The Greatest Show they Couldn’t Afford


Madonna performing at Budva. / MADONNALICIOUS FAN PHOTO
The 2008 extravaganza that pop idol Madonna held in the Montenegrin resort of Budka was described by many as an important landmark in the musical history of that Adriatic country. It now appears it was a landmark in the annals of corruption, as well.

A new report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project details how taxpayers in Montenegro–who had been promised that no public money would go toward the show–ended up shelling out about $6 million to subsidize the Material Girl’s appearance, without their knowledge.

Moreover, a Montenegrin bank transferred $7.5 million to the singer’s agents ahead of the concert, at the same time that it failed to honor 200 orders for wire transfers from customer accounts, each of them with balances sufficient to cover the transfers.

The report appeared to find no evidence that Madonna knew that her payment was coming from potentially illicit sources.  The “Sticky & Sweet” world tour earned the singer $281.6 million that year, while Montenegro’s Central Bank faced demands that it bail out the bank whose clients unwittingly paid for all that sweetness.

Sweep to Paying for Madonna, Cheating Montenegrins 

Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice-president, will not face criminal charges in his native Trinidad over the alleged bribery scandal that cost him his position at the world soccer body last year.

The public prosecutor announced Monday that he would not be charging Warner and that the case was closed, despite evidence suggesting that Warner was the secret owner a hotel and “center of excellence” built with $22.5 million in aid from FIFA. The Trinidadian investigative website published documents showing two companies owned by Warner family members took out an $11 million mortgage on the property.

Warner, deputy prime minister and minister of works in Trinidad, was also accused of handing out bribes to Caribbean delegates at Port-of Spain in May 2011, in an unsuccessful bid to secure the election of Mohamed bin Hammam to lead FIFA.

Warner denies the allegations, saying he is the victim of a vendetta by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Sweep to No charge for Warner

While financial analysts may debate the risks and benefits of Wal-Mart’s alleged gamble in Mexico, where the discount chain reportedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to fast-track its vast expansion, shareholders are meting out their own form of boardroom justice.

The Boston Herald writes today that the Massachussetts Pension Reserves Investment Management system, which owns nearly 1 million shares of Wal-Mart, will demand the replacement of seven members of the board.

In addition, Pensions and Investments, an online news site, is reporting that a growing share of major shareholders are publicly vowing to vote against Wal-Mart’s slate of directors at the company’s annual meeting June 1.

The anti-incumbent wave ranges from the California State Teachers Retirement System, which announced plans to vote down all 15 directors, to the California Public Employee Retirement System, which will reject nine directors. The New York and Connecticut employee retirement systems are also calling for a housecleaning, the site reported.

“If the allegations surrounding the Mexican subsidiary are proven true, and the board was unaware of the bribery, then Wal-Mart’s board has badly failed its shareholders and must move swiftly to bolster its oversight mechanisms,” said a letter from Denise Nappier, Connecticut treasurer and overseer of the pension fund, to James Breyer, presiding director of Wal-Mart, that the site quoted. “At a minimum, the board must determine who was responsible for failing to keep the board informed and remove them from the company.”

Sweep to Plans say no to re-election of directors on Wal-Mart board 

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.