We know that you’ve always wanted to see, dear reader, one of those now infamous Panama Papers. The real thing, the paperwork that moves millions and hides many more; that obfuscates and reveals at the same time. Well, here it is: Correspondent-At-Large presents you the founding documents of the Societé Core Diplomatique Foundation of Panama, for you to download, here. And what we want to know: Why is Dutchman Geerling Offereins listed as the money man of this outfit?
Core Diplomatique is what is called a Panama Private Interest Foundation. The law that regulates it was copied word by word from the Liechtensteiner anstalt law. It offers the advantages of a traditional foundation yet it is allowed to make profits. In Panama, the preferred way to hide beneficial ownership of a corporation is to have the shares owned by one of those foundations, which the owner then secretly controls from behind the scenes.
HEAL THE WORLD
If you scroll through the document you’ll see that it’s available in bad English next to its original Spanish, and that the people behind the foundation have at the time set themselves some lofty goals. Establishing world peace and minority rights are just the beginning of their plans, as the foundation seeks to educate future diplomats and help current diplomats in need and many other great things — all written up by lawyer Herbert Young and with just $10,000 in founding capital.
In reality, we discovered, it’s just a bunch of shady characters who want to hang themselves out as Panamanian diplomats. How do we know? We know because we know the person behind it, the Canadian career criminal Monte Friesner.
FROM ARSON TO ADVANCE FEE FRAUD
Friesner is a convicted advance fee fraudster with a long criminal record. He was convicted in the USA in between other convictions in Canada on charges ranging from fraud to arson and assault. He then went to Panama, where he bribed a bunch of officials, tried his hand at sex trafficking, started a fake sailing school and eventually ran back to Canada to escape prosecution for mortgage fraud.
All in all, it didn’t take long before we started hearing about this fake diplomat business: in 2010 a story (in Bosnian) on tportal.hr recounted how a freshly appointed Panamanian Consul General to the European Union had met with business leaders in Požega, a town in western Croatia:
“The first destination of the recently appointed Consul General for the Republic of Panama for the European Union was Požega. Consul Fahrudin B. Handanovic, one of the world’s renowned bankers, met with the Mayor of Požega, Zdravko Ronkov, and the leading business leaders in the region, who hope that companies from the city could soon open the door to a large South American market with as many as 700 million inhabitants.”
“He is also a businessman and banker with years of experience, Consul Fahrudin B. Handanovic in the City House of the leading people of the Pozega companies Zvecevo Spin Valis Orljava and Kutjevo, presented his diplomatic association with the desire to encourage businessmen to export through the global banking corporations he brings together, SWISS Hannover and Fia. d.o.o for Croatia.”
Of course, nobody ever appointed Mr. Handanovic as a Panamanian consul to the EU. He and his accomplices had impressive stationary, business cards and passports printed that would make it seem as if they were on some kind of diplomatic mission in the small Croatian town.
As you can see in the document, Handanovic is the president of the Panamanian Core Diplomatique Foundation. Emails we obtained showed that he was also a business associate of Friesner and even traveled to Panama to discuss a variety of ventures as diverse as coffee and prostitutes. Friesner, who habitually signs his emails with “consulaire” and falsely claims to possess a string of academic titles, told people by email various times that he had to travel outside of Panama to renew his diplomatic visa.
THE PANAMA PAPERS STYLE LAW FIRM
Characteristically, the Panamanian authorities were not interested to hear that people of questionable repute were representing themselves as diplomats of the small country. That has probably a lot to do with the fact that the lawyer who set up the Core Diplomatique Foundation to begin with, Herbert Young, runs his law firm together with Jose Isabel Blandón, the current mayor of Panama City and a prominent member of the governing Panameñista Party. It’s very similar to the infamous Mossack & Fonseca set-up where Ramon Fonseca was a minister in the current government — in this constellation, the default official action when unsavory dealings are coming into view is to firmly look the other way.
THE SLOVENIAN CONNECTION
In Slovenia, meanwhile, investigative journalists working for TV station 24ur were looking into the activities of yet another member of the Panamanian foundation: businessman Marijan Groff. Groff had been exposed in documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists as someone who was managing a staggering number of offshore corporations in jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands. He was stopped at the border, 24ur reported, when he attempted to use one of the fake diplomatic Panamanian passports that he had obtained through the aforementioned Fahrudin Handanovic:
“Handanovic once came to me and offered me to enter this club and get a diplomatic passport, and I said why not. And I tried to use this passport once, but they refused me,” says Groff.”
Other members of the Core Diplomatique Foundation include Branislav Ivkovic, whom we believe is a former associate of the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, based on a report from 2001 by Jeremy Scahill:
“Had Branislav Ivkovic, a leader of Slobodan Milosevic’s Socialist Party, not risen to his feet in parliament shortly after 7pm on Friday to announce that police were on their way to arrest Milosevic at his Belgrade villa, the former Yugoslav president would probably be in jail.
It was Mr Ivkovic’s announcement, broadcast live during a routine session of parliament, that alerted Milosevic’s personal guards and brought hundreds of armed supporters to the gates of his home in the up-market suburb of Dedinje in time to block attempts to detain him.”
There’s also one Marjan Krajna, who appears to be a Croatian musician.
DUTCH ANGLE, SHARIA LAW
We were quite surprised to see a Dutch name on the board of the Core Diplomatique Foundation, but there he was, Geerling Offereins, vice-treasurer of the enterprise. Second in command on money affairs.
Who is he? His LinkedIn profile tells us that he was educated as a real estate broker and a certified financial planner. He’s also the CEO of something called Global IMF B.V.:
“GIMF, Global Investment Management Fund is a young, dynamic and innovative company. GIMF has risen up during the times of worldwide economic unrest noticing the demand for an alternative form of investment banking and other financial services. GIMF answers this demand with the only found alternative : banking & investment complying with Islamic Shariah law.”
Records from the Dutch corporate registry show that the company went through various incarnations, it was once called Eagle Property B.V. as well.
Offereins is also the man behind a company called Gammag B.V. which is in the business of geological deep detection technology, according to their website. He seems to be promoting this business through the Philadelphia Renewable Energy Foundation of which he is — again — the treasurer. The name mimics that of genuine existing and high profile renewable energy enterprises, but in reality it’s a simple Dutch foundation based in the unglamorous town of Nieuwegein.
In a report by OOG, the Groningen broadcaster, Offereins is interviewed about his deep detection tech, which he peddles as a solution for troubles that were encountered with an ambitious effort to heat that city using geothermal energy. The city of Groningen was not interested in Offereins’ sales pitch and the entire project was shelved.
So, what is Geerling Offereins doing in the fake diplomatic passport business of a Canadian fraud artist in Panama? We honestly don’t know. Our requests for information or comment have unfortunately been met with silence.