On a dark January night, an unmarked cargo plane filled with $400 million in unmarked bills took off for a secret destination, which we now know was Mehrabad Airport in Iran’s capital city of Tehran.
The cash on board – there was so much that it had to be strapped onto pallets – was a mixed “green” salad, composed of Swiss francs, euros and an assortment of other currencies.
It was a classic money-laundering operation which, if conducted from an offshore jurisdiction such as Panama or (even better for John Grisham purposes), the Cayman Islands, the media uproar would require BOSE noise-canceling earphones.
But it was not. The scheme originated on U.S. soil and was an attempt on the part of the Obama administration to hide a ransom payment for five American hostages. For 37 years, the funds, part of a larger sum, were frozen in legal limbo in a dispute between Iran and the United States. As soon as the cash arrived in Tehran, the hostages, who were waiting in a plane on the runway, were released.
President Obama, with a straight face (actually it was not a straight face; he was smiling inappropriately), explained the delivery of the money and the release of the hostages, was a “coincidence.” The events, he said, were unrelated.
The ostensible purpose for delivering the funds in untraceable cash was that the U.S. had imposed sanctions on Iran and, therefore, did not have the financial mechanisms in place to make the transfer in a more orthodox manner, such as a wire transfer.
Please. Here the financial acumen in abundance in the Cayman Islands could have helped. Even a junior attorney at Maples, Walkers or Appleby could have improvised a suitable solution.
(Our choice, of course, would have been Jeffrey Webb, already being held on house arrest on U.S. soil for his role in CONCACAF/FIFA money misappropriation scandal. We’re confident Mr. Webb would have been a willing consultant in exchange for perhaps a few days off his soon-to-be-imposed sentence.)
What concerns us more than the payment of the ransom is the ease and nonchalance with which national leaders purposely mislead or withhold information from the very people who elect them.
As Cayman and the United States enter their election cycles, we recommend that voters keep two tomes on their bedside tables: One is a copy of their respective Constitution, the other a copy of a book titled “Spy the Lie,” written by the CIA’s leading interrogators.
“Spy the Lie” is a remarkably easy and entertaining read, empowering nearly anyone to determine when someone (from job applicants to unfaithful spouses) is being less than truthful. Even “good liars” are fairly easy to detect.
We are not so cynical to subscribe to the idea that if a politician’s lips are moving, he’s lying. In fact, quite the opposite. Most elected representatives, in our experience, are well-meaning, hard-working and, yes, honest.
Nevertheless, there are those in elected positions of power who are too often economical – not with taxpayers’ money – but with the truth. As Cayman enters its quadrennial campaign season, voters should be listening carefully – and critically.