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The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is back with another major investigation based on leaked material. The "Luanda Leaks" details "two decades of unscrupulous deals" that made Isabel dos Santos, daughter of José Eduardo who was Angola's president from 1979 to 2017, Africa’s wealthiest woman "and left oil- and diamond-rich Angola one of the poorest countries on Earth." Surprisingly for a tale that features hundreds of shell companies from dozens of jurisdictions, no New Zealand registered entities feature.
The Luanda Leaks series is based on documents provided to ICIJ by the Paris-based Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa.The series includes an article on dos Santos' enablers, with consultants, accountants and lawyers providing "vital support at each step of the way."
As the ICIJ puts it;
The story of how Angolan public money came to be used to fete the 1% on the French Riviera goes beyond that of a dubious business strategy gone wrong. It offers a window into the lightly regulated professional services sector, which over the years has become a cornerstone of a thriving offshore industry that drives money laundering, tax avoidance and public corruption around the globe.
Dos Santos made her fortune by taking a cut of Angola’s wealth, often courtesy of government decrees signed by her father. She also benefited from insider deals, preferential loans and contracts fuelled by public money, a review by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 36 media partners found. Over the last two decades, she acquired valuable stakes in every important Angolan industry, including oil, diamonds, telecom and banking.
From storefront offices in the tiny tax haven of Malta to conference rooms in Switzerland and Angola, Boston Consulting, PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers), KPMG and other major firms helped sustain the dos Santos empire for years. These enabling relationships continued long after many Western banks had cut off dos Santos amid questions about the source of her wealth, according to ICIJ’s examination of the Luanda Leaks.
Accountants disregarded red flags that experts say should have triggered alarms. Lawyers at prominent Portuguese law firms helped set up shell companies and move money for dos Santos and Dokolo. Consultants advised them on ways to run their businesses and avoid taxes.
Financial institutions are subject to stringent regulatory requirements, which, even if not always enforced, tend to make them pay close attention to their clientele. Professional firms have faced far less scrutiny. As such, they are often less likely to say no to a risky and wealthy client.
Speaking to The Guardian at Davos, PwC chairman Bob Moritz, says he's “shocked and disappointed” by revelations PwC advised companies owned by dos Santos...
British businessman David Charles Rae is facing up to six years in prison in the United States after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and money laundering, The Lancashire Post reports. Rae will be sentenced in New Jersey February for his role in an alleged US$150 million health care fraud.
Unlike dos Santos, Rae and his associates apparently did use New Zealand entities. A forfeiture judgment and preliminary order of forfeiture from the US District Court, District of New Jersey, notes;
"...funds and other property in account no. 74USD0001 at ANZ Bank of New Zealand in the name of Sympatic Global Solutions Limited Partnership."
Slightly confusingly NZ Companies Office records show a registered company named Sympatic Global Solutions Ltd and a registered limited partnership named Sympatic Solutions LP. Ross Hanning of Wellington-based fiduciary and trust consulting service provider RPH Consulting is listed as sole director of the company and sole shareholder of its parent Craigellachie Holdings Ltd. Sympatic Global Solutions Ltd is listed as general partner of Sympatic Solutions LP.
At the time of writing Hanning hadn't responded to interest.co.nz's requests for comment. An ANZ NZ spokesman declined to comment.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, some senior executives of major international financial service providers are pushing back against calls for their institutions to be more proactive in combating climate change. This comes against the backdrop of teenaged climate campaigner Greta Thunberg hitting out at companies for not doing enough. Additionally tennis superstar Roger Federer has come under criticism at the Australian Open over his sponsorship deal with Credit Suisse because of the bank's links to the fossil fuel industry. And the Bank for International Settlements has aired "green swan" risks.
From Davos The Financial Times reports on push back from Citibank's CEO Mike Corbat, Goldman Sachs's CEO David Solomon, and AIG CEO Brian Duperreault.
“I don’t want to be the sharp end of the spear, meaning I don’t want to have to be the one telling [companies] or enforcing standards in an industry or business,” he [Corbat] said.
He added: “We don’t want to find ourselves being the person that dictates winners and losers. A bank’s job is to support the communities in which it operates. It is not to dictate outcomes.”
“If you’re looking for a line, there’s not a line. There’s a transition that’s going on, and my view is this is going to be a multi-decade transition where we see changes in the way people allocate capital,” Mr Solomon said during a panel discussion.
“Should we not raise money for a company that is a carbon company or a fossil fuel company? The answer is no, we’re not going to [stop doing] that.”
Meanwhile, someone else made an impression at Davos too. (Cartoon by Morten Morland).
Believed to have originated in a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Coronavirus has spooked financial markets this week. At the time of writing at least 17 people have died from coronavirus, it's spreading out of China and concerns are mounting about the virus spreading further as hundreds of millions of people travel for Lunar New Year celebrations.
So what is it?
Al Jazeera has a useful explainer.
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
These viruses are transmitted between animals and people. SARS, for instance, was believed to have been transmitted from civet cats to humans while MERS travelled from a type of camel to humans.
Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and currently named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans.
Little is known about it, although human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.
The signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Apparently there's no vaccine for the new virus.
Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say came from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was also traded illegally. WHO also says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak.
And snakes may be the source.
Chinese researchers conclude that the coronavirus most likely came from snakes. Or as they put it: "Homologous recombination within the spike glycoprotein of the newly identified coronavirus may boost cross‐species transmission from snake to human"https://t.co/FIs234X79z— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) January 23, 2020
Business Insider reporter Bob Bryan ate like legendary investor and renowned junk food fan Warren Buffett for five days. The experience left him "food drunk" and with "knee sweat," pledging to eat nothing but vegetables for 48 hours. As Bryan puts it in the video below, 87-year-old Buffett "eats like a child." Over the five days Bryan says he consumed 20,537 calories and 1,260 grams of sugar helped by drinking two litres of Cherry Coke every day.
One of the world's richest men eats primarily junk food pic.twitter.com/hFkJTEgApH— Business Insider (@businessinsider) January 22, 2020