery, in which Dutch media said jewels worth around EUR75 million (USD$99.10 million) were stolen, had been doubled to 40.
The largest ever gem theft recorded by Guinness World Records resulted in an estimated loss of USD$100 million when most of the vaults at the Antwerp Diamond Centre in Belgium were emptied.
Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner announced the extra temporary security measures in parliament, and said they included permanent surveillance on cargo ramps and armed escorts for valuable goods.
He said Schiphol Airport would try to bring forward the introduction of passes for staff including biometric data such as iris-scans to this year instead of 2006, and that employee screening by the intelligence service would be more intensive.
Industry organization Aircargo Nederland (ACN) said the robbery came as no surprise given that military police have been told to concentrate on fighting drug smuggling, human trafficking and preventing attacks.
"The transport of valuable goods is competing for supervision and control with priorities set by politicians and the marechaussee (military police)," Ben Radstaak of the ACN was quoted as saying in daily newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad.
Michel Einhorn of Cool Diamonds, who said he lost USD$1.2 million worth of diamonds in the theft, told Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad he did not expect them to be found again and criticized security at the airport.
"Experience shows that if gems are not found within 24 hours, they are never found," he was quoted as saying.
"An airport is supposed to be amongst the most impenetrable places of the land. It is unthinkable that armed men entered the terrain and then left without a shot being fired. And I cannot even pass security with a nail clipper," he added.
KLM security staff were threatened during the robbery on Friday morning. No-one was injured.
The security truck belonging to KLM Cargo was later found abandoned but the thieves, who a source close to the investigation said were heavily armed, remain at large.
Officials declined to put a figure to the value of the stolen goods which were on their way to a flight bound for world diamond center Antwerp.
"We don't know the exact contents yet. Declarations from owners are still coming in," military police spokesman Rob Stenacker said.
Airline KLM-Air France said it would not give further details while the investigation by Dutch police was continuing.
In September, South African police foiled an attempt by five gunmen to rob KLM of valuable cargo at Johannesburg Airport.
Last May, British police arrested seven men at Heathrow Airport after foiling an attempted gold heist.
Also See:
Four Arrested in Antwerp Diamond Heist
By Rob BatesPublication: JCK-Jewelers Circular Keystone
Date: Thursday, May 1 2003
You are viewing page 1
Four people have been arrested in conjunction with Antwerp's biggest-ever diamond robbery, which authorities now value at over $100 million.
Police say the quartet—three Italian men and a Dutch woman who was married to one of the men—spent two years planning the heist. They
rented an office in the Antwerp Diamond Centre building and used their knowledge of the area to clean out 123 of its 160 safes.
The thieves apparently were in the vault area for several hours and nabbed so much that they dropped gems on the floor. Police caught them a week following the theft after recovering some discarded bounty on the side of the road.
Antwerp's judicial director Eric Sack told the Associated Press the theft was "a piece of genius in its simplicity, not in the least because the security system was so thoroughly analyzed." Prosecutors later intimated the thieves have connections to the Italian Mafia.
Dealers in Antwerp are still reeling from the headline-making theft and expect the process of claiming valuables to be protracted and messy. As of press time, none of the loot had been recovered.
Gunmen in drag get millions in Paris diamond heistBy Jamey Keaten
December 5, 2008
PARIS (AP) — Armed robbers wearing women's wigs and clothing made off with diamond rings, gem-studded bracelets and other jewelry worth $108 million from a Harry Winston boutique in Paris, in one of the world's largest jewel heists.
As Christmas shoppers strolled outside, the gunmen forced store employees to strip rings, necklaces and earrings from window displays and pull more out of safes, Isabelle Montagne, spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office, said Friday.
The brazen robbery early Thursday evening took place in the presence of security guards and security cameras in one of Paris' toniest shopping locales, just steps away from the tourist-filled Champs-Elysées. Besides Harry Winston, Nina Ricci, Gucci, Chanel and Dior are among the fashion houses with boutiques on the Avenue Montaigne.
The robbers threatened the 15 employees with handguns and hit some on the head, according to a police official who cannot be identified under agency policy. The robbers spoke a foreign language at times and appeared to know employees' names, the official said.
