Kushner, President Trump, The sins of the Father, Platinum… Part I



Jared Kushner and the White-Haired Mystic Whose Dad ‘Got a Ride’ From a Dead Sage

Jared Kushner’s family charities have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a mystical Moroccan rabbi who some followers claim has miraculous powers.

The rabbi, David Chananya Pinto, is little known in the United States but has a coterie of wealthy backers. Two separate Kushner family foundations on whose boards Jared Kushner serves have given over $210,000 in grants to Pinto’s New York City study center.

It’s hard to square Donald Trump’s clean-cut, Modern Orthodox son-in-law with the white-bearded mystic who tells a story about a night in 1968 when his father got a ride from a second-century sage driving an Israeli-made station wagon.

Yet Kushner has shown an interest in Judaism’s mystical corners.

Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, plan to attend a Washington synagogue affiliated with the Chabad Hasidic group, a movement rooted in Jewish mysticism. And days before the presidential election, the couple visited the grave of the group’s former leader, where believers say prayers may be answered with miracles.

A spokesperson for Kushner would not comment on the foundations’ donations to Pinto’s charity. Pinto’s New York study center, Chevrat Pinto, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Kushner family are Modern Orthodox stalwarts, founders of a Modern Orthodox high school in New Jersey and members of Modern Orthodox synagogues. But while Modern Orthodox theology de-emphasizes the folk magic and mysticism found in some corners of Jewish tradition, magical beliefs have grown popular among rank-and-file Modern Orthodox Jews.

“There is definitely an upswing in turning to magic,” said Rabbi Alan Brill, a professor of Jewish studies at Seton Hall University. Brill has written on the phenomenon in an essay onModern Orthodox Jews in New Jersey reviving the ancient Jewish magical practice of baking keys into challah bread.

Brill also said that the popularity of traveling charismatic mystics was rising among some Modern Orthodox Jews. “It’s a different relationship than having to sit through a congregation each week,” he said.

Pinto is one of a handful of mystically inclined rabbis gaining popularity in the United States and Israel. His better-known nephew, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, attracted a large following of wealthy Jews in the United States and Israel before ending up in an Israeli prison for bribing a high-ranking police officer.

Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto was released from prison January 25 after serving a one-year sentence. He says he is no longer a rabbi.

Rabbi David Pinto wears the familiar black coat and hat of the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazim, but he descends from a North African Jewish tradition of miracle workers and saints. Pinto’s ancestors were prominent rabbis; the grave of his great-great grandfather is a popular pilgrimage site for Moroccan Jews. Pinto’s organization describes his father and his grandfather, both rabbis, as “miracle workers.”

Pinto leads institutions in France and Israel, but he regularly visits his New York study center, where his followers include Jews from mainstream Modern Orthodox backgrounds alongside members of the French Jewish community. He delivers his lectures in English, speaking with a French accent.

Stories of the miracles that his father and grandfather worked, and the belief that they can continue to influence daily events, appear to play a major role in Pinto’s religious message. In a May 2016 lecture delivered in Mexico City and available online, Pinto told a story about his father getting picked up on the side of the road in 1968 by the purported author of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived roughly 2,000 years ago.

According to Pinto, his father, Rabbi Moshe Ahron Pinto, lived 40 years in prayerful seclusion in his home in Morocco, and then, in 1968, sought the permission of the dead sage bar Yochai to move his family to Israel. Moshe Ahron Pinto traveled to Ashdod, then took a taxi to bar Yochai’s crypt in Meron. He finished praying late at night. A disciple who had accompanied him thought they would be stuck near the crypt until dawn, but as soon as they reached the road, an Israeli-made station wagon, an Autocars Sussita, appeared. The driver took them to a house in a nearby village.

“My father went out [of the car], [the disciple] closed the car, and suddenly there was no car,” Pinto said.

Pinto said his father told the disciple that the driver was bar Yochai, and that if he told anyone of the miracle he would die.

The idea that righteous rabbis have the power to perform miracles is a familiar one in mystical Jewish traditions, and particularly among North African Jews. In the literature of Pinto’s organization, dead rabbis and even Pinto himself are credited with causing everyday miracles to occur.


An article in the 2010 English-language edition of a magazine published by his organization in Paris reports that a “great miracle happened” at the home of a Chicago follower who hosted Pinto: Two days after receiving Pinto’s blessing, the follower’s daughter was matched with a man whom she eventually married.

The article also reports that after Pinto promised a French follower that God would “perform a miracle for you this week” if the man spent one more hour a day studying the Torah, the man’s son narrowly escaped electrocution.

The story claims that Pinto knows things by miraculous means. “Many people are surprised by the way that the Rav knows and sees things from afar,” the article says. Pinto, the authors report, denies being a prophet. “Everything is due to the merit of the fathers,” it quotes him saying.

