Who Will Follow the Money Trail that Leads to Corrupt Government Officials and Transnational Organized Crime Networks in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine?
The well-guarded system of money laundering can not be resolved from within the sovereign nations - whose top officials are blocking effective investigation. This unprecedented scale of money laundering has been eroding prosperity, national security and propelling corruption, organized crime and terrorism financing. America’s principled leadership is vital; there is an urgency for international cooperation.
Speaking at the Capitol Hill Rule of Law event in Washington D.C. in July 2017, Dr. Rainer Hable, Member of Austria’s parliament and author of a parliamentary investigative report on Hypo Group Alpe Adria - Europe’s largest post-WWII banking scandal, detailed the collapse of the bank, in which billions of dollars went missing and where culprits are still at large. Dr. Hable emphasized the necessity for stronger international cooperation in dealing with money laundering and transnational organized crime, which are regularly crossing national borders.
Dr. Hable clarified that the Hypo Bank’s collapse had nothing to do with the financial crisis. The bank headquartered in Austria had its branch offices in eleven countries, including Croatia, Bulgaria, Liechtenstein, Montenegro and Romania, most of which were involved in laundering money for Eastern Europe’s corrupt government officials and organized crime thus creating major roadblocks for economic and judicial reforms in the region.
Hypo’s financial scandal implicates former prime ministers, former and current cabinet members, country presidents, members of parliament, military generals, city mayors, county governors, Hypo bank’s managers, banking managers, individuals in business, media, tycoons and Liechtenstein’s royal family.
The criminal machinations of Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA) spanned over two decades, since the early 90s. They cost Austria’s taxpayers estimated €15 billion, German’s taxpayers over €6 billion and undisclosed several billions of taxpayers’ money which hemorrhaged the treasuries of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Ukraine, in which Hypo Alpe Adria Bank operated.
Although German Bayerische Landesbank purchased the HGAA in 2007 - Liechtenstein’s branch was excluded from the sale. Liechtenstein’s branch of Hypo Alpe Adria Bank, which held accounts of corrupt Balkan politicians and criminals, was taken over by a company controlled by Prince Michael von Liechtenstein, one of the cousins of the reigning Prince. Thus, corrupt politicians and criminals remained safe, protected by Liechtenstein’s banking secrecy. According to Austrian media, Darko Saric’s Balkan cocaine ring laundered $100 million from 2007 to 2009 through HGAA accounts primarily in Liechtenstein, which coincides with the exact time period in which Michael von Liechtenstein’s company was in control of the bank.
According to Mr Hable’s parliamentary investigative report on Hypo Group Alpe Adria, AAP holding in Vaduz, controlled by Industrie und Finanzkontor Etablissement, which was in turn controlled by Michael von Liechtenstein, took over the Hypo Liechtenstein. Michael’s company received CHF3.5 million from Hypo as a consultancy fee for the takeover. During this 2-year takeover, 1263 accounts were liquidated, after which Hypo Liechtenstein was repurchased by HAAG and then nationalized by Austria’s government.
Dr. Hable's work on tracking the stolen Austria taxpayers’ monies in Hypo case would have been made easier if the current Austria's Minister of Justice and Vice Chancellor, Wolfgang Brandstetter, was not in irreconcilable conflict of interest. As a legal adviser in a Liechtenstein-based law firm specializing in "Foundations, trustees, institutions, stock corporations and complex international structures for optimal asset planning”, which was implicated in creating slash funds for Germany's CDU party, Justice Minister Brandstetter was also acting as a defense attorney, representing some of the criminals involved in the Hypo scandal.
Let us hope that Austria’s taxpayers and voters will take their role seriously in the upcoming elections to vote for principled leaders who will follow the money trail in order to recover more than $15 billion of stolen assets to the nation’s citizens. Austria’s voters and taxpayers should remember Dr. Hable’s words: “There is a collapse of rule of law in Austria. Austria's judicial system is no better than that of Western Balkans. With a political influence on public prosecutors in Austria, major cases of corruption do not even reach the court.”
The well-guarded system of money laundering can not be resolved from within the sovereign nations - whose top officials are blocking effective investigation. This unprecedented scale of money laundering has been eroding prosperity, national security and propelling corruption, organized crime and terrorism financing.
There is still an opportunity for the most effective U.S. authorities, including IRS, DEA and the Justice Department’s US Kleptocracy Initiative, to track tax evasion, drug money, enforce FARA requirements regarding U.S. based beneficiaries of Liechtenstein’s funding, and provide assistance in recovering stolen monies for the benefit of the taxpayers of the hemorrhaged economies in Eastern Europe.