From November 2006 through August 2007,
Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank (Liechtenstein) AG .....
.......traded through its accounts at the 11 B.C. dealers a total volume of about 463 million shares, representing about $165 million in value. Over 90 per cent of this volume was in shares of issuers quoted on the U.S. Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board or the Pink Sheets, with almost all of the total volume in sales. Some of the trades were in securities of issuers that were the subject of unsolicited promotional emails, or "spam."
B.C. regulator cease trades offshore bank used as conduit for suspicious trading
May 27, 2008
Vancouver - A British Columbia Securities Commission panel has ordered a European bank that held accounts at 11 B.C. investment dealers that the panel says were used for suspicious trading to permanently cease trading in any securities or exchange contracts in B.C.
From November 2006 through August 2007, Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank (Liechtenstein) AG http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypo-Alpe-Adria_Bank
traded through its accounts at the 11 B.C. dealers a total volume of about 463 million shares, representing about $165 million in value. Over 90 per cent of this volume was in shares of issuers quoted on the U.S. Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board or the Pink Sheets, with almost all of the total volume in sales. Some of the trades were in securities of issuers that were the subject of unsolicited promotional emails, or "spam."
During their investigation of this trading, commission staff were unable to identify the beneficial owners of the shares traded in the Hypo Bank accounts because the bank said Liechtenstein bank secrecy laws prevented it from providing commission staff investigators with that information.
In its decision, the commission panel said, "what is relevant is that commission staff has been unable to obtain the information required for their investigation on a timely basis…The passage of time is often significantly damaging to an investigation."
The panel referred to an earlier commission decision holding that the banking secrecy laws of foreign jurisdictions cannot serve as a shield against the legitimate exercise by the commission of its powers to enforce securities regulation in B.C.
Noting that the commission has the responsibility to protect investors and the integrity of the capital markets, the panel acknowledged that a permanent cease trade order would not help reveal the identities of the beneficial owners.
"However," the panel said, "we are faced with suspicious trading activity, and commission staff is unable to complete its investigation until it gets the information about the identities of the beneficial owners."
"We cannot ignore the potential risk to our markets in these circumstances. Although making the order permanent may have limited effect because, as Hypo argues, the wrongdoers (if there are any) may well have moved on, it will at least forestall the use of Hypo as a conduit for any further suspicious trading."
The B.C. Securities Commission is the independent provincial government agency responsible for regulating trading in securities within the province. You may view the decision on our website www.bcsc.bc.ca by typing in the search box, Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank or 2008 BCSECCOM 257. If you have questions, contact Ken Gracey, Media Relations, 604-899-6577.
Hypo-Alpe-Adria – A Bank-Scandal in Austria
Dr. Alexander von Paleske - A Scandal is presently rocking Austria, involving Austria’s fifth largest Bank, the Hypo-Alpe-Adria, which was recently bought by the German bank “Bayerische Landesbank”, owned by the German state of Bavaria. The majority shareholder was up to then the Austrian county of Carinthia/Kaernten, whose governor is Joerg Haider, ultra right winger and well known for his praise of Adolf Hitler’s labour market policies and his derogatory remarks about foreigners as well as asylum seekers.
When in 2000 his Party, the FPOe or so called Liberal Party of Austria formed a coalition government with the OeVP, Israel recalled it’s ambassador from Vienna and the European Union reduced it’s contacts to Austria to a minimum. So what are the scandals, rocking this bank now?
Let’s start in the US in the year 1993.
A man by the name Robert Mc Farlane, security adviser to former US President Ronald Reagan at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal and now adviser to the mercenary company AEGIS, headed by Tim Spicer, on a Pentagon contract in Iraq, was with others founding a bank by the name of Czech Industries
. The company was in 1996 merged with a company Eastbrokers International, in which a certain Wolfgang Koessner from Vienna became a shareholder,
Koessner brought with him a Bank in Austria by the name of WMP AG, which was now merged with Eastbrokers to be named Global Capital Partners. However disagreement led Koessner to disengage from Global Capital Partners and after the Global Capital Partners issued more shares, Koessner lost control of the WMP Bank and became a minor shareholder. Noteworthy is the fact, that Czech industries was majority owned by Stratton Oakmont, a broker house that was closed by the Securities and exchange commission because of fraud.
Minority shareholder at the WMP-Bank, that was now re-named“General Commerce Bank” was as well the Hypo-Alpe-Adria Bank. Koessner did a lot of work to establish the relationship with this bank, before he lost control at the WMP. As a result, Hypo-Alpe-Adria Bank sold shares and bonds of Global Capital partners to it’s customers, worthless shares as it would turn out and many of the customers now suing the bank.