Montagne said there was only one client in the store at the time, and no one was injured and no weapons were fired. She called the incident "very well-organized," and said three of the four gunmen were dressed as women and wore wigs.
Investigators seized the store's surveillance tapes and police said one group under suspicion was the so-called "Pink Panthers," a ring of jewel thieves mostly from the former Yugoslavia. The international police agency Interpol has blamed the group for jewel thefts in 19 countries in Europe, Asia and the Persian Gulf worth more than $150 million over the past 10 years.
Paris' Harry Winston boutique was targeted in a similar heist last year, when three thieves made off with $28.4 million worth of jewels after forcing employees to open safes. They were never caught.
French police called Thursday's robbery one of the world's costliest jewel thefts. Five years ago, robbers plundered 123 maximum-security vaults in Antwerp, Belgium, stealing $100 million worth of diamonds in what was then considered the biggest jewel theft.
The Paris robbers chose one of the world's most glamorous targets: Harry Winston jewels have adorned Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and numerous Hollywood celebrities. The jeweler is famous for its one-of-a-kind diamond-studded pendants, opulent chandelier earrings and colored diamonds in vivid shades of yellow, blue and pink.
"We are cooperating with the authorities in their investigation. Our first concern is the well-being of our employees," New York-based Harry Winston said. Rhonda Barnat, a spokeswoman for the company, did not provide further details.
The boutique was closed Friday, and three of its five display windows stood empty of their usual stunning jewelry. Vendors at the nearby Louis Vuitton and Max Mara boutiques said they did not notice anything unusual Thursday — until police sirens wailed.
Harry Winston declared to insurers that the stolen goods were worth $108 million (€85 million), the Paris prosecutor's office said.
Geoff Field, CEO of the British Jewelers' Association, called it a "pretty sensational" robbery, but added: "There are well-known gangs around looking to target high-value diamonds."
He stressed the stolen jewels would be difficult to sell "through any legitimate channels."
"They will undoubtedly be certified," he said, adding: "There will be a record of their quality, their cut, their weight, their color, and they will be identifiable."
Passers-by at the Harry Winston store wondered the same thing Friday.
"How do you fence it? How do you get rid of it?" asked tourist Richard Conacher, a 39-year-old hotelier from Melbourne, Australia. "You'd have to think they were famous pieces."
A half-century ago, company founder Harry Winston donated the Hope Diamond — the world's largest blue diamond and famed for the bad luck that it brought its owners — to the Smithsonian Institution.
Thursday's robbery comes as a security monitoring group for the French jewelry industry has reported a 20 percent rise in armed robberies over last year, with 132 taking place through November.
Associated Press writers Jean-Pierre Verges, Pierre-Antoine Souchard and Angela Charlton contributed to this report.
The Biggest Business Scandals of 2008 - From Jerome to BernieMarcus Baram, Huffington Post
30 December 2008
Looking back on it now, Jerome Kerviel's $8 billion trading loss seems almost quaint.
It's hard to recall the shock that greeted reports of the young Societe General trader's scheme after the year we've been through, marked by the craven come-ons of the subprime mortgage industry, overpaid overly-optimistic CEOs, a bailout that defies the imagination (just imagine almost 8,000 tons of $100 bills) and that long weekend at Bernie's.
Bernie Madoff, that is, whose massive $58 billion Ponzi scheme continues to claim victims and the imaginations of headline writers.
Herewith, let's wallow in the biggest scandals in the world of finance and business. (Sure, there are bound to be plenty of targets missing in the following slideshow. Some would include Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, others would blame former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. But there's only so much room.)
Just when we thought we'd seen it all, Bernie Madoff came along in December and confessed to the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Just three weeks before the end of the year, Madoff confessed to his two sons that his powerful firm was a fraud totalling at least $50 billion. The list of Madoff's victims reads like a Who's Who in the worlds of finance, celebrity and philanthropy: Stephen Spielberg, Mort Zuckerman, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick, BNP Paribas, RBS, Credit Suisse, Yeshiva University and French aristocrat Rene Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, who slit his wrists in an apparent suicide attempt.
Only three weeks into 2008, Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel's $8 billion loss made headlines around the world and seemed to set the tone for the year. Kerviel served less than two months in prison and currently works at an information systems and computer security consulting firm.