In a brief recollection presented in a December 2016 weekly bulletin published by Pinto’s Israeli organization, Pinto claimed that a German boy had been revived from a three-month coma after a man who hosted him on a visit to Morocco prayed at the grave of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, his great-great grandfather.

“I would never dare bang on the tombstone of my grandfather,” Pinto wrote. “However, [the man] did it naturally, and he was answered immediately!”

In New York City, Pinto has a study center, called Chevrat Pinto, in an Upper West Side brownstone. The study center received between $10,000 and $50,000 from a Kushner family foundation nearly every year from 2004 to 2013. Jared Kushner sits on the boards of the two foundations that made the grants, the Charles and Seryl Kushner Family Foundation and the C. Kushner Companies Foundation. He is one of seven coequal directors of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Family Foundation, according to 2014 tax documents, and was a member of a board of directors led by his mother at the C. Kushner Companies Foundation, which no longer exists.

In total, Chevrat Pinto received $217,000 from the Kushners’ two foundations.

Jared Kushner’s aunt and uncle, Marisa and Richard Stadtmauer, have been ever more generous. Their family foundation has given Chevrat Pinto $592,000 in grants since 2009.

To read the article in its original format click here.

Famed J.P. Morgan Building at 23 Wall Street in Play – and Urinating Bosses…


23 Wall Street – Our Theories

We have written on the famed J.P. Morgan piece of property more times than perhaps any other Blog. We have written on the various Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg properties/investments/shady dealings. We have written about Chetrit and Bistricer, China Sonangol, Queensway, Angola. The story below from “The Real Deal” almost feels like something we could have written. But, of course, we didn’t.

The new buyer, as you will see below from the article on the bottom of the page, Jack Terzi, lacks certain social graces (or did in 2012). He apparently was an abusive boss who, according to reports in the NY Daily News from 2012, engaged in bizarre behavior. In the interest of full disclosure, his employees at his yogurt shops felt that he was “strictly business” and “humble.” Hard to tell.

We can say this:

It would not surprise us if nestled within the many companies listed on the Africa-Israel website with reference to the Israel Stock Exchange we were to find the new J.P. Morgan buyer’s name, his company or some financial/management synergy with Africa Israel and perhaps concurrently with China Sonangol. It will take a while to find and some might write this one off as a leap. We don’t think so.

It is a Buyer’s market not a Seller’s market in Manhattan right now (if the comment about the losses below by The Real Deal is any indication). China Sonangol/Africa-Israel/Sam Pa/ want out of New York but we doubt they would take a financial loss. We think that it will prove to be anything but a loss.

AFI Group

The company is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
For more information, please press on the image below.

Click here for more information


Africa Israel Properties
Click here for more information
Africa Israel Residences
Click here for more information
 Danya Cebus
 Click here for more information
 Africa Israel Industries
 Click here for more information
 Negev Ceramics
 Click here for more information
Dor Alon
Click here for more information
Blue Square
Click here for more information



Paydirt: The Compass unicorn, a more modest buyer pool, 23 Wall in play … & more

Billionaires hiding? We’ll take the millionaires: Compass’ valuation comes at a time when Manhattan’s high-end residential market is taking body blows. Developers finally seem willing to accept things aren’t where they were in 2014. They’re either offering fat discounts (Extell at One Manhattan Square, World Wide Group and Rose Associates at 252 East 57th Street), pushing sales back (JDS & PMG at 111 West 57th Street) or abandoning ship (Witkoff at Park Lane, Chetrit & Bistricer at the Sony Building).  “The next two years will be the year of the deal,” PMG’s Kevin Maloney told Bloomberg.

Developers who set their sights a little more main street have been faring better: Condos priced between $500,000 and $999,000 have sold five times as fast as their $10 million-and-up counterparts, according to a Miller Samuel analysis of a decade of residential sales.

You don’t know Jack: JTRE’s Jack Terzi is in contract to buy 23 Wall Street, a landmarked property that was once the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co. – it was dubbed the “House of Morgan” — but of late has been a pox on Lower Manhattan. The long-vacant building is owned by the shadowy China Sonangol, a joint venture between Sam Pa’s Queensway Group and the nation of Angola — go figure. Sources told the New York Post that Terzi will be buying the property at a discount to the $150 million Sonangol paid for it in 2008. That’s hard to fathom, except for the fact that Pa is under investigation for allegations of financial crimes, according to the FT.

Terzi, who grew up in Gravesend and cut his teeth at Hidrock Realty, has made a number of splashy acquisitions of late, including a number of $20 million-plus buys in Midtown East. But this deal, if he does close on it, elevates him to a different level — giving him control of more than 130,000 square feet in the heart of Lower Manhattan.


Sam-Pa-23-Wall-Street (1)





For a tall tale about how China Sonangol may or may not have come to its original purchase through individuals mixed up in the NYPD scandals, read The Post’s Steve Cuozzo’s story from July 4.