A crack crew arrives
Koessner, no longer in control, had to witness, that a crack crew appeared in 2000 at the WMP Bank for a “turnaround”, however not for better, but for worse. The crack crew comprised:
1. Regis Possino, former US lawyer
-arrested after he tried to sell in 1978 Cocaine to undercover agents
-tried also to land a deal over the monthly sale of Cocaine at a street value of 680.000 US Dollars
-tried to sell stolen bonds to the public
-arrested during his trail because he tried to influence one member of the jury
-disbarred as a lawyer in 1984 because of his criminal record
-In 1996 again sentenced for stock fraud
2. Amador Pastrana,
king of the “boiler rooms”. He allegedly commandeered at least 100 boiler rooms. Offices, where fraudulent telemarketing of worthless shares is organised from.
3. Sherman Mazur,
US citizen, convicted in 1993 in Arkansas for severe cheque fraud and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Allegedly authorised, while in prison, Amador Pastrana to continue with his fraudulent activities.
Canadian of Belgian origin, alias Raoul Berthamieu, alias Lee Sanders, convicted for cheque fraud in the US in 1991, met in prison Sherman Mazur, who allegedly taught him there a thing or two.
5. Adnan Khashoggi,
international arms dealer and fraudster, involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal.
6. Rakesh Saxena,
Indian, international megafraudster, , allegedly committed fraud at the Bangkok Bank of Commerce in the 90s together with the then CEO Krirkiat Jalichandra to the tune of 2,2, billion US Dollars and thus triggering the Asian Banking Crisis in 1997. Fled with allegedly 88 million US Dollars “pocket money” to Canada and continuing his fraudulent activities there from self paid house arrest. Extradition procedures (Thailand wants him) are lasting now already 11 years.
This crack crew, Saxena under house arrest via the phone, allegedly turned the WMP/General Commerce Bank in 2000 into a boiler room. The fraud allegedly amounted to 1 billion US Dollars. 1 billion in 1 year.
Dr. Kulterer, CEO of Hypo Adria until 2006, trusted Berthaumieu, the convicted fraudster, according to information he received from the police(The local police station?) an honest man ! The Hypo Alpe Adria Bank gave Berthaumieu several loans and tasked him to sort out “problems” at the General Commerce Bank. In late 2000 Berthamieu introduced Adnan Khashoggi to Dr. Kulterer and his team. A couple of months later, reacting to pressure from the FBI and SEC the General Commerce Bank was closed by the Austrian authorities. One would expect, that the day for departure or better sacking of Dr. Kulterer had arrived by now, however the clocks in Haider’s Kaernten/Carinthia are ticking in a different way.
A friend, a good friend
Kaernten/Carinthia was, as already mentioned, the biggest shareholder of Hypo-Alpe-Adria bank. And the Governor (Landeshauptmann) of Kaernten/Carinthia is Joerg Haider. Haider praised Dr. Kulterer as “Visionary” and “Austrias’s best bank manager ” Kulterer in return gave a loan to Haider’s then party, the FPOe, for expected election expenses until the year of 2013. Obviously the voters in Kaernten are “ownership” of his party and serving as a collateral. And Kulterer accompanied Haider on his trip to Libya in 2000 , and met with Gaddafi, when Libya and Gaddafi were still part of the “axis of evil”.
Ed Fagan comes on stage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Fagan
In 2003, however, Ed Fagan, US Star-lawyer entered the stage and took Kulterer and his Bank to court. He accused them of Insider trading, fraud and falsifying balance sheets. Kulterer in return lodged a complaint with the state prosecutor in Austria, accusing Ed Fagan of blackmailing.
14 days in 2004
In 2004 Dr. Kulterer could prove, what a visionary he was. His bank started trading in Swaps and within 14 days lost 328 million Euro. His bank managers then tried to hide the loss in the balance sheet by stretching it over several years, a criminal act which came under the spotlight now in a parliamentary subcommittee of the Austrian parliament. And he allegedly informed the supervisory board only six months later.
And when the bank ran short of the legally required capital, the bank allegedly issued shares and sold them to customers, giving them at the same time loans in order to buy them , the loan supplied from a subsidiary of the bank in Liechtenstein, re-routing then the money via Virgin Islands back to Austria. A carousel as a money spinner.
Dr. Kulterer had to vacate his position as CEO however was immediately installed as head of the supervisory board, the visionary became the controller. Haider wanted to park him there for a while, and then put him back as CEO. And Kulterer was, in view of his performance at the Hypo-Alpe offered and he accepted the job of the head of the Flick Foundation and the manager of the Flick money.
