Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

British PM to Russia: ‘We know what you are doing’

November 14, 2017

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has strong words for Russia: 'We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed'

Updated 10:03 PM ET, Mon November 13, 2017

(CNN) — UK Prime Minister Theresa May has strong words for Russia over what she called its attempts to “weaponize information” to sow discord and undermine Western institutions.

“We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed,” she said on Monday. “Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.”
In a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London, May accused Moscow of meddling in elections and planting fake news stories as part of “sustained campaign of cyberespionage and disruption.” Since its annexation of Crimea, May said Russia had fomented conflict in eastern Ukraine, violated airspace of European countries, and hacked the Danish ministry of defense and the German Parliament.
“The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise,” she said. “So we will take the necessary actions to counter Russian activity. But this is not where we want to be — and not the relationship with Russia we want.”
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Her criticism comes amid mounting allegations that groups linked to Russia or the Kremlin itself meddled in elections and referenda, including BrexitCatalonia’s independence vote, and the 2016 US presidential election. Her comments are in stark contrast to President’s Donald Trump’s recent comment that he believed Vladimir Putin’s denials of interfering in the 2016 US presidential elections.
May said that even as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, it remains committed to maintaining Europe’s security through strong economic ties with allies and NATO. Such relationships will protect against security threats from Russia, she said.
“That is why we are driving reform of NATO, so this vital alliance is better able to deter and counter hostile Russian activity. It is why we have stepped up our military and economic support to Ukraine. It is why we are strengthening our cybersecurity and looking at how we tighten our financial regimes to ensure the profits of corruption cannot flow from Russia into the UK,” she said.
She cited Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent comment that “when a state fails to observe universal rules of conduct and pursues its interests at any cost, it will provoke resistance and disputes will become unpredictable and dangerous.”
“I say to President Putin, I agree. But it is Russia’s actions which threaten the international order on which we all depend,” she said. “We do not want to return to the Cold War, or to be in a state of perpetual confrontation.”
International order faces other threats from regions where “the absence of strong states” has created instability and conflict, such as the Middle East.
“We see the spillover effects of this instability in the challenge of mass migration and humanitarian crises in countries like Yemen,” she said.
She urged European and American allies to join the UK in stepping up efforts to contain and solve conflicts. She called attention to Yemen, Libya and Iraq and called for continued work toward a two-state solution in the Middle East peace process.
“As part of this, while we will stand firm in our support for the Iran nuclear deal, we are also determined to counter destabilizing Iranian actions in the region and their ballistic missile proliferation, working with the US, France and Germany in particular,” she said.
“It is in all of our interests to get this right: to bring long-sought stability to the Middle East, ensure these growing economies can play their full role in the global system, and reinforce a rules-based international order.”

Trump Creates Twitter Storm — Slams ‘haters’ over Russia — Snipes at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un — I would NEVER call him “short and fat”

November 12, 2017

US President Donald Trump unleashed a twitter storm from his Asia tour on Sunday, slamming “haters and fools” playing politics with US-Russia ties and declaring that he would never describe North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “short and fat”.

Currently on the Vietnam leg of a five-nation sweep through the region, the US president, who has been relatively quiet on Twitter since leaving Washington, put out half-a-dozen tweets in quick succession ahead of his official welcoming ceremony in Hanoi.

The missives covered a range of subjects from Mr Trump’s relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s efforts to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, and a sarcastic tweet about his efforts to make “a friend” of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The US president, who met with Mr Putin several times on the margins of the just-concluded APEC summit in the Vietnamese resort of Danang, took a fresh swipe at critics of his efforts to forge a close working relationship with the Russian leader.

When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!

“When will all the haters and fools out there realise that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he tweeted.

“There (sic) always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!” he added.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One while flying to Hanoi on Saturday, Mr Trump said he believed Vladimir Putin was being sincere when he denied meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Mr Trump, whose key former aides are under US investigation for possible collaboration with the Kremlin, said he had repeatedly asked Putin about the claims during their chats in Danang.

“He (Putin) said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again,” Mr Trump, who is marking one year since his shock election victory, told the reporters.

“I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” he added.

Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!

Mr Trump’s Sunday morning tweets also focused on North Korea and its nuclear weapons ambitions that have been a dominant theme on each leg of his Asia tour.

Taking exception to descriptions by North Korean officials and state media of him as an “old” man, Mr Trump declared himself disappointed by what he took to be a personal attack from the North’s young leader.

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Mr Trump said.

“Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!” he added.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to any remarks – even if not meant seriously – that it sees as disrespectful of the country’ ruling Kim dynasty, whose members are revered as near deities.

Does the Fake News Media remember when Crooked Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was begging Russia to be our friend with the misspelled reset button? Obama tried also, but he had zero chemistry with Putin.

Since becoming president, Mr Trump has engaged in an escalating war of words with Kim, trading personal insults and threats of military strikes and raising concerns about an outbreak of hostilities.

Over the past week, Mr Trump has urged Asian leaders to take a united front against the threat posed by the isolated North, warning at APEC that the region “must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies”.

Late Saturday, Pyongyang hit back, calling his Asia trip “a warmonger’s visit for confrontation” and saying it would only serve to accelerate Pyongyang’s push for nuclear statehood.

In another tweet Sunday, Mr Trump said Chinese leader Xi Jinping had agreed to toughen sanctions against North Korea, whose impoverished economy is hugely reliant on trade with China.

“President Xi of China has stated that he is upping the sanctions against (North Korea). Said he wants them to denuclearise. Progress is being made,” he wrote.

The US administration thinks China’s economic leverage over North Korea is the key to strong-arming Pyongyang into halting its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

China has made no sanctions announcement in recent days, and it was unclear if Mr Trump was referring to statements Xi may have made during their summit in Beijing on Thursday, or when they met at APEC.