The 160,000 square feet stretches from the landmarked 23 Wall St. where banker Morgan once had his private offices, around the sloped corner to portions of the base floors of 33 Wall and 15 Broad St.

The stone fortress has been touted as a retail play for years, but it’s stood mostly dark — due to absentee ownership and landmark-related restrictions.

Prospective deals to lease it to Brooks Brothers and a multi-media event company fell through but Hermes has been a tenant since 2007.

The upper stories of 15 Broad next door were converted into apartments.




Ex-worker suing real estate boss, Jack Terzi, for $5 million for abuse, fines, and urinating

A foul-mouthed boss from hell unzipped more than his lip in torturing his young assistant.

Brash real estate broker Jack Terzi urinated on the underling’s clothes during a three-year reign of terror in their Manhattan office, according to a astonishing new lawsuit.

The allegedly abusive broker was accused by ex-employee Albert Sultan of abuse that included cutting four-letter insults, sharp flying objects and bizarre fines.

Sultan, hired shortly after Terzi launched his company in 2009, “became emotionally distraught, was humiliated and embarrassed … by the systematic and continuous unlawful harassment,” charged the 15-page suit filed Wednesday.

Court papers contain a cruel recital of Terzi’s perverse management style, including the time he “urinated on a garment” belonging to Sultan as others watched.

Terzi was accused of throwing a shoe and a pair of scissors at his young assistant, hurling insults like “f—— idiot” and “piece of s—“ — and repeatedly “sneezing in (Sultan’s) face in a contemptuous fashion.”

Terzi, in a countersuit, charged Sultan was a conniving backstabber who launched his own business with confidential information stolen from Jack Terzi Real Estate.

Sultan, of Eatontown, N.J., declined further discussion about his ex-boss.



Apthorp Sitts and Rechnitz Ruins… We Think Not…





Tell us…

What happens to a building when it is leased or sold at below market rates?

The value of that building and all of the units in that building fall, drop, sink, use your word of choice.

What happens then?

Well… An Equity firm goes in and saves the day, buying 70 units for far below market value.

So, did Jona Rechnitz ruin market efforts or did he purposely sabotage marketing efforts so that the building would be worthless?

And, who owns the building anyway…???

In our view, Jona Rechnitz is nothing if not very, very predictable. We believe that the news articles that follow in large part missed the point. Jona Rechnitz did not ruin a building because he failed. Quite the contrary, he succeeded. Thor Equities got a steal…. And, if Rechnitz was involved, there is money behind the deals closed to sink the value of the units in that building.

What commonalities can we find?

we are looking…

Jona Rechnitz ruined marketing efforts at the Apthorp: report

Continue reading

Preet Bharara Comes to Westchester to get more R&R?


Preet Bharara expands corruption probe to Westchester


US Attorney Preet Bharara’s corruption probe into the dealings of two shady businessmen and donors to Mayor de Blasio has expanded to Westchester County, The Post has learned.

Bharara has subpoenaed the offices of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino about dealings with de Blasio financial backers Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who have been linked to recent city pay-to-play scandals.

FBI agents also recently quizzed politically wired cabby advocate Fernando Mateo, who introduced Rechnitz and Reichberg to Astorino, according to a source familiar with the inquiry.

Reichberg, a Brooklyn resident who had no known previous ties to Westchester County, was named a volunteer county police chaplain in June 2013.

A few days later, entities tied to his pal Rechnitz donated $25,000 to Astorino’s re-election campaign.

Preet Bharara

During a recent visit to Mateo’s Irvington home, the FBI grilled him about the businessmen’s ties to Astorino as well as de Blasio, according to a source familiar with the interrogation.

“The FBI agents wanted to know everything they could about the Astorino relationships with Rechnitz and Reichberg,” the source said.

Mateo, a Latino civil leader, supported Astorino’s re-election in 2013 and was appointed to the Westchester County Police Advisory Board.

Mateo also is in hot water after admitting to The Post that he secretly bundled campaign money to the de Blasio campaign through an unemployed Brooklyn woman.

Mateo declined to comment on the probe.

Astorino confirmed his office has been blitzed with subpoenas from Bharara’s office.

“Yes. Informational subpoenas were issued to the county executive, the county police, and the county itself, which is no surprise given the need to get all available background
in an investigation involving so many city figures,” said Astorino spokesman Bill O’Reilly.

“Everything requested was turned over in a timely manner, and we’re happy to be helpful in any way going forward.”

Astorino claims he has done nothing wrong.

But the fact that Bharara’s probers are snooping around Westchester is not welcome news to the pol.

Astorino was the Republican Party’s nominee for governor in 2014, losing to the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Cuomo. He is considering running for governor again in 2018.

Reichberg was indicted in an NYPD scandal, in which he allegedly provided cops cash, free trips and even a prostitute for a Super Bowl bash.

Rechnitz has become a government cooperator in the case that has ensnared and disgraced a growing number of top-ranking cops in what has become the worst corruption scandal to hit the department in decades. Four officers have already been charged.