As a remainder: Friedrich Flick was a convicted war criminal in the Nuremberg trials and became later on a billionaire and one of the richest, if not the richest man in post war Germany.
His son, Friedrich Karl Flick, regarded the inheritance tax, which his heirs once would have to pay as too high in Germany and emigrated lock stock barrel before his death to Austria.
A former Croatian General http://www.nacional.hr/en/articles/view/32403/18/
In April this year, the former Croatian General Vladimir Zagorek was arrested in Vienna on request of the Croatian government. He is accused of embezzlement of state money and money laundering. He was a prominent customer of the Hypo Alpe-Alpe Adria Bank, which is now also under investigation for alleged money laundering. And last week the weekly DIE ZEIT reported yet another scandal involving the bank, this time in Istria/Croatia, where large tracks of pristine state land were bought at low prices and then sold with a 200 fold price increase, after the land was subdivided into plots in collusion with the local authorities, many of them now behind bars.
A Bank on sale
The Hypo-Alpe Adria Bank was supposed to be floated on the stock market this year, however this became impossible in view of the scandals. So Dr. Kulterer was actively looking for a buyer and found the Bavarian“Landesbank” (county bank) 100% owned by the state of Bavaria/Germany as being very interested.
So Haider flew on 16.th of May 2007 to Munich to seal the deal. He was not only met by the CEO of Bayerische Landesbank, Werner Schmidt, but also by the Bavarian Finance minister Kurt Faltlhauser and Home Affairs Minister and future Prime minister of Bavaria, Guenther Beckstein. They did, what the European Union refused to do, to negotiate with and thus uplifting the reputation of Haider. And they were not only meeting him, but also exploring ways to strengthen the ties between Bavaria and Kaernten.
The sale of the Bank went ahead not without another suspected scandal: Insider Trading. An investment Company headed by Tilo Berlin, the Berlin AG, , where the Flicks had also invested their money, bought in January, when the negotiations started with Bayerische Landesbank, 4% of the shares, and another 10%, when the negotiations were coming to a close. These shares were now sold to Bayerische Landesbank with 50% gain, 148 million Euro profit, and cash to carry in less than 6 months. If this is not Insider trading, what is it? However there are more scandals connected with this bank.
A Jewish family and a plot in Belgrade
On 22.April 2005 the Hypo Alpe announced, that they had acquired for 20 million Euro from the state prime land in Belgrade’s city centre. What the Hypo Alpe regional representative did not tell was, that this plot has a history. It was called “Three Tobacco Leaves” and was owned for generations by the Jewish family Galich. Two of the family member were killed in 1944 by the SS when they tried to defend the building against German troops, on the retreat, who wanted to blow up the building, which they eventually did. Immediately after the Germans had left, the Galich family rebuilt the Three Tobacco Leaves Building, however were later expropriated by the Tito government of Jugoslavia.
The Galich family emigrated to the US.
The building was eventually torn down by the Milosevic Government of Serbia. Potential buyers were advised by the Galich family, that they intend to reclaim the plot from the state, and thus no buyers came forward until eventually the Hypo-Alpe-Adria Bank entered the stage.
Totally disregarding the interests of the Galich family and the history of the plot and it’s former buildings on it,, they grabbed the plot. However protests against this ridiculous grabbing mounted and in May 2005 several hundred people, some of them Holocaus survivors, demonstrated in front of the Hypo-Alpe dependance in Belgrade. The local newspapers, reporting about the scandal, asked, whether the Hypo Alpe had learned nothing from the scandal around the Croatian ski-athlete Ivica Kostelic in 2003.
A Ski athlete named Kostelic
Kostelic was sponsored by the Hypo-Alpe Adria Bank, better named Scandalpe or Skandalpe. He became not only famous for his skiing performance, but also for his remarks about Nazi-Germany similar to Joerg Haider, Governor of the Austrian county of Kaernten which owned half of the shares of the Hypo Alpe bank. Haider, similar to Kostelic also became famous for his praise of Nazi Germany’s labour policy, recommending it as a good example to Austria’s government. A few statements of Kostelic in 2003:
The Nazi-System was a healthy system for an ambitious person
Before a start to one slalom, he felt well prepared like a German soldier on the 22nd June 1941 (the day, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union)
The Nazi Regime equals to 2000 years of Roman history, compressed into 12 years
The Communists were worse than the Nazis, because under Nazi rule one could pursue a career.
He was excited when watching in a movie the attack of the Nazi airforce on Britain, the so called Battle of Britain.
