Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sunken Treasure = That Sinking Feeling (Forbes)

Every armchair pirate dreams of finding sunken treasure, but it turns out hauling up chests full of gold bars and pieces of eight is a lousy way to get rich. Recovery usually costs millions of dollars, and even before the loot is on dry land you can look forward to being sued by insurers and other claimants.

A few years back Odyssey Marine Exploration, the biggest player in the game, spent $ 2.6 million recovering an estimated $500 million in gold coins from a Spanish shipwreck and then had to give it all back to Spain–plus a $1 million fine. And that’s just one of the misadventures on our treasure map of misery.
PORT NICHOLSON. In 2008 Greg Brooks, a Maine treasure hunter, finds a World War II British freighter and later insists it carried $3 billion in precious metals. The U.K. says there’s little more onboard than auto and weapon parts–and it owns it all anyway.

April 17, 2014 --Treasure hunter Greg Brooks is wrestling with two court cases, angry investors and an expedition that hasn't produced anything more valuable than a box of rusty hatchets. That's been nothing near the $3 billion to $5 billion in platinum and diamonds that Brooks, based in Portland, Maine, claims is onboard a World War II freighter sunk in 800 feet of water 50 miles off Province-town. And this week, the Maine Office of Securities announced it is seeking information from investors about Brooks and his companies. That could be a prelude to an investigation.
WHYDAH GALLEY. A pirate ship ran aground in 1717 and was discovered in 1982. It’s said to have carried treasure worth $400 million. Salvagers have found artifacts like cannons and the ship’s bell but no massive hoard of gold.

After 15 years of searching the ocean floor off the town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, Clifford believes he's finally zeroing in on what's left of the hull and loot from the first pirate ship ever discovered in North America. Called the Whydah Galley, it was said to be heavy with treasure stolen from at least 53 ships when it sank in a storm on April 26, 1717.
CENTRAL AMERICA Treasure hunter Tommy Thompson discovers the Gold Rush ship in 1987. He eventually sells a reported $52 million worth of gold–then skips town without paying his investors a cent. In 2014 they pick Odyssey to resume salvage, and this spring the company pulls up its first 60 pounds.
SAN JOSE. A salvage company signs a deal with Colombia in 1984 to find a ship supposedly laden with billions of dollars’ worth of Spanish treasure and share the proceeds. After the company claims to locate the vessel, Colombia reneges, insisting on full ownership. The matter remains in litigation 30 years later.

The Spanish galleon San Jose was trying to outrun a fleet of British warships off Colombia on June 8, 1708, when a mysterious explosion sent it to the bottom.
BLACK SWAN. Odyssey announces a discovery in 2007, which it code-names “Black Swan,” and extracts an estimated half-billion dollars’ worth of coins. Spain sues for ownership, saying the ship is a naval frigate sunk in 1804, and wins. Odyssey gets nothing and is ordered to pay Spain $1 million for “bad faith and abusive litigation.”
NUESTRA SENORA DE ATOCHA. A Spanish ship sunk in 1622 is discovered in the 1970s by adventurer Mel Fisher, who claims it holds $400 million in gold. Historians suspect the number is closer to $20 million. Fisher’s heirs continue to dive the wreck.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lawyer charged after $12M vanishes

Meerai Cho
A Toronto real estate lawyer has been charged with 75 offenses after a condo development went bust — and more than $12-million in deposits disappeared from a trust account. Meerai Cho, 63, was handling investors’ money for a proposed 14-storey hotel and 30-storey residential tower, with some commercial space, in North York.

The condo project fell through, but deposits to more than 140 people were not returned and the trust account is now empty, police say. Ms. Cho has filed for bankruptcy.

Ms. Cho is charged with 25 counts of fraud over $5,000, 25 counts of possession of property obtained by crime and 25 counts of breach of trust. Police expect to lay more charges as alleged victims come forward.

In a listing still available online, the condo building, Centrium is marketed as a development project by Centrust Development.
In advance of construction, Ms. Cho allegedly began holding money in trust for developer, Yo Sup (Joseph) Lee. He wrote to investors in January telling them the project was not going ahead, but that they’d get their money back. When months passed and the investments were not returned, police started to get complaints. It’s not known where Mr. Lee is.

Buyers fear he is no longer in the country.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thomas S. Monahan

Thomas S. Monahan President and Chief Executive Officer
Thomas S. Monahan is President and Chief Executive Officer of CIBC Mellon, Canada's leader in asset servicing. CIBC Mellon is 50-50 jointly owned by BNY Mellon and CIBC.

“We are committed to doing well by doing right,” said Tom Monahan, president and chief executive officer, CIBC Mellon. “I am proud of our performance in 2010 as a company, as a corporate citizen, and as an organization committed to taking responsibility for the impact of our actions on our stakeholders.”

Harry Migirdic
In a landmark case, Montreal Superior Court Judge Jean-Pierre Senècal awarded more than $3 million, including $1.5 million in punitive damages, to retirees Haroutioun and Alice Markarian, who had unwittingly guaranteed the trading losses of people they didn't know at the behest of their former CIBC Wood Gundy broker, Harry Migirdic. The brokerage invoked the guarantees to seize $1.4 million from the Markarians in 2001, leaving $2.54 in their accounts.

