At the ACAMS conference in Las Vegas at the end of September, they interviewed Ryan Chittum, a reporter from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who had been involved in publicizing the Panama Papers leak. They had been provided the leaked documents by Suddeutsche Zeitung, who had been the initial recipient. According to Mr.Chittum, ICIJ only reported 0.1% of the documents they had, in order to bypass petty crimes for the names of more prominent persons (like the former Prime Minister of Iceland, for example – and Emma Watson).
Well, the US Department of Justice caught up to one of those petty criminals. Saul Hyatt, 53, of Weston, CT, pleaded guilty to hiding over $1.5 million from the sales of duty free alcohol and tobacco in Panamanian bank accounts. Mr. Hyatt is subject to up to 5 years in jail, and has agreed to properly file his taxes with the IRS, pay all amounts due plus interest and penalties, as well as a penalty exceeding $850,000 for failing to disclose the accounts.
Here’s the fun part of the press release, detailing what Mr. Hyatt did:
According to documents filed with the court, Hyatt conspired with another individual in the United States and others to conceal his assets and income derived from the sale of duty-free alcohol and tobacco products. To execute the scheme, Hyatt used a registered Panamanian corporation, Centennial Group, to buy and sell the duty-free products. The alcohol shipped through a customs-bonded warehouse in the Foreign Trade Zone in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The tobacco products, Chinese-brand cigarettes sold under the names “Chung Hwa” and “Double Happiness,” passed through a customs-bonded warehouse in North Bergen, New Jersey. From 2006 to 2012, Hyatt directed that $1,627,832 in profits from the sale of duty-free alcohol and tobacco products be wired to his undeclared bank account in Panama. Hyatt repatriated money from the Panamanian bank account to buy a Mercedes Benz SL 550R automobile and to pay for $19,000 in interior design goods and services.
And the crime, because there were others involved, was a conspiracy charge.
It should be noted that nothing in the DOJ press release mentions Mossack Fonseca, the firm whose documents were disclosed in the Panama Papers link.