As a remainder: England was at that time alone in it’s fight against Adolf Hitler’s army. In a heroic performance the British pilots pushed back Hitler’s air force. Their performance was acknowledged in Churchill’s historic speech in the commons “never before in history owed so many so much to so few”. One would have expected, that the Hypo-Alpe-Adria bank would have immediately cancelled the sponsorship. That did not happen, they were satisfied with a lukewarm apology from Kostelic.
What happened to the alleged WMP criminals?
Regis Possino is still in business. Last year he was with his company “Geneva Equities” on a “roadshow” in Asia and collected 28 million US Dollars money from investors. Geneva equities was also involved in a fake company by the name of “L-Air” supposedly to be an airline, however it’s planes never made it to the runway, only the money of the investors flew away-forever.
Sherman Mazur is busy in the US. He created a company with his children by the name of “Accu-Poll-Holdings”, and selling the shares via boiler-rooms, the usual story.
Adnan Khashoggi is allegedly in the United Arab Emirates and enjoying his retirement. Last year Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest bank, paid 350 million US Dollars in compensation for share fraud, in which both, Deutsche Bank and Khashoggi were involved, the Genesis Intermedia scandal.
Rakesh Saxena was last year put into prison, pending extradition to Thailand. In December he was freed as the extradition request from Thailand expired after 10 years. Good to be a rich economic refugee in Canada! He is now again in self paid house arrest and most likely doing, what he always did.http://www.nriinternet.com/NRI_Fraud/ASIA/Thailand/Rakesh_Saxena/index%20.htm
Raoul Berthaumieu did not get a good reputation either. If you put the name of his company, Pacific Federal SA into a search engine, plenty of warnings, not to do business with this company, are appearing.
THE OPERATOR of what could be the biggest scam syndicate in the world is a Filipino, authorities in various countries say.
Just 30 years old, Amador Apungan Pastrana, has become the face of 21st-century high-tech fraud. According to authorities here and abroad, he is the brains of a global network of boiler room operations that have duped hundreds of thousands of investors with little knowledge of the financial market, but with lots of money to spare.
Pastrana's alleged victims include 4,000 people who lost $35 million they invested in one of his shell companies, thousands of retirees in Australia and New Zealand, and nearly 700 South Africans who lost a total of $28 million, of which $5 million belonged to businessman Lino Leoni, one of the owners of the renowned DeBeers diamond company.
Accounts in the Internet and Australian newspapers say Pastrana has already amassed some $6 billion in a mere eight years, a wealth accumulated largely from running at least 150 boiler rooms in nine countries. But his operations have also earned him the ire of the police and the Securities and Exchange Commissions (SECs) in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and in some European countries. None, however, has managed to catch up with the slippery Filipino.
Pastrana, who maintains posh homes in Manila and Los Angeles, is now on the watchlist of authorities in many countries, including the Philippines. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also begun to investigate his activities. Police in Austria want to talk to him, as well as to US national Regis Possino, a disbarred lawyer convicted of fraud and drug dealing, and shady Saudi Arabian businessman Adnan Khashoggi. Media reports say the three men were members of a consortium that bought a small Viennese bank without a brokering license, and then turned it into a boiler room.
But Tomas Syquia, acting director of the Compliance and Enforcement Division of the Philippine SEC, says building a case against the international syndicate is difficult because of the complexity of the modus operandi. Most of the victims are all overseas, making it hard and costly to gather information and court evidence.
As of this writing, the PCIJ has yet to hear from Pastrana or his legal representatives in Manila, to whom the Center sent a written list of questions.
Still, James Martin, director of Sydney-based Stock Investigation Research Society (SIRS), a network of victims of boiler room operators, says, "He (Pastrana) is the Henry Ford of boiler rooms. He has taken it into mass production scale like no one else."
Called "boiler rooms" because they usually work out of cramped office spaces with desks and telephones and apply high-pressure sales pitches on their victims, operations like that of Pastrana's can be found in practically every continent. Each office has an army of telemarketers that call up retirees, pensioners, lottery winners - anybody who's neither a banker nor a broker - who are thousands of miles away, and more than likely in another country. The glorified telemarketers then pitch stocks of "pinksheet" companies, or those whose shares sell for a fraction of a penny, listed on the unregulated Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) of the US NASDAQ.
These boiler rooms hire expatriates with Western accents who present themselves as hotshot brokers of securities firms that have impressive-sounding names such as Morgan Lynch (a cross of US investment banks J.P. Morgan and Merrill Lynch), Griffin Securities, Muller & Sons, Dukes & Company, and Knowle & Sachs. They send out glossy newsletters, put up Internet sites and pester the potential victim with follow-up calls until he agrees to part with his savings and buy the stocks. Clients, who plunk down amounts that range from $1,000 to $5 million each, then receive instructions on how to send the payment by telegraphic transfer to a bank overseas.
The companies collapse their operations after six months to a year or when too many clients itching to see returns start burning their phone lines. But like zombies, the firms come alive again in another office address or in another part of the world, using a different name and another set of incorporation papers. Often, too, the salespeople would say they are calling from Bangkok, Hong Kong or China, even if they are making the calls in, say, Manila.
Clients who try to cash in on their investments are never successful. More often than not, the boiler rooms do not really buy the shares and merely pocket the money. When the clients run to their respective SECs for help, they find out they have put their trust in obscure companies that do not even hold a license to trade stocks or a legitimate office address. Their phone calls go to business centers paid to render secretarial work and receive calls that are automatically re-routed to the boiler room's landlines.
Engineer Peter Harvey, who lives in the remote town of Kondinin in Western Australia, admits losing $150,000 from investing in OTCBB shares offered by boiler rooms allegedly owned by Pastrana. In an e-mail interview, Harvey recounts how he was first "sold" shares of companies believed to be part of Pastrana's own pinksheet empire, and then later told that his account was being transferred to another firm - and then another.
As Harvey tells it, he had first dealt with First Federal Capital, a company operating in Makati but based in Palau, in 1997. A year later, he was told his account was being transferred to Pryce Weston, which had supposedly bought First Federal. In 1999, another company called Saxon and Swift, which also had offices in Vanuatu and Hong Kong, took over Pryce Weston.
Harvey says the same thing happened with Bradshaw Global Asset Management, another boiler room company then based in Makati but with a representative office in Rancho Sta. Margarita in California. Some time in early 2000, Bradshaw's operations were taken over by Newport Pacific Securities and Management, also based in Makati. According to Harvey, Newport eventually ceased operations, and his account was moved to Gibson and Peterson Company, based in Bangkok.
"I even flew over to the Philippines to meet them and have a look at their operations," says Harvey. He says he did not find anything suspicious at the time. Now, though, he has only one word to describe these companies: "parasites."
Yet while Pastrana seems to be the present king of boiler rooms, he was not the inventor of this elaborate scam. Experts say boiler rooms began more than a decade ago in the United States, particularly in Florida, where they reportedly flourished due to lax investment rules there as well as the large population of retirees.
SIRS's Martin reckons boiler rooms boomed soon after 1990, when the US SEC allowed the trading of the so-called "Regulation S" shares. The policy, meant to respond to the increasing globalization of the capital markets, allows the sale of securities not registered with the US SEC to be sold to offshore investors. But Martin says what it has really done is to allow boiler rooms to mislead investors outside of the United States. These investors are led to believe they are being sold shares in legitimate US companies, and that the transactions have the seal of approval of US regulators. Coming at a time when stock markets were doing very well, the boiler rooms hit pay dirt in the hundreds of thousands of people eager to invest even their nest eggs.
When the FBI conducted a major sweep in the early 1990s, the boiler rooms simply moved their operations outside of the United States, eventually choosing countries that had no extradition arrangements with US law enforcement agencies, or with weak rules of law. Many of the boiler rooms thus set up their "dialing" offices in Canada, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, Panama, Costa Rica, Liberia and South Africa. Some apparently wound up in the Philippines, with one of them eventually employing Pastrana.
A BS Computer Science graduate of Trinity College in Quezon City, Pastrana had first worked as a crewmember in a McDonald's outlet before he chanced upon a newspaper ad for telemarketers in a Makati-based firm called Griffin Securities. It turned out to be a boiler room operation, but Pastrana lasted long enough in the company to master the "business." Some of his former employees were told that Pastrana took some vital diskettes with him when he resigned from Griffin. They believe he used these to help set up his first company, which became First Federal Capital.
According to the Philippine SEC records of AAP Management, Inc., his flagship company, Pastrana managed to have more than 10 companies in just a span of five years. It is believed these companies form part of his "legitimate" business and still do not include his boiler rooms. Among those listed as his previous positions were managing director of First Federal Capital, Inc. and president of Mendez Prior Hall, which authorities raided and were able to seize documents from showing the extent of its boiler room operations.
Today, Pastrana is said to own more than 100 boiler rooms and shell companies around the world. Some of them are incorporated in small tax-haven territories such as the Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Mauritius, Cayman Islands, Western Samoa, Turks and Caicos, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Island of Nevis, and the republics of Liberia and Seychelles. Those in the United States were incorporated in Nevada, Florida, Delaware and South Carolina.
