Lost And Fraud
October 6, 2021
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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
Lost And Fraud
The ICIJ/Pandora Papers investigation we covered yesterday exposed more information about how high-profile people hide their wealth — riches so often derived from ill-gotten gains. One glaring example was British art dealer Douglas Latchford, who used trusts and offshore accounts over five decades to shift ownership of assets, including plundered antiquities, and to avoid taxes.
A noted authority and collector of Khmer art, Latchford lorded it over the Cambodian cultural scene for decades from his Thai base in Bangkok. He bought sculptures he’s alleged to have known were originally ransacked from Cambodia’s ancient sites by organized criminals, then made millions reselling them to prestige dealers and auction houses in London, New York, and elsewhere. To facilitate the sale and international transportation of the antiquities to buyers, and to conceal that the art was looted, Latchford created false letters of provenance and false invoices. Glories of Khmer heritage ended up in some of the great museums and wealthy private collections in the U.S. and Europe.
The ICIJ reviewed papers held by an offshore service provider that show Latchford formed two trusts — the Skanda Trust in 2011 and the Siva Trust in 2012 — in Jersey, a self-governing British crown dependency. His daughter Julia and other family members were beneficiaries and/or trustees of the trusts. The trusts and offshore accounts were used, among other reasons, to pass Latchford’s assets to his daughter without U.K. inheritance tax liability.
In 2013, the Metropolitan Museum of Art returned to Cambodia two lifesize 10th-century Khmer statues, donated by Latchford in four pieces as separate gifts between 1987 and 1992. Cambodian officials had documented the statues had indeed been smuggled out of a remote jungle temple around the time of the country’s civil war in the 1970s.
Further evidence collected by the FBI’s Art Crime Team helped the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office to charge Latchford in November 2019 with trafficking in looted Cambodian antiquities. “Latchford built a career out of the smuggling and illicit sale of priceless Cambodian antiquities, often straight from archeological sites, in the international art market,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement at the time.
Latchford died in August 2020 before he could be extradited and stand trial. His British-Thai daughter, 49-year-old Nawapan Kriangsak, formerly Julia Ellen Latchford Copleston, inherited his entire 125-work Khmer collection, believed to be the greatest of its kind in private hands. At the end of January 2021, Kriangsak returned to Cambodia the entire dazzling and unique collection valued at more than $50 million. Many of the objects are one-of-a-kind, some over 1,100 years old. (ICIJ, Guardian, InterReviewed, NYT, fbi.gov, justice.gov, Artnet)
- The 2,600 people initially evacuated from Afghanistan were mostly former military translators and others who helped allied forces during the 20-year war. Those individuals moved quickly into American communities, but some 53,000 evacuees remain stranded on eight sprawling military bases from Texas to Wisconsin to New Jersey, uncertain of when they’ll be able to start the new American lives they were expecting.
- An additional 14,000 are waiting at U.S. bases abroad for their chance to come to America. Fort McCoy, a remote military base 170 miles from Milwaukee, is currently home to 12,600 Afghans, almost half of them children. 1,600 service members are tasked with ensuring the operation runs smoothly.
- The “guests” are grateful for the warm reception they’ve received, but the long wait has been grueling. None have been able to leave the fort unless they were green card holders or U.S. citizens. One 36-year-old former interpreter fled with his wife and two young daughters, hoping to relocate to Sacramento. “We are jobless here and have nothing to do,” he lamented. (NYT)
Explosive Report Reveals Darker Side Of Church
- A 2,500 page report released Tuesday by an independent commission said an estimated 330,000 children — about 80% of them boys — were victims of sex abuse within France’s Catholic Church over the past 70 years. It’s the country’s first major accounting of the worldwide phenomenon.
- Commission president Jean-Marc Sauvé said the figure includes abuses committed by some 3,000 priests and other people involved in the church — wrongdoing that Catholic authorities covered up over decades in a “systemic manner.” “The consequences are very serious,” Sauvé said. “About 60% of men and women who were sexually abused encounter major problems in their emotional or sexual life. We consider the church has a debt towards victims.”
- The commission urged the church to take strong action, denouncing “faults” and “silence.” It also called on the Catholic Church to help compensate the victims, notably in cases that are too old to prosecute legally. The head of the French bishops’ conference asked for forgiveness from the victims; the bishops met Tuesday to discuss the next steps. (NPR)
Additional World News
- Taiwan ‘on alert’ after record 56 Chinese warplanes enter its air defense zone (NBC)
- Son of ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos to run for Philippines president (Guardian)
- Germany’s Greens meet conservatives for crunch coalition talks (Reuters)
- Singapore passes controversial law to counter foreign interference (BBC)
- A historic rainforest and other lands have been returned to Indigenous Australians (NPR)
- Chile police bust crime ring smuggling Haitian children to US, Mexico (NBC)
- Torture inflicted on Uyghurs in Xinjiang revealed by Chinese detective in exile (CNN)
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Mullin It Over
- Ed Mullins, president of the New York Police Department’s second-largest union, resigned Tuesday night after the FBI searched his home in Port Washington and the union’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan. According to a letter sent to union members from the executive board of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Mullins was asked to resign due to the “severity of this matter and the uncertainty of its outcome.”
