Any bank deposits or brokerage transactions (stocks and bond holdings) if made at all, should be made via banks in neutral countries. By investing under the umbrella of a powerful organization with leverage, you protect your privacy better and reduce the risks of personal involvement in a light that could have disastrous consequences. In other words, we say that no US property, stocks or bank accounts should ever be held in your own private name. Not under any circumstances!
There are many reasons for this. The horror story at the end of this section is probably not the worst case, but it is the most scary of many similar tales we have heard and documented. But this is why you should be wary of US investments:
The US regularly seizes or freezes foreign (as well as domestically) owned assets for a host of arbitrary reasons:
Although such incidents are occasionally reported in the press, the extent of US contempt for the sanctity of private property is not generally known nor understood. It is a surprise to this writer that any person should, under the present circumstances, ever invest a penny in the US. For instance, during every conflict or diplomatic crisis, one of the first things the US does is to order the seizure of private assets. We are talking about privately owned American assets held in the names of citizens of countries involved in disputes with the US. Technically, these assets may eventually be recovered after the conflicts are resolved. But making a recovery often involves years of litigation, personal exposure, personal appearances in court, vast expenses, and often bureaucratic denials that the seizure ever took place or that the assets ever existed.
Assets seized in 1941 were still being held by the Alien Property office thirty years after World War II ended. Some privately owned assets taken from (presumably anti-Communist) Cuban based capitalists in retaliation for Castro’s seizures have never been returned. Another danger, totally unrecognized by foreigners, are the “Unclaimed Property & Escheat Laws.” Under these rules, mere inactivity for a period sometimes as short as two years results in property being taken over by the state and no longer earning interest! Administrative hearings, proofs submitted by a lawyer and formal hearings are needed to reclaim the funds. Fees of u third to half of the amounts involved are common. Many foreigners have deposited a nest egg in an American bank only to find that their money wus taken and used to fund an obscure “too good” project.
If you wish to trade in securities, or make a deposit in an American financial institution, you may do so through (and in the name of) most European or Asian banks. An “offshore financial center” bank or nominee is the fiduciary of choice for these transactions. The services of such an intermediate are not free, but the one-quarter of 1 per cent per year. Suppose you in¬advisedly held an account at an American brokerage in your own name. Unwittingly depositing more than $200 in cash to such an account (even at a foreign branch office) could result in the entire account being seized by US authorities for “money laundering”. It is then not possible to do any trading for many years while your account is frozen and your case wends its way through administrative and judicial proceedings and appeals. You may be kept in positions you happened to be in at the time of the freeze. Or, if your assets are sold, your account is converted into non-interest bearing cash dollar deposit with the Treasurer of the US. This cashing-in process happens when the government elects a forced liquidation of your assets. There is no recourse for your attorney’s fees, lost interest or investment losses; even if you do recover the funds. Remember, this all happens regularly when a foreign based investor with a US account violates any one of a myriad of highly technical rules. Even with an American lawyer on retainer, it is possible to get into serious trouble. In fact, much trouble is caused by bad advice from lawyers! In some cases, unless your US asset is in the multi-million dollar range, the inflation adjusted value of frozen assets will not even begin to cover the attorney’s fees expended in the recovery.
Consider the absurdity of many seizures of private property. Scenario: The Mexican or French government confiscates certain American owned assets. The American government retaliates by seizing all private assets of French or Mexican nationals in the US. Such a scenario is common and ordinary. It matters not at all that the citizen who owns the seized property or bank accounts may be personally opposed to the regime the US is having problems with. A few years ago private Iranian owned assets in the US were ordered seized when a group of Iranian militants seized the US Embassy staff as hostages. The militants were leftists and Moslem fundamentalist followers of the Ayatollah. The punished Iranians with the US investments were generally supporters of America’s pal, the ousted Shah.
Kuwaiti private assets were seized in the States and in the UK during the Gulf War. These were the people the US was pledged to help! After Cory Aquino was placed in power by the American maneuvering, many Filipinos with US investments found their property seized by American Treasury Agents. Reason? Alleged connections with the Marcos regime. As Marcos was for a while, the darling and staunch ally of Washington, what Filipino could predict that anyone who profited from a government contract would be considered a criminal in the US.
Seizures and confiscations in the US now run into billions of dollars each year! Almost any pretext will do to activate a new bureaucracy existing only to grab “enemy” assets.
Only the enemy is not usually the enemy – it is more often an innocent and powerless victim. We recall reading the autobiography of a German-Jewish teenager who was shipped to boarding school in England during the Hitler era. In England he was not permitted to finish the schooling that had been prepaid for him, but was interned as an enemy alien for the duration of die war. As we have noted elsewhere, the number one enemy of human beings is not disease, but rather governments. It is they who cause more misery, suffering and premature deaths than any other factor. Some governments are worse than others, but the US is rapidly taking the lead in institutionalized, legalized crime against humanity. This occurs because of the criminalization of many activities formerly considered the normal exercise of freedom. American jails overflow with individuals who under any civilized international norms could not be considered criminals. But here, for the moment, we are more concerned with the civil aspects – the possibility that you will lose only your assets if they are held in your own name in the US. As you will see from our examples, there are unfortunately, few areas of activity that don’t involve the possibility of being jailed. Criminal law penalties have recently been injected into many activities previously considered purely civil matters. The difference between civil penalties and criminal penalties is great. If you lose a civil case, you pay damages. Where government is involved, civil damages usually involve back taxes and relatively reasonable fines. Where criminal charges are made, you may lose your freedom and all your assets may be confiscated. As criminal cases are easier to win and offer more “fun” for prosecutors, few civil cases remain purely civil these days.
To enforce new laws on insider trading, drug dealing, and money laundering, many substantial investor accounts are seized every day. The only requirement seems to be that there be “unusual activities.” These “unusual activities” are, of course, classed as crimes. As a result, every foreign owned account is at risk. Stockbrokers and bankers are required to report (upon pain of criminal penalties for themselves) any “unusual activity” to the US Treasury on special forms. Upon receipt of such reports, accounts are often frozen.
What is “unusual?” No one knows. Depositing cash (even if only the price of a good lunch) is one “unusual” factor, often leading to vast problems. But almost anything could be considered unusual. “Unusual” exists, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder! As a result, seizures in the US tend to be quite arbitrary. Unless a celebrity is involved, the vast majority of individual cases are not reported in the press. But hundreds occur every day. Like cancer, such problems do not always hit the other guy.