Blood on the Carbon Credits
Four years ago Le Monde carried a report by Hervé Kempf on The “largest tax fraud ever recorded.”
“The Court of Auditors estimated the loss in taxes at 1.6 billion euros in France and 5 billion euros for the whole of the European Union. The fraud involved buying Carbon Credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme in one member state and reselling them in France, charging VAT at 19.6%, and then disappearing without paying the VAT to the French state.
“The Court Auditors explain that the scale of this fraud was facilitated by the “three original flaws” of the European carbon market: the system of VAT collection had not been secured, market access was extremely simple and poorly controlled, and the market itself was not subject to any external control.”
Yesterday the French independent news website Mediapart carried an interesting crime report by their top reporter Fabrice Arfi. I’ve translated extensive excerpts below. I recommend French-speaking readers to subscribe to this excellent site, which carries out the kind of investigative journalism which is disappearing from the mainstream media.
It throws an interesting light on the Brave New World being prepared for us by the architects of COP21, and it sure beats analysing the burblings of Lord Deben and Professor Lewandowsky.
Amar Azzoug, Samy Souied, Claude Dray, Albert Taieb: these four men have two things in common: they were all linked to the perpetrators of the Carbon Credit scam which cost the French State1.6 billion euros, and they were all murdered. Their deaths reveal the face of a new French mafia against which magistrates and police seem to be helpless.
April 30, 2010: the body of Amar “blue eyes” Azzoug lay, riddled with bullets in the Bois Doré restaurant in the Paris suburbs. September 14, 2010: the body of Samy Souied, pierced by six bullets from a 7.65mm calibre pistol, lay face down between two cars in front of the Palais des Congrès, Porte Maillot, Paris. On 25 October 2011, a butler and a nurse discovered the lifeless body of billionaire Claude Dray riddled with bullets in the bedroom of his luxury villa in Neuilly-sur-Seine. April 8, 2014: the body of Albert “Bertie” Taieb lay in front of a lift in the stairwell of an apartment building of the seventeenth arrondissement of Paris, slashed with knife wounds to the chest, back, neck and head.
All four victims were linked in one way or another with the carbon credit scam which took advantage of environmental law to cream off 1.6 billion euros from the French State. No killer or mastermind has so far been formally identified by the courts. No arrest warrants have been issued. No line of inquiry seems to even be seriously pursued in the four cases. In the end, four criminal cases are pending the courts of Paris and Nanterre.
“We’re at the heart of the French organised crime scene”, says a high ranking police officer. In early 2012, the Directorate of Judicial Police decided to set up a task force bringing together several specialised services – those dealing with organized crime, financial crime, Infiltration, and criminal intelligence analysis – to deal with the problem. “We have to admit we completely screwed up over the carbon credit scam. But when the murders began to pile up, we had to get our act together,” recalls an investigator.
Result: the police found itself facing a Mafia of a new kind in France – a hybrid monster bringing together high level financial criminals – Franco-Israeli businessmen versed in sophisticated international rackets (paid telephone calls, solar panels and carbon quotas), and classic organised crime from the Marseilles / Corsican milieu or the Paris suburbs. The former gather the loot and move in the circles of Parisian gambling clubs, while the latter carry their bags and protect them.
There is no boss, strictly speaking, and no vertical hierarchy, as may exist, for example, in Italy. Just temporary alliances, clans and deadly betrayals. As in any mafia, fear now reigns supreme.
Before the blood-letting there was the “heist of the century” – the world-wide carbon credit scam. Following the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, states committed themselves to set an annual ceiling of CO2 emissions for the most polluting industries. If these thresholds were exceeded, companies could buy “pollution rights” on a market created out of thin air. And if they didn’t reach the thresholds, the rules allowed them to sell the rights on the market.
Clever crooks quickly detected the flaw in this creaking edifice. It was easy to buy pollution rights tax-free in foreign countries via shell companies for resale in another, with tax added, while failing to remit the VAT to the state concerned. A jungle of shell companies grew up with names like Fantomas or Carbonara, and offshore accounts located in Latvia, Hong Kong, Cyprus, and Dubai. In less than a year, between 2008 and 2009 it cost French taxpayers 1.6 billion euros, according to the Court of Auditors, and at least 5 billion across Europe, according to the calculations of the Europol agency.
Thanks to investigations by the Customs authorities, several trials have already been held in France. One of the most important is to take place in early May in Paris. It concerns the embezzlement of 283 million euros, and some of the twelve accused are linked with the milieu in which the murders took place.
The blood began to flow in 2010 with the murder of Amar Azzoug, less than a year after the end of the carbon credit fraud and the disappearance of hundreds of millions of euros into thin air. “Amar “blue eyes” Azzoug was a former bank robber turned “debt collector” as it is euphemistically termed in CO2 business circles. But not the kind of collector who sends out registered letters with acknowledgment of receipt.