Vietnam wants peaceful end to sea disputes — Trump offers to mediate in South China Sea feud — Long Trump News Q and A in Vietnam

November 12, 2017

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Trump offers to mediate in South China Sea feud

 November 12 at 12:16 AM
HANOI, Vietnam — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia (all times local):12:05 p.m.

Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang says his country wants to settle disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations.

Quang made the comments Sunday during a joint appearance with President Donald Trump, who is on a brief state visit to Vietnam. Trump had offered during an earlier meeting Sunday with Quang to serve as a mediator on the South China Sea territorial disputes.

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Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang and U.S. President Donald Trump address a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam November 12, 2017. REUTERS- Jonathan Ernst

Vietnam and China along with four others claim all or parts of the strategic waters.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) is scheduled to arrive in Vietnam for a state visit later Sunday. Disputes over the South China Sea are expected to be high on the agenda during Xi’s talks with Vietnamese leaders.


11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has highlighted trade issues in meetings with Vietnam’s prime minister and the secretary general of its Communist Party.

Trump told Communist Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong (nuh-WEE’-ihn FOO Trawng) that trade has become a very important element in the relationship between the two countries.

The president delivered a similar message later to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (nuh-WEE’-ihn SOO’-an FOOK). Trump urged Vietnam to buy missiles and other weapons systems from the United States, seeming to suggest that it would help erase a trade imbalance. Trump says the U.S. “makes the greatest missiles in the world.”

Outside of trade, Trump says he looks forward to the onetime adversaries U.S. and Vietnam having a fantastic relationship for years to come.


11:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump says stronger U.S. relations with Russia would benefit the globe and suggests that Russian sanctions may be lifted.

Trump says in Vietnam that Russia has been “very heavily sanctioned” and “it’s now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken.” The president is pointing to the need to work with Russia to solve problems in Syria, North Korea and Ukraine.

Trump says he believes “having Russia in a friendly posture as opposed to always fighting them is an asset.”

Congress slapped sanctions on Russia last summer for interfering in the 2016 election. Those sanctions were in addition to existing U.S. penalties on Russia for its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine and 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.


11:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump says it would be a “good thing” for North Korea and the world if he and Kim Jong Un become friends.

But he immediately cast doubt on whether that could happen. Trump has spoken forcefully against North Korea and its nuclear threat while traveling in Asia.

Trump tweeted about the North Korean leader on Saturday, saying he had tried “so hard” to be Kim’s friend and that “maybe someday that will happen!”

Asked at a news conference in Hanoi about the tweet, Trump said a friendship with Kim “might be a strange thing to happen but it’s certainly a possibility.”

Trump says he doesn’t know that friendship will develop, but says it would be “very, very nice if it did.”


10:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he believes in the U.S. intelligence agencies despite his past skepticism about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The president says during a joint news conference with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang that the U.S. intelligence agencies are “currently led by fine people.” He adds, “I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”

Trump’s comments come a day after he bashed the former heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies as “political hacks” and accused Democrats of trying to sabotage relations between the two countries.


10:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump is reiterating that “all responsible nations” must act to help stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

Trump says at a joint news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, that “we want progress, not provocation” and “we want stability, not chaos.” Trump says the U.S. wants peace and not war.

North Korea has been a focal point of Trump’s trip to Asia. He is speaking at a news conference with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang.


9:35 a.m.

President Donald Trump is offering to serve as a mediator on the South China Sea territorial disputes as he meets with the president of Vietnam.

Trump is telling President Tran Dai Quang he knows Vietnam has had a dispute with China over the strategic waterways.

Trump says he’s a “very good mediator and a very good arbitrator” and willing to help.

Trump was speaking to Quang at the start of their meetings in Hanoi. Trump says North Korea “continues to be a problem” and he’s hopeful that Chinese President Xi Jinping will “be a tremendous help.” Trump says he also hopes that Russia will “be a tremendous help.”

Trump says they’ll also talk about trade. He says the U.S. will “be treated fairly,” adding, “past administrations didn’t understand trade.”


9:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump is promising a “tremendous amount of trade” with Vietnam as he arrives at the presidential palace for his meeting with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang.

Trump and Quang spoke briefly to reporters after the U.S. president arrived at the presidential palace in Hanoi on a rainy morning. Trump says they’ll be conducting “billions and billions” of dollars in trade.

The two leaders were greeted by young children waving U.S. and Vietnamese flags and then paused as a band played the two countries’ national anthems.

Trump is in Hanoi for a brief state visit and will hold a joint news conference with Quang. He’ll depart for the Philippines later Sunday for a pair of summits that will close out his trip to Asia.


8:10 a.m. Sunday

President Donald Trump is bashing the “haters and fools” he says are questioning his efforts to improve relations with Russia.

Trump, in the final days of a lengthy Asia trip, shared his thoughts in a series of tweets Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam.

He accused critics of “playing politics” and hurting the country.

The day before, Trump had told reporters that Russia President Vladimir Putin has again denied meddling in the 2016 election. Trump did not make clear whether he believed Putin but did make clear that he did not want to revisit the issue.

Trump has suggested that the ongoing probe into contacts between his campaign and the Russians was hurting the U.S. relationship with Moscow and could hinder efforts to solve crises like Syria and North Korea.


8:05 a.m. Sunday

President Donald Trump is exchanging schools yard taunts with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Trump says in a tweet from Vietnam: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?””

Trump goes on to say sarcastically, “Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend” and says that, “maybe someday that will happen!”

Trump has been working to rally global pressure against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on a trip to Asia. That includes a stern speech delivered in South Korea.

Kim’s government responded to that speech by calling Trump an “old lunatic.”


12:50 a.m. Sunday

President Donald Trump is back on the defensive over Russian election meddling and is accusing Democrats of trying to sabotage U.S.-Russia relations.

