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07.11 7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It [Fox News and Betsy DeVos never talk about this stuff so it must be Bull Shit, right?]

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07.17 ‘Off-the-charts’ heat to affect millions in U.S. in coming decades

07.17 Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen forced out by board [Given that states have lost abortion rights on political grounds recently, Wen's philosophical approach to protect abortion rights based on ‘health care’ was smarter – therefore it was that smarter strategy that was killed at the secret meeting.]

07.17 Billions of air pollution particles found in hearts of city dwellers

07.17 What is happening in America's Cancertown is tragic, immoral and evil [Niggardly white government policies could change to produce better students, better jobs and net revenue instead of costs. But it seems they enjoy more cruelty—like Trump.]

07.16 US aid cuts to UN agency will hurt vulnerable women and children, critics say

07.16 Trump abortion restrictions in effect for taxpayer-funded clinics

07.15 The response to DRC’s Ebola crisis isn’t working. Here’s what we need to do

07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]

07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]

07.13 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life [Willfully ignorant governments—having fired many of their best scientists—have made themselves too stupid to despair]

07.13 Trump administration to approve pesticide that may harm bees [The worst government money can buy!]

07.12 These solar panels don’t just generate power—they produce drinking water

07.12 David Attenborough: polluting planet may become as reviled as slavery [1:34 video]

07.10 Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn't The Whole Story [Fixing our world begins by educating your consciousness with the best truth from trustworthy news sources—so you'll then insist truly bad things will get fixed. But if instead you are educated by untrustworthy news sources—then your consciousness could be warped to where you are hating and fighting with your best friends. Clue: untrustworthy news sources never seriously report news about the world's most critical emergency—Global warming.]

07.10 Molly Scott Cato: ‘It’s the wealthy who are causing climate change’

07.09 Judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone [Yeh!]

07.07 How Solar Panels Work (And Why They're Taking Over the World) [Hope they leave space between panels for wild flowers to grow so birds and butterflies can flourish!]

07.05 Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis

07.04 On reflection: how the 'albedo effect' is melting the Antarctic

07.04 US produces far more waste and recycles far less of it than other developed countries [As expected—and made worse by Trump—the U.S. is best at being the worst]07.03 Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal, experts warn

07.03 Deep-sea mining to turn oceans into ‘new industrial frontier’

07.03 Caravan of Americans battling diabetes heads to Canada for affordable insulin [3:36 video; Like Central Americans flee for their lives from criminal drug gangs, Americans flee for their lives for affordable pharmaceutical drugs]

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07.18 In Sinclair's New 'Must-Run' Segment, Former Trump Adviser Tries to Defend Racist Attacks on 'the Squad'

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07.18 Deadly Delays in Jail Construction Cost Lives and Dollars Across California

07.18 Inside Trump's DC hotel, where allies and lobbyists flock to peddle their interests [Also, too much ignored by media, the $millions "donated" corrupting moderate Democrats and Republicans every election cycle must stop]

07.18 This Republican's Case for Medicare for All [A well-informed Republican is rare, so let's hold him in the light so others may learn]

07.18 Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after president attacks Ilhan Omar [1:03 video shows Trump pandering to his ignorant idolaters, and together they're making America a greater shit-hole country]

07.18 "Can't Change a Corrupt System by Taking Its Money": Sanders Urges All 2020 Democrats to Reject Insurance, Big Pharma Cash [48:58 video]

07.17 Why Democrats’ oversight machine is moving so slowly against Trump

07.17 Here's the real reason Trump is attacking 'the squad': he's scared of their politics

07.17 'Good,' Says Elizabeth Warren, After Billionaire Right-Winger Peter Thiel Says She's 2020 Democrat He Is 'Most Scared By'

07.17 The American Right Defines Patriotism As Complacency About Racism

07.17 This is what today's America looks like. The squad is us

07.16 As Trump Sows Discord, Chief of Staff Mulvaney Reportedly Focused on 'Building Empire for the Right Wing' [And the South shall rise again...]

07.16 George Will's startling assessment of Donald Trump

07.16 Describing 'Future We Want to Live In' Scores of Groups Unveil New Blueprint for Reproductive Rights

07.16 'Do not take the bait': congresswomen denounce racist Trump attack [3:50 video]

07.16 Money Laundering Scandal Forces Puerto Rico’s Governor to Cut His Vacation Short — Just in Time for Another Scandal

07.16 Turnstile teaching [The problem is NOT the color of students skin, as our fake President reflexively thinks. The problem is the lax attitude and deficient funding by government to always do a much better job for a better future.]

