Sunday, December 14, 2014

Foreign Ownership of NYC Real Estate and the Lobbyists Who Work for Them 590

421-a Allowed NY Corrupt Pols and Lawyers to Launder Dirty Money While Give Tax Breakes to Developers 
Anonymous, Inc (60 Minutes) See what happens when hidden cameras capture New York lawyers being asked to move highly questionable funds into the U.S. Steve Kroft reports.  If you like crime dramas and movies with international intrigue, then you probably have a basic understanding of money laundering. It's how dictators, drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and other crooks avoid getting caught by transforming their ill-gotten gains into assets that appear to be legitimate.  They do it by moving the dirty money through a maze of dummy corporations and offshore bank accounts that conceal their identity and the source of the funds.  And most of it would never happen without the help -- witting or unwitting -- of lawyers, accountants and incorporators; the people who actually create these anonymous shell companies and help move the money. In fact, the U.S. has become one of the most popular places in the world to do it. 

Tonight, with the help of hidden camera footage, we're going to show you how easy it seems to have become to conceal questionable funds from law enforcement and the public. You need look no further for evidence than the changing skyline of New York City, where much of the priciest residential real estate is being snapped up not by individuals, but by anonymous shell companies with secret owners. There's nothing illegal about it as long as the money's legitimate, but there's no way to tell, if you don't know who the real buyers are. It is one of the reasons Global Witness, a London-based nonprofit organization that exposes international corruption, came to New York City 19 months ago. It wanted to see how helpful U.S. lawyers would be in concealing questionable funds. * NYC attorney: "We run the country  Investigative report from @globalwitness targets lawyers advising foreigners on how to move shady money into US. * Top real estate lawyers offer advice on moving shadymoney into US: report (Real Deal)  Gerald Ross, John Jankoff and Marc Koplik among attorneys caught on camera

How NYC Luxury Housing Hides Dirty Money 
Lawsuit Says ManhattanReal Estate Was Used to Launder Money (WSJ) Two Kazakh men allegedly conspired with a developer to hide at least $40 million in New York property, a lawsuit says. A banker and a former politician from Kazakhstan tried to launder tens of millions of dollars of stolen money through New York real-estate holdings, a civil lawsuit alleges. The men allegedly conspired with New York developer Joseph Chetrit to hide at least $40 million by investing in a former Manhattan hotel and the Cabrini Medical Center, according to a complaint filed on Oct. 12 by Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, and one of the nation’s biggest lenders, BTA Bank. The Kazakh men, ex-BTA chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov and former Almaty mayor Viktor Khrapunov, are separately under investigation for criminal fraud in Kazakhstan, the complaint says. Mr. Ablyazov is alleged to have stolen billions of dollars from BTA and Mr. Khrapunov is alleged to have stolen about $300 million from Almaty, according to the complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan. The Kazakh men parked “corrupt assets” in New York City real estate to avoid the scrutiny of escalating international investigations, the complaint alleges. Mr. Chetrit, also a defendant in the lawsuit, was aware of the criminal investigations of the Kazakhs when he agreed to use their money for his projects, according to the complaint. The suit seeks damages of up to $18 billion and was filed by law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. Mr. Ablyazov, who is being held by authorities in France, couldn’t be reached for comment. Previously, he has said he is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing and all accusations against him are ungrounded and politically motivated.

Berlin Rosen Is Not Only Ducking Lobbyists Disclosures . . . Also Failed to Register With the Foreign Agent Act
Two years ago True News broke the story that Berlin Rosen was not a registered lobbyist. CrainsNY's Bragg follow sometime later and last week NY1 reported the same information.  Playing fast and lose with the city and state lobbying regulations is not the only thing Berlin Rosen failed to registered for.  Berlin Rosen worked the ground breaking event for a government subsided building with Atlantic Yards developer Ratner and a Chinese government funded company called Greenland Group. According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) enacted in 1938, a persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. The purpose is to facilitate "evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons." At the least Berlin Rosen activities with the Chinese government company is fueling gentrification pushing the poor and middle class out of the projects surrounding communities.