In the weekend in early March that Bear Stearns was collapsing, chairman James Cayne was competing in a bridge tournament in Detroit. And the week before the impending demise of the venerable firm, he closed on a $25 million condo at the newly converted Plaza Hotel in New York City. Also that week, CEO Alan Schwartz went on CNBC to deny a liquidity crisis.

Permatanned Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, came to symbolize the excesses of the subprime mortgage crisis, especially after it was revealed in June that certain powerful congressmen received favorable mortgages by virtue of being "Friends Of Angelo." In one infamous incident, Mozilo once disparaged a Countrywide customer's plea for mortgage assistance with a simple reply: "Disgusting."

In one of the most tabloid-worthy scandals, Broadcom founder and CEO Henry T. Nicholas III was indicted in June for a slew of charges including felony drug possession, conspiracy and securities fraud. He reportedly built an underground sex cave at his California estate where he could indulge his "manic obsession with prostitutes" and "addiction to cocaine and Ecstasy," according to a lawsuit filed by a construction team hired to build the lair.

Italian investor Raffaelo Follieri was accused in July of defrauding Bill Clinton and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle out of millions of dollars and misappropriating the assets to spend on five-star lodging, dog care and jet travel for his girlfriend, "Devil Wears Prada" actress Anne Hathaway. As part of his scheme to buy up Catholic Church property, Follieri boasted of his connections to the Vatican, once hiring the the nephew of the former cardinal secretary of state.

While some business observers lament the government's decision to let Lehman Brothers fail in September, headstrong CEO Richard Fuld was widely criticized for earning $240 million between 2005 and 2007 while making decisions that doomed the venerable firm, earning him the dishonor of being named The Financial Times' "Overpaid CEO" of 2008. Most recently, it was revealed that Fuld and his colleagues evaporated $75 billion by not planning for an orderly bankruptcy.

AIG stirred outrage when, shortly after getting a $124 billion bailout from the federal government in September, the firm's senior managers took lavish trips, including a $440,000 weeklong excursion to the St. Regis resort in Orange County, Calif. and an $86,000 English hunting trip.
The CEOs of the Big Three automakers - GM's Rick Wagoner, Chrysler's Robert Nardelli and Ford's Alan Mulally - were roundly denounced for taking corporate jets to Washington for their first appearance before Congress in November to plead for a government bailout. When members of Congress asked them if they would consider working for $1 a year, Mulally (whose compensation totaled $21.7 million in 2007) responded, "I think I'm okay where I am."

In one of the stranger scandals, lawyer Marc Dreier (seen here with NY Giant Michael Strahan and William Shatner) was busted for the "brazen fraud" of swindling hedge funds of $100 million. Dreier, who represented Strahan, Jon Bon Jovi and Jay Leno, had a knack for elaborate ruses, is accused of impersonating a lawyer in Toronto and arranging for a colleague to pretend to be a real-estate firm's controller as part of his bid to peddle phony promissory notes.

Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
Sources: Vanity Fair, October 2007 Title: “Billions over Baghdad” Authors: Donald Barlett and James Steele
Rolling Stone, August 23, 2007 Title: “The Great American Swindle” Author: Matt Taibbi
Student Researchers: Brian Gellman, Dan Bluthardt, and Bill Gibbons
Faculty Evaluator: John Kramer, PhD
Beginning in April 2003, one month after the invasion of Iraq, and continuing for little more than a year, the United States Federal Reserve shipped $12 billion in US currency to Iraq. The US military delivered the bank notes to the Coalition Provisional Authority, to be dispensed for Iraqi reconstruction.
At least $9 billion is unaccounted for due to a complete lack of oversight.
The initial $20 million came exclusively from Iraqi assets that had been frozen in US banks since the first Gulf War in 1990. Subsequent airlifts of cash included billions from Iraqi oil revenues formerly controlled by the United Nations. After the creation of the Development Fund for Iraq—a kind of holding pit of money to be spent for “purposes benefiting the people of Iraq”—the UN turned over control of Iraq’s billions of dollars from oil revenue to the United States.
When the US military delivered the cash to Baghdad, the money passed into the hands of an entirely new set of players—the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The CPA had been hastily created by the Pentagon to serve as the interim government in Iraq. On May 9, 2003, President Bush appointed L. Paul Bremer III as CPA administrator. Over the next year, a compliant Congress gave $1.6 billion to Bremer to administer the CPA. This was over and above the $12 billion in cash that the CPA had been given to disburse from Iraqi oil revenues and unfrozen Iraqi assets.
Few in Congress had any idea about the true nature of the CPA as an institution. Lawmakers had never discussed the establishment of the CPA, much less authorized it—odd, given that the agency would be receiving taxpayer dollars. Confused members of Congress believed that the CPA was a US government agency, which it was not, or that at the very least it had been authorized by the United Nations, which it had not.
The Authority was in effect established by edict outside the traditional framework of American government. Because it was a rogue operation, no one was responsible for what happened to that money. Accountable to no one, its finances “off the books” for US government purposes, the CPA provided an unprecedented opportunity for fraud, waste, and corruption involving American government officials, American contractors, renegade Iraqis, and many others. In its short life more than $23 billion would pass through its hands. And that didn’t include potentially billions of dollars more in oil shipments the CPA neglected to meter.
Incidents of flagrant abuse were rampant. Of 8,206 “guards” drawing CPA paychecks, only 602 actually existed; the other 7,604 were ghost employees. Halliburton charged the CPA for 42,000 meals for soldiers while in fact serving only 14,000. Contractors played football with bricks of $100,000 shrink-wrapped $100 bills.