To read the complete article click here.


Solomon Rechnitz, Netanyahu – Corruption, a Family Business

Netanyahu Corruption Scandal Envelops Wealthy U.S. Haredi Family

shlomo reichnitz

Shlomo Rechnitz, under investigation for money laundering donations to Netanyahu family &/or Likud Party

The only thing better than a nice, juicy sex scandal is a nice, juicy corruption scandal.  Bibi Netanyahu has already had his very own sex scandal.  But it didn’t manage to wreck his career or his marriage.  The brewing corruption scandal threatens to do at leastone, if not the other.

I reported yesterday on an investigation that has caught up Netanyahu, his son, Yair, possibly his wife, Sara, and his former chief of staff Ari Harow.  Today, a Channel 2 news report snares a new player in the scandal, Shlomo Rechnitz.  There’s a baseball saying: you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.  As this criminal probe expands, I’ll try to keep the players clearly identified and offer some background.

robert reichnitz & netanyahu

Robert Rechnitz with pal, Bibi Netanyahu

Rechnitz comes from a wealthy, extended ultra-Orthodox family based in California.  The scion of the family and Shlomo’s uncle, is Robert Rechnitz, a real estate investor who founded the Bomel Companies and an Israeli subsidiary, Bomel Israel.  He has been vice chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and founded a Congressional lobbying group on behalf of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system (or should I say, “racket system?) the Iron Dome Tribute.  He even developed a branding slogan: “the Humane Defensive Weapon.”  I always thought the words “humane” and “weapon” were oxymorons.  But not in the topsy-turvy world that is pro-Israel advocacy.

I learned all this not from Wikipedia or Rechnitz’s corporate biography, but from the corporate PR firm Rechnitz hired to polish his image, the Friedlander Group.  Unfortunately, he didn’t hire them to monitor the reputation of his children and close family members.  Because now two of them are in very hot water.

His nephew, Shlomo owns the largest nursing home conglomerate in California: Brius Healthcare Services (brius is the Yiddish version of the word for “health”).  The State of California has investigated his firm numerous times for violations of health regulations.  He was the subject of a class-action suit.  His Pasadena nursing care facility was accused of recruiting felons as patients. Several employees faced criminal charges from that escapade.   He complained once to the Sacramento Bee that the charges against him made him out to be “the Charles Manson of the nursing home business.”  I’m guessing no one from Friedlander was available to accompany him to this interview.  That image really sticks in your mind.

Not to mention the time he announced that his employees, for whom he’d purchased 18,000 Powerball tickets, had won the Powerball jackpot.  The NY Times even featured him in a major story.  Well, it turns out it wasn’t true.  It was all a hoax, supposedly perpetrated by the son of one of the “winning” employees.

Rechnitz is also reported to have bought the anti-Haredi blog, Failed Messiah, written for years by Shmaryahu Rosenberg.  Rechnitz and many of his associates had been skewered in its posts for years.  Though conditions of the sale were not made public, they apparently bar Rosenberg from creating a new blog; or at least one covering the same subject as his old one.  That online property promptly disappeared from the internet.  Clearly, the Haredi community had withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune from Rosenberg’s pen for too long.  The tycoon stepped in to end the attacks.  Lately, a new iteration of the blog, Lost Messiah, was launched by former readers of the old blog who wished to maintain the service it had done to the Orthodox community and the Jewish world.

Rechnitz appears to be playing a lead role in the Scandal of the Day as a major donor to Netanyahu and the Likud.  His uncle, Robert, was the western chair of American Friends of the Likud, which would mean he both donated and raised massive sums from Orthodox Jews on behalf of the Israel far-right.  As such, the elder Rechnitz would’ve worked closely with Ari Harow, the man in the spotlight of the current scandal.  That’s how Shlomo would’ve come to the attention of the Israeli police investigating the money-laundering operation.  Among Shlomo’s wide and varied philanthropic endeavors was funding Hebron yeshivas, among the most virulently racist and violent in Israel.

I haven’t dug deeply into the background of Victor Deutsch, Harow’s former business partner.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if he too is Orthodox and perhaps a close friend of the Rechnitz family.  If this guess turns out to be true, Deutsch would have excellent motive to benefit Harow and the Likud by the sort of fraudulent business transaction they’re accused of arranging, in selling the latter’s company for $3-million in largely unaccounted-for funds.

Jonah Reichnitz

Jona Rechnitz: show him the money!

Another Rechnitz facing the glare of bad PR is Jona, Robert’s son and cousin to Shlomo.  Jona began his career in real estate working for Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel.  Leviev, who began his own career as a blood diamond merchant to the stars, also maintains vast real estate holdings in the U.S., Britain and Israel.  His company has also built Israeli settlements.  Jona helped manage the Leviev real estate portfolio in New York until they had a falling out.  After that, Rechnitz formed his own company, JSR Capital.