- The letter said that while much remains to be determined, “it is clear that President Mullins is apparently the target of the federal investigation.” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the raid at a news conference on a different matter Tuesday morning, but said he had no additional details.
- The police chief in Port Washington said the FBI generally notifies local police departments about raids happening in their jurisdictions, but the department wasn’t notified about this raid. The FBI just said it “is conducting a law enforcement action in connection with an ongoing investigation.” (CNN)
A Laptop Flip-Flop
- In late April, the FBI raided a business in Homer, Alaska owned by Paul and Marilyn Hueper, who had been in Washington D.C. 4,500 miles away for the January 6 Trump rally, but didn’t join the insurrectionists who went to the Capitol Building. The agents were looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop computer, which was stolen during the riot.
- On Friday, federal officials arrested two New Yorkers, 55-year-old Maryann Mooney-Rondon and her 23-year-old son Rafael Rondon, of Watertown, N.Y. The two face charges in connection with the stolen laptop as well as other charges stemming from the January 6 riot. Rafael is also charged with possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun.
- Mother and son appeared in a federal court in Syracuse Friday and were released pending further proceedings. Apparently, Mooney-Rondon and Marilyn Hueper had similar hairstyles and clothing in pictures taken at the rally. Hueper said it was just a case of mistaken identity. (AP News)
Additional USA News
- Amplify Energy faces possible class-action lawsuit after Southern California oil spill (CNN)
- Evan McMullin announces Utah Senate bid (Politico)
- Biden eager to get out of DC, push benefits of spending plan (AP)
- Criminal inquiry into Trump’s Georgia election interference gathers steam (Guardian)
- DOJ to investigate threats against teachers, school board members nationwide (The Hill)
- Biden lifts abortion referral ban on family planning clinics (NPR)
- NIH director Francis Collins to step down at the end of the year (NBC)
A Crowning Achievement
- 17-year-old high school senior Evan Bialosuknia was proud to be nominated to her Orlando high school’s homecoming court, with enough votes to get her name on the ballot for homecoming queen. She thought she might have a shot at winning, but she tried to avoid getting her hopes up. “I was pretty excited to walk on homecoming court and to be a part of it,” Bialosuknia said, “but I was also nervous even if I were to win, what if people were doing it to make fun of me. People are cruel these days. You never know what could happen.” Bialosuknia went to the game in late September wearing a metallic gold gown, her dual-toned hair curled into effortless waves. And at half-time, when her name was called and she heard uproarious applause in support, all those fears faded — she looked every bit the undisputed queen of homecoming.
- Bialosuknia is the school’s first transgender student to wear the Olympia High School Homecoming Queen crown. Her mother Marnie says her daughter is more comfortable in her own skin than most 17-year-olds, but her confidence is hard-won. The transition is a “long and difficult process,” but the family is totally supportive. Bialosuknia said she’s been inundated by messages of support and pride from the majority of her peers since her coronation. And for the haters? Bialosuknia says those people just “don’t understand and never will.”
- “Me winning isn’t trying to change anyone’s mind to accept me and understand it,” she said. “It’s just to show anyone can do anything, and if you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community, it doesn’t make you weirder or [more of] a loner than everyone.” Marnie is thrilled for her daughter, but understands many trans teens don’t belong to a similarly supportive student body or live in an affirming home. A CDC study in 2019 estimated that just under 2% of U.S. high schoolers are openly trans, and that trans students are more likely than cisgender students to experience violent harassment and risk of suicide. “My hope is that, maybe five years from now, this wouldn’t be newsworthy,” Marnie said. “Evan’s the first, but she won’t be the last.” (CNN)
- One winning ticket sold for $699.8 million Powerball jackpot (CBS)
- The Nobel Prize in physics honors work on climate change and complex systems (NPR)
- NASA’s DART mission will deliberately crash into an asteroid’s moon in the name of planetary defense (CNN)
- Planet with iron rainfall is even more extreme than scientists thought (CNN)
- Scientists discover Welsh ‘dragon’ dinosaur – the size of a chicken (Guardian)
- UAE to launch probe targeting asteroid between Mars, Jupiter (NBC)
- The winds within Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are gaining speed (Yahoo)
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