Bureau Chief, Southeastern U.S. and Caribbean
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Apr 28, 2010

Coast Guard chief sees big risk from oil spill

MIAMI (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard is scrambling to prevent a giant slick from an oil rig blowout from reaching the U.S. Gulf of Mexico shoreline, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen said on Wednesday.

“This is potentially a very serious issue … We are under no illusion of the risk that’s involved here,” Allen said.

Apr 27, 2010

Antigua ex-official ordered extradited over Stanford

MIAMI (Reuters) – Antigua and Barbuda’s former top financial regulator was ordered on Monday to be extradited to the United States to face charges he assisted accused Texas financier Allen Stanford in an alleged $7 billion fraud, a spokesperson for the Antigua attorney general’s office said.

The United States sought the extradition of Leroy King, former head of Antigua and Barbuda’s Financial Services Regulatory Commission, after federal prosecutors last year announced criminal charges against him of fraud, conspiracy, obstructing justice and conspiracy to launder money.

Apr 24, 2010

Miami project spotlights Cuba dissidents’ attackers

MIAMI (Reuters) – Four Cuban American lawyers and a Miami-based television station have launched a campaign to identify and publicly name Cuban state security agents and pro-government militants who attack dissidents on the island.

Called “Cuba, Repression ID,” the project that began this week solicits public support from the Cuban exile community in the United States and also from people inside Cuba to identify, through photographs and film footage, individuals seen beating or harassing unarmed critics of Cuba’s communist government.

Apr 23, 2010

UBS tax evader jailed despite “Holocaust” plea

MIAMI (Reuters) – A Florida watchmaker who tried to dodge prison by arguing that “survival behavior” learned from the Holocaust influenced his attempt to hide funds from U.S. tax authorities in Swiss UBS bank accounts was jailed for 10 months on Friday.

Miami federal Judge Adalberto Jordan ordered Jack Barouh, 65, who had owned Michele Watches, a business he sold in 2004, to surrender to the custody of U.S. Marshals by June 25.

Apr 23, 2010

UBS tax evader cites Holocaust "survival behavior"

MIAMI, April 23 (Reuters) – A Jewish Florida watchmaker who faces a possible jail term for filing a false tax return is arguing that "survival behavior" learned from the Holocaust influenced his attempt to hide funds from U.S. tax authorities in Swiss UBS <UBSN.VX> bank accounts.

Jack Barouh, 65, who had owned and operated Michele Watches, a business he sold in 2004, is due to be sentenced on Friday in a Miami federal court. He is asking the court to sentence him to home detention, rather than jail.

Barouh pleaded guilty in February to filing a false tax return by failing to report his offshore bank accounts and not reporting income he received from his UBS accounts.

In his plea deal, Barouh admitted hiding about $10 million in foreign bank accounts he controlled, from 2002 to 2008, in Switzerland and Hong Kong, using the names of sham companies allegedly based in Panama, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands, among other places.

Prosecutors have recommended a reduced prison sentence of 20 months, while Barouh has requested a one-year home detention sentence that would keep him out of jail. The maximum term he could face is three years in prison.

In seeking leniency, Barouh’s lawyers cited a doctor’s report arguing that "certain lessons and survival behavior learned and adopted by the Defendant’s parents during the Holocaust and their escape from it" had contributed to his actions in maintaining the undeclared overseas bank accounts.

The report by Dr. Jerald Ratner, as cited in a memorandum submitted to the court, said Barouh, whose parents survived the killing of Jews in Europe by the Nazis during World War II, had experienced discrimination and abuse for being Jewish as a child in Colombia.

HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS SLAM "DEMEANING" ARGUMENT

After moving to the United States, Barouh also experienced discrimination, verbal abuse and some mild physical abuse because of his Colombian accent and, at least initially, somewhat flawed English, the report added.

It said Barouh’s actions were motivated by fears of possible persecution and sudden loss and by a "hide and hoard" behavior adopted by Holocaust survivors and their children.

"These beliefs cause a person to compulsively and almost obsessively, want to establish a secret nest egg," the memorandum said, citing this as a reason that Barouh concealed funds from U.S. tax authorities in overseas accounts.

