White & Case and 1MDB

Looks like White & Case has some liability…

The principal White & Case lawyer thereafter went to work for PetroSaudi.

$700M paid into a Jho Low account? Oh my.

\#TarekObaid \#PetroSaudi \#1MDB \#JhoLow \#WolfofWallStreet WhiteCase

Chicago Alderman Edward Burke Convicted

I remember Burke’s run for the office of Cook County State’s attorney in 1980. His ads featured a Chicago Police Department badge—though not a police officer, Burke had somehow finagled a badge—does Chicago have a police reserve? There was some controversy about his entitlement to the badge at the time, much like that surrounding “Sheriff” Herschel Walker during his run for the Senate.

Burke didn’t break bad at the age of 79, his age when a federal jury convicted him on 13 of 14 counts, including racketeering. More likely than not, he’s been a criminal for decades. For 54 years, he has been an alderman. A few years ago, Burke engineered the placement of his own wife onto the Illinois Supreme Court. My guess is that her vote was for sale, like everything else Burke touched. It would be appropriate to investigate every single one-vote case where she was in the majority, to determine whether, in the interests of justice, the case should be reviewed or reheard.

Promises, Promises

\#PetroSaudi

PetroSaudi Series Picked Up by Netflix

Netflix picks up Jho Low, PetroSaudi, 1MDB story: deadline.com/2023/11/n…

PetroSaudi #jholow #1MDB

Lawyer’s Lament

Tarek Obaid, CEO of PetroSaudi

Because of the personal injury bar and public defenders, people believe that lawyers work for free. I’ve been trying to convince my doctor, travel agent, mobile phone company and Starbucks that they should similarly work on a complimentary basis, but unfortunately none of them are interested.

tarekobaid #petrosaudi

Form Book vs. AI

The ABA doesn’t require law schools to teach a class in “drafting legal documents,” assuming this skill will later be learned on the job. The problem with ChapGPT is its hallucinations. This is an AI term of art, colloquially defined as “making stuff up.”

Twenty years ago, would you have forbidden access to form books? West published several such encyclopedias. AI is just a tool like them. The problem with AI as a substitute for lawyers is that AI can’t tell when someone is lying and can’t tell when someone is spinning. If facts can be stipulated, results follow. The problem is determining those facts. And even when there is a known end result, a corpse, the wrong type of plumbing installed, the facts leading to that result are disputed

Falling Down

The economic system is a secret game of musical chairs. One day the music stops and you’re left standing.

Story of an Unsuccessful Kidnapping

My client, Tamid, had a joint venture with the notorious ⁜ of Indonesia. His partner was Prince Quetzalcoatl, the son of King Khomeini of Bessarabia. Tamid had a diplomatic passport and performed various high-level missions for the King. Then, King Khomeini died, Prince Quetzalcoatl took over and Tamid was on the outs. The ⁜ venture, which was at least unofficially backed by the King, went to shit. As far as the Bessarabians are concerned, Tamid didn’t steal any money—but the US thinks he did.

A few years ago, Tamid attended the G20 meeting in Shanghai. Prince Charles told the Chinese that Tamid was a “terrorist financier” and should be arrested pending extradition to the Kingdom. The Chinese arrested him, held him for a while, became convinced that Tamid was no financier of terrorism and so let him go. The experience was unsettling— pulled off the street, a black hood put over his head, an extra-judicial Chinese detention. That sort of intervention could shake anyone.

As a result, Tamid has full-time, armed security at his home in Paris. The 5th, of course, a neighborhood known for ghosts. An ex-(French?) commando, with an M-16 always in arms’ reach.

Let’s throw a few more details into the pot. While Tamid was not an intelligence officer when he was working for the Bessarabians, let’s just say there’s a lot of blurring at that level. So throw in a Bessarabian intelligence network operating in Türkiye and maybe Iran as well. And Lebanon. Tamid is in the middle of this.

Tamid’s company performed an offshore drilling contract for Bolivia in Bolivian waters, the hojas de coca project. For some reason, Bolivia declined to pay. The company demanded an arbitration and though it took several years, won the arbitration. Bolivia was forced to pay $32,900. Because of interest, the sum has grown to $34,000. Bolivia wants it back.

Back to Paris.

