The article below was supposed to run on Ken Silverstein's Washington Babylon blog. He said he'd run it. But then he didn't.
I've never met Ken, but we talked and corresponded as I tried to help him, by his request, with a story about Panama he's been working on. He was the first to report on Mossack & Fonseca and what would later become the Panama Papers scandal. I knew he was in contact with Monte Friesner.
What I didn't know was that he fell for the con man Monte Friesner, until I saw this piece on Paul Manafort. I wrote Ken privately about it, but he wouldn't hear of my objections to his miscarriage of journalism and got quite obnoxious about it, which is of course very interesting coming from a journalist who constantly takes colleagues to task himself. So, here's my public rebuttal. I was supposed to make my debut on the Washington Babylon pages shortly with an entirely different story — a convoluted tale about my meeting with Mossack & Fonseca, entering the newspaper business and the PECC scandal — but I'm afraid I can't be writing for the only rag in town that takes Friesner and Rijock seriously as sources on anything.
Washington Babylon Gets Scammed
It happens to all of us. We get a piece of information and it looks so interesting, so juicy, so… exclusive, that we run with it before properly vetting, to use a popular Trumpism. It has happened to me, it happens throughout the Russiagate saga all the time, and now it has happened to Ken Silverstein.
Is Paul Manafort a politically exposed person, as a recent article on these hallowed pages would have it? Maybe. Maybe not. I really don’t know much about Paul Manafort. I do however know an awful lot about the two sources that Silverstein parades in front of us; the career criminals Monte Friesner and Kenneth Rijock.
SO MANY LIES, SO LITTLE TIME
The story leans in its entirety on a report that Mr. Friesner was supposedly nice enough to share with Silverstein. Friesner, we’re told, dabbles in due diligence these days:
I’ve just now had a very interesting conversation with Monte Friesner, a convicted fraudster, former money launderer, and one time CIA contractor. Monte served his time but now he — along with Kenneth Rijock, another source of mine and also a former money launderer-turned-financial crime consultant who has testified three times before Congress — helps banks and law enforcement perform enhanced due diligence on clients and suspected criminals.
Monte and Ken have been tracking Manafort for some time, through classic investigative techniques and the use of EDDI-IQ, an enhanced due diligence database they use in their work advising banks and law enforcement. Take a look at the photograph that accompanies this story; it’s a screenshot of the first page of the EDDI-IQ report on Manafort, which Monte graciously shared with me.
I know Friesner. I’ve investigated his scams and schemes in Panama for years. I still have thousands of emails and documents that were leaked to me from his offices; more than enough to back up what I'm about to tell you about him, and then some.
Friesner and his wife ran from Panama back to his native Canada to escape a criminal conviction in a case of mortgage fraud. His debit card business, which featured a dead person on its board of directors, was closed down, first by MasterCard and then by the Panamanian authorities because of “irregularities” and money laundering. That came after he had bribed legislators into passing a law that would benefit said debit card business, which he even admitted on tape. His Panama Sailing School was a scam, charging people for courses and diplomas that they never received. He provided some crooked friends in former Yugoslavia with fake Panamanian diplomatic credentials to drum up “investments” in Croatia and Slovenia (I even made it on Slovenian TV because of that story). He claimed to be in the prostitution business together with his Ukranian wife and tried to make deals with Colombian pimps to traffic young girls to Panama. In between, he claimed to be working on issuing his prepaid debit cards in Iran, at the time in violation of the embargo against that country. He’s still a bankrupt from five scams back, owing millions of dollars to victims in the US of his advance fee frauds.
Friesner, a "CIA contractor"? It's more likely that a CIA cleaning lady once asked him what time it was, and he, true to form, turned that into an imaginary career as James Bond.
“So many lies, so little time,” a prosecutor once summed up Friesner's life before sending him to prison. And judge Thomas Brett added about the smooth-talking Friesner: "Frankly, I think you could sell iceboxes to quite a few Eskimos." Indeed, or fairy tales to Ken Silverstein.
PRISON AND SUICIDE VESTS
Talking about prison: Let me be completely transparent here. Monte Friesner is the reason that I spent five weeks in a Panamanian prison because of what I wrote about him. That it was only five weeks — and not twenty months as they had originally planned — I owe to the fact that my detention caused an international uproar which eventually forced Panama’s president to pardon me. So forgive me if I appear a bit short-fused when respected journalists start treating whatever Friesner and his associates say as gospel.