Jona and another wealthy Hasidic Jew have beenswept up in the bribery and corruption scandal which has rocked the De Blasio administration in New York City.  They did favors for the corrupt head of the city prison officers union, Norman Seabrook, and offered gifts and benefits to senior police officers in the precinct where they lived.  Among the crooked deals was a $60,000 payment to Seabrook (paid in a $1,000 Ferragamo hand bag) in return for the union boss’ steering $20-million to a Rechnitz associate’s investment fund.  Seabrook was miffed as he’d been told he could net $150,000 from the arrangement.

Among other favors were all-expenses paid gambling junkets to Las Vegas on a private jet.  Another part of the entertainment provided was a prostitute dressed as a flight attendant whose “services” included far more than providing drinks and snacks.

Presumably, Rechnitz did this so he could gain favorable service response and attention from local police personnel in Brooklyn Orthodox neighborhoods.  But he had even bigger ambitions, which led him and his associate made six-figure donations to various DeBlasio political fundraising vehicles once he’d won the Democratic mayoral primary.

Jona lobbied the City Council and succeeded in gaining a $655,000 “discretionary” allocation to underwrite a “cultural sensitivity” police training seminar hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which was Rechnitz’ pet project.  Presumably, part of the curriculum was learning sensitivity to the special interests of the Haredi community.  You certainly won’t find any sensitivity to the Muslim community in this program.

All of this paints a portrait of a wealthy Haredi family parlaying money into political clout on a local, national and international scale.  Unlike other American families in which wealth is wielded within discrete nuclear families, in the Haredi world extended families (clans) unite to pursue objectives that benefit both their families personally and their extended Orthodox communities.  It’s certainly cleaner and less deadly than the old Italian mob.  But as the Netanyahu investigation shows, it’s no less venal and corrupt.


To see the article it’s entirety, see Titan Olam, click here

A Collection of Articles Tied to PAPD and Tunnel Closure


How Involved was the Port Authority Police Department with the Closure of the Lincoln Tunnel?


We are posting the following articles related to recent stories regarding the closure of the Lincoln Tunnel orchestrated by Jeremy Reichberg for or on behalf of Lev Leviev, diamond magnate, Africal-Israel principal, current or former owner of 23 Wall Street and the Apthorp building and one-time employer of  Jona Rechnitz. As we have mentioned, we are not so sure that umbilical chord has actually been cut.

These are being provided as a consortium of additional sources of information.

In our opinion, the Port Authority Police Department’s involvement with Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg runs far deeper than either currently reported or as yet understood. 


Cuomo Seeks Probe on Tunnel Closure Tied to Corruption Case

ABC News – ‎Jun 21, 2016‎
New York’s governor demanded an investigation Tuesday into allegations that a lane in one of the traffic-clogged tunnels connecting Manhattan to New Jersey was shut down as a special favor to a politically connected businessman accused of paying bribes …

NYPD allegedly shuts Lincoln Tunnel lane for Israeli billionaire

Jerusalem Post Israel News – ‎Jun 22, 2016‎
Did Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev have the NYPD close a lane for him in New York’s Lincoln tunnel? According the the New York Post, that is exactly what federal authorities are investigating as part of a larger probe into corruption in the NYPD

Cuomo wants probe of tunnel lane closure linked to de Blasio pal

New York Daily News – ‎Jun 21, 2016‎
Business fat cat Jeremy Reichberg allegedly used cops to close a lane at the Lincoln Tunnel. Now Gov. Cuomo wants an investigation into the lane closure. (James Keivom/New York Daily News). BY Dan Rivoli. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Tuesday, June 21 …

Cops shut down Lincoln Tunnel lane for ‘King of Diamonds’

New York Post – ‎Jun 21, 2016‎
Israeli diamond dealer Lev Leviev was the mysterious businessman hustled through the shut-down Lincoln Tunnel on behalf of a Bill de Blasio fundraiser. Photo: AP (left), Getty Images. More On: nypd corruption scandal · Norman Seabrook’s corruption …

Port Authority To Cooperate With Fed Probe of Lincoln Tunnel Closure: Cuomo

DNAinfo – ‎Jun 22, 2016‎
An NYPD deputy chief reportedly arranged an escort through the Lincoln Tunnel for an international billionaire visiting the city. View Full Caption. DNAinfo/Paul Lomax. MANHATTAN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the New York State and Port Authority’s …

NYPD Cops Close Down Lane of Lincoln Tunnel for Israeli Billionaire

Jewish Business News – ‎Jun 22, 2016‎
NYPD cops shut down to the general public a lane of traffic entering the Lincoln Tunnel to escort an Israeli billionaire, Lev Leviev, known as the “King of Diamonds”, The New York Post reports. This was done at the behest of a major fundraiser of New