Tamid’s bodyguard asks for the weekend off. Tamid agrees. While his bodyguard is away, Tamid goes to a bar in Geneva. There he meets a Venezuelan woman. They chat. Tamid is drinking. She is too. One thing leads to another.

Next, Tamid is in an apartment. His mind is fogged. Scopolamine? He “frees himself, and escapes.” Unfortunately, I don’t have more precise details. There were men around. In his befogged state, Tamid couldn’t identify what language they were speaking. Tamid speaks fluent English, French and Arabic. He does not speak Spanish or Farsi. He leaves the apartment. Outside on the street, his phone rings. It’s the Venezuelan woman, begging him to come back. He hangs up. She calls back. Threatens him that they will try again. Tamid goes home.

Extrajudicial murder is a popular way of settling differences these days. The practice has a long history. In the 70s, Pinochet and Letelier. Then Somoza in Paraguay. The Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov assassinated with an umbrella weapon in the heart of London in 1978. More recently, Putin killing Litvinenko in the UK by poisoning his soup with radioactive Polonium. Putin’s next effort on UK soil failed. Ramzan Kadryov, the leader of Chechnya, is believed responsible for recent political murders in Austria, Germany and France. And of course, there’s Khashoggi.

So, what happened? Was it the Syrians? The Saudis? The Iranians? Sikh separatists? Paris is the seat of the International Commercial Court, so anyone can go there, anyone has an excuse for being there. Or was it merely a non-political criminal gang?

I believe it was the latter: a South American gang–a gang as small as two or three women and their pimp. Prudent kidnappers follow a set of rules. What are the rules for a successful kidnapping?

The first rule is to take away the victim’s phone. That prevents calls for help. Tamid has more than one phone, but would he carry more than one phone while visiting a bar?

The second rule is to secure the target. This was done poorly, so I have to assume amateurs were tying the knots. Zip ties are easily managed; supplies of duct tape can be purchased locally without raising suspicion. If Seal Team Six was constraining a target, that target would not be able to wriggle free absent extraordinary circumstances, none of which apply here.

The third rule is to monitor the target. Tamid couldn’t have freed himself from his bonds if he was monitored.

Finally, once the target has escaped, you don’t call him on the phone, begging him to come back. How do you know he won’t come back with the police and a SWAT team?

The threat to try again is a problem. Or is it? Won’t Tamid now be on his guard when meeting strange women in bars? The plan might have worked once, but it won’t work again.

I don’t doubt that Tamid is a target. After all, he’s linked to both ⁜ and ⁜. The Bolivians have a motive.  That gives all of them a reason to use extreme methods of persuasion.

Who else? Anyone else who unsuccessfully invested in his company—but are there any real victims? The Bessarabians might be afraid of the tea Tamid might spill, but would they mount an operation using Venezuelan women? Unlikely. Our guys? That is, the USG? No—he’s happy to walk in the front door. So I don’t think it’s any of these.

Venezuela has been at the forefront of new kidnapping techniques: one of these is the rapi-secuestro: you pull someone off the street, find out who he is, and then demand a few thousand from the family. There are many targets.

My guess was that this operation was not an operation at all but a crime of opportunity where the woman in the bar planned on just lifting his wallet, so there was no need for elaborate securing of the victim or following the other rules of kidnapping. She figured she could milk him for more money and that’s why she asked him to come back.

She could pass off the scopolamine as, “you had too much to drink.” I don’t think there was even a locked door—a befogged Tamid was in no shape to pick a lock. Assuming he was locked in a bedroom, knocked on the door and someone opened it, the excuse for the locked door could be she was worried he might fall and hurt himself. “Come back and I’ll take care of you, I’ll get you home tomorrow.” Any men around are the boyfriends of her roommates or her pimp, not Bessarabian or Singaporean operatives.

And of  course, there’s the possibility that much of this story is simply invented to avoid embarrassment. “Yeah, honey, the reason I didn’t come home last night is because I was kidnapped by Venezuelans.” Sure.

Certain details were obfuscated in this retelling; the names of the countries involved were changed or made up, Tamid does not exist. 

I am not here. I did not say these things.

Run Like a Demon

Q. We need our special teams receiver to run like the wind after catching 4th down punts. Can we invoke the aid of Pazuzzu, the Sumerian Lord of the East Wind Demons?

