Palm Beach News

Swiss Leaks Exposes Shady Bank Activity of Palm Beach Residents

One-percenters the world over are shaking in their Louboutins this week. Over the weekend, a massive leak of financial information from the British bank HSBC pointed a bright light into the suspect penny-saving going on at the institution's Swiss branch. These documents basically show how assets were secreted away from tax collectors from over 200 countries. Not surprisingly, the strings traces back to Palm Beach.

The report -- which was prepared by a tag-team of international media outlets, including Le Monde, the Guardian, CBS, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists -- was culled from 60,000 financial documents leaked from HSBC. The paper trail shows the details on 100,000 clients, many with deep-pockets whose assets the bank helped keep out of the hands of the government. In layman's term: shady shit.

Chief among the derelicts highlighted by the report is Alejandro Andrade, today just your Average Joe living in Wellington -- which means he's a super-rich Latin American who spends more money on his horses a year than you do on your kids.

But before Andrade was swimming in money, he was a lowly bodyguard to future Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Andrade was also a part of Chávez's failed 1992 coup. Once the firebrand took power, Andrade served as the country's national treasurer as well as president of the Economic and Social Development Bank of Venezuela.

But the Swiss Leaks have provided documentation on the Venezuelan politician.

Alejandro Andrade was listed by the HSBC records as an attorney for the client account of the Venezuelan Treasury Office under the Ministry of Finance in 2007, when he assumed the position of national treasurer. The Treasury Office became an HSBC client in 2005 and held an account under the name of the governmental institution. The Treasury client account listed three bank accounts that together held as much as $698 million in 2006/2007. At least six of the other seven clients linked to this account were also Venezuelan officials who worked for the Treasury Office.

Andrade couldn't be reached for comment by the reporters behind the expose. He's hardly the only name on the list with Palm Beach or South Florida ties.

Alfred Taubman was the billionaire developer behind shopping malls across the country. He was also the former owner of Sothebry's -- a job that landed him in an auction price fixing scandal that ended with a $7.5 million fine and 10 month prison sentence in 2002. Taubman and his wife are also owners of a $4.7 million two-bedroom condo in Palm Beach.

Swiss Leaks' rap on Taubman:

Alfred Taubman was linked to 6 HSBC accounts of which he was listed as beneficial owner of four of them: "M.L.P. MOSCOW LOGISTICS PARK LTD CYPRUS", "ATHENA BALCHUG LLC", "BALCHUG (CYPRUS) LIMITED" and "ATHENA BALCHUG (CYPRUS) LIMITED" They were closed by 2007. One of the client accounts opened in 1998, "M.L.P. MOSCOW LOGISTICS PARK LTD" listed one bank account and held as much as $13,706 in 2006/2007.

(A rep for the billionaire told the project the accounts belonged to a company Taubman had money with, a company that "supported development projects in Russia."

And that doesn't sound shady as hell at all, right?

Let's see, what else we got? Well, the late banker Edmond J. Safra was also linked to activity high-lighted in the Swiss Leaks project. Safra's name is on an Aventura synagogue. Also, as our sister paper Miami New Times reported earlier this week, the Swiss Leaks also blew up the spots of two Miami celebs -- Christian Slater and Elle MacPherson.

Joan Collins was another celebrity who's financials were highlighted by Swiss Leaks, and basically every old lady is Palm Beach County is trying to get Joan Collins' face.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson