Several Americans and foreign nationals tied to Bill and Hillary Clinton used a Panamanian law firm to establish hidden offshore holdings, a report over the weekend revealed, and one insisted that in spite of the findings, it's not at all like "Vladimir Putin trying to hide money."
The connections involve several familiar faces, some of whom have already tarnished the Clintons as a result of past dealings, and others who are relatively new. Among them are the late billionaire investor Marc Rich, a former international fugitive pardoned by former president Clinton on the final day of his presidency; Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who inspired a Democratic fundraising scandal while Clinton was president; the Chagoury family, which has pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative; and Gabrielle Fialkoff, a finance director for Hillary Clinton's 2000 New York Senate campaign.
The findings were initially published by McClatchy News on Saturday, and come from an analysis of the Panama Papers, a trove of more than 11 million documents leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Fialkoff, the most recent Clinton connection, is now a senior advisor to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and director of the city's Office of Strategic Partnerships. She is listed along with her brother, Brett, and late father, Frank, as shareholders of UPAC Holdings Ltd., a British Virgin Islands company established in June 2012.
Fialkoff said in an email that she has "no knowledge" of the company, a position that her brother echoed. However, he later said, someone else must have opened the company in the family's name, and he then said he did have an offshore company in China. He refused to say whether the holding was in compliance with tax law, but did say he wasn't like Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose associates have been connected to $2 billion in offshore funds.
"I have news for you: There is no money," he told McClatchy in a phone interview. "We're not like Vladimir Putin, trying to hide money."
Others named in the papers, like the Chagoury family, declined to comment. The documents show that Ronald Chagoury, who runs the Nigerian construction business Chagoury Group, is the main shareholder of Echo Art Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands. His company has contributed millions to the Clinton Foundation, and its website notes that the nonprofit has in turn praised it for being "environmentally conscious."
Those who evoke memories of scandals past include Ng Lap Seng, who visited the White House ten times between 1994 and 1996, and who is listed as a shareholder of two companies in the British Virgin Islands. The late Marc Rich's name does not appear in the papers, which they do show that he established fund in the Bahamas, Industrial Petroleum Limited, in 1992. The company went inactive in 2001.
Others included in the paper include the Russian Sergei Kurzin and Canadian Frank Giustra, who appear together on draft shareholder agreements in the British Virgin Islands. Kurzin has boasted of giving $1 million to Clinton-related projects, while Giustra has traveled with the Clintons on trips around the globe.
A final connection is Jean-Raymond Boulle, a diamond miner from the island of Mauritius whose company was once based in President Clinton's Hope, Ark., hometown. Boulle is shown to have been a director of companies in both the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands in the 1990s.
Whether any or all of the activity is legal has not been subject to analysis. However, it may turn into a political issue for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. On the campaign trail, Clinton has blasted "outrageous tax havens and loopholes that super-rich people across the world are exploiting."
More recently, she added, "Some of this behavior is clearly against the law. ... But it's also scandalous how much is actually legal."