Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Ziff Bros & The Russians

It is really pretty much insane that we are having to research one of the primary investors in Clean Line Energy Partners for potential tax evasion in Russia because of a meeting that occurred during the 2016 presidential election.  It's almost unbelievable.  Seriously, what the FERC is going on here?

The media has done a fair job keeping the details of the Don Trump Jr meeting with "The Russians"  out of the press while driving the point a Russian met with Donald Jr and Paul Manafort.  The media has told us details of the meeting aren't as sexy as the headlines and the hypothetical that the Russian might have been attempting to influence or buy the Presidency as they report the speculations and ignore the facts.
It won't be surprising to some that the Ziff Brothers find themselves at the center of this controversy.  The Ziff brothers was the subject of that meeting. 

It sounds as though there was a sell job by this Russian female attorney, Natalia Vesdlnitskaya, to get in the door with Trump Jr.  The dispute with the Russian government and the Ziff Brothers is about not pay 16 million in tax money to the Russian government on an investment, tax evasion. The story first told to the Trump campaign centers on the Ziff's taking some of that money and donated a portion of it to the Clinton Global Initiative to get favorable treatment from the Sec Clinton State Department.  On the surface, it was a tantalizing story that got the Russian attorney into Trump Tower and a meeting with Don Jr. and Manafort. The question remains who was she representing.  

While there is not an extradition treaty between the United States and Russia, there are normal channels for the two governments to work on legal disputes with private citizens. 
"In the interview published Tuesday with News Front, Veselnitskaya said Trump Jr. asked whether she was in possession of any “financial documents” indicating whether Ziff Brothers Investments, an American firm, had transferred what she described as stolen funds to the Clinton campaign. She said she was not in possession of any such documents. "

That is probably where the meeting went south.  The possibility of a bribe to the Clinton Global Initiative was tempting and tantalizing but the details of international tax law made the meeting boring. A campaign position on tougher international tax laws with countries America does not have an extradition treaty benefiting foreign governments over Wall Street investment capital wasn't going to win any votes in an election.

The press did a good job making the Russian lawyer sound as a screwball or "The Russians" like she's KGB.  Half the media was hyping the meeting into a conspiracy between Trump and The Russians while the other half is portraying a halfback Russian floozie acting as a lawyer.   It was reported the meeting was about Russian adoption laws and The Magnitsky Act.  That was part of the details but the meat was probably attempting to force the Ziff Brothers and others to defend themselves with Russian tax audits.
In the end this is was a meeting about a $16 million tax dispute and whether this woman was representing Russian government is unknown, she was looking for a sympathetic cooperation.  On the surface, its doubtful the Russian government would actually send this woman without any documentation or proof the Ziff's donated to the Clinton Global Initiative for beneficial treatment from the State Department in this matter.
Are the Ziff's Brothers international cheats?

That's already been proven to be true with their Och-Ziff Investments and their Africa scandal.

From the Russian position, this dispute is as simple as Ziff's raiding a forest preserve for rocks.   The Ziff's have a history of taking what they want and daring authorities to prosecute.  It easy to surmise Dirk Ziff won't be traveling to Russia in the future.

It is oddly interesting how the same accusations keep arising. A history has been established of the Ziff's take what they want while they are praised by Wall Street media for their investing brilliance to turn inheritance from Ziff-Davis Publishing into billions.

Did the Ziff's donate to the Clinton Global Initiative to buy a favor from the State Department?
Who knows, but the Ziff's also have a history of buying favoritism from the Clinton's.   How do you think made "Selling the Lincoln Bedroom" famous?  Dirk Ziff at $411,000.
Is the Russian accusations true?  It's not surprising the accusation arises and Dirk Ziff is at the center of it.   There might actually be some merit to the Russians position.  It's not the first time such accusations have been made about the Ziff Brothers an their investments.  I won't say the Rusky is right, but this is the Ziff's we're talking about. 

Now getting back to Clean Line Energy, how much money has been invested in CLEP?  Over $250 million?  Perhaps closer to $250 million.  What do they have to show for their time as a venture capital project?  Rock Island is dead, denied in Iowa and Illinois.  Grain Belt Express has been denied three times in Missouri.  In the last days of the previous administration Plains & Eastern Clean Line was approved by the Department of Energy, but P&ECL has no customers.  Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested by the Ziff Brothers, National Grid, and Bluescape Investments and Clean Line doesn't even have 1 mile of transmission built, no property owned, and not even a prototype.

I have to ask, is this a legitimate company or scam?  It's been 7 years an hundreds of millions spent with nothing to show for it.  With CLEP as a "partner" with the Department of Energy, is it time for the feds to audit Clean Line's books?  Something weird is going on here.  How does one spend hundreds of millions to develop projects that have been denied by state regulators, and continue to find investors who are willing to write checks?  Does Michael Skelly ever intend to build a powerline  or is this company simply some kind of "investment mechanism" that was never intended to be legitimate?  I'm no expert in money laundering or fraud but something is weird here.

If a legitimate electricity company, like Commonwealth Edison, invested even half the money were talking here, say $100 million in failed projects, heads would roll.  CEO's, vice presidents, project managers would be fired.  Yet Clean Line continues to find new investment money?  Something funny is going on here, and with Dirk Ziff in the center of it, I have to think there is some merit to the Russian's position in tax evasion.

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