Coleman target of FBI probe

| 16/12/2008

(CNS): A US Senator who co-sponsored a bill in 2007 to stop offshore tax haven and tax shelter abuses is now the target of an FBI investigation into allegations that he funnelled money to pay for home renovations. Norm Coleman (R) of Minnesota introduced the Tax Haven Abuse Act with Senator Barack Obama of Illinois (now President-elect) and Senator Carl Levin (D) of Michigan. According to media reports, the FBI is now reportedly investigating allegations that Nasser Kazeminy, a multi-millionaire friend of Coleman, tried to funnel $75,000 in campaign contributions through the Senator’s wife, Laurie.

The investigation revolves around allegations in two lawsuits filed in late October against Kazeminy that in spring of 2007, he began a series of $25,000 payments to Coleman from Deep Marine Technology,an underwater services company he controlled in Texas, to Hays Companies, the Minnesota Insurance company where Laurie Coleman works. Coleman’s Senate ethics form reports no such payment.

According to the lawsuits, in March of 2007, Kazeminy said that "US Senators don’t make s—" and he was going to try to find a way to get money to Coleman. During that time is when, the lawsuit alleges, Kazeminy was trying to get money to Coleman.

Coleman is currently in a tight race to retain his seat against US comedian Al Franken. Billing records of the remodeling project provided by his campaign show that original projections in 2006 estimated a cost of $328,000, but four months later, the construction cost was estimated at $414,000, over-budget by $86,000.

A release from the Senate in February 2007 stated, “For more than four years, Levin and Coleman, the Chairman and senior Republican of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, have led an in-depth Subcommittee investigation into offshore tax havens, abusive tax shelters, and the professionals who design, market, and implement these tax dodges. Experts have estimated that the total loss to the Treasury from offshore tax evasion alone approaches $100 billion per year, including $40 to $70 billion from individuals and another $30 billion from corporations engaging in offshore tax evasion. Abusive tax shelters add tens of billions of dollars more.”

Coleman is quoted as saying, “It is simply unacceptable that some individuals are using offshore tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions to shelter trillions of dollars in assets from taxation. These tax schemes cause a massive revenue shortfall and, sadly, it is the honest American taxpayer who must bear a disproportionate burden of investing in areas like education and healthcare. We are introducing this bill to close these loopholes, shut down offshore tax schemes, and ensure that every American pays their fair share of taxes.”

The release described the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act as a strengthened version of a tax reform bill that Levin, Coleman, and Obama introduced previously. The legislation was strengthened as a result of a year-long Subcommittee investigation which resulted in a hearing and report on 1 August 2006, examining “a series of case studies showing how US taxpayers are using offshore secrecy jurisdictions to dodge US taxes”.

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