A. While not specifically a deity, Pazuzzu is otherworldly enough to qualify under the Court’s rule in Bremerton. His aid may be invoked on 4th down, kick-offs or wherever else appropriate. Caution should be exercised however, since many believe that Sumerian demons tend to linger in the area after the expiration of regulation time.

Thoughts On The Grift

Given the interest in the subject, it is strange that there is not a more fully-developed literature of the con, the uniquely American–or is it?–storytelling with a purpose, that is, to divest the unwary of their cash.

There is, of course, Jim Thompson’s The Grifters and the Paul Newman/Robert Redford film, The Sting. Wasn’t the fence painting in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer a tale of grift? But given the prevalence of the subject in real life, one would think that stories about grifting, whether high or low, would be afforded their own literary genre.

There is a rich vein of such stories to be mined–they are never-ending. In modern times, one might be tempted to begin with Charles Ponzi, but there is so much more. There’s Zzzz Best Carpet Cleaning, the salad oil scandal. Anna Delvey a/k/a Anna Sorokin (Netflix’s Inventing Anna). There’s even a Vietnamese Anna, Tina Duong, who hired extras to portray wealthy relatives she did not have and an aging soap opera actor to give her away at a trigamous wedding to a young man who had failed to do due diligence.

There’s Samuel Bankman-Fried and Bernie Madoff; Jho Low and Elizabeth Holmes. Let’s not forget Ft. Lauderdale lawyer, political donor and University of Miami booster Scott Rothstein. His scam was discounting non-existent settlements to investors, promising a high rate of return. Until the scam was uncovered, he was regularly consulted by those who make our laws and granted sideline access to football games, perhaps an even greater honor in Florida. He flew to Morocco on a private jet after tasking the firm’s associates to come up with a list of countries that had no extradition treaty with the United States. Instead of flying to Israel, where he might have been safe, he returned to Florida and a long prison sentence.

Remembering other South Florida lawyers caught up in such matters, the bankruptcy of ESM Government securities caused a run on Ohio banks and led to the suicide of Stephen Arky, who claimed innocence. At least suicide removed the possibility of his indictment.

The point of all of this is that I am extremely cautious when it comes to deals which promise much but which are not conventional. There’s always an explanation. I am particularly sensitive to the possibility of the grift. I am not special when it comes to the con; people have tried to con me in the past. There have been times when I cursed my naïveté for almost falling for a scam.

One of the characteristics of a scam is that the terms of the deal are always changing. Experts and consultants are never fully paid. The bare minimum is rationed to keep them from resigning–and they are usually never the first firm brought on board.

To represent my clients effectively, I have to believe them. Once I know they are lying, I am no longer capable of convincing others that their story is true. Paradoxically, this means that to be effective I seek to have as little contact with my clients as possible. For me, “spin” does not make a story better or more palatable. When my client spun a detail, I always assumed it was to cover a lie.

For a while I had an office in an outbuilding at 1870 S. Bayshore Drive, a converted mansion in Miami. There was a staircase leading to the second floor; my office was on the first. The groundskeeper brought his teenage boys to help him and they would often relax, sitting on the stairs. One day I saw several spark plugs there and wondered what the boys were doing with them. I later found out that spark plugs are used by thugs to break windows of cars. If the thugs are stopped by the police, a spark plug is a dual use, and so an innocent item, that by itself is not probable cause for arrest. I felt the fool and never looked on his children in the same way again.

On another occasion I flew to Atlanta for a parole hearing. My client had promised to pay me, after he was released on parole. Surely he would be back on the street and be able to get funds owed to him so as to pay me. His parole was denied and I wasn’t paid. In another case, my client had shot a man after a drug delivery was botched. By the beginning of that death-penalty eligible first-degree murder case I still hadn’t been paid. “Did you bring the check?” I asked the family. There was no answer. I tried that case just to stay in shape, but it was my choice.

So I am particularly sensitive to clients that have not paid. I don’t even like wasting time talking about clients who will pay, who are going to pay, how payment is just a moment away especially when these discussions take place months after payment was due.

They talk about how Steve Jobs had a “reality distortion field,” but Jobs had–though he put it to legitimate use–what all grifters share: a storytelling expertise that would put Hemingway to shame, the ability to describe dreams with such detail that they seem real, so real that they become real until that inevitable moment when harsh reality shows the dream to be but an illusion.

Really, what is more American than the grift? George Santos “embellished” his resumé, not worrying about the fact that identity politics trumps even outright lies. Santos claims to be Jewish, biracial, and finding one box unchecked, gay. He is Latino enough and there are Holocaust survivors, albeit imaginary ones, in his family tree. A claimed 9/11 death in the family makes up for a lack of military service, and when the New York Times finally looked into his background and uncovered his failure to graduate from college only means the fact that he is a high-school dropout was lost in the noise. Shilling for sympathy, Santos had his mother die twice. He started a charity for animals and pocketed the cash, knowing that dogs and cats can’t file fraud complaints. He is an accomplished shameless liar, as any good grifter must be. None of this prevented his election to the 117th Congress. If anything, he is the perfect candidate.

On the Representation of Criminal Defendants

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I remember when I saw WWH’s “lending bank” at a strip mall in Provo or some godforsaken place. I remember a transnational petroleum purchase deal that at the last minute saw the inclusion of two unknown names—a clear badge of fraud. A former billionaire who acts as if he still had money—the reality distortion field is very strong. There’s no reason not to believe him—until you realize that there was never any reason to believe him in the first place. All of these are examples of when reality comes crashing down. The solution is to require a paid retainer. For competitive reasons though, FOMO (fear of missing out) reigns and this principle, which should be tattooed on the forehead of every attorney, is forgotten.

I don’t recall any of my medical providers cutting me any slack. Quite the contrary: they demanded a credit card despite my age and my protests that I am covered by Medicare. Don’t have a Medicare number? Fuck you—pay me. When the $300,000 credit card deal collapsed, that should have been our response: fuck you—pay me. Instead we wasted hours squabbling with a guy who honestly believes that he was privileged to put his mitt into the piggy bank and pull out millions in cash. Millions that are wholly unaccounted for. When the FBI and the IRS claim that something happened, I tend to believe them. And lest you think that didn’t happen, let me point out that the USG wins something like 99% of its criminal cases. I had two federal acquittals and one hung jury in my career. Just two. They were outliers. Most defense lawyers never see even one.

Can Happen Here

The best way to deal with Trump is to ignore him. But we can’t–the media won’t let us.George W. Bush on his ranch? When was the last time you heard anything about him?Yesterday I saw four military helicopters flying in formation in the general direction of the jail.They closed I-85/75 and all the roads that crossed over it so snipers couldn’t have a shot. There are dozens of such roads. The roads leading to I85/75 were shut down as well. I-2o, I-285, etc. 

Basically Atlanta shut down.

A twenty-motorcyle police escort led the flotilla of SUV’s and an ambulance to the jail.And yet, we’re told that Trump is treated like any other defendant.

Sure.If Biden were smart, he’d issue a general amnesty for January 6th: the generosity of a winner. He could say the people were misguided but we need to come together. The advantage is that this takes Trump off the 24/7 news cycle. Biden might well beat the B-list of candidates that showed up at the first Republican debate. Not a single one was even remotely presidential. Maybe Christie, but he has no chance.

What’s going on in the world? I honestly don’t know: the only news last night was waiting breathlessly to see Trump’s mug shot. So what if Putin just executed a political rival, extrajudicial killings are commonplace, no big deal.

If you’re not protesting about Prighozin, you don’t get to complain about Khashoggi.

Was Ford right? Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon because a criminal prosecution of Nixon “would tear the country apart.”

Now we’ve got four prosecutions.

New Yorkers get it: Trump was always like this. No way an examination of his books and records would show spotless behavior. After all, this is a guy who couldn’t successfully run a casino.

If Trump is re-elected, expect martial law. And on that note, Trump’s mistake was not ordering the military to seize ballot boxes while he still had a chance.

As the helicopters flew overhead, I thought, “it only takes one general to command a stop to all this “to restore order.“That’s how it happens in the rest of the world.

Can happen here.

Double Standard

If you’re not protesting about Prighozin, you don’t get to complain about Khashoggi.

Double Standard

MbS is ostracized for Khashoggi while everyone stands around looking at their toes in the wake of Putin’s extrajudicial execution of Prighozin.

You read it here first.

