01/20/2014

Banks in Wall Street and elsewhere!

Le Matin Dimanche carried a couple of articles on banks and private jets. Geneva airport can be linked to both.


On Sunday, 19 January the article in Le Matin Dimanche giving the reality behind the film "The wolf of Wall Street" was particularly interesting, putting names of those who had inspired the idea for the film: films based on reality are always interesting. In particular, the Geneva banker who had arranged for money to be transferred to Switzerland was likened to a certain Jean-Jacques Handali. The paper linked his name to the Union Bancaire Privée, the result of a fusion between the Compagnie de Banque et d'Investissements and the TDB - American Express Bank of Edmond Safra. The latter name is still well known in Geneva vis the Bank J. Safra Sarasin. The name is also well known at the airport, since it seems that a large Boeing 737 Business Jet with registration PR-BBS (a Brazilian registration) and owned by Banco Safra, is a very frequent visitor here.

The same newspaper commented that private jets can be used for contraband, either by using small airports without permanent customs controls, or simply relying on the fact that "important" people arriving in, for instance, the separate terminal for such aircraft are unlikely to be harassed much. The example of a person arriving ion 14 January 2013 with 66 watches worth a quarter of a million Swiss Francs was mentioned as an isolated example of what could be happening: on that day alone about 60 such jets flew in to that terminal. I can hardly imagine passengers there having to run the gauntlet of curious customs officials. In any case, people with lots of money may calculate that it is more profitable to take the small risk of being caught and having to pay the money: I don't think this sort of affair risks having someone spend a vacation in a Swiss prison!

It is also interesting sometimes to look at where some of the private jets seen in Geneva have a habit of visiting. One rather large, and old, Boeing 767-200 of a company called Polaris Aviation Solutions arrived in Geneva on Saturday afternoon 18 January, then left again a couple of hours later. A check on the Web indicates that it probably came from the USA via the Vieux Fort airport in St Lucia. Today, St Lucia is in the news as the place where a Briton was murdered when sailing with his wife on a yacht. However, according to an organisation called the Tax Justice Network, St Lucia is one of the top tax havens - places described by the British minister Vince Cable as "no one keeps their cash in tax havens for the quality of investment advice; these are sunny places for shady people." Incidentally, when multiplying the secrecy score by the scale of activities, the same article lists Switzerland in number one position.

I did also notice, over the Christmas period, a different private jet visiting both Geneva and a different tax haven, in this case St Martin, in what was the Dutch Antilles: it is also called St Maarten. The aircraft, with the US registration N388CA, is listed as belonging to a trustee which (I think) leases aircraft, but is said by one source as having belonged to a Russian.based company called S.A. Holding LLC. Again, the Tax Justice Network considers St Martin as another Tax Haven.

One could conclude that one of the reasons for Geneva airport being so popular for private and business jets is a number of flights by aircraft which also visit tax havens!

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