Speaking to reporters Saturday aboard Air Force One, Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin vehemently insisted once again that Moscow had not interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The Republican president declined to say whether he believed Putin but made clear he wasn’t interested in dwelling on the issue.

Trump is in Hanoi, Vietnam, for a brief state visit. He’ll depart for the Philippines later Sunday for a pair of summits that will close out his trip.

Trump and Putin did not have a formal meeting while they were in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, but the two spoke informally several times on the event’s sidelines.


11:15 p.m. Saturday

The Kremlin’s spokesman says Vladimir Putin flatly denied any Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election during a short meeting with President Donald Trump.

The Russian president and Trump met Saturday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific conference in Vietnam.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling reporters: “Trump really raised the topic of so-called interference in U.S. elections.

Peskov says, “Putin categorically rejected even the hypothetical possibility that Russia could have in some way interfered in the U.S. electoral process.”


11:05 p.m.

The White House Correspondents Association is voicing concerns about press access during President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia.

Reporters and photographers traveling with the president were barred from covering any of the events at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the coastal city of Danang on Saturday.

Reporters have also voiced concerns that Trump declined to take questions in China, though he has held press conferences in Japan and South Korea and spoke to reporters at length aboard Air Force One Saturday.

Margaret Talev, the correspondents association president, says in a statement the group is “concerned that access on this trip has eroded more significantly” and that “notice about changes or new coverage restrictions has often come with too short of notice to be able to react effectively.”


8:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising Vietnam in brief remarks before a state dinner, calling the nation “one of the great miracles of the world.”

He says the United States and Vietnam have “come a long way,” in an apparent reference to the Vietnam War.

Trump added that “there is nothing more impressive” than the success of the country. He spoke during a state dinner featuring local flavors.

On the menu: steamed rice powder rolls “with fluffy pemmican”; shrimp rolled in fried egg; a seafood soup made with fish maw, shrimp, scallop and shark fin; and Dong Tao chicken rolled with lotus and mushrooms.

Besides dinner, Trump is scheduled for talks with Vietnamese leaders before heading to the Philippines, his last stop on the trip.


7:25 p.m.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday issued its first official statement on President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia, slamming Trump for trying to denuclearize the North.

The ministry said that Trump’s trip “is a warmonger’s trip for confrontation with our country, trying to remove our self-defensive nuclear deterrent.”

It accused Trump of trying to demonize North Korea, keep it apart from the international community and undermine its government.

The ministry said, “Reckless remarks by an old lunatic like Trump will never scare us or stop our advance. On the contrary, all this makes us more sure that our choice to promote economic construction at the same time as building up our nuclear force is all the more righteous, and it pushes us to speed up the effort to complete our nuclear force.”

North Korea is not known to have tested any of its missiles or nuclear devices since Sept. 15, a relative lull after a brisk series of tests earlier this year.


7:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is brushing off recent reports that the U.S. commerce secretary had interest in a company that does business with a major Russian company with possible ties to Putin relatives.

Reports this week said Wilbur Ross is a shareholder in a shipping company that relies on the Russian company Sibur for much of its revenue. A man reported to be one of Putin’s sons-in-law is believed to be a major Sibur shareholder.

Putin said Saturday that “This is nothing more than business. It never had and does not have any relation with politics.”

Putin also rejected any Russian connection to the recently indicted former campaign manager of President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort.

Manafort is charged with offenses including failing to register as a foreign agent while advising the party of Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-friendly Ukrainan president who was ousted amid massive street protests in 2014.


6:55 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the lack of a formal meeting with President Donald Trump at a conference in Vietnam reflects continuing tense relations between their countries.

Putin and Trump had several brief exchanges Friday night and Saturday as world leaders gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. They did not have a formal, one-on-one meeting.

Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying that the lack of a formal meeting shows that U.S.-Russia relations have “not yet emerged from the state of crisis.”

But he was also quoted as blaming the absence of a sit-down on scheduling conflicts and “certain matters of the protocol” that couldn’t be worked out.


5:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he didn’t see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shin-zoh AH’-bay) take a tumble on the golf course.

But he says, if it was Abe, “I’m very impressed because (Abe is) better than any gymnast I’ve ever seen.”

Trump made the remarks to reporters aboard Air Force One as it headed toward Hanoi, Vietnam, for meetings and a state banquet.

Japan’s TV Tokyo aired footage of a player identified as Abe trying repeatedly to hit his ball out of a steep bunker. As he finally made the shot, Trump began walking away, and Abe ran up the side of the bunker to catch up.

But just as the 63-year-old prime minister stepped onto the grass, he slipped, making a backward flip down into the sand. He quickly stood up and picked up his cap.


5:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Russia President Vladimir Putin once again denied meddling in the 2016 election during their conversations Saturday at a summit in Vietnam.

And Trump still won’t say definitively whether he believes Putin.

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that every time Putin sees him he says: “I didn’t do that.”

Says Trump: “And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that he means it.”

Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election to try to help Trump win. Multiple investigations are also under way to determine whether Trump campaign officials colluded with them.

Trump dismissed the heads of those agencies as “political hacks.” He says there’s plenty of reason to be suspicious of their findings.


5:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is blaming Democrats for creating an “artificial barrier” to U.S.-Russian relations by accusing Russia of meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump tells reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Hanoi that the allegations, which he’s dismissed as a witch hunt in the past, are damaging his ability to work with Russia. And he says that’s putting lives at stake.

He says the “artificial barrier” gets in the way of putting global pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Without that obstacle, Trump says, “we could really be helped a lot, tremendously with Russia having to do with North Korea.”

He goes on to say that, “If we can save many, many, many lives by making a deal with Russia having to do with Syria, and then ultimately getting Syria solved and getting Ukraine solved and doing other things, having a good relationship with Russia’s a great, great thing. And this artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way,” he says, adding that, “people will die because of it.”


