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Congress Investigating Money Laundering
Monday, October 10, 2005 By: Juan Paxety
A Swiss firm accused of helping Iraq, Iran, and Cuba
Congress is about to begin an investigation of the world's largest wealth management company, the Swiss firm UBS. The New York Sun reports
The Swiss bank, which operates a large financial services business in America, will be pressed about $3.9 billion deposited in UBS accounts by the Castro regime, according to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican of Florida, who first announced the impending investigation on Friday. Possible improper financial dealings with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq will also be subject to scrutiny, she said.
American soldiers in 2003 found $762-million in U.S. currency while liberating Iraq. Ros-Lehtinen says a Federal Reserve investigation shows the money came through UBS. As part of that investigation, the Fed learned UBS had made similar currency exchanges for Cuba, Iran, Lybia and Yugoslavia - the first three being on the State Department's list of countries that support terrorism.
The Fed fined UBS $100-million after negotiating a deal with UBS. But Ros-Lehtinen and other Representatives want more information about the illegal transactions, particularly with Cuba, and say UBS officials are not forthcoming. One of the UBS officials is former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex).
For several months, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said, she has pressed representatives of the Swiss bank for details surrounding the $3.9 billion, which, according to press accounts, was deposited by the Castro regime into one official Cuban government account with UBS. The deposits took place over the course of 1,900 transactions between 1996 and 2003.
The Cuban government says the deposits all come from two sources - income from tourist trade and from gifts given Cuban by their overseas relatives. But Ros-Lehtinen tells The Sun that the amount deposited far exceeds any such sums legitimately earned.
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla) says money laundering is one of fidel's main businesses, and that his clients include Latin American narco-terrorists such as ELN and FARC in Columbia. He says corrupt Latin American politicians are fidel's clients, too.
To get answers, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said she and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican of California, will hold joint hearings on the transactions. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, which will probe the possible UBS connections to Iran and Iraq. Mr. Rohrabacher is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which will investigate the ties to the Castro regime, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said. Both are part of the House International Relations Committee, and the congresswoman said she hopes to begin the inquiries before the second week of December, when Congress's session ends.
Read the whole thing and stay tuned.