There is no denial that Bank of Utah is as American as it gets. Beginning its journey in the 1950s by a veteran of both world wars, it hands out affordable mortgages and savings accounts, sponsors kids’ festivals and gathers clothing for the less fortunate.
However, on top of its American-ish customers, the bank has a latent clientele base that incorporates Russia’s most powerful oligarch, Leonid Mikhelson, a friend of the country’s leader, Vladimir V. Putin. The bank had the role of a stand-in so Mr. Mikhelson could latently register a private plane in the United States, which demands American citizenship or residency.
The collaboration with Mr. Mikhelson, whose gas company falls under United States sanctions, is a segment of a latent themed business for Bank of Utah that permits rich foreigners to legally get their hands on American registrations for their aircraft while hiding their true faces from the public’s eyes. The bank manages this via trust accounts, in its personal name, that claim the place of owners on plane registration files.
“There are serious national security risks when the F.A.A. approves an aircraft registration but does not have all the information, particularly if an aircraft is owned by a shell corporation or a foreign entity,” stated Representative Stephen F. Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, when he presented the legislation back in July that would demand the F.A.A. to have and constantly update files on the relevant owners behind aircraft trusts.
One inspector general report from back in 2013 revealed that no less than half of noncitizen trusts registered with the F.A.A. “lacked important information such as the identity of the trusts’ owners and aircraft operators.” Due to that, the report stated, the agency “has been unable to provide information on these aircraft to foreign authorities upon request when U.S. registered aircraft are involved in accidents or incidents.”
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