Monday, December 18, 2017

Kondwani's Neck in the Noose

Kondwani Williams, a member of our all-important Electoral Commission and son of former President Eliud Williams, has been implicated in a massive corruption scheme perpetrated by Spanish fraudster Pedro Fort Berbel. You will recall in February, MiTC made you aware of the existence of Mr. Berbel in Dominica ("Introducing Pedro Fort Berbel"). Berbel, thanks to Roosevelt Skerrit, has been residing in the Mero area at a house on the Cuba road. He has been running from Spanish and European authorities for his alleged involvement of defrauding over 20 million Euros from investors in a Ponzi scheme he operated. He is also known to shuttle frequently between Dominica and Columbia, where is has assets. The US government has now come knocking on the door.

In a recently unsealed Complaint filed in US District Court in Miami, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the arm of the United States government that regulates companies and protects investors, has sought Injunctive Relief against Pedro Fort Berbel and companies he owns in Florida. The complaint states that Berbel, though a Ponzi scheme, defrauded approximately US$38 million from more than 150,000 investors between July 2014 through February 2016. The scheme involved the sale of fraudulent investments called "guaranteed plans" and "advertising packs" on Berbel's MLM Shop and The Business Shop websites, and "shares", "Ad Packs" and "Ad Credit Packs" on Berbel's Fort Ad Pays website.

Through his Florida companies "Fort Marketing Group LLC", f/k/a "Fort Investments Group LLC", Berbel is accused of diverting millions of investors funds for his own use, including at least US$1.25 million to purchase a private home in South Florida. The complaint also states this;
  • "Defendants also transferred investor funds offshore. Specifically, between July 9, 2015 and January 15, 2016, Berbel transferred millions of dollars to attorneys with bank accounts in the Commonwealth of Dominica at The Bank of Nova Scotia, First Caribbean International Bank, and Royal Bank of Canada"
The complaint does not give further details as to what attorneys are involved but we at MiTC have an inside track into the Federal judicial system and we were able to retrieve further documents relating to this SEC action.
In a subsequent filing, the SEC requested that all assets held in the name of Berbel and his co-conspirator Sibades be frozen, including National Bank of Dominica account number 615000074 in the name of Kondwani Williams, and Royal Bank of Canada Dominica bank account number 1011543 in the name of Kondwani Williams and Dwight Horsford. The SEC also demands that all assets be repatriated to the United States within 20 days of the order. All of this would have come as a surprise to Berbel and Kondwani.
In filing its complaint, the SEC ensured that any hint of this action was kept secret from Berbel and his accomplices. In addition to filing the complaint under seal, the SEC also requested that its forfeiture request be kept away from the parties because doing so may cause the defendants to further dissipate the assets before the court motion is heard.
In a separate, detailed Memorandum of Law filed in support of its Emergency Motion for Asset Freeze, the SEC alleges that Berbel diverted approximately $4.3 million of investor funds into personal bank accounts held in his name as well as family members, including $150,000 into his personal account at the National Commercial bank of Dominica. It said that he used more than $737,000 in private jet charters. Berbel bas been seen on occasion flying in and out of Melville-Hall on a private jet. The Motion goes on to detail the following;
  • "As early as March 2016, Defendants began to block investor accounts and refused to return investors' alleged accrued returns or principal investments. By March 20, 2017, Berbel had sold his personal residence, and in a series of wire transactions, sent the proceeds to the following banks in the Commonwealth of Dominica in the Caribbean.
  • National Bank of Dominica, account number 615000074 in the name of Kondwani Williams which received $99,925 in seller proceeds from Sibades LLC's sale of the house were transferred.
  • Royal Bank of Canada, Dominica account number 101153 in the name of Kondwani Williams and Dwight Horsford which received $844,450 in seller proceeds from Sibades LLC.
  • The Bank of Nova Scotia, Dominica account 2039287 for the benefit of Law Offices of Laurina A. Vidal which received $1,728,750 from FMG accounts.
  •  National Bank of Dominica account number 100405326 for the benefit of Pedro Fort Berbel which received $150,000 from FMG accounts."
It is important to note that the actions by Kondwani Williams, Dwight Horsford and Laurina Vidal could form the basis for a very substantial case of Money Laundering, or at the very least, Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. Will the Feds go down that route we don't know, but we do know that they have that option. This Complaint is the first in a series of actions by the SEC because the case may proceed to trial. The court has granted an extension of time for Berbel and his co-defendants to respond to the complaint; the last day is December 22, 2017.
The investigation into Berbel by the SEC was spearheaded by a talented California attorney named Sajjad Matin. It is as a result of his investigation that we know of the involvement of Kondwani and his associates in Berbel's ponzi scheme. It is clear to us that the preliminary evidence presented here by Attorney Matin could very well be used to form the basis of a case of Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering against Kondwani in Dominica, as well as possibly the United States. Is Kondwani under investigation as well? Do the US authorities have in their possession a sealed indictment on Kondwani but are simply waiting for him to set foot on US soil before revealing their case? We do not know, but time will tell. It would be instructive to remember that former Monfared business partner, Reza Zarrab, now in custody in New York and is reportedly cooperating with the FBI, was arrested in Florida when he came to visit Disneyland with his family on vacation. Zarrab had been under a sealed indictment, and had no clue until he had handcuffs placed on his wrists.
Last week US authorities were able to freeze Kondwani's accounts listed in the complaint. The SEC's filings indicate that they considered using the services of several attorneys in Dominica to effectuate the service but were limited in finding an attorney who was not tainted by Berbel. The SEC states that several attorney's they looked at were at one point used by Berbel in his transactions, implying that the SEC considered them potentially tainted. They were able to find one, however, who we will not name. We would like to thank that attorney; it's good to know that not all of our lawyers have been dipping their hands in the vat of corruption.

What's next for Kondwani Williams, Laurina Vidal and Dwight Horsford? We're not sure, but we wouldn't doubt that they may be picked up by US law enforcement some day to answer for their dealings with Pedro Fort Berbel. Will they cooperate with US law enforcement, providing extensive details into Berbel's operations in Dominica? Will they disclose, if any, connections and business dealings with any member of the Dominica government in exchange for leniency or avoidance of jail time in a federal penitentiary should any prosecution arise out of this case? Or will they keep their mouths shut out of fear, and instead, accept the consequences of their actions? We will see. 

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