WORLD: MATIAS E. RUIZ

Malta: an obscure transnational circuit dedicated to large-scale fraud

The Republic of Malta has become the vedette for many investigative journalists devoted to...
14 de May de 2017
The Republic of Malta has become the vedette for many investigative journalists devoted to understand core issues of public corruption. As an example, the issue of Maltese passports traded at high prices by agents linked to the Maltese Labor/Progressive government of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the alleged hijacking of a commercial aircraft bound for Valletta are just a few of the chapters that focus attention on the surface. Apparently, the European archipelago located near the African coasts and at a stone's throw from Italy has become a valuable port of operations for obscure characters, willing to do practically anything to make money.
 
MaltaInvestigations carried out by our team have echoed the details of a scheme as fraudulent as unscrupulous, where its ideologists were able to manage and exploit the merits of the misty Maltese political system. As already mentioned in a previous article, the valuable geo-strategic position of this country (it is part of the European Union) makes it attractive for high-flying scammers. At the end, if you are a serial embezzler and have contacts with figures linked to the local power, you will have all the advantages and benefits fruit of the most abject impunity.
 
Corbin, passportIn this particular chapter, several clues lead to the person of Eloise Marie Corbin, one of the central protagonists in the millionaire scam we'll depict here. Corbin -who is now more than 75 years old- is an American citizen of origin, but has managed to use as many or more identities as the most sophisticated spy would carry in an intelligence service of the so-called First World. Corbin has set foot in numerous countries, making use of Filipino and even Paraguayan citizenship. The alias thanks to which she managed to reach a sad fame more recently coincides with that of 'Lady Bird'. In a myriad scenarios, she was known as Mary Swan, Myra Klein or Nina Petros -the latter, alias whom she appealed to in the city of Limassol, Cyprus, when she joined the local Orthodox bishop Chrysanthos to consolidate private businesses in the nineties. After falling from grace with the Greek Cypriot religious community, the cleric blamed Petros/Corbin for his misfortune, claiming she 'exhibited connections with characters from the American and Jewish mafias'. This comments should not be minimized, since the role played by elements arising from the aMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuḥadim (Mossad) in the illegal transnational trade involving precious stones is well-known in the international security arena. And Corbin has not only concentrated since her beginnings as a scammer in that underground area, but had protection of personnel trained in the Hebrew espionage community.
 
Chihan, Carlos, ParaguayTowards the second half of 2010, Eloise Marie Corbin arrived at Malta International Airport in the company of her supposed brother (actually, it is not), Charles Jackson. Previously, Corbin and Jackson had been deported by the authorities of Thailand, where thy were detained with false Philippines passports under the identity of  Maling Suzara and Carlos Carballo, respectively. Already in the Maltese air terminal of Luqa -where she arrived by private flight with her false brother and a group of Thai citizens- they provided Paraguayan documentation: they happened to be called Eloise Maria Chihan and Carlos José Chihan, as per the documents obtained indirectly from the Republic of Paraguay. Corbin's Thai entourage had a common factor with the lady: they were individuals of pseudo-religious affiliation -the group had the habit of seeking third-party funds under a Christian school-charismatic cover (school bibles), declaiming that they exercised beneficial humanitarian actions. Strictly speaking, Corbin had learned by heart the technicalities about investments in gold certificates, securities and financial speculation with the price of metals. In essence, Lady Bird was shielding herself in religion to capture the money of unwary and good Samaritans. The golden rule of the swindler: any scheme of fraud, in order to be credible, must have stratagems that facilitate the obtaining of funds.
 