Paradise Papers: Apple’s secret tax bolthole revealed

November 6, 2017
Jersey scene
Jersey has ensured the sun has not yet set on Apple’s low-tax drive — Getty Images

The world’s most profitable firm has a secretive new structure that would enable it to continue avoiding billions in taxes, the Paradise Papers show.

They reveal how Apple sidestepped a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax practices by actively shopping around for a tax haven.

It then moved the firm holding most of its huge untaxed offshore cash reserve to the Channel Island of Jersey.

Apple said the new structure had not lowered its taxes.

It said it remained the world’s largest taxpayer, paying about $35bn (£26bn) in corporation tax over the past three years, that it had followed the law and its changes “did not reduce our tax payments in any country”.

The Paradise Papers is the name for a huge leak of financial documents that is throwing light on the world of offshore finance.

Up until 2014, the tech company had been exploiting a loophole in tax laws in the US and the Republic of Ireland known as the “double Irish”.

This allowed Apple to funnel all its sales outside of the Americas – currently about 55% of its revenue – through Irish subsidiaries that were effectively stateless for taxation purposes, and so incurred hardly any tax.

Instead of paying Irish corporation tax of 12.5%, or the US rate of 35%, Apple’s avoidance structure helped it reduce its tax rate on profits outside of the US to the extent that its foreign tax payments rarely amounted to more than 5% of its foreign profits, and in some years dipped below 2%.

The European Commission calculated the rate of tax for one of Apple’s Irish companies for one year had been just 0.005%.

 Apple CEO Tim Cook in 2013: “We pay all the taxes we owe. Every single dollar”

Apple came under pressure in 2013 in the US Senate, when CEO Tim Cook was forced to defend its tax system.

Angry that the US was missing out on a huge amount of tax, then-Senator Carl Levin told him: “You shifted that golden goose to Ireland. You shifted it to three companies that do not pay taxes in Ireland. These are the crown jewels of Apple Inc. Folks, it’s not right.”

Mr Cook responded defiantly: “We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar. We do not depend on tax gimmicks… We do not stash money on some Caribbean island.”

Apple’s questionnaire

After the EU announced in 2013 that it was investigating Apple’s Irish arrangement, the Irish government decided that firms incorporated there could no longer be stateless for tax purposes.

Panorama’s Richard Bilton tries to speak to Appleby about Apple in Jersey

In order to keep its tax rates low, Apple needed to find an offshore financial centre that would serve as the tax residency for its Irish subsidiaries.

In March 2014, Apple’s legal advisers sent a questionnaire to Appleby, a leading offshore finance law firm and source of much of the Paradise Papers leak.

It asked what benefits different offshore jurisdictions – the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Mauritius, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey – could offer Apple.

The document asked key questions such as was it possible to “obtain an official assurance of tax exemption” and could it be confirmed that an Irish company might “conduct management activities… without being subject to taxation in your jurisdiction”.

They also asked whether a change of government was likely, what information would be visible to the public and how easy it would be to exit the jurisdiction.

Source document: Apple questionnaire (extract)


Leaked emails also make it clear that Apple wanted to keep the move secret.

One email sent between senior partners at Appleby says: “For those of you who are not aware, Apple [officials] are extremely sensitive concerning publicity. They also expect the work that is being done for them only to be discussed amongst personnel who need to know.”

Apple chose Jersey, a UK Crown dependency that makes its own tax laws and which has a 0% corporate tax rate for foreign companies.

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Paradise Papers documents show Apple’s two key Irish subsidiaries, Apple Operations International (AOI), believed to hold most of Apple’s massive $252bn overseas cash hoard, and Apple Sales International (ASI), were managed from Appleby’s office in Jersey from the start of 2015 until early 2016.

This would have enabled Apple to continue avoiding billions in tax around the world.

Apple’s 2017 accounts showed they made $44.7bn outside the US and paid just $1.65bn in taxes to foreign governments, a rate of around 3.7%. That is less than a sixth of the average rate of corporation tax in the world.

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Apple and Ireland vs the EU

Apple log and Irish flag

In August 2016, after a three-year investigation, the European Commission finds that Ireland gave an illegal tax benefit to Apple.

The EC says Apple must repay Ireland taxes for the period within its remit of investigation, 2003-2013, a total of €13bn (£11.6bn) plus interest of €1bn.

Ireland and Apple launch an appeal.

Apple’s Tim Cook calls the EC ruling “total political crap”, with “no reason for it in fact or in law”. Ireland says the EU is encroaching on sovereign taxation. It fears multinationals will go elsewhere.

Ireland agrees to collect the €13bn, to be held in a managed escrow account pending the appeal verdict.

In October 2017, the EU says it will take Ireland to court as it has not yet collected the money. Ireland says it is complicated and it needs time.

Tim Cook’s claims examined

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Massive GDP spike

When the “double-Irish” loophole was shut down, Ireland also created new tax regulations that companies like Apple could take advantage of.

One of the companies that Apple moved to Jersey, ASI, had rights to some of Apple Inc’s hugely valuable intellectual property.

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If ASI sold the intellectual property back to an Irish company, the Irish company would be able to offset the enormous cost against any future profits. And since the IP holder, ASI, was registered in Jersey, the profits of the sale would not be taxed.

It appears Apple has done just that. There was an extraordinary 26% spike in Ireland’s GDP in 2015 which media reports put down to intellectual property assets moving into Ireland. Intangible assets rose a massive €250bn in Ireland that year.

Ireland’s department of finance denied that the new regulations had been brought in to benefit multinationals.

It said Ireland was “not unique in allowing companies to claim capital allowances on intangible assets” and had followed “the international norm”.

Investigative journalist Richard Brooks on Apple’s questionnaire and the Isle of Man’s response to it

Apple declined to answer questions about its two subsidiaries moving their tax residency to Jersey.

It also declined to comment when asked whether one of those companies had helped create a huge tax write-off by selling intellectual property.