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My Mother the Juror

My mother served on a petit jury when she was 75 and had the time of her life. It was an excuse to dress up for court; the jurors exchanged pictures of their children or grandchildren and brought in food to share on Fridays. They stayed in touch for years afterwards.

One day, she sent a letter to the judge asking for a day off so she could see her oncologist. She included a package of candy in the envelope with the note, “I hear you like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.” The judge put the request on the record, granted her request and said, “unless anyone has an objection, I’m keeping the candy.”

In opening statements, the prosecutor painted a lurid picture of stolen money, boob jobs and strippers. Unfortunately, the first witness was a records custodian from BellSouth. My mother said that all men on the jury jockeyed for position since they thought the witness was one of the strippers. Poor girl.

At the conclusion of the trial, the judge read out the standard admonition to the parties telling them not to approach or bother jurors. He told the jurors they were under no obligation to speak to the parties about the case. There was a codefendant in the case; he was found not guilty. My mother went out into the hallway, cornered him, and shaking her finger at the “not guilty” man told him, “Buddy, you got a break. Don’t do it again.”

The trial took place in the West Palm Beach Division of the U.S. District Court, the same division—and perhaps the same courthouse at 301 Clematis Street—where Donald Trump is to be tried this fall.

Expect anything.

App Test

Let’s see if it works.

Initial Thoughts about Trump Indictment

It’s hard not to be dramatic in response to this. First, the indictment proves my point that classified information is radioactive. Lawyers should not accept a clearance in a criminal trial.

A Roosevelt moment. Republicans pushed the 22nd Amendment to avoid another Roosevelt. The Amendment ended up prohibiting another Reagan term. The risk to a sitting president is trumped-up criminal liability might be created after he leaves office. The safest move is to stay in office. Declare martial law? Inconceivable. But on Wednesday, indicting a former president was pretty much inconceivable.

Equal protection: Pence, Biden, Clinton and Obama all had classified info and were not indicted.

Politics: 70% of Americans believe this indictment is political as do I.

Does anyone honestly believe that Trump was acting as an espionage agent of a foreign government? I do not.

The case will be decided based on jury instructions, and I don’t think there are pattern instructions for this crime.

Whatever your views on Trump, this indictment is a huge mistake. The case will tear the country apart.

I don’t know why Trump kept the documents. Research for his memoirs? Probably it has something to do with his belief that he was rightfully elected. Does that turn the trial into a trial on the 2020 election?

With You and I

Mind your Pronouns

Hoss Missed Few Meals

I heard a native speaker say, “They can come with you and I.”

This is incorrect. Here, the word “I,” a subject pronoun, is used instead of the correct “me.”

Would you say, “They can come with I?”

Of course not. You’d say, “They can come with me.

I ascribe this error to an episode of the television show Bonanza where a one-room frontier schoolhouse teacher forced her barely literate charges to always use the pronoun “I.”

Me can’t think of any other explanation.

Patti Smith

Patti is a poet; friend of Robert Mapplethorpe (she wrote about him in Just Kids.) She was part of the 70’s New York Lower East Side Renaissance, born too late for the Beats she nevertheless followed the spirit of Rimbaud and made friends with William Burroughs, he of Junky, Naked Lunch, and his wife’s murderer. She was an accomplished poet, seeing her work published in the zines of the day.

Patti’s breakthrough was to set her poetry to music; the poem Oath with a back-up band led to her first album, Horses. A collaboration with Bruce Springsteen and a #1 hit record followed.

Then she retreated to the Midwest and married life, only to emerge twenty years later as if nothing had happened. Before you adjudge Patti of “aberrant behavior,” keep in mind that the rules she follows are those of the French poetes maudites: Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud; those who sought insight through a derangement of the senses. Only by that standard can she be judged. Political activist she was not; something tells me that she would not suffer Republican book clubs in the Detroit suburbs at all. Patti a sell-out?

Pas possible.

Before the Pandemic

I had just returned to Saudi Arabia. This is the view from my office on the Dammam Highway.

Roast Beef v. Thailand

“Why do you like Thailand so much?” they asked.

Lunch in Chicago: six chicken wings, french fries and a roast beef sandwich.

$47.80.

’Nuff said.

Roast Beef v. Thailand

“Why do you like Thailand so much?” they asked.

Six chicken wings, french fries and a roast beef sandwich.

$47.80.

’Nuff said.