On April 30th, 2010, three men dressed as policemen executed Azzoug, 35, in a restaurant in Saint-Mandé. In her book “The Carbon Connection” (éditions Max Milo), journalist Aline Robert says that Azzoug was carrying documents relating to CO2 at the time of his assassination. The victim, thought to be associated with the infamous Marseilles/Corsican Barresi clan, was in the company of a certain Patrick Bellaiche, who is one of the twelve accused in the forthcoming Paris CO2 trial. Azzoug, however, will not have to stand trial.
Less than six months later, at Porte Maillot at the other end of Paris, Samy Souied, 46, was hit by six bullets, (two in the heart, according to the autopsy) fired from a pistol equipped with a silencer by a man on the back of a scooter. The commando managed to escape easily. Described by the financial affairs magistrates investigating the carbon credits as one of the organizers of the fraud, Samy Souied lived in Herzliya, an upmarket suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel. When in France he stayed at one of Paris’s most luxurious hotels, the George V.
Several witnesses interviewed by Mediapart report that Souied had so little confidence in the banks that he kept all his wealth with him – mountains of cash stashed in the walls, under the floor, everywhere. According to a friend “He was running out of places to hide it.”
According to Jeremy Grinholz, one of the CO2 fraudsters, presented by justice as a “repentant”, Souied alone pocketed 120 million euros. He was associated with two others of the accused figuring in the forthcoming trial, Marco Mouly and Arnaud Mimran. The latter is described as a “golden boy” frequently in trouble with the law and an inveterate poker player whose escapades are regularly recounted on celebrity websites. According to the judges, Mimran made ten million euros from the carbon credit scam.
According to the official Serious Crime Squad report of 28 September 2010, “The violent death of Samy Souied follows the implacable logic of revenge killings linked to the considerable flow of money generated by large scale fraud.” The police commander cites the CO2 affair as an example, and he adds: “Information obtained from informants since the events tend to link the death of Souied to that of Amar Azzoug.” But since then the case, under a new investigating magistrate, has stalled.
The day of his murder, Samy Souied had come to Paris from Israel – he intended to return the same day – for one reason: he had an appointment with his partner Arnaud Mimran. According to Mimran they were going to discuss a “share investment”. He refused to give more details. A protected witness was more forthcoming: “In early 2010, Arnaud Mimran offerered to invest some money on the Paris Stock Exchange. During the first operation, Samy Souied invested about 20 million euros […] Arnaud invested almost 30 million euros for him in a second operation.” It was a way, in short, to launder the profits from the carbon credit scam.
But the protected witness said that it was a “financial charade.” “The deadline that was given to Arnaud to finish his operation and give Samy back his capital and profits, that’s to say, to finalise the accounts, was to be Thursday 9th or Friday, September 10th, 2010 – the week before Samy’s death.”
On September 14th Mimran and Souied met three times: once in the early afternoon, around 3pm, a second time late in the afternoon, at six, and a third at eight, in front of the Palais de Congrès, where Souied was gunned down in the street. Mimran said he had come to give him back a ring he had forgotten – a gold ring (you couldn’t make it up) decorated with a Death’s Head. It was be found by the police near the corpse.
The three magistrates in the CO2 case wrote in the court document that closed their investigation that the financial relations between Mimran and Souied “throw an interesting light on the murder investigation.” Witness No. 114 is more categorical: “Mimran is behind the murder of Samy Souied.” Mimran categorically denies this, according to his lawyer, Jean-Marc Fedida, who however declined to answer further questions.
This line of enquiry, among others, was discussed in a June 2011 report in of the Serious Crime Squad. But five years later Mimran, whose phone was tapped for a time, has not been charged with an offence.
One detail, however, seems to have attracted the attention of the investigators. Mimran several times gave a particularly accurate description of the clothes the victim was wearing the day of the murder. During a hearing on 8 June 2011, a police officer went straight to the point and asked Mimran whether this description could not have “been used to provide an accurate description to identify and designate Samy Souied as a target”. He denied it.
No one can say whether the killings of Azzoug and Souied were carried out by the same gang, though both were the work of trained killers, according to experts interviewed by Mediapart. This is also true in the case of the assassination of Claude Dray, 76, which occurred on the night of 24th October 2011.
This third crime is a “The Mystery of the Yellow Room” in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Former head of the Patchouli perfume brand and formidable real estate entrepreneur – his personal wealth was estimated at 2 billion euros – Dray lived in a huge, well protected mansion. There was no sign of forced entry, nothing was touched in the house, and no signs of a struggle were found on the corpse of the victim during the autopsy. Claude Dray was shot three times in the back. He probably didn’t see his killers.
Claude Dray was Arnaud Mimran’s father-in-law. “I loved him very much. He was like a second father to me and I think he thought of me a bit as his son,” Mimran told the police after the murder. Several members of the Dray family on the other hand described the execrable relationship between the two men. To the question: “Did your father have any enemies?” one of Dray’s daughters replied: “Arnaud Mimran was on very bad terms with my father […] Arnaud spoke very badly of my father behind his back. I’ve heard he said: ‘If ever he dies, I’ll piss on his grave.'”
According to several witnesses, police and customs officers also visited the Dray office at least twice during the first half of 2011. “These men spoke to my father about CO2 and Mimran,” according to one of the daughters of the billionaire, who was present during part of the interview. And in the weeks before his assassination, Claude Dray went to the tax authorities with information he’d obtained about his former son-in-law.