Apple said: “When Ireland changed its tax laws in 2015, we complied by changing the residency of our Irish subsidiaries and we informed Ireland, the European Commission and the United States.

“The changes we made did not reduce our tax payments in any country. In fact, our payments to Ireland increased significantly and over the last three years we’ve paid $1.5bn in tax there.”

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Find out more about the words and phrases found in the Paradise Papers.

Paradise Papers explainer box

The papers are a huge batch of leaked documents mostly from offshore law firm Appleby, along with corporate registries in 19 tax jurisdictions, which reveal the financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders.

The 13.4 million records were passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Panorama has led research for the BBC as part of a global investigation involving nearly 100 other media organisations, including the Guardian, in 67 countries. The BBC does not know the identity of the source.

Paradise Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #ParadisePapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag “Paradise Papers”

Watch Panorama on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)


EU denounces ‘shocking’ Paradise Papers revelations

November 6, 2017


© AFP/File | The European Union’s criticism of the Paradise Papers revelations come as it has tried to crack down on EU countries making illegal tax breaks to Apple and Amazon

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union on Monday denounced as “shocking” revelations on the way top companies and dignitaries, including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, avoid taxes using offshore wealth hubs.

EU finance ministers meeting for regular talks in Brussels are due to discuss the practice on Tuesday after a trove of leaked documents exposed the great lengths the global elite will go to avert paying a fair tax.

The findings have emerged as part of the Paradise Papers released late Sunday by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was behind the similar Panama Papers made public last year.

“This new scandal shows once again that some companies and rich individuals are ready to do anything to not pay tax,” said European Economics Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici ahead of the two days of talks.

“In light of these shocking revelations, I call on member states to rapidly adopt a European tax haven blacklist, as well as other dissuasive measures,” he said.

Much as with the Panama Papers report and LuxLeaks, the latest leak also exposes the secret ways the rich and multinationals, with the help of accountancy firms, shift profits across the globe to drastically cut tax.

Perfectly legal, these methods helped divert billions in profit from the tax man, using well established wealth hubs such as Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and Switzerland.

EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, who has cracked down on EU countries making illegal tax breaks to Apple and Amazon, lauded the journalists who made the latest revelations.

“Congratulations and thanks to ICIJ for all the work done on Paradise Papers. It enables the work against tax avoidance, for transparency,” said Vestager in a tweet.

Despite the tough talk from Brussels, Europeans have struggled to agree on the basis of an EU-wide tax haven blacklist.

Britain, Malta and other smaller EU nations are reluctant to include zero or near-zero corporate tax rates as one of the criteria to land on the EU’s blacklist.

The EU ministers are due to bridge their differences and draw up an official list of unwanted tax havens in December, whittling down an initial list of 92 countries finalised last year.

In the run-up to that final list, EU officials are sending letters to the 92 countries asking them to detail their tax policies for evaluation.


Paradise Papers: Wilbur Ross says ‘nothing improper’ about Russia links

November 6, 2017

BBC News

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US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: ‘There is nothing whatsoever improper’

Donald Trump’s commerce secretary says there is “nothing improper” about his business links to Russian figures who are currently under US sanctions.

Wilbur Ross was accused of misleading senators after leaked documents showed his interests in a firm in which some shareholders have ties to the Kremlin.

He told the BBC that the US had not sanctioned the company, Sibur, so “there’s nothing wrong with that”.

Mr Ross also denied he had failed to disclose the information.

Earlier, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal called the revelations of the Kremlin links “inexcusable”.

They come as part of a huge leak of financial documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers, revealing how the powerful and ultra-wealthy, including the Queen’s private estate, secretly invest vast amounts of cash in offshore tax havens.

What did Wilbur Ross do, according to the leaks?

The leaks show he has investments in shipping firm Navigator Holdings, which earns millions a year transporting oil and gas for Sibur. Two major Sibur shareholders have been sanctioned by the US:

  • Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko, who has at least 12 companies connected to him
  • The Russian natural gas company, Novatek, belonging to Leonid Mikhelson

Another key Sibur shareholder is President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, who holds a 3.9% stake in the firm. While he is not subject to sanctions, his father, Nikolai, is.

Graphic showing Wilbur Ross: The Russian connection?

Mr Ross has not disputed the revelations, telling the BBC: “There’s nothing whatsoever improper about Navigator having a relationship with Sibur.”

“If our government decided to sanction them, that would be a different story,” he continued.

He said he had disclosed the business links to the office of government ethics, and denied misleading the confirmation hearing committee when he took office.

He said he had never met any of the figures concerned.

The US imposed some sanctions after Russia annexed  in 2014. Others were imposed last year for alleged interference in the US presidential election.

The commerce department earlier said Mr Ross had “been generally supportive of the administration’s sanctions of Russian and other entities”.

What’s the problem then?

Prior to being confirmed in office as treasury secretary, Wilbur Ross did not reveal to Congress the full details of his company holdings.

According to the leaks, he retains a financial interest in Navigator Holdings via a number of companies in the Cayman Islands, some of which he did disclose at the time of his confirmation.

However, under the disclosure rules he did not have to declare his interest in Navigator Holdings.

Ex-US sanctions policy co-ordinator Daniel Fried says it would be a mistake for any US official to do business with Sibur

But questions will be raised about Mr Ross’s potential conflicts of interest and whether his ties undermine US sanctions against Russia.

“Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told NBC Newsafter the revelations came to light.

Mr Blumenthal has called for an investigation into the treasury secretary’s links to President Putin’s son-in-law.

The leaks come as an investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian connections to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team continues.

Mr Trump’s presidency has been dogged by allegations that Russians colluded to try to influence the outcome of the election. He has called the allegations “fake news”.

How close is Ross to Trump?

