Bureau Chief, Southeastern U.S. and Caribbean
Pascal's Feed
Jun 1, 2010

2010 hurricanes may wreak havoc on oil spill, Haiti

MIAMI, June 1 (Reuters) – The Carib Indian god of evil,
Hurican, gave its name to the word “hurricane,” and the 2010
hurricane season that started on Tuesday is shaping up to be a
monster of potential malignancy.

Hurricanes are feared every year because of the whirling
destruction they inflict on human life, property, crops and
industry from the Caribbean to the U.S. southeast Atlantic
coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The annual hurricane season
begins on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

May 19, 2010

Washington, Havana talk about oil spill risk to Cuba

MIAMI (Reuters) – The United States and Cuba, close neighbors but ideological foes, are talking about the potential risks from a huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill that forecasters say could be carried to Cuban shores by strong ocean currents.

The oil gushing from a blown out seabed well owned by London-based BP Plc in U.S. waters already has affected some parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast shoreline in what officials fear will inflict an ecological and economic catastrophe.

May 18, 2010

Florida tourism feels pain from oil spill threat

MIAMI (Reuters) – Florida’s $60 billion-a-year tourism industry is already losing millions of dollars as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, even though no confirmed oil contamination from it has yet hit the state’s beaches, a top tourism marketing official said on Tuesday.

“Even without touching the ground, it’s causing significant economic hardship in the state already,” Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer of the state tourism marketing board, VISIT FLORIDA, told Reuters, estimating this at millions of dollars of lost visitor-related business.

Apr 29, 2010

Florida Gov. Crist to announce independent Senate bid

MIAMI (Reuters) – Florida Governor Charlie Crist is poised to announce he will run as an independent for the Senate in the November congressional elections, in a race that spotlights the ideological rift in the Republican Party.

Media reports said Crist, 53, elected as a Republican governor in 2006, would announce his nonaffiliated Senate bid on Thursday. It was a widely anticipated move because he is far behind rival Marco Rubio in the race for the Republican nomination.

Apr 28, 2010

Florida gov set to announce independent Senate run

MIAMI, April 28 (Reuters) – Florida Governor Charlie Crist
is poised to announce he will run as an independent for the
U.S. Senate in the November congressional elections, in a race
that spotlights the ideological rift in the Republican Party.

U.S. media reports said Crist, 53, elected as a Republican
governor in 2006, would announce his non-affiliated Senate bid
on Thursday. It was a widely anticipated move because he is far
behind rival Marco Rubio in the race for the Republican
nomination.

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)







    • 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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