From JayZs to NYS 421-a Tax Breaks to Communists China
THE BARCLAYS CENTER SHAKEUP: JAY Z’S OUT, CHINA’S IN AND ATLANTICYARDS LIVES ON  On Sept. 28, 2012, Jay-Z unofficially opened Downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with the first in an eight-night run of concerts. The borough’s native son started the show with “Where I’m From” and interspersed it with effusive declarations about the night’s importance, saying the spanking new stage overwhelmed him to a point that even the Grammys, Glastonbury and the historic Apollo hadn’t. Six months after Ratner stepped down—he remains as chairman of Fore421-a st City Ratner Cos—Greenland Holdings Group, a state-owned Chinese company, bought a 70% stake in the project (it did not include the Barclays Center). The Wall Street Journal noted that at the time it was the “largest commercial real estate development in the US ever to get major backing directly from a Chinese company.” (Last fall, Oder noted that the $100M Pacific Park stake filed under the contentious EB-5 immigrant investor program had prompted a “slap on the wrist” by the US State Department.) Transitions within Forest City and surrounding its ownership stake culminated last August in Atlantic Yards being rechristened Pacific Park. At first, there was little explanation of the change

NY tax payers pay to make Russian Oligarch and Chinese millionaires richer, While they push the tax payers out of the neighborhood

#DNC2016 Schumer: "a special place2have a convention that symbolizes the great future of NY& America" Barclays co-owned by Russian oligarch!* #AtlanticYards [exc BC] now 70% owned by Shanghai government;+ cheap loans from Chinese millionaires seeking green cards#EB5 @unitedNYblogs * At press conference toutingDNC bid, happy talk about Brooklyn and Barclays Center  (and nothing about Russian/Chinese ownership) A Democratic National Convention in Brooklyn would symbolize a lot of things, some in contradiction, such as wealth and poverty, the revival of Brooklyn neighborhoods, the hollowing out of middle-class jobs, the boom in walkable urbanism, and the lack of voter engagement in a one-party city. Oh, and an arena now 45% owned by a Russian oligarch--he could own more by the time of the convention--that's part of a larger project (excluding the arena and one tower) owned 70% by the government of Shanghai.
More on the Democratic Convention
Greatest scam of all time? Privatization "auctions" by Russian gangster-pols, according to Taibbi(AYR) In September, The Atlantic magazine asked The Big Question, What is the greatest scam of all time? One answer came from journalist Matt Taibbi, then of First Look Media (which he has since left): Dreamed up in the ’90s by Russian gangster-pols and their Western advisers, the privatization “auctions” of the loans-for-shares scheme were actually crudely rigged pantomimes in which cronies of Boris Yeltsin were handed some of the world’s largest energy companies—like Yukos and Sibneft—for pennies on the dollar, instantly creating an oligarch class. That, of course, would include Brooklyn Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who Taibbi in 2010 called "a real gangster."

 Russian Oligarchs and Chinese Enables By Albany Tax Breaks to Developers are Pushing Blacks, the Middle Class and Poor Out of Brooklyn Gets None?

 Buyouts have long been part of New York City’s real estate lore, but as offers have become more common, buyouts have become instruments of illegal harassment and a growing threat to the stock of affordable housing, The New York Times writes Tenant groups cite illegal harassment and a growing threat to affordable housing, while landlords say buying out longtime tenants in low-rent apartments is lawful.* SWEATING IT OUT: Brownsville tenants live without hot water and electricity (NYDN) 
How Blacks the Poor and the Middle Class are Being Push Outof Brooklyn Because of Albany's Tax Breaks for Luxury Developers