Martin, who says he was duped by Pastrana in an even more complicated way, has also received reports that Pastrana in the early 1990s had crossed paths with Sherman Mazur, a German national who was then running boiler rooms in the United States. In 1993, Mazur was sentenced to five years in prison in California for securities fraud. While he was serving time, Mazur reportedly passed on the management of his boiler rooms to Pastrana, "whom he trusted," says Martin. "But Amador not only took over these boiler rooms, (he) set up more."
Records obtained on Pastrana's US corporate empire as of June 2000, though, lists only seven OTCBB-listed companies created out of a series of reverse mergers and acquisition of dormant firms. The results are several holding companies operating only on paper, usually with the same corporate secretary, Roy Rayo, or Filipino lawyer Claudine Montenegro whom Martin also sued for practising in the US without a license.
The seven US holding companies are neatly spread out into different sectors. Apart from Digital Reach Holdings Corp., which takes care of investments, there is Key Holdings Corp., which was incorporated in Nevada, but is an "online gaming company based in Antigua or Dominican Republic." Netsat Holdings Ltd. is said to focus on telecommunications and Internet service, Your Future Holdings Inc. on educational development and technology, Labco Pharma on pharmaceuticals, and another Cayman-based holding company for food. There is also Stratasys, once owned by Martin but is now Pastrana's, which is a Bermuda-based holding firm supposedly handling software development.
The shares of these companies are listed on the OTCBB, which is highly vulnerable to price manipulation. Not surprisingly, these nearly worthless company stocks are among the offerings of Pastrana's boiler rooms. Harvey himself says he was among those who loaded up on Labco Pharma shares.
While the clients of his operations permanently part ways with their money, Pastrana has yet to stop raking it in. According to one of his former employees here in Manila, his companies' tills rang up a total of some $5 million a day in 2000. Other ex-employees say more than a third of that automatically went to Pastrana while only a tenth was used to buy legitimate stocks in behalf of clients.
A former resident of a squatter community in Guadalupe Viejo in Makati, Pastrana is now said to own a $2.8-million apartment penthouse on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.
"He also bought his mother a lovely gift: a $14-million house in Rancho Santa Margarita in Mission Viejo, California," says Martin. "A very nice son, don't you think?"
In the Philippines, his properties reportedly include two luxury condominium units in the high-end Essensa East in Taguig, a villa with a view of the sea in Caylabne Bay, the Winners restaurant on Arnaiz Avenue in Makati, and units at The Peak, also in Makati. Authorities hot on Pastrana's trail say some of the properties have been placed under the name of his front companies such as Euro Pacific Trade Inc., or those of members of his immediate family.
Pastrana's megabucks have also found their way into listed conglomerates such as Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., as well as Singapore Telecoms, US metal producer Alcoa Inc., Pacific Cyberworks of Hong Kong, and US semiconductor firm Intel.
United Resources Asset Management Inc., which was set up in May 2000 and acted as investment manager for the entire Pastrana group of companies, had a portfolio of $200,000 invested in these stocks. In its first year of operation, the company targeted an investment of over $20 million a year, according to AAP Management records.
Some of his associates say that despite his supposed riches, Pastrana still has some simple joys, among them buying brand-name shoes at bargain prices in either Bangkok or Hong Kong. But he is also known for e-mailing his personal secretary to keep replenishing his stock of blue and black Mont Blanc pens, as well as showing off the results of his latest liposuction or the wonders cosmetic surgery has done on his face.
Obviously, too, Pastrana is making good a promise his former associates say he made to himself several years back. When he was still a struggling college student, Pastrana was said to have sworn in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion: "I shall never go hungry again."
EVEN THE US Federal Bureau of Investigation is now looking into his companies' activities, but Pangasinense Amador Apungan Pastrana has managed to elude authorities across the globe who want to pin him down for the shenanigans of his alleged boiler room firms.
"Indeed, Pastrana, who is said to head a global network of "collapsible" companies that hype nearly worthless stocks to gullible investors and then just suddenly close shop months later, remains free to enjoy the billions of dollars he is reported to have earned in the few years that he has been in business.
And despite raids last year in Bangkok and Manila, boiler rooms still thrive in both cities as well as other places around the world. Authorities also admit that these operations have grown even more sophisticated as years pass. They say that the heads of some networks have even started to buy banks, intending to use these not only to launder their money, but also to use as centers for their boiler room transactions.