Lincoln Tunnel lane shut down for Lev Leviev

The Real Deal Magazine – ‎Jun 22, 2016‎
That was basically the message sent when part of the Lincoln Tunnel was shut down to escort Lev Leviev chairman of the international real estate firm Africa Israel, the New York Post reported. It’s unclear when the shutdown occurred. Federal

NYPD cops close down lane of Lincoln Tunnel for unethical reasons, but no ‘Bridgegate’ for Dems

BizPac Review – ‎Jun 21, 2016‎
It’s not how big the political scandal is — it’s the party affiliation of the person who allegedly created the scandal. The truth of that statement was brought home in spades this week when police shut down to the general public a lane of traffic

NY Governor Cuomo Sends Letter to Port Authority Officials Regarding Reported Lane Closure in the Lincoln Tunnel

Yeshiva World News – ‎Jun 21, 2016‎
cuom Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today sent a letter to Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman John Degnan, Vice Chairman Steven Cohen and Executive Director Patrick Foye regarding a reported lane closure in the Lincoln Tunnel. A copy of …

Sam Pa – A Taste of the Nuances, Not Easily Duped




Lost Messiah, July 5, 2016

Unscrupulous Businessmen are not Easily Duped…

In order to better grasp our steadfast theory regarding diamonds, and their connection to each and every aspect of the current corruption scandal encompassing the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio, Jona Rechnitz and Murray Huberfeld, to name a few, you need to understand the players. 

We have already written about Lev Leviev and Africa-Israel. Given the latest developments, that the “King of Diamonds” received a special unauthorized tunnel escort to a charity event, you might be warming up to our theory.

In an article in the New York Post today, it  was reported that Jona Rechnitz’s maintained that China Songangol was duped into purchasing the 23 Wall Street property. A portrait of Sam Pa, his savvy, his reputation for unscrupulous behavior and his cunning makes Jona Rechnitz’s statements almost mind-numbingly humorous, if not for how insulting they are to our collective intelligence.

A little on Sam Pa:



Sam Pa is detained! Long Live Sam Pa!


The mysterious Chinese tycoon has finally been arrested. But unless the shady global networks he exploited to make his riches are dismantled, other individuals will simply take his place.

When Chinese investment tycoon Sam Pa was whisked away by authorities on the night of 8 October in the Sofitel in Beijing, it may have marked the end of his meteoric and somewhat unlikely rise from relative obscurity to one of the most influential Chinese businessmen in Africa. That evening, Pa was reportedly detained in connection with a sour deal with a powerful Chinese state oil firm in Angola that earned him huge profits.

A former spy with a “fondness for women and fast cars” (according to his friends), Pa’s story captivated journalists and investigators the world over. He went from being a bankrupt arms dealer in the late 1990s to commanding a multi-billion dollar corporate empire in under a decade. The syndicate he formed in 2003, commonly known as the Queensway Group (named for the address of its Hong Kong offices), amassed holdings in the oil, mining, infrastructure, aviation, agriculture, and real estate sectors. Its holdings stretch from North Korea to Zimbabwe to Manhattan, and investigators on at least four continents have probed its operations.

In many ways, Sam Pa operated in the tradition of war profiteers like infamous Russian weapons trafficker Viktor Bout.  Like Bout before him, Pa is fluent in several languages, carried multiple passports, travelled in his own fleet of aircraft, and used at least seven aliases. He had the requisite arms trade credentials and high-level political contacts but used his connections to penetrate new markets and amass a more impressive plunder. Pa’s detention may mean that one of the most exploitative predatory investors that has ever set foot in Africa has reached the end of the line.

But his exit will yield little long-term gains unless the system that allowed him to thrive in the first place is dismantled.

From the morally questionable to the unquestionably illegal

Pa owes part of his success to powerful friends in Beijing. In 2004, Queensway formed China Sonangol, a joint Chinese-Angolan venture that would prove to be Queensway’s most important partnership. In 2005, Sinopec, one of China’s largest state-owned oil companies, served as guarantor for a $3 billion loan to China Sonangol from a group of private Western banks, enabling Queensway to jumpstart its operations in Angola’s oil and infrastructure sectors. Chinese state enterprises remain key partners in Queensway’s overseas ventures.

Yet ultimately, those longstanding ties weren’t enough to shield Pa. For one thing, he’s long courted controversy, often partnering with dubious brokers like Roman Putin – a cousin of Russian President Vladimir Putin – who helped him win a contract to build a $1.3 billion bridge connecting Russia and Crimea just a few months after the controversial annexation of the Ukrainian territory.

Pa often targeted resource-rich states with financially desperate or diplomatically isolated governments. In 2008, he invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Zimbabwe’s diamond sector during the country’s post-electoral crisis. Later, Queensway penned deals with Guinea, Niger, and Madagascar shortly after coups d’état in each country. In Pyongyang, he brokered deals with Office 39, a North Korean state agency involved in everything from counterfeiting to drug smuggling. Queensway’s projects in many of these countries have been marred by chronic delays, mismanagement, and allegations of graft.

