Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Mighty Cry Went Up As Mitt Romney Approached The Podium: '438! 438! 438!'

People who are resentful that Mitt Romney is filthy rich are missing the point.  Like many an American before him, he saw an opportunity to cash in and has done so on a grand scale. 
Nothing wrong with that, but how grand we don't know because of Romney's refusal to come clean about his wealth while sending out a top surrogate today to go off on President Obama about smoking dope as a teenager.  This is yet (cough, cough) another indication that he still hasn't figured out how to deal with the issue of his refusal to release tax returns which is verging on going supernova  with innumerable worried Republican governors, congressfolk and strategists urging him to please come clean..
We do know that through Romney's stewardship of Bain Capital he bought and gutted numerous companies, furloughing workers, stripping them of their pensions and outsourcing and offshoring their jobs to low-wage companies. 
This brings us to Post Office Box 438 in Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, which is one of those offshore havens where people like Romney are able to park their money without having to pay federal income taxes on it, as well as remain anonymous.  That is until Vanity Fair magazine went snooping and learned that among those using Box 438 are:
* North American Resources Group Limited, a major shareholder in Harken Energy, the Texas company that purchased President George W. Bush's failing oil-drilling venture in the 1980s, making him a wealthy man.

* Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, bought their family home in Jackson, Wyoming, from a Box 438 entity, which had bought it from the director of a Box 438 entity, who had bought it from another Box 438 entity.

* Scottish rugby star Bill Gammell’s CEH Australia Ltd., an oil-and-gas company, has used Box 438. Sir Bill counts Tony Blair and George W. as friends and was once married to Geraldine Gammell, who directed Prince Charles’s Trust in Scotland.

* Chaarat Gold Holdings Ltd. uses Box 438. Chaarat’s non-executive chairman Christopher David Palmer-Tomkinson is distantly related to Queen Elizabeth II and is a lifelong friend of Prince Charles's.

* Israeli diamond-and-copper magnate Dan Gertler has used Box 438 and has reportedly dealt on occasion with Central Asian billionaires Alijan Ibragimov, Alexander Mashkevich, and Patokh Chodiev.

* Pan American Energy Holdings (P.A.E.H.), until recently a BP subsidiary, was registered in care of Equity Trust, Box 438. P.A.E.H. is now fully owned by Bridas, an oil-and-gas giant developed by Carlos and Alejandro Bulgheroni, the wealthiest men in Argentina. When Bridas took an ownership stake in the American company Allis-Chalmers Energy, they registered it at Box 438. 
That Romney was pushing into the gray areas of offshore financing a mere two years out of Harvard and pursued those avenues aggressively while running Bain (which is now running away from) was his prerogative.  There is nothing wrong with that either if you are a capitalist in the Galtian tradition, but Romney is intentionally blurring a very big line here: Bain was not formed to create jobs.  It was formed to create wealth.
And this is a little off-putting for a guy who is claiming that if elected president he will wave his magic wand and poof! the U.S. will be running at a profit.
Photograph by Vladimir Godnik/Getty Images

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