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Investigations Inc.: Filthy Rich

About the Show

White tigers, private jets, multi-million dollar mansions in the most luxurious spots on earth — all paid for with money that critics say was stolen by the ruling families of oil-rich nations. CNBC follows the trail of international corruption and money laundering to a shocking tax haven...The United States.

There are estimates that corruption worldwide costs as much as $1.5 trillion a year. In many countries, the ruling families simply take what they want, living lives of luxury while their people face poverty and oppression. Award-winning Senior Correspondent Scott Cohn and the CNBC Investigations Inc. team follow the money around the globe to Dubai, London, Paris and the United States, which is fast becoming a place for the Filthy Rich to hide their wealth.

One way to hide illicit assets is through shell corporations. The United States is one of just a handful of countries that allow the formation of companies without disclosing the true owner. Filthy Rich introduces viewers to a Nevada man who claims "there is no better way to cloak your assets from public view" than to set up a corporation through him. He operates a business in his house — which is home to more than 2,000 Nevada corporations. Cohn questions Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller who takes pride in the fact that his state is now second per capita to Delaware in the number of corporations based there, as well as U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who says states are becoming conduits for foreign corruption.

A common thread among the filthy rich is oil, and that forces U.S. officials to walk a fine line. CNBC shows how a succession of administrations and companies have been forced to choose between American interests and American values.

Investigations Inc. Extras

  • 10 Corruption Hot Spots Wednesday, 22 Feb 2012 | 12:20 PM ET
    Corruption is a major issue in both developing and developed nations, with the potential to stunt economic growth and scare away investment. But which major countries are the most corrupt? Transparency International, a global organization that advocates against corruption, comes out with a (CPI) every year. The index ranks 183 countries “according to their perceived levels of public sector corruption.” At the bottom of the most recent list are North Korea and Somalia — both received a score of 1

    Corruption is a major issue with the potential to stunt economic growth and scare away investment. Which major countries are perceived as the most corrupt?

  • Tunisian President Ben Ali's French mansion

    The little-known human rights group Sherpa scours financial and property records in order to trace assets back to corrupt leaders and stem illicit capital flows. Their biggest case yet focuses on the ruling families of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo. 

  • Should the U.S. be doing business with countries that are rich in resources — and friendly —but accused of corruption and human rights violations?

  • Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

    Shielding assets from the tax man or from overly inquisitive regulators is a time-honored strategy for the wealthy. Some turn to secretive financial havens like Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. Or there’s always Fernley, Nevada.

  • Obiang Family of Equatorial Guinea     Tuesday, 21 Feb 2012 | 12:00 AM ET

    The Obiang family from the tiny West African nation of Equatorial Guinea has used shell companies and California banks to buy tens of millions of dollars' worth of luxury cars, jewelry, real estate and even Michael Jackson's crystal studded glove, valued at $275,000.

  • A new filing from the Justice Department shows tensions rising between the U.S. and Equatorial Guinea on fresh allegations of corruption. The African nation produces roughly 320,000 barrels of oil per day.

  • Aliyev Family of Azerbaijan     Tuesday, 21 Feb 2012 | 12:00 AM ET

    Baku, Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic on the shores of the Caspian Sea, is a nation where the average citizen makes $420 a month. The family of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has accumulated property and business interests around the world that are worth millions.

Documents

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  • CNBC's senior correspondent and lead investigative reporter, Scott Cohn also appears on "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," the "Today" and on MSNBC.

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