Senècal called CIBC's conduct "reprehensible" and said it "cruelly failed" in its duty to protect its clients and supervise its employee. CIBC subsequently settled out of court with several other former clients of Migirdic, who was terminated in 2001.
[614] Daniel Bowering, Compliance Department officer, was mandated by CIBC to investigate Migirdic's fraud and he testified. He wrote to his bosses at the end of his investigation that the firm should probably absorb the Markarians' losses, given all the irregularities committed by Migirdic, Migirdic's statements, the Markarians' statements and all the information revealed in Bowering's investigation. Bowering's recommendation was not followed.
[615]So why was everything blocked? Why were the false guarantees exercised? Why did CIBC seize the Markarians' assets?
[616] Because Tom Monahan, the president of CIBC Wood Gundy, decided that was what to do.
[621] Monahan acknowledged that Migirdic's fraud justified his dismissal. He acknowledged that it did not, however, prevent ... the guarantees from being executed.
[638]CIBC thus became the accomplice in Migirdic's fraud and did everything in its power to benefit from it directly.

Thomas S. Monahan President and Chief Executive Officer
He said the brokerage appropriated the money illegally, treated the Markarians in an arrogant and "degrading" manner and "cruelly failed" to control and supervise its employee. "CIBC must assume responsibility for the fraud of which (the Markarians) were victims," Judge Senecal said. "It was responsible not only indirectly, but directly."

"The brokerage's behaviour was both reprehensible and irresponsible."

Why didn't CIBC World Markets go to the police as well? Why didn't they just settle with the Markarians in 2001 instead of forcing them through 5 years of hell?

CIBC World Markets withdrew their appeal and paid the $1.5 million in punitive damages one month after the court decision.
"A quintessential up-by-the-bootstraps success story, Markarian arrived in Montreal from Egypt in 1962 with $300 in his pocket and co-founded his own mechanical company. He sold the business and retired in 1993 with a nest egg of $4.5 million."

"In March of 2001, CIBC Wood Gundy called Markarian and his wife into a meeting with Thomas Noonan—Migirdic’s boss—and a lawyer employed by the bank. Noonan showed the Markarians the signed guarantees, receiving confirmation it was Haroutioun’s signature. Noonan then told the Markarians that they now owed the bank $1.35 million. Their accounts were frozen and they could no longer carry out any transactions.

Noonan and the lawyer never uttered a word to the elderly couple about Migirdic’s fraud or confession. Markarian, sixty-eight years old at the time, went into shock. At the end of the meeting, he was unable to stand up, and had to be helped out of the room. He could not speak for fifteen minutes, then began asking his wife, “Is it a dream, Alice? Is it true?” Once home, a doctor was called to his bedside.

See more at:

"IN THE END, Migirdic turned himself in. Stressed by his growing web of deceit, he contacted Wood Gundy head Thomas Monahan in February of 2001 and admitted there were “problems” with certain accounts. Monahan told Migirdic to write down the details of the fraud, and Migirdic indicated he deceived Markarian about the documents he was asked to sign. When Migirdic met with his superiors, he reiterated that Markarian never knew he was guaranteeing the debts of perfect strangers."

"Did you consider that [Migirdic] obtained a fraudulent signature of Mr. Markarian on the guarantees? Was it one of the facts that justified his dismissal?” Létourneau asked Monahan.

Monahan rambled, realizing he was stuck in a contradiction: why fire Migirdic unless he’d committed fraud? “But we didn’t know that it had been fraudulent,” Monahan replied. “We knew that that was what he said…and we knew that we had reliable guarantees that had been duly signed by a sophisticated businessman.”
Monahan finally conceded that Markarian “was deceived by Mr. Migirdic.” Still, when Létourneau asked Monahan whether he felt justified in taking Markarian’s money, Monahan responded, “Yes.” “You still maintain it today?” “Yes.”

- See more at:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scythian Gold

The Scythians were Iranian equestrian tribes who inhabited large areas of the central Eurasian steppes starting from the 7th century BC through the 4th century AD.

Ancient Greeks gave the name Scythia to all the lands north-east of Europe and the northern coast of the Black Sea, unknown to them in that era.
Scythian golden pectoral from the royal grave at Tolstaja Mogila kurgan, 4 BC. It shows the three tiers of Scythian mythology: the Inner Earth, the Astral-Cosmic sphere and innermost the inhabited world.

The Ziwiye hoard was uncovered on the south shore of Lake Urmia in Ziwiyeh, Kurdistan Province, Iran, in 1947.

The Iranian plateau was the crossroads of a cultural highway as well as a physical one ... on the "Silk Road" of the ancient world. The hoard contains objects of four distinct styles: Assyrian, Scythian, proto-Achaemenid, and the locals.

The hoard contains gold, silver and ivory objects of exquisite workmanship and are dated to around 700 B.C.

The kingdom of Colchis lay in what is today the Republic of Georgia. Situated east of the Greek world, north of the Persian Empire, and southeast of the Scythians, the region was at a crossroads of cultures. Known in myth as the destination of Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, Colchis was renowned as a region rich in gold.

The Colchian settlement of Vani is situated inland from the eastern shore of the Black Sea, on a 200-meter-high hilltop flanked by deep ravines. The settlement is spread across three terraces and overlooks the fertile region between the Sulori and Rioni rivers.

The earliest signs of human activity at Vani date to 700 B.C., but it is during the fifth century (500–400 B.C.) that the city's wealth becomes prominent. Vani appears to have served as the administrative center for the local Colchian elite, who would have overseen the agricultural economy.

The series of graves for which Vani is renowned date to about 450–250 B.C. Thereafter, rich burials appear to cease.
In Greek mythology, the Golden Fleece is the fleece of the gold-hair winged ram, which was held in Colchis. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship. It figures in the tale of the hero Jason and his band of Argonauts, who set out on a quest for the fleece by order of King Pelias, in order to place Jason rightfully on the throne of Iolcus in Thessaly.

Some believe that the legend of the Golden Fleece was based on a practice of the Black Sea tribes; they would place a lamb's fleece at the bottom of a stream to entrap gold dust being washed down from upstream. This practice is still in use, particularly in the Svaneti region of Georgia.