Justice Matters

07.16 Contempt [Variations of frequent loss & theft of property title by organized legal efforts against black owners]

07.15 Australia 'deeply concerned' about China's treatment of Uighur people [What are the reasons, exactly, that justify harsh imprisonment of a million people?]

07.15 Zuma tells South Africa corruption inquiry he is victim of foreign plot [Unaccountable corrupt governments are so in fashion these days...]

07.14 Warren vows to probe U.S. crimes on immigrants if elected [Can you imagine living in a nation with a working Justice System? How far we've fallen!]

High Crimes
Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

07.18 Corporate tax cuts blocked at least 15,000 affordable homes in California. Here’s how

07.15 China’s Economic Growth Hits 27-Year Low as Trade War Stings

International & Futurism

07.18 There are 16 million slaves around the world making our stuff

07.18 ‘No rioters, only a tyrannical regime’: Thousands of Hong Kong seniors march in support of young extradition law protesters [Most people around the world have more in common with these Hong Kong Chinese protestors than with the ignorant people at Trump rallies]

07.18 Dozens Arrested as Over 1,000 Jewish Activists and Allies Shut Down Entrances to ICE Headquarters Demanding Closure of Trump Detention Camps [Obviously these are not the immoral and less educated right-wing jews who support Netanyahu, Trump and ICE, and who slowly exterminate Palestinians when no one is looking]

07.17 Trump Murdered the Iran Deal—And Europe Isn’t Too Happy About It [Only psychopathic Saudi Arabia and Russia are U.S. ’allies’ now...]

07.17 Trump’s Unlawful Asylum Policy Is a Jab at Mexico

07.16 Trump’s race fantasy is clear: the US as home for whites fleeing Europe [1:09 video]

07.15 India’s Terrifying Water Crisis

07.15 Australia now has the highest minimum wage in the world [From 1960 to 2018 – the U.S. has fallen from 1st place to below the tenth place and off the chart]

07.14 Kasich: The chilling effect of British ambassador's leaked memos

07.14 'Just a matter of when': the $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar

07.14 At least 24 Yellow Vests lost eyes in violent protests. Now they're more determined than ever [Protests of all kinds will continue until systemic inequality loses political dominance]

07.13 New Zealand Begins Gun Buyback Prompted by Mosque Attacks

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning [Since so-called modern humans evolved there have been 10,000 generations of people. It is extremely far-fetched to think anyone is racially pure. SO ALL THIS HATE IS INCREDIBLY STUPID.]

07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning

07.13 Brazil’s President May Appoint Son, Friend to the Trumps, as Ambassador to U.S. [Friend of the Trumps, so we know they're all brain-dead except about near-term profits. They are clear-cutting the Amazon Rain Forest to feed-then-butcher millions of methane farting cows, over and over. Yep, that's there business plan. So therefore the rest of the world will hopefully plant billions of trees elsewhere to sequester CO2 to offset what the Bolsonaro family and investors are destroying. What's wrong with this picture?]

07.13 Trump’s Cruelty and Mexico’s Duty [Our president is immoral to his core and reacts to things like a child, not understanding that his actions are often crueler than they should be. And that cruelty will never completely be excused or forgotten—the people's hatred of Trump is growing, like the Texan's hatred when President General Santa Anna laid seige to the Alamo, which was Mexico's territory at the time...]

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  Imprisoning A Courageous Whistleblower: The Case of Bradley Birkenfeld

COMMENTARY:

Imprisoning A Courageous Whistleblower: The Case of Bradley Birkenfeld

by Stephen Lendman
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Because of his disclosures, UBS' tax fraud scheme was made public, and billions of dollars recovered. Birkenfeld's reward - 40 months hard time in federal prison for confronting a powerful bank.

On May 14, 2008, New York Times writer Lynnley Browning headlined, "Ex-Banker from UBS Is Indicted in Tax Case," saying:

"The one-count conspiracy indictment, unsealed in federal court, accuses the former banker, Bradley Birkenfeld, of helping (a wealthy American real estate developer) evade taxes on $200 million held in bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein."