Yet the precedent for legal impunity was established when whistle-blowers brought to light the case of Custer Battles, considered to be one of the worst cases of fraud in US history. The Bush administration not only refused to prosecute, it actually tried to stop a lawsuit filed against the contractors by whistle-blowers hoping to recover stolen CPA money. The administration argued that Custer Battles could not be found guilty of defrauding the US government because the CPA was not part of the US government. When the lawsuit went forward despite the administration’s objections, Custer Battles mounted a defense arguing that they could not be guilty of theft since it was done with the government’s approval.
At the core of this government-sanctioned free-for-all was the award of a CPA contract to NorthStar for services of accounting and auditing. The odd thing about this accounting service was that there was no certified public accountant on staff. A businessman, Thomas Howell, ran NorthStar out of his home in La Jolla, California, along with three other unrelated businesses, including home remodeling and furnishing. The company did have the advantage of a post office box in the Bahamas as its legal address of record.
NorthStar is incorporated in the Bahamas as an international business company (IBC). Despite their impressive name, IBCs are little more than paper operations. As a rule, they don’t perform any business; they are empty vessels that can be used for anything. They have no chief executive officer or board of directors, and they don’t publish financial statements. And IBC’s books, if there are any, can be kept anywhere in the world, but no one can inspect them. IBCs aren’t required to file annual reports or disclose the identity of their owners. They are shells, operating in total secrecy.
The Pentagon put this company in charge of monitoring billions of dollars of Iraqi and US citizens’ money and of making sure it was spent honestly.
In one of his last official acts before leaving Baghdad, Bremer issued an order prepared by the Pentagon, declaring that all coalition-force members “shall be immune from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their Sending States.” Contractors also got the same get-out-of-jail-free card. According to Bremer’s order, “contractors shall be immune from Iraqi legal process with respect to acts performed by them pursuant to the terms and conditions of a contract or any sub-contract thereto.” The Iraqi people would have no say over illegal conduct by Americans in their new democracy.
Matt Taibbi says, “What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureaucracy.”
He concludes, “What happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where’s the incentive to deliver success?”
Update by Donald Barlett and James Steele
It’s possible to sum up in two words what has happened since Vanity Fair published “Billions over Baghdad” in October 2007: Not much. Despite the ongoing theft, misappropriation, bribery, gratuities, profiteering, and waste of billions of taxpayer dollars, only a few low-level military people and civilians have been prosecuted. To be sure, the Defense Department has announced with great fanfare that it has launched scores of criminal investigations. But the end results are meager.
What’s more, many in Washington believe that such investigations are unwarranted. In the heat of war, they say, it isn’t possible to abide by the niceties of generally accepted accounting principles. But that doesn’t explain why the Pentagon cuts checks for millions of dollars and mails them to anonymous post office boxes in tax havens. Nor does it explain the secrecy accorded its contractors. But it does help explain why the Pentagon is unable to reconcile more than $1 trillion in spending—that’s trillion, not billion.
The Bush Justice Department has made clear by its actions that it has no intention of vigorously looking for or prosecuting those who rip off taxpayers. Similarly, Congress has failed to wage the kind of relentless probe that helped catapult a young senator from Missouri into the vice presidency and eventually the White House during World War II. In the heat of that war, the Truman committee conducted hundreds of hearings and issued scores of reports. The number of comparable hearings and reports coming out of Congress today can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Maybe.
One possible explanation is that running for election today has become so expensive that companies that help finance campaigns receive an informal immunity for their contracting fraud. Another is that Congress and the White House, whether occupied by Republicans or Democrats, have long taken the position that some corporations and financial institutions are too big to allow them to fail. Think Bear Stearns, most recently.
Now Congress and the federal government in general have seemingly applied that same principle to government contractors, who are deemed too important to indict, their top officers too essential to send to jail.
Finally, don’t expect any extended probes by the news media. Newspapers and magazines are in such turmoil as a result of their changing economic fortunes that they are incapable of mounting any meaningful or sustained examination of government operations. They are much too busy worrying about falling profit margins. As a result, their journalistic commitments go no further than the next weekly poll.