I mean, would you take a guy like Friesner seriously as a source? Indeed.
But wait, what about the report from EDDI-IQ? Well, who exactly is EDDI-IQ? A quick look at their website reveals that EDDI-IQ, which Silverstein presents as some sort of high-end firm that is independent of Friesner and Rijock, is, in fact, Friesner and Rijock. Here, look for yourself, on their “our team” page.
What we’re told to be an "enhanced due diligence database” is, in reality, our two career criminals fabricating their own “due diligence reports,” creating journalistic suicide vests like this Manafort report and then finding a victim to wear it.
And wearing it Silverstein does. In response to my misgivings and suspicions about EDDI-IQ (a firm nobody in the business of "Know Your Customer" has ever heard of, I learned) his reply to me by email reveals that he didn't even bother to ask:
about your charges about eddi-iq. maybe you're right but i don't think so. they seem to be marketing it, if it's a ripoff that's a pretty subjective determination, corn flakes being healthy is also open to question. and i know he and rijock do have sources around the world, maybe they are good and maybe not, but there's little doubt that manafort was laundering money.
Corn flakes? Really?
Yes, of course there is little doubt that Manafort has been laundering money. That has already been reported extensively here and here and here and here.... oh, and here too, already in February! The scoop was supposedly that a reputable firm lists him as a "politically exposed person", remember? It's just that there isn't a reputable firm. There's only a fake firm.
Update: How fake? Very fake. Take a look at the TOS page of EDDI-IQ. At the bottom it features this gibberish that has Friesner's fingerprints all over it:
EDDI IQ, ENHANCED DUE DILIGENCE INTEL Group and EDDI IQ (collectively, " EDDI IQ ") are Registered and Incorporated in various countries for Legal Jurisdiction and comply with all Rules, Laws, Regulations and Equal Housing Lenders. EDDI IQ does not extends credit without regard to an applicant's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, family status, handicapped or disability status, age (provided the applicant has the legal capacity to enter into a binding contract), whether income is derived from public assistance, or whether the applicant has in good faith exercised rights under all the Consumer Credit Protection Act.
Credit? Housing lenders? Applicants? Various unspecified countries and jurisdictions? Isn't that just a tad unusual for a high-end due diligence firm?
A bit more up, the page states that "EDDI IQ Financial Corporation operates and controls this website from its offices from the State of Delaware, USA."
"Financial"? This got more puzzling even, so I looked it up in the Delaware corporate registry. There is indeed a company called "EDDI-IQ Inc." The file number is 6397399, should you care to verify. It was incorporated on the first of May of this year, about six months ago. Quite the track record. And how interesting that its website talks about loans, credit and financing, given the fact that Friesner was earlier convicted in the US because of advance fee fraud... (END Update)
THE WEBSITE WITH THE SHERRIF BADGE
Last but not least, I had to laugh at the last sentence of Ken Silverstein’s “exclusive”:
Meanwhile, check out this story at Wanted SA, a website with which Monte is affiliated, for more on Manafort.
Let me educate you all on that fantastic website, Wanted SA. Yours truly happens to be the reason it exists. Friesner is not “affiliated” with it; he owns it. It was his answer to the bad publicity about him, where he’d publish posts to the effect that I had been murdering people, been arrested in Russia, under investigation for unspeakable crimes in the Netherlands and so on. My favorite — I really urge you to read this one — is how I killed his pet dog, the — I quote — "Royal Standard Poodle named Koko."
Friesner then expanded this Wanted SA business into smearing his many other enemies as well and later teamed up with Kenneth Rijock and his blog — birds of a feather — who would then cross-post Friesner’s stuff and add some of his own. Friesner has thrown in a bunch of fake identities for good measure, which is another one of his specialties. I learned a lot of new things about myself from all these reliable sources that Silverstein so eagerly quotes in his “exclusive": next to being a poodle killer, I also stole money from Hamas, all while escaping a child porn conviction in the Netherlands — which just happens to be the country from where I am writing this piece in my own home, thank you.
See the picture? These two will make up anything about anyone and cook up some fake evidence to support it. I’ve written about a fair number of North American scammers who came down to Panama to ply their trade in the tropics, and they all have in common a compulsive need for notoriety together with sociopathic tendencies. In this case, it’s no different. Don’t fall for it, even if Ken Silverstein can't help himself.