All this could, ultimately, suggest a motive for the killing, but not sufficient evidence to designate a culprit at this stage of the investigations. At a hearing on November 3, 2011, officers of the Serious Crime Squad expressed their concern to Mimran about the growing number of corpses in his vicinity: “There’s an awful lot of people been shot dead around you, don’t you think?” Mimran replied: “What do you want me to say? For Samy [Souied], it can be explained by his lifestyle and the kind of people he frequented. About my father-in-law, I don’t know, I don’t understand. I have nothing to do with this business, if you want to know.”
In the CO2 affair, however, investigators seem to have far fewer doubts about the involvement of Mimran. Already mixed up in a stock market affair in 2000 in the US – he and his partners agreed to return $1.2 million – and sentenced in December 2007 for tax evasion, the “Golden Boy” is portrayed by the judges in the case of carbon credits as a true master of money laundering techniques […]
During the investigation, Mimran pleaded good faith, claiming simply to have benefited from a “lack of precision” in the rules and a “legal loophole” on CO2. And through the loophole, came wealth: the magistrates evoke a “lavish lifestyle (planes, cars and apartments). He has found ways to disguise the origin of the profits of his fraud. ”
During a search of one of Mimran’s apartments investigators discovered Chinese, British and Portuguese bank accounts, all of companies with exotic names. The judges also seized an account in HSBC France in February 2015 valued at 7.7 million euros which had already been the subject of a previous seizure of 5 million euros. They also valued at € 5.5 million the real estate assets of Mimran in France, including a three storey apartment in the sixteenth arrondissement of Paris with pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and gym.
Nearly three years passed between the third and fourth murders. On 8th April 2014, shortly before 1am, Cyril Mouly, cousin of Marco Mouly, one of the defendants in the carbon credit case, was returning home with his henchman, a certain Albert Taieb. In the stairwell of his building located across from the Parc Monceau, two men dressed in black and wearing helmets were waiting. Cyril Mouly managed to flee into the street, as caught on video cameras. Albert “Bertie” Taieb, didn’t escape, and was stabbed to death. He was 60 years old. […]
Until recently Mimran was in preventive detention in a case involving the kidnapping in January 2015 of a Swiss financier over the 2 million dollar purchase of a Canadian mining company. Also involved in this case is the former boxing champion Farid Khider, a close associate of Mimran and of his two bodyguards, one called “Bolt” and another “Titax” who has since been assassinated. Surprisingly, after four months in custody and against the advice of the Advocate General, the investigating chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris decided on January 15 2016, a year to the day after the events, to release Arnaud Mimran (on bail of €100,000) and his alleged accomplice Farid Khider.
Even more intriguing is the fact that a henchman of Mimran told police that he was approached in April 2015 – Mimran was then in custody – by a certain “Seb”, who asked him to continue to recover money from a Dubai account not blocked by the courts. During his interview, the witness suddenly stopped talking when he discovered that Mimran was in the next room. “You’re afraid of Arnaud Mimran?” asked the police of the Central Fight against Organized Crime (OCLCO). “I know he is capable of the worst,” replied the witness.
Asked in turn about the mysterious “Seb”, Mimran said: “He’s a police officer who works at the DCRI [Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence]. I’ve met him socially.” According to the minutes of the interrogation, the police did not seek to learn more.
I’ve added a link to the book “Carbone Connexion” by Aline Robert mentioned in the article. The peek inside allowed by Amazon.fr adds some fascinating detail. For a start she estimates the loss to the European taxpayer at between ten and twenty billion euros, and she explains precisely how the fraud was perpetrated. She also explains the otherwise puzzling reference to solar panels in the Mediapart article, which I’ll explain in a follow-up article.
Something I didn’t know is that, to help small companies with their cash flow, the state advances the VAT on goods for sale to the retailing company, with the intention of recuperating it once the goods are sold. (Is that just in France, or throughout the European Union?) So the same kind of scam has been operated for years in a number of fields, with a loss to the European taxpayer of more than a hundred billion euros per year, according to an official government report.
But whereas a traffic in mobile phones, for instance, involves physically transporting stuff over the border and offloading it onto a retailer, carbon credits had the inestimable advantage of being immaterial. The multi-billion euro scam was halted the day the European Union abolished VAT on carbon credits. You can’t steal something that’s free.
Her first chapter describes the visit to a Renewable Energy Exhibition with a fraudster, anxious to get out of mobile phones into something more profitable. Solar panels are the coming thing, and what’s more both the panels and the electricity they produce are subsidised by the government. More on this when I’ve read the book…
Should we not expect the same level of corruption in another facet of the green energy boondoggle: subsidies. It’s a similar transfer of wealth from the taxpaying public into the hands of the politicians and their cronies. In the USA the magnitude of government loan money & subsidies that have disappeared into bankrupt green energy companies is staggering.
“CEO of biggest carbon credit certifier to resign after claims offsets worthless
David Antonioli to step down from Verra, which was accused of approving millions of worthless offsets used by major companies”