James Martin, who claims to have lost $35 million to Pastrana in a completely different scam and now heads Sydney-based Stock Investigation Research Society (SIRS), says, "Those that were picked up by authorities (so far) were just small fry. They haven't gotten the big one (like Pastrana)."
Authorities say that the big bosses of boiler rooms are hard to catch largely because the transactions cross borders, giving rise to questions on jurisdiction. Up until last year, in fact, US authorities seemed uninterested in checking boiler room operations, even if the stocks these firms were selling were those listed in the unregulated Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) of the US NASDAQ. Former boiler room employees themselves say that they were given strict instructions not to call anyone in the US or pitch shares to American citizens, fearing the long arm of US laws.
It was only after US national Christopher Coppola was stabbed to death in Pasig last May that the FBI began scrutinizing boiler room operations, especially those linked to Pastrana. Coppola had reportedly been employed by a Pastrana boiler room in Manila.
The PCIJ has learned that the U.S. Customs police is now also following leads that Pastrana has been laundering proceeds of his illegal operations by amassing properties in the United States.
But Tomas Syquia, acting director of the Compliance and Enforcement Division of the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), echoes Allan Cantado of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in saying that it is difficult to make a case against boiler room companies because of the inadequacies of local and international laws, and the sheer shortage of official manpower.
Cantado points out, too, that in the Philippines alone, prosecuting agencies should first prove that the company does not really hold a license to deal with securities, and that the transactions really existed for a case involving violations of the Securities Regulations Code to prosper.
"The problem is that the complainants are all foreigners and don't want to come here (to the Philippines)," he says. "They only send documents. Under our jurisprudence, victims have to physically appear before the fiscal to lodge a formal complaint."
Cantado also does not rule out the possibility that boiler rooms get prior warnings before they are raided, leaving the police with little to show afterwards. "Considering that the syndicate is moneyed," he says, "it's not totally impossible that they pay off or have paid off insiders to tip them off" whenever a raid was or is going to be conducted.
He suspects this is precisely what happened in an NBI raid of a Makati-based boiler room. Recounts Cantado: "When we came in, the coffee on their office desks was still hot. We found out they had left just minutes ago through the emergency exit at the back door."
Yet in March last year, the Philippine SEC thought it finally had some goods on Pastrana after a raid on 88 Corporate Business Center in Makati. The bust had been conducted after a Saudi national who lost $48,811 to two boiler rooms lodged a formal complaint against the companies that duped him. According to the SEC, the raid on 88 Corporate Business Center established the interlocking relationships of boiler rooms linked with Pastrana: not only were several documents on the illegal stock brokering operations of 21 firms all found in one office, but they also share some names as incorporators.
A month later, the SEC filed a criminal case with the Department of Justice (DoJ) against 21 companies and 14 individuals, including nine foreigners and John/Jane Does believed to be working as brokers or telemarketers. Among those charged with the criminal offense of running an operation that trades securities without a license were Pastrana, Rufina Abad, Noel Galang, Hilda Ronquillo, Greshiela Compendio and British national Gregory P. Barnes.
The SEC thought it had an airtight case. Apart from documents, it was also able to gather sworn testimonies from witnesses who were privy to the inner workings of Pastrana's companies.
But Pastrana's lawyers got an injunction order from the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa preventing the SEC, NBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using documents seized from the raid as court evidence. The court ruled that the search warrant used to get the documents was invalid as it violated the legal procedure of stating only one offense. The court also charged the SEC and NBI for contempt after the agencies failed to return the documents within the deadline it imposed.
With the documents declared inadmissible by the court, the DOJ last November decided to junk the case for lack of evidence.
Those close to the case say the police in Hong Kong were dismayed to learn what had happened here. The week after the March 2001 raid in Makati, five Filipinos were arrested in a Hong Kong hotel for allegedly trying to launder some $50 million in proceeds from boiler rooms. All five were believed to be working for Pastrana, and were actually based in Manila. The Organized Crime and Triad Bureau of Hong Kong alleged that many of their victims had paid through Hong Kong accounts set up through company-formed agents there.
Today, only one of the five Filipinos remains in detention, the rest having been released on bail. But one of Pastrana's ex-employees says the alleged boiler room mogul would have been among those caught in that Hong Kong raid had he not gone to the toilet just minutes before the police arrived. According to the former employee, Pastrana had even left his laptop and coat at the hotel lounge. Pastrana is said to have avoided alerting Hong Kong authorities about his departure for the Philippines by renting a private yacht for P10 million and using this for his trip home.