They have known each other for more than a quarter of a century. Mr Ross played a key part in a pre-packaged bankruptcy deal – an agreement between a company and its creditors – for Mr Trump’s Atlantic City casino, the Taj Mahal, in the 1990s.

He stepped in to represent the angry bondholders but liked Donald Trump’s style.

Mr Ross, according to Trump biographer David Cay Johnston, was the key negotiator preventing Donald Trump from “being swept into the dustbin of history because he saw the value in the Trump name”.

“If it hadn’t been for Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump would not be in the White House.”

How close is Ross to Navigator Holdings?

WL Ross & Co, which was founded by Wilbur Ross, appears to have maintained a close relationship with the shipping company.

On the night that he was nominated as commerce secretary, Mr Ross was congratulated on his promotion by the senior management of Navigator Holdings at a New York restaurant, Bloomberg reports.

Mr Ross reportedly told the CEO of Navigator: “Your interest is aligned to mine. The US economy will grow, and Navigator will be a beneficiary.”

Another key Navigator customer has been PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company. It was targeted by US sanctions this year.

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Timeline: Wilbur Ross’s links with Sibur

November 2012: Navigator sign charter deal with Sibur. Mr Ross becomes Navigator board member

March – November 2014: He remains a board member as the US sanctions Russia for annexing Crimea

November 2014: Mr Ross leaves Navigator’s board with Ross group partner Wendy Teramoto taking his place until 2017

2015: Navigator increases business with Sibur, with energy firm accounting for 9.1% of its total revenues (compared to 5.3% in 2014)

2016: Figures show Sibur remains among Navigator’s top five clients, predominantly exporting Russian gas to Europe and potentially providing significant income to sanctioned Putin allies

2017: Navigator doubles the fleet it uses on Sibur exports to four

What else do the Paradise Papers reveal?

Paradise Papers explainer box
  • About £10m ($13m) of the Queen’s private money was invested into offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Read more here
  • A key aide of Canada’s PM has been linked to offshore schemes that may have cost the nation millions of dollars in taxes, threatening to embarrass Justin Trudeau, who has campaigned to shut tax havens. Read more here
  • A former UK Conservative party deputy chairman and a significant donor, Lord Ashcroft, may have ignored rules around how his offshore investments were managed. Read more here
  • How questions were raised about the funding of a major shareholding in Everton FC. Read more here
  • An oligarch with close links to the Kremlin, Alisher Usmanov, may have secretly taken ownership of a company responsible for anti-money laundering checks on Russian cash. Read more here
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What are the Paradise papers?

They are a huge batch of leaked documents mostly from offshore law firm Appleby, along with corporate registries in 19 tax jurisdictions, which reveal the financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders.

The 13.4 million records were passed to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Panorama has led research for the BBC as part of a global investigation involving nearly 100 other media organisations, including the Guardian, in 67 countries. The BBC does not know the identity of the source.

Paradise Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #ParadisePapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag “Paradise Papers”

Watch Panorama on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)


Wilbur Ross Didn’t Disclose Business Ties to Putin Inner Circle

November 6, 2017

Documents show stake in a firm that does business with Kremlin-linked petrochemicals company

Wilbur Ross during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill this past January.

Wilbur Ross during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill this past January. PHOTO: SHAWN THEW/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

By Rebecca Ballhaus
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Nov. 5, 2017 11:50 p.m. ET
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose business connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s family and inner circle on a required personal financial-disclosure form earlier this year, according to documents released over the weekend.

Mr. Ross said earlier this year that he would retain stakes owned by his private-equity firm in a gas-shipping company, Navigator Holdings Ltd. He didn’t disclose that the company does millions of dollars in business—$68 million since 2014—with a Moscow petrochemicals company, Sibur, with close ties to the Kremlin, according to analysis by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Those ties were revealed this weekend in a trove of internal documents from Appleby, a Bermuda law firm that has handled more than 60 offshore holdings for Mr. Ross’s company. Those documents were leaked to a German newspaper and then shared with the journalism consortium, a global network of media outlets.

Sibur’s owners include Kirill Shamalov, who is married to Mr. Putin’s younger daughter, and Gennady Timchenko, a co-founder of the Gunvor Group, a Cyprus-registered commodities trading firm. Mr. Timchenko was among the first Russian businessmen to be sanctioned by the U.S. following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea region. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control called him a member of “the Russian leadership’s inner circle” and said Mr. Timchenko’s “activities in the energy sector have been directly linked to Putin.”

Sibur’s largest shareholder, Leonid Mikhelson, runs Novatek, Russia’s largest private natural-gas company, which also has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department for its ties to Mr. Putin. Mr. Timchenko owns 23% of the company.

Both Gunvor and Mr. Timchenko have denied any financial connections to the Russian president. Novatek has sought to distance itself from Mr. Timchenko, saying the oligarch has limited influence on the company, and it has criticized the U.S. sanctions.

The Commerce Department released a statement Sunday saying Mr. Ross hadn’t been involved in Navigator Holdings’ decision to do business with Sibur and “has never met the Sibur shareholders referenced in this story and, until now, did not know of their relationship.”

The statement said Mr. Ross “recuses himself from matters focused on transoceanic shipping vessels but has been supportive of the administration’s sanctions against Russian and other entities.” Mr. Ross “works closely with Commerce Department ethics officials to ensure the highest ethical standards,” the statement said.

As commerce secretary, Mr. Ross oversees agencies with wide powers over trade and the U.S.’s economic relationship with foreign countries. His stake in a company with ties to Russian firms that are the subject of U.S. sanctions could come under particular scrutiny as the U.S. has escalated sanctions against Moscow in recent months. The disclosure also comes just after the first charges and plea agreement were announced last week by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating whether Trump associates worked with Russia as part of what the U.S. says was Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Ross was an economic adviser and fundraiser for Donald Trump during the campaign.

