Part 2 of 2
By Jim Bleyer
Tampa mayoral candidate David Straz is surely one of the much publicized, insatiable “one percent” that seemingly owns every material trinket available to them.
Actually that insults Straz, a billionaire who made his fortune buying and selling banks. He finds himself more at home with the top one-tenth of one percent.
A Trump supporter and a generous donor to GOP causes and candidates, Straz and his wealthy cohorts belong to the elite segment of the population featured in the notorious “Paradise Papers” that has rocked the political world.
The leaked documents show how the offshore financial system is entwined with the overlapping worlds of government operatives, private wealth, and corporate giants.
The name of Trump’s commerce secretary, private equity tycoon Wilbur Ross, surfaced in the Paradise Papers along with politicians and leaders connected to the governments of Russia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Brazil to name a few.
These offshore havens, which include the Straz-related Bank of Nevis, promise secrecy to depositors. While some clients are legitimate, such financial institutions attract tax cheats, money launderers, drug traffickers, terrorist organizations, and kleptocrats who want to operate off the radar.
Offshore companies, often “shells” with no employees or office space, are also used in complex tax-avoidance structures that drain billions, if not trillions, from national treasuries.
The Paradise Papers mention the Caribbean isle of Nevis as a popular refuge for illicit money. Straz was a director of the Bank of Nevis for several years and his foundation remains the second largest shareholder.
Banking laws are lax there and the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis, along with several other small island developing states have refused to sign the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
Nevis is the prototype for the perfect offshore haven. Law enforcement agencies around the world find it incredibly difficult to uncover wrongdoings by your run-of-the-mill wealthy criminal.
Imagine the advantages if a nefarious individual was not only a depositor in those identity-protected banks but a director or officer as well.
It apparently has been attempted at Straz’ preferred offshore financial institution. Kevin Huggins, president of the Bank of Nevis, was suspended for alleged extortion earlier this year.
Since announcing his intention to run for mayor in predominantly Democratic Tampa, Straz has switched his voter registration from Republican to Independent. He has admitted voting for and supporting Trump in 2016 but says he won’t vote for him in 2020.
The Trump administration has closed ranks around Ross. Straz may want to rethink his disavowal of the President.