In an earlier post, we noted that yesterday’s Status Conference before Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis was very brief – and that it focused mostly on the Legal Defense Trust Fund that was reportedly set up by Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman just before she herself was indicted.
And we reported that Judge Garaufis has decided to look into the details of the trust in camera – which simply means that he’ll be doing his analysis in his chambers and not sharing whatever it is he decides to review with the prosecution.
As previously reported, one of the attorneys who represents the trustee for the Legal Defense Trust Fund refused to turn over a copy of the documentation concerning the establishment of the Trust to the prosecution.
Needless to say, if Judge Garaufis decides he needs to look at those documents, he’ll likely get to do just that.
The judge made it clear today that he’s going to look at all the details regarding the Legal Defense Trust Fund. That includes how the trust was set up, where the money came from that went into the Trust, and how those funds have been spent over the course of the last five months or so.
And as reported in The New York Post, Judge Garaufis’ scrutiny of the Trust may reveal that it has received funds from other people besides Clare Bronfman.
As the Post reported, when Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, was asked about the Trust, he “…admitted that he didn’t know who all the contributors to the defense fund were”.
Let’s back up a bit – and parse through what Mr. Agnifilo was saying here.
Clearly, his response indicated two things: (1) that he knew the name of at least one of the contributors to the Trust; and (2) that there was more than one contributor.
Based on prior filings in this case – and various tidbits of information that have been shared with us by a variety of people – we originally concluded that the Legal Defense Trust Fund had been funded entirely by Clare Bronfman (We had also been told that Clare had originally put $10 million into the Trust).
But, based on Agnifilo’s response to one of Judge Garaufis’ questions in yesterday’s Status Conference, it now appears that there is at least one other contributor to the Trust – and maybe several such entities.
So the question now becomes: “Who might be willing to throw some money into the pot to provide top-flight defense attorneys to the Vanguard and some of his followers?
Let’s look at some of the possibilities:
Sara Bronfman Igtet: Well, she certainly has enough money to be a contributor. So, the question becomes whether she’d do this – and risk the chance that doing so might inspire the prosecution to indict her as well. Unfortunately for Sara, she got the looks but not the brains – which means it’s quite possible that she has put money into the Trust. Probability: 60%.
Laura Rosa Junco: She’s another one who has more than enough in financial resources to put some money into the Trust – but she reportedly fled to Mexico when the shit hit the fan back in March 2018. It’s doubtful – but still possible – that she’s put some money into the Legal Defense Trust Fund. Probability: 20%.
Keith Raniere: As was explained in a previous post, it’s quite possible that The Vanguard has squirreled away several million dollars over the years (Either that – or he ate a whole lot more of that vegetarian pizza than we originally thought). The problem, of course, is that he may not be able to get to the money now that he’s incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY. Probability: 10%.
Emiliano Salinas and Alex Betancourt: There may be many good reasons for Emiliano, or his partner, Alejandro – two trust fund wastrels – to chip in. But since both of these children are dependent on allowances from their wealthy fathers, the amount they could donate is not large. Probability 10%.
Carlos Salinas: On the other hand, Emiliano’s father, the former president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas, could easily put money into the Trust. His true net worth is not known but is almost certainly exponentially larger than the Bronfman sisters put together.
Carlos is rumored to be the wealthiest man in the world. But you won’t find him on any Forbes’ list. A mere public servant until he was elected president in a notoriously rigged election, his wealth came from the billions he stole as president. During his presidency, it was widely believed he appointed the leaders of the drug cartels.
Today in Mexico, it is widely believed that he is in control of much, or all of Mexico’s illegal drug and arms trafficking trade – the boss of bosses. I doubt any one of the relatives of hundreds of assassinated journalists or assassinated political candidates would argue that he is the most dangerous man in Mexico. [One of the leading journalists in Mexico for one of the biggest news outlets personally told me he is in fear of assassination from Carlos at any time.]
Carlos Salinas could be putting money into the Trust to protect his son Emiliano – who has not yet been indicted. Emiliano ran NXIVM Mexico.
If Carlos put money in, however, it would not likely be directly from him – but through any number of agents – including those of billionaire Carlos Slim [Forbes ranks Slim as the second richest man in the world at some $55 billion]. Slim is one of Carlos’ allies and many believe he is Salinas’ number two man.
Judge Garaufis may decide to trace the source of funds to determine who has been donating money to the Trust. If the donors turn out to be more than merely Clare and Sara – and the amount is considerable – look to Carlos Salinas.
Considering the fact that the chief behind-the-scenes attorney for Clare is Dennis Burke of Arizona – and taking into account the fact that Burke is strongly allied with the Salinas clan – he may have been the conduit. If money in the Trust came from Burke’s escrow account, then Salinas is likely the ultimate source.
Keep in mind that Lauren Salzman – who worked closely with Emiliano Salinas as the conduit between NXIVM USA and NXIVM Mexico – has also retained Arizona lawyers – where Burke has his stronghold.
It is highly unusual to retain Arizona attorneys for a trial in New York City.
The judge may decide to try to find out if any defendants are in actual fear of their lives if they don’t cooperate with the NXIVM defense.
But if this fund has substantially more than what Bronfman put in it – it is likely Carlos Salinas. Probability 50%.
There are, of course, lots of other possible donors. These might be smaller donors – members of NXIVM – who have been solicited and pressured to contribute. Such may be the case when, like Raniere, you’ve been able to require people to do what you want them to do.
The real question here is why Marc Agnifilo gave the answer that he did to Judge Garaufis’ question.
– Why did he apparently disclose that Clare Bronfman is not the only donor to the Legal Defense Trust Fund?
– Is he trying to provoke The Vanguard to fire him – and get him off of this crazy case?
– Is he trying to pass along useful information to the prosecution in the hopes that it might prompt Judge Garaufis to remove him from the case – and replace him with an assigned Public Defender?
– Was he trying to be forthright knowing that he could be held responsible for any improprieties with the Trust?
At the end of the day, using the Trust might be coercive – like collateral – it dangles above each defendant’s head. Nobody has to say anything to anyone. The attorneys do not need to be complicit.
I take the attorneys at their word – that they are not being managed directly by the trustee of the Trust.
The defendants, on the other hand, may feel they have to use the Trust to pay for their lawyers. They may know they are not allowed to take plea deals or to testify against Raniere or Bronfman. They may know what truths and what lies they are supposed to tell.
There were four months between the time of Raniere’s arrest and the superseding indictment. This gave them time to plan their strategies.
They retained their attorneys – as commanded – shortly after Raniere’s arrest.
Is this actually a Bronfman Trust or a Salinas Trust?
Since Clare Bronfman retained Dennis Burke – a Salinas man – is she also following Salinas’ dictates?
Are all the defendants following directions – which is to go all the way to trial and testifying, or not, based on what is best for Salinas, Bronfman, and Raniere? No plea deals allowed?
This, of course, is purely speculative and raises more questions than it answers. We may never know the answers to these questions.
If I were the judge and I had the power – I would find the source of the money first – and determine how much, if any, came from Salinas.
It’s encouraging that Judge Garaufis has decided to take a serious look at the Legal Defense Trust Fund – and see where it got its funding from and whether it’s fairly and equitably distributing funds to those that need help.
Let’s hope he shares whatever he finds out.