Even the New Yorker Agrees That Luxury Housing is A Safe-Deposit Box for Global Elite 
But Leaves Out How New York's Elected Offices Were Bribed or Given Large Campaign Donations to Give Tax Breaks to Build Those Safe-Deposit Box Buildings
New York City real estate has become a safe-deposit boxfor the global elite: (New Yorker)  On a recent trip to Geneva, I was chatting with a local resident when he told me that the watch industry has been suffering. Sales of Swiss watches were down, he said, and he offered a fascinating explanation: over the last few years, the government of China has instituted a broad crackdown on official corruption—and particularly on the giving, or receiving, of extravagant gifts. As a case study in the butterfly effect of international graft, it seemed almost too neat to believe. But it’s true. In fact, the whole luxury sector was affected by the regulations, from designer handbags to high-end spirits. Last year, when consultants from Deloitte surveyed Swiss watch executives, eighty per cent of them indicated that demand was down “due to anti-corruption legislation” in China. This question of how one country’s graft might fuel the economy of another arose again last week, when the U.S. Treasury Department announced an initiative to track the secret buyers behind the trade in luxury properties in New York City. It is a truism, at this point, to observe that financiers and deep-pocketed foreigners are remolding Manhattan into a gilded citadel. But if you’re part of the élite, this may be something to celebrate. “If we could get every billionaire around the world to move here, it would be a godsend,” Mike Bloomberg said, in 2013. Sleek and skinny super-luxury buildings spring up around Central Park, and single apartments sell for nine-digit figures, adding credence to the caricature of Manhattan as a club for global plutocrats. For many New Yorkers, this is not, in fact, a godsend: exorbitant prices in the tens of millions of dollars pull up prices in the lower end of the market, driving working- and middle-class people out of the city. And as a contemporary Jane Jacobs might observe, had she not been priced out of the West Village, billionaires don’t necessarily make good neighbors. Because luxe Manhattan real estate generates a good return, many people don’t actually live in their investment properties. If they’re not residents, they’re paying no local income tax here, and because of a steep tax abatement on certain luxury properties, they can often pay very little in real-estate taxes. (According to the Times, the annual taxes on a unit that sold for a hundred million dollars recently come toabout twenty thousand dollars.)

Berlin Rosen Is Not Only Ducking Lobbyists Disclosures . . . Also Failed to Register With the Foreign Agent Act
Two years ago True News broke the story that Berlin Rosen was not a registered lobbyist. CrainsNY's Bragg follow sometime later and last week NY1 reported the same information.  Playing fast and lose with the city and state lobbying regulations is not the only thing Berlin Rosen failed to registered for.  Berlin Rosen worked the ground breaking event for a government subsided building with Atlantic Yards developer Ratner and a Chinese government funded company called Greenland Group. According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) enacted in 1938, a persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. The purpose is to facilitate "evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons." At the least Berlin Rosen activities with the Chinese government company is fueling gentrification pushing the poor and middle class out of the projects surrounding communities.
Campaign Lobbyists Control A Secret Shadow Government 

de Blasio At Ground Breaking Press Even of A Chinese Funded Housing Organized By Berlin Rosen
Greenland has agreed to fund Ratner's building in exchange for 70% of the Atlantic Yards housing project ownership.  Much of the Ratner's 30% funding comes from tax breaks from the government. Or borrowing using the govt tax breaks as leverage.  Berlin Rosen is very close to many federal, state and city elected officials.  As the Chinese government who is pumping billions into New York becomes a bigger stake holder in real estate it is unclear what their demands from government and elected officials will be.  With the power of the NY's real estate barons and their lobbyists attack dogs it does not take must imagine to see a future scenario when Chinese or other foreign real estate owners force the elected officials and pay off the lobbyists to pass laws helpful to their them and harmful to American citizens.  True News has written about the The Privatization of the Tammany Hall Machine, which reported that the new lobbyists machine is not accountable to the voters like the old party boss who were elected by the voters.* Just don't call these consultants lobbyists | Crain's New York ...