According to the indictment, "fictitious trusts and bogus corporations (were created) to conceal the ownership and control of offshore assets. They also advised clients to destroy bank records and helped them file false tax returns...."

National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) covers his case on whistleblowers.org, saying:

"Bradley Birkenfeld commenced serving a three-year and four-month sentence in federal prison on January 8, 2010, a direct result of blowing the whistle on one of the largest tax fraud schemes in US history."

On April 15, he filed an appeal for clemency.

Interviewed by Steve Kroft on CBS' 60 Minutes in January 2009, Birkenfeld said he's the first insider ever to explain the secretive world of Swiss banking. "It never happened before in history. I'm the first" to do it. Asked what percent of American accounts tried to evade taxes, he said among his own clients, "90%."

Senior bank officials went along for the profits. As for Birkenfeld, "I gave (the IRS) the biggest tax fraud case in the world. I exposed 19,000 international criminals (with accounts worth over $19 billion). And I'm going to jail for that?"

One of his clients was Igor Olenicoff, a billionaire on the Forbes 400 list with an estimated $1.7 billion net worth. He cooperated, paid $52 million in back taxes and fines, and got off with no jail.

On August 22, 2009, Wall Street Journal writer Brent Kendall headlined, "Ex-UBS Banker's Jail Time: 40 Months," saying:

"A key government informant in the US tax investigation of UBS AG was sentenced today....for helping the Swiss bank's American clients cheat on their taxes."

On January 8, 2010, Birkenfeld voluntarily surrendered to begin serving his sentence.

On August 18, 2009, the Justice Department said:

"Defendant Birkenfeld('s)....substantial assistance has been timely, significant, useful, truthful, complete and reliable. (Without his help, the UBS) scheme would not have been discovered by the US government."

Yet they indicted, convicted, and imprisoned him.

Background

An international banker employed by Switzerland's UBS bank, he "blew the whistle on secret offshore accounts (after discovering in 2005 that) bank managers were encouraging breaches of UBS' own written policies in helping American clients evade federal taxes."

Initially, he lodged complaints with UBS's Legal and Compliance departments. When ignored, he resigned, came to America, and informed the Justice Department (DOJ), IRS, SEC, and US Senate.

Because of his disclosures, UBS' tax fraud scheme was made public, and billions of dollars recovered. Birkenfeld's reward - 40 months hard time in federal prison for confronting a powerful bank, one of the world's leading financial firms and second largest European bank.

Thus far, he's the only UBS employee or client to receive a long prison sentence. He also spent over 19 months under electronically monitored home confinement, with curfew and travel restrictions, prior to incarceration.

Others got minor sentences (maximum three months), including probation, fines, and community service. Martin Liechti, head of the entire UBS program, wasn't charged and returned to Switzerland a free man.

For his part, the Justice Department (DOJ) accused Birkenfeld of withholding information about his largest client, a Russian emigre and California real estate developer, convicted for avoiding taxes on $200 million.

Birkenfeld, however, provided full disclosure to other government agencies that protected him from criminally violating Swiss bank secrecy laws. Despite repeated requests, DOJ refused, instead charged him with a single offense to which he pled guilty.

US Treasury Cites Deficiencies in Whistleblower Protections

On August 20, 2009, the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report titled, "Deficiencies Exist in the Control and Timely Resolution of Whistleblower Claims," after assessing the IRS' progress in establishing a Whistleblower Program able potentially to recover "billions of dollars in taxes, penalties, and interest based on information provided by informants."

The 2006 Tax Relief and Health Care Act amended the IRS Code "to provide increased awards to individuals for information that leads to the detection and punishment of persons guilty of violating, or conspiring to violate, internal revenue laws." Since the law's passage, tens of billions in unreported income have been disclosed thanks to whistleblower-provided information.

Legal deficiencies need correcting, including whistleblower protection against employer retaliation. Unmentioned was immunity from US agency or foreign government prosecutions.

However, legal deficiencies need correcting, including whistleblower protection against employer retaliation. Unmentioned was immunity from US agency or foreign government prosecutions.

The Treasury only recommended legislation "to ensure that informants are protected against retaliation by their employers and to provide relief to informants who are retaliated against....IRS management agreed with all of our recommendations."