Some observers speculate that the Filipinos would not have had the need to be in Hong Kong had the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas allowed Pastrana to keep the small Imus, Cavite-based thrift bank he bought two years ago. Although Pastrana's income tax returns for 1997 to 1999 showed he had "limited sources of income," the Bangko Sentral still concluded that he was "capable of investing" in the Northpoint Development Bank based on his declared assets and liabilities as of March 2000.
But a "tip" from the banking industry that Pastrana and one of the bank's new directors, Rufina Abad, had an ongoing securities fraud case with the SEC prompted Central Bank authorities to dig deeper.
Asked to explain these reports, the thrift bank, then already run by Pastrana, submitted a photocopy of an SEC order exonerating him and Abad from the criminal case involving an alleged boiler room, the First Federal Capital Inc. Upon verification with the SEC, the Central Bank discovered it had been given a forged document, as the SEC investigation into First Federal and Pastrana's other companies was still ongoing at the time. Because of this, coupled with reports that he was engaged in "nefarious activities," the Central Bank rejected the sale of Northpoint to Pastrana.
Carmelita Climente, who has been president of Northpoint since its inception as a thrift bank in 1996, says businessman William Hernandez bought it from Pastrana last December. She says the new owner does not have links with Pastrana, and that the two have yet to meet in person.
Climente denies having any knowledge of Pastrana's alleged boiler room operations. She says, "My only connection with him was through the bank… (When Pastrana left the bank,) I offered to resign but the Central Bank told me to stay out and run it."
Climente admits, however, that Pastrana once tapped her as a consultant in setting up an investment house that would sell nonconvertible preferred shares to foreigners - which the SEC does not allow. She says nothing happened of the plans because "I was not for it."
According to Climente, Pastrana had envisioned Northpoint to be a "technology bank" that would cater to the ATM needs of small banks. A prospectus of AAP Management, Inc. - Pastrana's flagship company - given to clients does say that what Pastrana had renamed as United Resources Bank (URB) "will be positioned as a full-technology bank that will capitalize on its relationship with Infoserve Inc., a leading software developer for the banking industry." (Infoserve is not a Pastrana company.)
But the same prospectus indicates that Pastrana had more ambitious plans for the bank in which he had agreed to put in a fresh P400-million equity in December 1999. In truth, it maps out Pastrana's plans to transfer URB's head office from Cavite to Makati and then set up a branch in Ortigas Center, where most of his companies are located. By pumping in more cash and merging it with more banks, URB was envisioned to grow into a full-fledged commercial bank with a license to offer trust and foreign currency deposit products, hence freely catering to clients across borders.
A former Pastrana employee says URB was supposed to take care of all the banking needs of Pastrana's companies, including the alleged boiler rooms, instead of giving out the business to other private banks. But lawyer Rodolfo Pineda, who was president of URB when it was still under Pastrana, denies knowing about any plans that would have the bank becoming a depository of any boiler room. Pineda says aside from incorporating some of Pastrana's companies, he merely helped Pastrana look for a bank to acquire.
"When I met him, he said he made money from investing in the NASDAQ," says Pineda. "I didn't realize it was illegal until I heard about it in the news."
Reports in the Austrian media, as well as in the Internet, reveal that Northpoint was not the only bank Pastrana had bought. These reports say Pastrana was part of a group that had bought WMP Bank AG in Vienna in November 2000.
In August last year, newspapers in Vienna reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had started to look into "a gang of worldwide active financial artists who allegedly bilked a gigantic 15 billion Austrian schillings (US$1 billion) from clients." This syndicate turned out to be the new owner of WMG Bank AG - then already renamed General Commerce Bank (GCB).
Internet reports then said that the bank had been converted into a brokerage house that had become the nerve center of the "large-scale scam." Citing an FBI dossier, the reports said the "perpetrators" of the scam were "Manila- and Los Angeles-based Amador A. Pastrana, the 'mastermind of the operations'… and US citizens Regis Possino and Sherman Mazur," as well as prominent Saudi arms merchant Adnan Khashoggi.
Two months later, the Banking and Finance Commission of Belgium issued a public warning against the bank, which it said was offering investment instruments to Belgian and foreigners without a license. Various media reports say Austrian police raided the bank, which has since been closed.
The reports had securities regulators in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand scrambling to include GCB in its blacklist of boiler rooms and warning investors not to deal with the bank.
Oddly enough, the Viennese bank to this day maintains a website despite the reported FBI probe and the international blacklist. At its website, www.gcbankag.com, the bank claims to have been in operation for more than 10 years now, and trading on the Vienna Stock Exchange. It even recommends investors to buy shares of Thaon Communications, Inc., an obscure company trading for a fraction of a penny on the OTCBB of the US NASDAQ.