Berlin Rosen is Already Making Government Work Against New Yorkers 

Berlin Rosen Help Ratner Obtain Millions of Government Dollars As Thousands of Middle Class and the Poor Have Been Pushed Out the Stadium's Neighborhood
The lobbyists are also not accountable to the prosecutors, because they are the ones that elect the DAs and AG.  Berlin Rosen not only started out with AG Schneiderman when he was a state senator they work in both of his campaign for AG.  Berlin Also help elect the Albany DA, as other lobbyists elected the state other DAs and elected officials.  Who will stop a future lobbyists Berlin Rosen, Silver Brian Meara or any of the other scum bag lobbyist or elected officials who decide to go for the foreign money over the interests of the American people? * BerlinRosen Isn’t Registered As A Foreign Agent, Either (Bronx Chronicle)

Do We Have to Hope That A Future Berlin Rosen, Sheinkopf or Advance Don't Get Hired By A Foreign Government and Pay to Play NY's Government
Maybe its already happen why would our government give billions to a stadium and housing they is mostly owned by the Russian and Chinese government. (Nets stadium and team owned by Russia billionaires Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov). Another component of Chinese deal with Berlin Rosen and Ratner is the EB-5 Program Green Card program that is helping fund the housing.  A $100 million slice of the overall Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, marketed under the EB-5 program, in which investors and their families get green cards by parking $500,000 in a low-interest loan for five years or so, as long as an economist's report suggests those funds create ten jobs. That means the Chinese government will be able to bring their people into the city. Who is watching them?  Who is watching Berlin? Obama’s nod to China could bring NYC real estate boom

What If A Future Lobbyists Like Meara Decided to Take the Money or Was Blackmailed By A Foreign Government Who Owned NY Real Estate?
Close friend, top lobbyist helped feds take down Sheldon Silver(NYP) Brian Meara, 63, is the person referred to in court papers as “the Lobbyist” who revealed that Silver told him “there was nothing to worry about” regarding the speaker secretly sharing in legal fees paid by Meara’s client, billionaire developer Leonard Litwin, the sources said. * Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's arrest aided by closefriend, Albanylobbyist (NYDN) Brian Meara has been cooperating as a 'fact witness' as part of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigation, sources told The News. The criminal complaint against Silver references an unnamed lobbyist who the sources say was Meara. According to the criminal complaint, the lobbyist represented a developer who was using a law firm that paid Silver for bringing in business. The developer, sources say, was politically connected Leonard Litwin, who Meara repped at the time. “The fact that Meara is the witness is not a good sign for Shelly,” said one Albany insider, alluding to how much Meara knows about his pal. In addition to the state court officers union and other labor groups, Meara represents a host of big-bucks industries, including casino operators, insurance companies and soft-drink makers. His clients also include the Yankees owners and the Silvercup Studios production facility in Queens.

NYT Reports on Gentrification In Crown Heights It Does No Report Why It is Happening So Fast?  
Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Gets Its Turn(NYT) The neighborhood has finally overcome a reputation for intolerance and violence that had plagued it since the 1991 riots between blacks and Hasidic Jews. In fact, residents credit the successful post-riot reconciliation between the two communities with being one of the drivers of Crown Heights’ rapid transformation — or gentrification, depending on one’s perspective.
Along Franklin Avenue, signs saying “Moving to Flatbush” have appeared on  many businesses in the last couple of years, and while longtime residents don’t tack up signs, there are indications they have also been leaving in large numbers as new arrivals replace them in this community of about 140,000 people. * Nuns raise rents at immigrant home to boot longtime residents(NYDN) They’re kicking them like a bad habit. The nuns running St. Joseph’s Immigrant Home in Hell’s Kitchen are boosting the rent on young female residents and trying to boot women..*Half the homes in one of NYC’s priciest nabes vacant most of the year(CrainsNY)

Albany Tax Brakes and 20 Years Tax Deductions Pushes Bubble Creating Towers
--"New York Office Towers Pop Up Despite Sluggish Market," by WSJ's Eliot Brown: “Landlords including Related Cos., World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein and Brookfield Property Partners LP are pushing ahead with big projects, including three office buildings roughly the size of the Empire State Building and a midtown tower set to rise 264 feet taller than the 1931-built icon. In all, more than 14.1 million square feet of office space is projected to be built in Manhattan by 2019, according to research firm CoStar Group… But demand is slack. Occupancy of Manhattan office space increased by 4.8 million square feet in the four years ended in September, according to CoStar, compared with the 28 million square feet gain in the four years ended in 2007… The potential gap between supply and demand raises concerns about overbuilding, analysts said. Few believe the market will be overwhelmed by a glut of space. But if the economy sours and job growth dries up, the developers and their investors could be forced to cut asking rents or be left with mostly empty buildings.”