Key Facts

Whistleblower.org's Bradley Birkenfeld Fact Sheet covers the following:

  1. Did he serve the public interest?

    After his disclosures, UBS paid $780 million in fines and penalties, and agreed to an IRS amnesty program under which 14,700 clients admitted to illegal, secret accounts. As a result, billions of dollars were recovered and the entire program was shut. According to the New York Daily News, "Bradley Birkenfeld deserves a statue on Wall Street, not a prison sentence."

  2. What did Birkenfeld do?

    From June 2005, he compiled internal email and correspondence documentation, discovered fraud, told his superiors in good faith, followed bank compliance procedures, and reported his findings up the chain of command. On May 24, 2006, UBS' general counsel closed the investigation without action. As a result, Birkenfeld resigned. UBS insisted he keep his information secret. He retained counsel and, in 2007, informed the DOJ, IRS, SEC, and Senate. Prior to its indictment, DOJ stonewalled him.

  3. The Importance of His Disclosures

    Under Section 15 to Exhibit C of Deferred Prosecution Agreement, bank officials could have resolved the matter on their own. Failing to do so shows the importance of his actions. The IRS, SEC and Senate wrote letters affirming it.

  4. Does His Participation in Illegal Activity Disqualify Him?

    No, as whistleblower protection laws apply to everyone making disclosures, even those guilty of wrongdoing. An old Civil War law was based on the idea that "setting a rogue to catch a rogue is the safest and most expeditious way I have discovered of bringing rogues to justice," according to the law's leading sponsor, Senator Jacob M. Howard.

    Since then, thousands of whistleblowers have come forward, many of whom participated in fraud. As far as known, none were prosecuted. DOJ's action is unprecedented. It also undermines anti-fraud laws and makes it less likely others will come forward like Birkenfeld. Along with the National Whistleblowers Center, 20 anti-corruption groups back a clemency campaign to free him, including a presidential pardon or commutation for time served.

  5. Was DOJ Truthful in Arguing for a Prison Term?

    When sentenced, DOJ's prosecutor, Kevin Downing, said if Birkenfeld had turned in his former client, Igor Olenicoff, he wouldn't have been criminally indicted. In fact, prior to being indicted, he made full disclosure to the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, the IRS and SEC, including about Olenicoff.

  6. Why DOJ's Treatment Is Unjust

    UBS officials got off scot-free. Guilty bank clients got slaps on the wrist. Birkenfeld is the only one sentenced to hard time in prison, a shocking and unprecedented act.

Global Tax Havens

They're either a nation (generally small), city, state, or zone, officially called a "jurisdiction," offering low or no taxes, and, most often, none on foreign earned income. High net worth individuals use them to offshore their wealth or create shell companies, subject to jurisdiction taxes, but none to their home country.

Their main characteristics include:

  • no or low taxes on income and capital;
  • bank and commercial secrecy or confidentiality;
  • absence of exchange controls for companies treated as non-residents;
  • the reliance on banking, providing low or no taxes on non-residents;
  • good infrastructure, including communications and transportation;
  • accessibility to competent lawyers, accountants and other advisors; and
  • political and economic stability.

In 2004, some OECD listed ones include:

  • Albania
  • Andorra (in the Pyrenees between France and Catalonia (one of 17 Spanish Autonomous Communities)
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Cayman Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Cyprus
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Montserrat
  • Monaco
  • Samoa
  • Seychelles
  • Saint Lucia and
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis; among others.

In a 1998 report, the OECD said tax havens were "expanding at an exponential rate."

However, they're not for everyone. Much depends on residency status (domicile), individual circumstances, and, of course, personal wealth. According to some, they hold over $5 trillion in high net-worth accounts, free from home country scrutiny and taxes. A US congressional committee estimated that private banks manage $15.5 trillion in assets, much of it hidden offshore. For US residents, foreign accounts are legal, but must be disclosed on tax returns. Not doing so is a crime.

According to the Federal Reserve, establishing and managing offshore accounts has become big business for major global banks and other financial institutions - better still because the IRS does little to locate offshore tax cheats. Being rich and having good advisers are essential to take advantage.

Nonetheless, secrecy makes hiding wealth easy, and according to the Federal Reserve, establishing and managing offshore accounts has become big business for major global banks and other financial institutions - better still because the IRS does little to locate offshore tax cheats even though they fully understand the problem. Being rich and having good advisers are essential to take advantage. Also an inclination to cheat the tax man and get away with it, hoping no one like Birkenfeld will blow the whistle.


Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His blog is sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on April 21, 2010.
 

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