Geneva, Switzerland. Friday, October 20.
Dull grey overcast conditions prevailed as Kerri, protected by her black raincoat, entered the six story stone clad headquarters of Liechtensteinische Comco AG on Quai du General-Guison. She was greeted by an exceptionally tall blond blue eyed receptionist. “Welcome to Geneva, Miss King,” she said with a commercial smile. “Mister Lentz is expecting you.” She lifted her gold plated receiver, dialed Lentz’s exchange and announced Kerri’s arrival.
Following the receptionist’s instructions, Kerri rode the elegant paternoster lift to the fourth floor. Lentz met her as she emerged.
Wilhelm Lentz, short, chubby and completely bald, wore a black silk suit and matching tie. His pudgy face was heavily freckled. His light grey eyes were framed by gold rimmed round spectacles. His teeth showed the effects of years of heavy smoking. He extended his right hand. “Good afternoon, Miss King,” he said with a generous brown smile. “Please come with me.” Using his left hand, he pointed in the direction of his office.
“Did you have a pleasant flight?” he asked as he closed the door to his expensively decorated work space.
Kerri nodded. “I slept most of the way. My hours have been rather crazy these days.”
Lentz lowered his head and slapped his forehead with his right palm. “Please forgive my oversight. The very first thing I should have done is to offer my deepest condolences.”
“Thank you, Wilhelm. You’re very kind.”
“And you,” Lentz said, relieved. He pointed to a royal blue velour upholstered French provincial chair in front of his massive mahogany desk. “Please be seated. We have business to discuss.” He rounded his desk, lowered himself into his own chair, then offered Kerri another brown smile. “As per your instructions, your Geneva branch has liquidated all of the positions in your trading account and forwarded the cash to your account in this bank. Its value is now slightly more than four hundred and eighty-seven million U. S. dollars.” He lifted a single sheet of paper from his desk and handed it to Kerri. “This will verify that. It is for your records.”
Kerri glanced at the sheet, then held it up and stared at Lentz. “I want to give it all away, Wilhelm,” she said, expressionless.
Lentz gasped. “You want to do what?” he asked, horrified, his grey eyes almost as big as the rims of his spectacles.
“With your assistance, I want to distribute all of the money in this account, in equal proportions, to the estates of the Iacardi employees who gave their lives to the company on September eleventh. I want it done soon and I want it done anonymously. Can this be done?”
Lentz returned Kerri’s stare, his expression resembling that of one who had received a death sentence. He was stunned, not only because she wanted to give her fortune away, but because the sudden removal of such a large amount of cash would have severe consequences for his bank’s reserves. He paused to compose himself. “Where would we obtain a list of the estates?” he asked.
Kerri removed a large manila envelope from her briefcase and handed it to Lentz. “You obtain it here. This contains the names and service addresses of each of the estates. It was prepared by our New York attorney.”
Lentz accepted the file, then frowned. “We can do as you wish, but it is important that you understand the possible consequences.”
“Tell me what they are.”
“We can do everything possible to preserve your anonymity, Miss King, but what you are proposing to do might make that very difficult. There is no law in this country which would compel us to reveal your identity, but the sudden arrival in your country of such a large amount of money might start a fire, one you may not be able to extinguish. Money has a strange habit of attracting the interest of a lot of people. In this case, a lot of people will receive a lot of money, simultaneously sparking a lot of interest. Undoubtedly, the media will become interested. Eventually, the government will be aroused, and at that point, the fire might be burning out of control.”
Unmoved by Lentz’s warning, Kerri persisted. “If Swiss law allows you to preserve banking secrets, and you keep those secrets, how can there ever be a problem? It shouldn’t matter how big the fire is, your laws are the firewall. Is that not correct?”
“It is, but the government of the United States is a very powerful force. For some time now we have been living in the fear that it will use the weight of its power to force us to reveal the identity of our clients. In other words, they may blackmail us into breaching our own firewall. They know we would like to continue doing business in the United States.”
“Okay, suppose I’m exposed. What, in your opinion, is my downside?”
“Over the past ten years during which we have had the pleasure of your business, the value of your account has grown by almost three hundred percent. It now has realized capital gains of over three hundred million.” He winked at Kerri. “You have paid no tax on that gain... Furthermore, I am not aware of the source of your original capital. It too could be a problem.”
Kerri was instantly reminded that the source of her original capital was the illicit gasoline tax evasion fortune of the late Jim Servito. She had to choose between abandoning her plan and remaining anonymous, or risking it all to assist the families of Iacardi employees who gave their lives for the company. “So if what you’re saying about the intentions of government of the United States is true, I may not be safe, regardless of what I do.”
Lentz nodded, tight lipped. “All of us in the the tax haven banking community agree. It is only a matter of time before we will be compelled to identify our clients.”
She threw caution to the wind. “I’ve had that money for too long, Wilhelm. Ten years too long. It’s time I did something good with it,” she said, experiencing a surge of relief, and simultaneously, a tidal wave of trepidation.
“I presume you’re telling me to proceed.”
“As soon as you can. I’ll sign whatever you need signed. Those people need money now.”
“Very well. If you don’t mind waiting, I’ll have the necessary directions prepared for your signature. We should be able to complete the distributions early next week.”