Homelessness Increases As Gentrification and Tax Breaks for luxury Developers Increase   
In Harlem River Park in Manhattan, homeless men can be seen sleeping on benches around the basketball courts and sprawled out on a soccer field by day, then hunkering under an overpass at night. In Brooklyn, dog owners in Fort Greene Park have had ugly confrontations with homeless people after their dogs woke them up in the early morning when they are allowed off-leash. And in the Bronx, there are so many homeless people in one small park, Devanney Triangle, that the community board and parks department are discussing the removal of all benches.*STRUGGLE ON THE HOMEFRONT: With haunted memories, some city veterans fighting for a place to call home(NYDN)

As Foreign Ownership of Real Estate Increases Rules of Eviction Will Change  
Landlord using ‘Chinese mafia’ to force tenants out: suit(NYP) Tenants of a Midtown building including a celebrity chef claim the new landlord is using the Chinese mafia to force them out of their homes, according to a new $8 million suit. Vaduzco Realty, which had owned the two four-story buildings since the 1970s, sold the property to a first-time Chinese buyer using an LLC, who planned to turn it into a hotel, according to the Commercial Observer.

As More and More Foreign $$$ Pours Into NYC Real Estate, Will Foreign Hire Lobbyists to Control NYC Politics? 

Lobbyists Will Take $$$ From Anyone
State Department concerned about Chinese spying at WaldorfAstoria after sale to insurance company with possible Communist Party ties (NYDN) The State Department said it is reviewing the sale of the hotel to Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group, and that it may stop leasing space for the U.S. ambassador to the UN or the General Assembly. Anbang is reportedly linked to China’s Communist Party, which has overseen a massive effort to use cyberspying to steal U.S. trade and military secrets.

Secret Dirty Foreign Money Buying Manhattan Apts Fueling Gentrification In Outer Boroughs 

Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York Real Estate(NYT) On the 74th floor of the Time WarnerCenter, Condominium 74B was purchased in 2010 for $15.65 million by a secretive entity called 25CC ST74B L.L.C. It traces to the family of Vitaly Malkin, a former Russian senator and banker who was barred from entering Canada because of suspected connections to organized crime. By piercing the secrecy of more than 200 shell companies, The New York Times documented a decade of ownership in this iconic Manhattan way station for global money transforming the city’s real estate market. 

But The Times also found a growing proportion of wealthy foreigners, at least 16 of whom have been the subject of government inquiries around the world, either personally or as heads of companies. The cases range from housing and environmental violations to financial fraud. 

On the Same Day the NYT Exposes Foreign $$ Driving Luxury Housing Building the Daily News Defends the Mayor Fact Free Housing Plan Bill de Blasio’s tall order (NYDN) The mayor deserves credit for his valiant affordable housing crusade. But breaking through New Yorkers’ cynicism will be difficult indeed.

Foreign Ownership of Luxury Apts Has Push Whites to Bklyn, Pushing Blacks Out of Crown Heights
Four owners have been arrested, and another four have been the subject of fines or penalties for illegal activities. The foreign owners have included government officials and close associates of officials from RussiaColombiaMalaysiaChinaKazakhstan and Mexico. They have been able to make these multimillion-dollar purchases with few questions asked because of United States laws that foster the movement of largely untraceable money through shell companies. Vast sums are flowing unchecked around the world as never before — whether motivated by corruption, tax avoidance or investment strategy, and enabled by an ever-more-borderless economy and a proliferation of ways to move and hide assets. The high-end real estate market has become less and less transparent — and more alluring for those abroad with assets they wish to keep anonymous — even as the United States pushes other nations to help stanch the flow of American money leaving the country to avoid taxes. Yet for all the concerns of law enforcement officials that shell companies can hide illicit gains, regulatory efforts to require more openness from these companies have failed.