Some of Pa’s operations, however, crossed the line from morally questionable to unquestionably illegal. In 2011, Jon Swain reported Pa’s involvement in the smuggling of diamonds out of Zimbabwe and the trafficking of weapons to Cí´te d’Ivoire in violation of sanctions. In 2013, court records revealed that his companies made hidden payments to diplomats in North Korea and Mozambique, while additional investigative reports allege that he bribed high-level officials in several countries, including Nigeria, for access to lucrative oil concessions. In April 2014, the US Department of Treasury placed Pa under sanctions for providing assistance to Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation, President Robert Mugabe’s secret police force that has become synonymous with state-sponsored violence.

For years, Queensway drew criticism from Chinese diplomats too, who often issued statements distancing Beijing from Queensway’s activities and have warned companies and foreign governments about doing business with Pa. Talk, however, is cheap. Critics (myself included) have argued that throughout the Queensway Group’s reign, the Chinese government has failed to take punitive action against the syndicate’s leaders for their predatory practices and have often benefited from the Pa’s dealings. Pa’s relationships with senior officials and state enterprises, meanwhile, continued for years despite diplomats’ denunciations and abortive investigations. Staving off these detractors depended in part on top-cover from influential figures in Beijing, however, leaving Queensway vulnerable to changes in China’s political landscape.

Dizzying deals

Pa seemed to understand that his days were numbered. Despite achieving enormous success, Pa’s associates say he operated with tremendous urgency. During a 2014 commencement address, Sun Hengchao, Pa’s friend and the president of Yinchuan University, said that he “personified the entrepreneurial spirit”. He could afford expensive houses and buildings, Sun said, but barely had any time to spend in them.  “In fact, he spent most of his time living on a plane,” he added. “When he was tired after a busy day he boarded the plane and went to sleep, and also ate his meals on the plane. Once he got off the plane, he went to work.” Sun recalled once asking his globetrotting friend how he could stay so busy. Pa’s response grabbed Sun’s attention: “Mr. Sun, I am now in my fifties. How much time do I have left to waste?”

In retrospect, it seems clear Pa spent an enormous amount of time and energy on simply concealing his activities by engaging in back-room deals with like-minded kleptocrats and exploiting legal loopholes.  This is no small task, when you consider the scale of his operations. Queensway’s business model, however, gave Pa plenty of opportunities to cover his tracks. Pa typically negotiated deals behind closed doors, and contracts pertaining its deals were rarely disclosed. Furthermore, in many of the places where Queensway operates, oversight institutions are weak and civil society and the press are stifled, meaning that the syndicate’s operations are rarely subject to public scrutiny.

Queensway’s team of lawyers and accountants worked vigorously to ensure none of Pa’s aliases appeared anywhere on corporate records. Over time, Queensway’s corporate structure has become more and more complex. At one point, its operations in Zimbabwe’s diamond sector were channeled through the Hong Kong subsidiary of a Singaporean firm that was, in turn, owned by a series of shell companies in the British Virgin Islands. The ultimate owners of these firms remain a mystery.

Trying to map Queensway’s corporate structure is simply dizzying. This allowed representatives from China Sonangol and China International Fund – Queensway’s flagship companies involved in everything from oil trading to property development – to deny links to Sam Pa, claiming he is just an advisor. This also impeded investigators and regulators who seek to delve into Queensway’s activities.

Queensway also benefited from weak banking standards.  Banks are legally bound to “know their customer”, but countless financial institutions are known to deal with firms that hide their beneficial owners. China Sonangol has accessed multibillion-dollar loans and maintained accounts with mainstream banks. This let Pa and his colleagues move money with ease. Queensway now owns billions of dollars in real estate around the world, including the historic headquarters of J.P. Morgan in Manhattan, held through a Delaware shell entity.

Keep your friends close

Sam Pa may have now reached the end of the line. The man known as one of the shrewdest operators in politically unstable and volatile countries around the world has become a casualty of political upheaval in his home country.  Thus far, one of the defining features of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tenure has been an anti-corruption drive on an unprecedented scale in modern China.

Although Xi vowed to go after both tigers (corrupt high-level officials) and flies (small-time crooks), many observe that the anti-graft campaign has largely targeted his political adversaries. Once a master of guanxi, personalised networks of influence, Pa’s relationships with the wrong Chinese elites may have been the key factor in his demise.

The day before Pa was detained, party officials placed Su Shulin, Governor of Fujian province and former head of Sinopec Group, under suspicion of “serious violations”. Pa and Su had worked closely on deals in Angola, and Pa’s detention is reportedly linked to the Su probe. Although Sinopec lost a fortune in its deals with China Sonangol, Pa and his associates paid very little up front and walked away with a king’s ransom: a $51 million consulting fee for simply handling the paper work for the acquisition of five oil blocks and a corporate credit card that allowed Pa to spend HK$58 million ($7.5 million) over the course of several years.