LetterThe arrival of Eloise Marie Corbin to the airport of Malta had nothing of chance: in fact, she was being deported to Paraguay by the Thai authorities. But the flight was conveniently diverted to Luqa, where she was received on the spot by no other than Claire Gauci Borda (such is her married name, Claire, daughter of the highly controversial John Dalli, former EU official). The migratory procedures had already been settled, which illustrates that Lady Bird's trip to Maltese soil had already been agreed upon -and to a very high level. Hence the intervention of the aforementioned daughter of John Dalli, the visible face -authorized signature included- of the firm Corporate Group, located in the Maltese town of Portomaso, whose local tax domicile is 1400 Block 14 Portomaso (Saint Julians). In fact, Corporate Group acted as a front or facade for Tyre Limited, an organization also incorporated in Malta in February 2011; its declaration of operations refers to the 'purchase and acquisition of ferrous and non-ferrous metals'. It also traded 'commodities such as food, water, meat products, canned food, etcetera, for humanitarian assistance'. The addresses declared for Corporate Group (CG) and Tyre Ltd. are exactly identical and in this office John Dalli himself was able to develop his business and meetings. In addition, Louisa Dalli -the other of her daughters- appears with Claire as shareholder and director of CG and Tyre, with full access to the financial assets of the firm. Only they had access, since not even the designated chairman -at the time Derrick Germaine- could put a hand in the accounts. With the goal of not appearing in public documents that could eventually compromise him, Dalli father designed Corporate’s Group constitution and later Tyre’s Ltd., in collusion with 'Lady Bird' Corbin. To maintain control over the companies' operations without their identity being visible, he appointed his two daughters in management. In the corporate e-mails cgb@ccl.com.mt and ld@ccl.com.mt respectively, Claire Gauci Borda (photo) and Louise Dalli acknowledged receipt, among other specific issues, of the transfers made by private investors who would be defrauded over time (see e-mail captures at bit.ly/2qE3hL2, bit.ly/2pJJJRw, and bit.ly/2qh93zs).
 
Claire Gauci Borda DalliOriginally, both Tyre Ltd. and Corporate Group were set up with the aim of conducting genuine business, masked -as already said- in humanitarian assistance. But at the end the operation resulted in maneuvers that captured money from private investors, stripping them of their savings and holdings. The format of the business (mainly based on a supposed leverage on financial instruments and gold certificates) offered a return of 10% per annum on invested capital. In the process, a handful of US citizens contributed funds -many of them, being retired, put their pension funds into play- never to see a penny in return. Few of them decided to file complaints, up to a fraud of approximately US $ 600,000 to just over US $ 1 million; they are the nucleus self-described as 'Upstate Eight', referring to the number of claimants who reside in the American state of South Carolina (SC) -in the pen of journalist James Kanter, The New York Times has published a commented piece on the subject. The investors were required to wire their financial assets from US banks via bank transfer -previously approved by Homeland Security, since their financial assets were pension funds- to the HSBC branch on St. Georges Road (Saint Julians, Malta), account in control of Corporate Group (bank transfer form with data of the Corporate Group account in the branch HSBC St. Georges in bit.ly/2rcDGVV). Some point out that, in view of the seriousness of the fraud, HSBC risks too much as an institution: as early as 2013, HSBC Holdings (with a seat in the EU) agreed to resign before US judicial authorities a total of US $1.25 billion in financial assets and to pay a fine of US $665 million for failing to monitor transactions carried out in its branches by the drug cartels of Sinaloa (Mexico) and Norte del Valle (Colombia). John Dalli's relationship with the HSBC in Malta is well-known: thanks to the former commissioner of the European Union, the banking institution settled in the country. To that end, it is useful to review the work of Joseph Ellul-Grech, which refers to the way HSBC is established in the island, at a time when Dalli was Maltese Finance Minister.
 
Transfer from Wells Fargo to HSBC St GeorgesBesides their investment, American retirees -according to their spokesman, Mike Brady- received as a suggestion from the American Debbie Wicker (Tyre Ltd.) to transport Iraqi currency physically to Malta in order to exchange it for American dollars. In the meantime, says Brady, the Iraqi banknotes would be stored in safe boxes protected by Corbin (Lady Bird) until the transaction became effective. But the Upstate Eight group never mobilized the Iraqi money to Europe; should they had done so, their members would have incurred in a crime, foreign currency trafficking. The interest of Tyre Ltd. in the Iraqi Dinars was manifest from the beginning; such was the role played in Tyre by Debbie Wicker and Jim Geiger, both of them traveled to Malta to prepare lists of people who were holding billions in Iraqi currency in US territory.
 
After the Iraq war and the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004, illicit associations in many countries around the world began promoting the aparent benefits that currency would represent in the future. The argument was that the economic recovery of the country once ruled by Saddam Hussein (and the resurgence of local oil exports) would boil an impressive revaluation of the Iraqi dinar. But many variables plotted against that promise: the emergence of ISIS (known as Islamic State), which controls portions of Iraqi territory and the falling international prices of the barrel in international markets. In addition, as already noted, the dinar does not operate in the global currency markets; Its quotation against the dollar and the euro is set discretionally in an auction format by the Baghdad government –therefore, there is no natural correlation between supply and demand, as is the case with all other legal currencies. In addition, the unscrupulous action of organizations aspiring to Iraqi dinars is currently investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), regardless of the country where such action is carried out. The issue tends to get worse when it is known that elements of ISIS took Iraqi dinars from the population, then triangulate them through surreptitious financial channels in the Middle East (land where Jordan plays a critical role) -maneuver baptized as Hawala. Acording to experts, these movements of Iraqi Dinars reported no less than US $25 million a month to the fundamentalist Islamist group.
 