Mr. Trump has denied any collusion with Russia by him or his campaign, and Moscow has denied meddling in the election.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a tweet Sunday that he felt “misled” by Mr. Ross during the confirmation process.

“In concealing an ongoing financial relationship w/ Russian oligarchs, Sec. Ross misled me, Senate Commerce Committee & the American people,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote. “Why do so many Trump associates have such trouble disclosing relationships with Russia?”

What We Have Learned From Mueller Investigation
WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains what have we learned after Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled his first two big actions in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Photo: Getty
Mr. Ross, a private-equity billionaire, said earlier this year that he would sell at least 80 business assets and investment funds if confirmed by the Senate, but he would hold on to investments in Navigator Holdings and 10 other entities that invest in shipping and real-estate financing, according to federal financial-disclosure and ethics filings. Mr. Ross hasn’t said why he has held on to those particular assets.

Mr. Ross’s stake in Navigator Holdings is held through four Cayman Islands entities, according to ICIJ’s review of the documents. In his disclosure form in January, Mr. Ross valued his stake in those entities as between at least $2.05 million and $10.1 million, according to a Journal analysis of the filing. Mr. Ross didn’t disclose his stake in one of the four companies on the form and didn’t say why.

Together, those four entities hold a 31.5% stake in Navigator Holdings, according to a Journal analysis of Navigator’s most recent annual report. According to the company’s Nov. 5 stock price, those shares are valued at $176 million.

In August, President Trump signed a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, while calling the law “seriously flawed.” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the new U.S. sanctions as “a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia,” and promised consequences for U.S.-Russian relations.

On Monday, unsealed court documents in the Mueller probe showed a Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser admitted lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians during the campaign, while two campaign officials, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were charged with laundering millions of dollars in funds from overseas work unrelated to the Trump campaign. Both pleaded not guilty.

Some ethics experts raised questions about whether Mr. Ross had violated a federal ethics statute that requires officials to recuse themselves from matters that could have a “direct and predictable effect” on their financial interests or raise questions about the official’s “impartiality.”

Norm Eisen, the chairman of the ethics-advocacy organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, tweeted that Mr. Ross was violating the statute “unless made FULL [disclosure to] agency of ties [before] working on sanctions/shipping party matters.”

Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert and a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said Mr. Ross’s failure to note Navigator’s business with a Putin-linked firm reflects “a lack of due diligence” by Mr. Trump’s transition team but said the lack of disclosure didn’t violate any laws.

“I don’t know that he’s in any legal trouble. But the truth is, in essence, he was in business with people close to Vladimir Putin. I don’t know if the Senate would have confirmed him had they known that,” Ms. Clark said.

“A presidential transition that wanted to head off any concerns would have inquired further than just the bare minimum that was on the disclosure forms,” Ms. Clark added.

Mr. Ross was pressed about his business dealings with Russia during his confirmation process, as Democratic senators inquired about his role at the Bank of Cyprus, which has had extensive business dealings with Russian oligarchs.

In a letter to Mr. Ross after his confirmation hearing, five Democratic senators wrote: “The United States Senate and the American public deserve to know the full extent of your connections with Russia and your knowledge of any ties between the Trump Administration, Trump Campaign, or Trump Organization and the Bank of Cyprus.”

Mr. Ross said he was not “partners” with any Russians invested in the bank, but he didn’t send a response to the letter.

—Gabriel T. Rubin and Brett Forrest contributed to this article.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at


Leak Reveals Ties Between Trump Administration and Russia, Implicating Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jared Kushner

November 6, 2017

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The so-called Paradise Papers have revealed secrets of politicians worldwide, including new links between the Trump administration and Russia.

A new trove of more than 13 million leaked documents implicates top officials and associates of President Donald Trump—as well as foreign politicians—in shady business relationships tied to offshore financial accounts.

In at least two cases, the documents highlight top administration officials’ previously undisclosed connections to Russia and Kremlin-linked interests.

The so-called Paradise Papers were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the same publication that obtained the “Panama Papers.” Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the new documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which led a global effort of 96 media organizations from 67 countries to pore through the records. The findings were published on Sunday.

The documents show that many of the wealthy individuals Trump brought into his administration have worked to legally store their money in offshore havens where they would be free from taxation in the United States. Trump has promised repeatedly to “drain the swamp,” in condemning the idea that well-connected individuals in Washington, D.C., preserve their own interests at the expense of the rest of the country.

Among the Trump administration officials implicated in the leaks is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who according to the documents concealed his ties to a Russian energy company that is partly owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s judo partner Gennady Timchenko and Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov. Through offshore investments, Ross held a stake in Navigator Holdings, which had a close business relationship with the Russian firm. Ross did not disclose that connection during his confirmation process on Capitol Hill.

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Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross seated next to President Donald Trump. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI

“In concealing his interest in these shipping companies—and his ongoing financial relationship with Russian oligarchs—Secretary Ross misled me, the Senate Commerce Committee, and the American people,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement on Sunday. He characterized Ross’ financial disclosures as a “Russian nesting doll, with blatant conflicts of interest carefully hidden within seemingly innocuous companies.”

Ross has been linked to Russian interests before; in 2014, he poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Bank of Cyprus, an institution regarded by financial watchdogs as a haven for Russian money laundering. Ross’ fellow investors included a pair of Russian oligarchs, including Dmitry Rybolovlev, the man who bought a Trump property in Palm Beach for $95 million, even though it was valued at less than $60 million. Ross became a vice chair of the bank, along with a reported former KGB officer. Former Deutsche Bank executive Josef Ackermann was installed as chairman. Deutsche Bank—one of Trump’s biggest creditors—subsequently paid hundreds of millions to settle disputes that it shipped $10 billion or more to Russia in suspect loans.

Top White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is also implicated. The documents reveal that Russian tech leader Yuri Milner invested $850,000 in a startup called Cadre that Kushner co-founded in 2014.