By marketing the condos to wealthy foreigners, Time Warner’s developer was at the forefront of luring cash from overseas to New York real estate. Twenty-six percent of the original sales were to people from other countries, a proportion that has grown to more than half among recent buyers. In 2003, one-third of the units sold in Time Warner were purchased by shell companies. By 2014, that figure was over 80 percent. One type of corporate structure now commonly used in real estate transactions, limited liability corporations, or L.L.C.s, did not even exist in the United States before the late 1970s. At first, they were primarily used by oil and gas traders in Wyoming to shield individual owners from liability — if, say, a well worker was hurt — and to avoid taxation of both the corporation and the investor. Federal banking guidelines are clear: “Banks should take all reasonable steps to ensure that they do not knowingly or unwittingly assist in hiding or moving the proceeds of corruption.”

This means screening customers to determine whether they are “politically exposed people” — foreign officials and their relatives and associates — and filing a “suspicious activity report” if the customers transfer unusually large amounts of money. But such checks are not required on money flowing into the country through shell companies to purchase high-end real estate. * The precise impact of wealthy foreigners on the city may be more complex, though. As nonresidents, they pay no city income taxes and often receive hefty property tax breaks.

Real Estate Building Building for Foreign Investors Has Pumped Extra Millions Into Campaigns Corrupting NY's Election System
A program aimed at new condo development doles out about a half-billion dollars in tax breaks a year, according to the city’s independent budget office. These savings are passed on to owners in the form of lower property taxes. The Time Warner Center was not part of the most lucrative tax break program, but many other buildings around Central Park have benefited. The city’s first condo costing more than $100 million, which sold in the last few weeks at the new luxury tower One57, had property taxes this past year of $17,268, according to the city’s finance office. Those taxes will go up over time, but for now that is a savings of more than $359,000.

Why is Albany Giving Tax Breaks to Foreign Investors? 
Amid Complaints in India, a Real Estate Deal in Manhattan(NYT) As reports of unfinished homes mounted against Kabul Chawla, a New Delhi builder, an opaque corporate entity bought a $19 million condo at the Time Warner Center.
NYC bribe-accepting building inspectors to begin trial(NYT) The city is sweeping out a band of corrupt building inspectors who took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from dirty contractors and landlords across the city, sources said. The Department of Investigation and the Manhattan DA will charge more than a dozen city employees, the majority of whom are building inspectors, and a group of scheming contractors with bribery. Up to 50 defendants will be arrested Tuesday — and some are expected to surrender at TriBeCa’s 1st Precinct in the morning, a law enforcement source said. No elected officials are involved. * The Time Warner Center has seen 3 condo owners arrested in past 14 months (NYT) 

Why is Albany Screwing NY Taxpayers to Russian Billionaires Who Idolize Alexander Hamilton? 
Wednesday Update Mexican Political Family Has Close PRI Ties, and Homes in the U.S.(NYT) The properties stand in contrast to the working-man image promoted by José Murat Casab, a longtime party insider, and his son, a top housing official. Thursday Update In Manhattan, Well Connected Russians Buy Up Prime Space(NYT) Wealth accrued in the chaotic capitalism of post-Soviet Russia is a powerful force in the luxury condominium boom that is changing New York.

Fact and Reality: The NYT is Right in Saying That Thousands of Affordable Housing Have Been Lost in the Barclays Center Area and Not One Affordable Apartment Has Been Open to Date Where is the proof that increase development leads to more affordable.  There is proof that increased development leads to gentrification push out.  Most of the 400 affordable planned for the Barclay site rent for $3500 hardly affordable to the seniors being forced out of their $700 Crown Heights Apartments.  Summary: The Hidden Money Buying Up New York Real Estate (NYT) At the Time Warner Center, 37 percent of the condominiums are owned by foreigners. At least 16 foreigners who have owned in the building have been the subject of government inquiries, either personally or as heads of companies.  The real estate industry does little examination of buyers’ identities or backgrounds, and there is no legal requirement for it to do so. Nearly half of the most expensive residential properties in the United States are now purchased anonymously through shell companies.

% of Residences Owned By Shell Companies

Will the New Private Tammany Hall Follow the Money to Foreign Real Estate Developers?

An Enemy In Our Own City?

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