Bahamas trip, Malta IndependentThen it will be time to refer to the colorful journey of Eloise Marie Corbin (LB) to Nassau (Bahamas) in mid-2012. There, US citizens previously contacted by the aforementioned Wicker and Geiger, met personally with Lady Bird to physically deliver her the Iraqi dinars in their possession. It came as no surprise: John Dalli himself took part in the meetings -repeatedly. His daughter, Louise, was also in the group, as documented by the picture published by The Malta Independent. Sources consulted by El Ojo Digital in the United States of America reported that after delivering the physical dinars to the Dalli-Lady Bird clan, they never received any payment in return. According to estimates, the nominal value of Iraqi dinars captured by Corbin and his partner amounted to more than US$ 2 million. The picture obtained by the Independent also shows the Indonesian born Mel Tari, evangelical preacher then sentenced by the county of Orange County (California) to return US$ 500,000 to a woman who had been defrauded -the Californian court also ordered him to pay US$ 250,000 in interest. Some suspicious analysts might conclude that Tari found the ideal group of individuals with whom to devise new 'joint-ventures'. In addition, another renowned figure who visited John Dalli himself in his offices in Portomaso, Malta, is the 'Reverend' Kwabena Darko, citizen of Ghana, who organizes seminars dedicated to free enterprise and international investment in dozens of countries. Assisted by his son Vernon, Darko proposed to Dalli (and also Lady Bird Corbin) to liaise with the mining business in that African nation.
 
Meanwhile, our same sources insist that the trip of the protagonists to Bahamas was aimed at completing the last phase of their operation, the collection of Iraqi dinars held by foreign citizens -the money raised with the promise of returns after investing in gold was going to be destined to this task. The blurry Caribbean paradise was the site chosen to receive the Iraqi currency, which Lady Bird herself would then move on a private flights. Eventually, Corbin would make good use of the global banking and financial contacts of his senior trading partner John Dalli. A relationship built out of crude symbiosis: one needed the other to round out the plan; while L.B. collected foreign exchange, Dalli would later trade the Iraqi currency in international finance underground circuits, obtaining US dollars or euros; generally, in the Middle East. A similar operation has been detected in other geographical points, where the currency of exchange are Venezuelan bolívares (article in Spanish here).
 
Martin ZuchFinally, what was the final destination of Tyre, Ltd.? After transcending the Bahamas episode in Maltese media (which triggered the departure of Derrick Germaine and the daughters of Dalli, Claire and Louise from the company), the firm ended up in control of another person of interest: Martin Zuch (photo), self-proclaimed philanthropist and president of the humanitarian NGO known as Give Hope International. To date, it is difficult to explain how Zuch decided to keep a firm with no visible assets, a liability of magnitude and a background of millionaire scams. This resident of Newcastle Upon Tyne (UK) also runs a business that carries the label Mama Buci. Based in the African nation of Zambia, it produces organic honey that it then commercializes in online format to send to the destination that the client determines. The problem is that Zuch never foresaw that, in the near future, he would carry the criminal responsibility for the fraudulent actions of Tyre over his shoulders.
 
In the fall of the curtain, neither Maltese justice nor the local police forces did much to investigate or prosecutefor fraud Corbin, John Dalli, or their daughters Claire and Louise -which makes it easy to suppose the existence of a network of political protection. While the case of defrauding the Upstate Eight US citizens has been instrumental in order to illustrate the scope of the maneuvers of the former EU commissioner and his partners, the retirees strategy does not seem to be the most appropriate. As a prominent former US Department of Justice (DOJ) official explained to El Ojo Digital, the suggestion could start by designing a suitable legal stratum, raising the case –through a lawyer- before that dependency of the United States government. A posteriori, to do the same through competent bodies of the EU, and insist with the recurrent presentation of the facts before the international press. Focusing on the daughters of Dalli and, in the process, exhorting -via court- the Maltese branch of HSBC to account for the destination of the funds.
 
Perhaps the only valid ways to expose what really happened and its protagonists with due force.


* The author, Matías E. Ruiz, is the Editor at El Ojo Digital since 2005. 
Sobre Matias E. Ruiz

Es Analista en Medios de Comunicación Social y Licenciado en Publicidad. Es Editor y Director de El Ojo Digital desde 2005.