Milner has long had a reputation in Silicon Valley as a big-league investor; his firm at one point owned major chunks of both Facebook and Twitter. But Milner was never considered particularly Kremlin-connected. These new documents call that reputation into question. The investing arm of Gazprom, the state-backed energy company, financed a share of Facebook worth up to $1 billion; a Kremlin-owned bank invested $191 million into a Milner firm, and some of that money was then injected into Twitter.

Despite Milner’s investment in his startup, Kushner said in July that he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting that he never “relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Representatives for Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA), the chairman and vice chairman of the committee, did not immediately return requests for comment. Kushner, who still has a stake in Cadre, did not previously disclose the firm’s other business ties.

The top adviser is already ensnared in the Russia investigations as questions continue to swirl about his meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Kushner attended the meeting alongside Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, who was indicted last week by the Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, in connection with his lobbying work for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and top economic adviser Gary Cohn are all mentioned in the documents. But some lower-level appointees have more egregious connections to offshore interests—in some cases, directly related to industries they are tasked with regulating.

Randal Quarles, who was confirmed just last month to be vice chairman for supervision at the Federal Reserve, has financial connections to a bank based in Bermuda that is being probed by U.S. officials under suspicion of tax evasion. A Federal Reserve spokesman told The Guardian that Quarles divested from the bank when he assumed his position at the U.S. central bank.

It isn’t just American officials who are implicated in the document dump. A substantial portion of Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate—around 10 million pounds—resides in offshore accounts based in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Some of the money has been invested in companies with allegedly shady business practices.

A significant number of the leaked documents came from a law firm based in Bermuda called Appleby, which helps its clients set up offshore financial accounts with the goal of avoiding taxes on certain assets. Appleby has maintained that “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients.”

—with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman


See also UPI Report:


Manafort Explains Mysterious Phone, Why He Had Three Passports — He’s no Jason Bourne

November 5, 2017


By Andrew M Harris and David Voreacos

 Updated on 
  • Defense files bail request before Nov. 6 court hearing
  • Ex-Trump campaign chief on home confinement after indictment

Paul Manafort, the indicted former campaign chairman of President Donald Trump, explained in a pre-trial court filing why he traveled to China and other countries with a mobile phone registered to an alias, and why he had three passports.

 Image result for Paul Manafort, photos

Prosecutors cited the phone and multiple passports in saying that Manafort posed a risk of fleeing the U.S. after his Oct. 27 indictment on charges that he and his right-hand man, Rick Gates, concealed their work as agents of Ukraine, laundered millions of dollars and hid offshore accounts.

“While some reports have painted this as though Mr. Manafort is akin to a 68-year-old ‘Jason Bourne’ character, the facts are much more mundane,” his attorneys said, referring to the fictional former CIA assassin created by novelist Robert Ludlum, and portrayed in several movies by actor Matt Damon.

In the filing on Saturday, Manafort’s lawyers asked a judge to modify the bail terms while offering to post $12.5 million in assets and arguing he poses no risk of flight. They said Manafort traveled to China and elsewhere with a phone registered to an alias — his brother’s name — because he wanted to maintain confidentiality while working as a political consultant to high-profile clients.

Phone Alias

“It is common practice for many U.S. citizens who travel abroad on business and pleasure to defend themselves against potential hacking, and confiscation, of their electronic devices and data,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote in the filing in federal court in Washington. This doesn’t show a “heightened potential for risk of flight,” they said.

Manafort had one passport for travel and a second one “to submit with visa applications to certain foreign countries,” according to his lawyers, Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle. He lost the first passport and obtained a third one before finding the original one months later, at which point he told the State Department about his discovery.

Manafort and Gates were among the first people charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election. Both Manafort, who faces up as many as 15 1/2 years in prison, and Gates, who faces 12 1/2 years, pleaded not guilty on Oct. 30. They’re confined to their homes and subject to electronic monitoring.

Manafort may owe $10 million if he violates his release terms, while Gates could owe $5 million if he violates his terms. Both have asked for relaxed terms, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will hear their arguments on Monday.

Manafort’s Pledges

In his filing, Manafort asked that he be allowed to travel to Washington, New York, Virginia and Florida, which was described as his primary residence. He pledged not to travel overseas. He also offered to pledge his $3 million apartment in Trump Tower in New York; a $3.5 million apartment in lower Manhattan; a $1.5 million home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; and life insurance policies worth $4.5 million.

Manafort’s lawyers gave some hints about his financial condition. They said the $18 million in assets that prosecutors seek to seize if he’s convicted “would wipe out a substantial portion of Mr. Manafort’s wealth accumulated over a lifetime of work.”

They also said that accounts in Cyprus that are the focus of much of the indictment “have been closed or have relatively nominal balances” because his work in Ukraine ended in 2014.

Prosecutors haven’t agreed to the terms as Manafort has had some difficulty assembling supporting documentation, according to the filing. The Mueller team’s response is due Sunday.

The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

Syria deal may be on agenda for Putin-Trump Asia meeting: report

November 4, 2017


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump may discuss a Syria settlement at an Asian economic summit in Vietnam next week, the RIA news agency reported on Saturday.

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Relations between Moscow and Washington have soured further since Putin and Trump first met at a G20 summit in Hamburg in July when they discussed allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, but agreed to focus on better ties.

Tensions have risen over the conflict in Syria, after Russia vetoed a United Nations plan to continue an ongoing investigation into chemical weapons..

A Syria settlement “is being discussed” for the agenda of a possible meeting between the two presidents, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA, adding it was in their common interest to have enough time to discuss the issue.

“Somehow or another it requires cooperation,” Peskov said.

Trump told Fox News this week that it was possible he would meet Putin during his Asia trip.

“We may have a meeting with Putin,” he said.

“And, again – Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea. They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.”

writing by Denis Pinchuk; editing by Alexander Smith