In Su, Xi may have ensnared a tiger. In Pa, he has trapped the lord of the flies. While Pa may be an inconsequential player in Chinese domestic politics, he is extraordinarily influential in several of the overseas kleptocracies he helped prop up. But his detention hardly means that justice will be served.

One major challenge is the extrajudicial mechanism China uses to prosecute corruption. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party entity investigating Pa, is a secretive body, said to dish out “a harsh brand of party justice that’s often politically motivated.” Prosecuting Pa through this process would hardly amount to giving him a fair trial, depriving him and the victims of his schemes of the justice they deserve. Making an example of Pa may prompt some officials to think twice about engaging in graft, but the politically motivated nature of the purge could serve to undermine that deterrent, especially for Xi’s allies.

After Pa

But more importantly, Pa’s fall from grace is not a sign that the Queensway business model failed. The structural challenges and systemic loopholes that nurtured Pa and the Queensway Group’s rise in the first place remain intact. Predatory investors Sam Pa or Viktor Bout can still anchor their business in a jurisdiction that is unconcerned with its behaviour overseas, form companies without disclosing their identities, and target states with weak oversight structures and leaders who are more concerned with enriching themselves than delivering services to their citizens.

Real progress against public sector corruption – in China or anywhere else around the world – requires far more than removing the perpetrators of abuses like Pa. The cornerstone of any effective anti-corruption strategy must be reducing the opportunities for illicit actors to operate in the shadows. This means ensuring that state enterprises and government budgets are governed transparently, and that civil society and the press are empowered to act as watchdogs. To ensure anti-graft campaigns are legitimate and sustainable, officials suspected of corruption should be tried through formal and transparent judicial processes, not ad hoc politically expedient tribunals. Unfortunately, China and many other places where Pa operated seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

Still, there is a lot that reform-minded countries can do to bolster accountability in these states. Most importantly, they can eradicate anonymous shell companies. Without exception, every country should maintain a public registry of all companies registered within its territory. These registries must contain information about individuals who hold a substantial stake of the company, including their name, birthdate, residential address, nationality, and contact information. Falsifying this information should be illegal, and bankers who handle money for anonymous investors should also be held criminally liable.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been a leading voice in advocating for these reforms, pledging to establish a public registry of British companies and vowing to go after “dirty money” stashed in the country’s property market.  However, powerful interest groups are pushing back against legislation that would expand beneficial ownership transparency, and many countries and British overseas territories are refusing to get on board with reforms.

When I caught wind of Pa’s detention, I got in touch with a colleague who encouraged me to look into Pa seven years ago. “Sam’s days were always numbered,” he told me. “If it doesn’t pan out this time, there will be another.  His type usually ends up badly.” Pa’s demise was always inevitable, but a broken system allows his type to reappear.

Viktor Bout’s biographers warned of this years ago. “In today’s world, any attempt to halt illicit activities – whether it’s trafficking by Viktor Bout or by someone else – can truly be read as the second labor of Hercules,” Doug Farah and Stephen Braun wrote in Foreign Policy in 2006. “Whenever the hydra’s head is cut off, two more grow in its place.”

J.R. Mailey is author of ‘The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa’s Extractive Industries‘, a Special Report published by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Follow him on twitter at @MaileyJR.




China and Africa’s most unscrupulous middleman has been detained in Beijing

A secretive Hong Kong tycoon that has been at the forefront of China’s push into Africa’s resource markets has been detained in Beijing, according to the Chinese business news magazine Caixin.

Sam Pa is the mysterious founder of a complex corporate network known as “the 88 Queensway Group” or “the Queensway syndicate,” after the office address of its main companies in Hong Kong. Pa, a stocky, bespectacled man who uses at least seven aliases—most of his business associates refer to him as just “Mr. Sam”—is believed to have forged ties with African elites while working in Chinese intelligence.

Analysts say that the Queensway companies, connected to China’s ministry of foreign affairs, operate in politically isolated, resource-rich African countries (pdf) like Angola and Zimbabwe where business and government dealings are more opaque. Pa has been accused of bribing African officials, smuggling diamonds, and trafficking illegal arms. He was sanctioned last year by the United States for allegedly supporting Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.

Pa’s detention may be linked to the investigation of the governor of Fujian province, Su Shulin, according to Caixin. Su is the former chairman of the state-owned oil company Sinopec. He has been detained for “serious violations of discipline” as part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption crackdown. Su was the head of Sinopec when it partnered with a Queensway company to develop its oil business in Angola.

It’s not clear how closely Pa is still linked to Queensway or how its operations in Africa will be affected if he is felled by the Chinese communist party. (The company says that he is now only an adviser.) JR Mailey, an analyst who has been tracking the company for over seven years, told the Financial Times (paywall) that the sprawling corporate empire remains “dependent upon Sam Pa and his connections in Beijing and other capitals.”

Queensway tycoon Sam Pa is detained in Communist probe


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