Also See:
A 'fraud' bigger than MadoffSenior US soldiers investigated over missing Iraq reconstruction billionsBy Patrick Cockburn in Sulaimaniyah, Northern Iraq
Monday, 16 February 2009
In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme.
"I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad," said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.
In one case, auditors working for SIGIR discovered that $57.8m was sent in "pallet upon pallet of hundred-dollar bills" to the US comptroller for south-central Iraq, Robert J Stein Jr, who had himself photographed standing with the mound of money. He is among the few US officials who were in Iraq to be convicted of fraud and money-laundering.
Despite the vast sums expended on rebuilding by the US since 2003, there have been no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline except those at work building a new US embassy and others rusting beside a half-built giant mosque that Saddam was constructing when he was overthrown. One of the few visible signs of government work on Baghdad's infrastructure is a tireless attention to planting palm trees and flowers in the centre strip between main roads. Those are then dug up and replanted a few months later.
Iraqi leaders are convinced that the theft or waste of huge sums of US and Iraqi government money could have happened only if senior US officials were themselves involved in the corruption. In 2004-05, the entire Iraq military procurement budget of $1.3bn was siphoned off from the Iraqi Defence Ministry in return for 28-year-old Soviet helicopters too obsolete to fly and armoured cars easily penetrated by rifle bullets. Iraqi officials were blamed for the theft, but US military officials were largely in control of the Defence Ministry at the time and must have been either highly negligent or participants in the fraud.
American federal investigators are now starting an inquiry into the actions of senior US officers involved in the programme to rebuild Iraq, according to The New York Times, which cites interviews with senior government officials and court documents. Court records reveal that, in January, investigators subpoenaed the bank records of Colonel Anthony B Bell, now retired from the US Army, but who was previously responsible for contracting for the reconstruction effort in 2003 and 2004. Two federal officials are cited by the paper as saying that investigators are also looking at the activities of Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald W Hirtle of the US Air Force, who was senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004. It is not clear what specific evidence exists against the two men, who have both said they have nothing to hide.
The end of the Bush administration which launched the war may give fresh impetus to investigations into frauds in which tens of billions of dollars were spent on reconstruction with little being built that could be used. In the early days of the occupation, well-connected Republicans were awarded jobs in Iraq, regardless of experience. A 24-year-old from a Republican family was put in charge of the Baghdad stock exchange which had to close down because he allegedly forgot to renew the lease on its building.
In the expanded inquiry by federal agencies, the evidence of a small-time US businessman called Dale C Stoffel who was murdered after leaving the US base at Taiji north of Baghdad in 2004 is being re-examined. Before he was killed, Mr Stoffel, an arms dealer and contractor, was granted limited immunity from prosecution after he had provided information that a network of bribery – linking companies and US officials awarding contracts – existed within the US-run Green Zone in Baghdad. He said bribes of tens of thousands of dollars were regularly delivered in pizza boxes sent to US contracting officers.
So far, US officers who have been successfully prosecuted or unmasked have mostly been involved in small-scale corruption. Often sums paid out in cash were never recorded. In one case, an American soldier put in charge of reviving Iraqi boxing gambled away all the money but he could not be prosecuted because, although the money was certainly gone, nobody had recorded if it was $20,000 or $60,000.
Iraqi ministers admit the wholesale corruption of their government. Ali Allawi, the former finance minister, said Iraq was "becoming like Nigeria in the past when all the oil revenues were stolen". But there has also been a strong suspicion among senior Iraqis that US officials must have been complicit or using Iraqi appointees as front-men in corrupt deals. Several Iraqi officials given important jobs at the urging of the US administration in Baghdad were inexperienced. For instance, the arms procurement chief at the centre of the Defence Ministry scandal, was a Polish-Iraqi, 27 years out of Iraq, who had run a pizza restaurant on the outskirts of Bonn in the 1990s.
In many cases, contractors never started or finished facilities they were supposedly building. As security deteriorated in Iraq from the summer of 2003 it was difficult to check if a contract had been completed. But the failure to provide electricity, water and sewage disposal during the US occupation was crucial in alienating Iraqis from the post-Saddam regime.