One organization representing Holocaust survivors in the United States criticized the argument used by Barouh, but said it was up to the court to decide his culpability.

"Holocaust survivors and their families reject the demeaning assertion that ‘survival behavior’ learned from the Holocaust could justify illegal evasion of taxes," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a declaration sent to Reuters.

According to a statement of facts that accompanied his guilty plea, Barouh admitted skimming income from his watch business into the UBS accounts, with the help of several unnamed Swiss money managers and lawyers.

Keeping money in overseas accounts is not illegal, but failing to report that money to U.S. tax authorities is.

Barouh’s case is one of a string of guilty pleas secured by the U.S. government from U.S. citizens after UBS AG last year settled a criminal probe for $780 million, admitting it had helped Americans hide money in offshore accounts.

To settle the criminal case, UBS gave the United States nearly 300 account names, and prosecutors have been steadily bringing cases against them.

Under a separate civil agreement, UBS agreed to reveal 4,450 client accounts to Switzerland, which would eventually hand them over to the U.S. government.

But that process may be stalled after a Swiss Court stipulated earlier this year that a UBS client’s failure to file a tax form does not constitute tax fraud.

Steinberg said it was "particularly unseemly that UBS was used as an illegal tax haven since it and the other major Swiss banks were exposed in the 1990′s as having denied Holocaust survivors access to their accounts after World War II."

Steinberg added that in 1998, a court settlement required Swiss banks to pay back $1.25 billion. (Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)







Apr 23, 2010

UBS tax evader cites Holocaust “survival behavior”

MIAMI, April 23 (Reuters) – A Jewish Florida watchmaker who
faces a possible jail term for filing a false tax return is
arguing that “survival behavior” learned from the Holocaust
influenced his attempt to hide funds from U.S. tax authorities
in Swiss UBS <UBSN.VX> bank accounts.

Jack Barouh, 65, who had owned and operated Michele
Watches, a business he sold in 2004, is due to be sentenced on
Friday in a Miami federal court. He is asking the court to
sentence him to home detention, rather than jail.

Apr 21, 2010

U.S. charges Miami sports donor with $900 mln fraud

MIAMI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. authorities on Wednesday accused a Miami Beach, Florida, businessman of allegedly running a $900 million investment scam in which some of the defrauded investors’ money was used to make donations to a local university.

Nevin K. Shapiro, whose name is enshrined in a University of Miami athletic lounge, was charged with one count of securities fraud and one count of money laundering in connection with operating a Ponzi scheme.

Apr 16, 2010

Gloria Estefan seeks Obama help for Cuba dissidents

MIAMI (Reuters) – Cuban-American pop star Gloria Estefan asked President Barack Obama to work for the freedom of jailed dissidents in Cuba during a political fundraising event that seemed certain to anger the island’s communist rulers.

Estefan and her musical entrepreneur husband Emilio Estefan hosted a cocktail reception at their Miami home for Obama on Thursday evening, the first of two Democratic Party fundraisers he attended during a visit to Florida.

Apr 7, 2010

US forecaster sees increased 2010 hurricane threat

MIAMI, April 7 (Reuters) – The 2010 Atlantic hurricane
season will produce an above-average eight hurricanes, four of
them major, posing a heightened threat to the U.S. coastline,
the Colorado State University hurricane forecasting team
predicted on Wednesday.

In its second forecast in four months for the 2010 season,
the leading storm research team founded by hurricane forecast
pioneer William Gray said the six-month season beginning on
June 1 would likely see 15 named tropical storms.

Apr 7, 2010

Florida says challenge to healthcare reform widens

MIAMI (Reuters) – Five more states are joining a Florida-led group of states in a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, Florida’s attorney general said on Wednesday.

The joint lawsuit led by Florida and now grouping 18 states was filed on March 23 by mostly Republican attorney generals.

    • About Pascal

      "I am based in Miami, heading the editorial reporting team covering the southeastern United States and the Caribbean. This includes Cuba and Haiti and we are also in charge of covering the annual Atlantic hurricane season and Space missions from Cape Canaveral. Previously, I was Chief Correspondent for West and Central Africa, and chief correspondent, Venezuela, following earlier postings in Cuba, Brazil, southern Africa, Portugal and Spain."
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