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Offshore database revealed

 

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Almost 100 individuals and business entities based in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are named in the infamous “offshore leaks” database — which contains 2.5 million names of folks worldwide with secret offshore bank accounts that can be designed to hide assets.

The database, which includes the names and addresses of foreign account holders in such places as Cook Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Samoa, was leaked recently to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

While the database didn’t yield household names, it contained names of international figures such as French President Francois Hollande’s campaign treasurer, Russian oligarchs, a Canadian senator’s husband and Denise Rich, wife of American oil trader and President Bill Clinton pardon seeker Marc Rich.

Offshore banking has become such a hot potato that calls to end tax havens were heard at the recent G8 summit.

The journalism group, meanwhile, finally made the database public last week. It shows that in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, several doctors, an Internet entrepreneur and well-heeled families with expansive trust accounts put money abroad over the past 30 years.

While more than half closed the accounts after the United Stated promised amnesty for taxpayers who’d bring their money back stateside, many are still active.

Because of the controversial nature of offshore banking, however, few locals named in the database agreed to be interviewed.

Broward asset preservation lawyer Bernard Singer comes up as the administrator of one fund. He agreed to chat because his clients are on the up-and-up — or they wouldn’t be his clients, he said.

“I can’t believe this information is out there,” he said of the database. “A lot of people are not going to be happy.”

Singer cautioned that not all of those named opened accounts abroad to escape the IRS or for nefarious reasons. It can be done legally, he said. For example, Singer set up a trust fund in the Cook Islands for now-retired Hollywood plastic surgeon Richard Edison, whose name is in the database.

Why did he send cash abroad? Unhappy patients!

“Doctors used to set up these trust funds abroad to protect their assets from malpractice lawsuits,” Edison said. “They wanted to protect the things they worked for all their lives.”

To find out if anyone you know is in the database, log on to http://offshoreleaks.icij.org.

Strange encounter

The death last week of James Gandolfini, the 51-year-old star of The Sopranos, reminded me of my attempt to interview him during a viewing party of the series finale at the Seminole Hard Rock Resort & Casino.

Gandolfini, who was at the casino in June 2007 with a dozen of the top actors from the HBO show, mistook me for a reporter of the New York Post.

The paper had outed his mistress a few years earlier, costing him his marriage and a boat load of cash, and Gandolfini clearly still held a grudge.

Before I could tell him I had nothing to do with that paper, he extended one of his huge paws and pulled me hard into his chest.

And like Tony Soprano would give a traitor the kiss of death, Gandolfini planted a wet kiss on my right cheek, then walked away without saying a word.

Obviously, there’d be no interview.

E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died two years ago, watched the scene and cracked up.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “These guys just play themselves, not characters.”

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