Who is Leo Wanta?
by J. Orlin Grabbe
"Bill Clinton's Short-Term Notes"
Asian-European, the CIA, and Mochtar Riady
Meet Leo Emil Wanta. At one point Wanta had bank accounts at Metishe Bank in Moscow, Avenue Bank on the Champs-Elysee in Paris, Credito Italiano in Milan, Anker Bank in Geneva, Swiss Bank Corporation in Geneva, the Algemeine Spaar in Brussels, the Zentralsparkasse und Kommerzialbank in Vienna, Creditanstalt Bankverein in Vienna, and--the perennial favorite of money launderers--Citibank in Milan, New York, and Los Angeles.
Meet Leo Emil Wanta, a man accused of, or praised for, crashing the Russian ruble over 1990-1. There is no doubt that he was a currency trader, placing orders for 100 billion rubles at a time. Then there is the matter of gold--Russian gold.
One of the orders faxed around the world from his New Republic/USA Financial Group Ltd. (2101 North Edgewood Avenue, Appleton, WI 54914, Tele/Fax: (414) 738-7007), dated Feb. 4, 1991, is an offer to buy/sell/effect 2000 metric tons of gold bullion, with rollovers under London good delivery. At the time of this offer, Wanta was in constant phone contact with Roberto Coppola in Rome, where Coppola served as Ambassador of the Russian Republic. Was it Russian gold Wanta was selling?
Was Wanta just another trader specializing in illiquid currencies and flight capital in the form of bullion? Was he a big time money launderer? Either would explain the 14 percent commissions at which he dealt. Or was neither the case? Let's look closer. Because something doesn't add up.
Wanta, an erstwhile traveling companion of Vernon Walters and supplier of machine guns to Bill Casey, was arrested by Swiss authorities on July 7, 1993, in Geneva, Switzerland. He was held for four months, then extradited to Wisconsin to stand trial for state taxes owed for the years 1982 and 1988. The grand total of taxes owed--$14,000.
Curious that. Extradited for $14,000? In taxes? From Switzerland? The story gets weirder.
Wanta was sentenced to 22 years in prison. (Better he had killed a few people than that he owed taxes.) Afterward, on Sept. 21, 1996, Wanta wrote a mysterious letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton, referring to "U.S. President Bill Clinton's Short Term Notes and IMF Sale of Bullion." In the letter Wanta referred to his own "de-stabilization of the Soviet Union Rubles (SUR)" and noted that he "prevented the Soviet & Italian Mafiosa from the Soviet Funds in favour of our U.S. Treasury & Metals Accounts in excess of US$ 150 billion".
Wanta then threatened: "Until by legal release from the unconsitutional/false incarceration in Wisconsin--as a diplomat & non-resident – I am legally interested in the corporate placement of short-term notes & I.M.F. gold bullion/troy ounce delivery contract. Thank you for your kind assistance in this timely situation."
Wanta's letter (or letters) got results. On Jan. 10, 1997, Wanta received a reply from Erskine Bowles at the White House.
Mr. Leo E. Wanta
c/o Kettle Moraine
P.O. Box 31
Plymouth, WI 53073
Dear Mr. Wanta:
Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing from you.
To give your concerns the proper attention, I have forwarded your letter to the Office of Agency Liaison within the White House. You can be certain that your concerns will be carefully reviewed.
Again, thank you for writing.
Erskine B. Bowles
On February 1, 1997, after Bowles had checked with W.H. Agency Relations, Leo Wanta was released on $90,000 bail.
So here's what we know about Wanta so far: Extradited from Switzerland on a triviality. Sentenced to 22 years on the same triviality; but then sprung after references to "Bill Clinton's short-term notes" and the White House checks with Agency Liaison.
Then there's the Russian currency/gold issue. Wanta was dealing in billions of dollars. Where did the financing come from? Another question comes to mind: How did Wanta get to be Ambassador from Somalia?
Claire Sterling's not-so-reliable book "Thieves' World" contains a good bit of information (and mis-information) on Leo Wanta. (Sources include a mysterious Mr. X, an "investment banker", and an unnamed FBI agent. Sterling's credits, however, may identify the latter source: she gives special mention to "Jim Moody of the FBI" – the man who headed up the FBI's organized crime division.
Wanta himself identifies Sterling's "Mr. X" as Treasury Special Agent Philip Wainwright.
Depending on your point of view, Wanta is a con artist or a hero: bilking the crumbling Soviet empire of its currency and resources, helping pushing the wounded bear over the cliff. Wanta's operation has been called the Great Ruble Scam. That is, one of the few ruble scams not engineered by the Russian central bank/Russian government itself.
Wanta presented his credentials in Moscow in October 1990. He was a member of Reagan's "President's Club" (meaning he had given $50,000 to the campaign). He also headed the "New Republic Financial Group" located in Appleton, WI, and registered in Vienna, Austria (New Republic/USA Financial Group, GES.m.b.H., Kartnerstrasse 28/15, Telefon: 513-4235, A-1010 Wien). New Republic had declared capital of about $17,000, according to Sterling. On this basis, Wanta wanted to swap $5 billion for 140 billion rubles, rising over five years to $50 billion for 300 billion rubles.
You never make money unless you think big, right? The proposal (one of three similar ones from seemingly disparate sources) was to be a mini-Marshall plan to import into Russia consumer goods like frozen chickens and Tampax. Or that was the story. Boris Yeltsin approved the deal, but it fell through, according to Sterling, when the State Department reported that Wanta "had major debts and some credit card problems". (Wanta denies that the State Department ever issued such a statement. Much of Sterling's information, in fact, seems to come from a Soviet investigator looking to smear Wanta as a common criminal.)
To Sterling's "Mr. X", who worked with Wanta, the objective was quite different: "I knew there would be a possibility of a Western privately orchestrated economic Jihad that could help crush the communist ruling powers by destroying their unstable ruble. Unilaterally and privately, I decided to play a catalytic role to crash the ruble."
During the previous year Wanta's group bought sold and traded rubles. Many of the orders/offers appear to be bogus--calculated to cause a run on the ruble.
And--coming forward to October 1990--Wanta's deal of $5 billion for 140 billion rubles, or 28 rubles to the dollar, would have been transacted at roughly double the value of the dollar relative to its black market rate which was closer to 14 rubles to the dollar. If executed, the plan would have effectively given Wanta a free 70 billion rubles with which to help himself to the natural resources of a crumbling empire. Not bad. Who was Wanta representing? Himself? Or the U.S. government?
Moving forward to Jan./Feb. 1991, we find Wanta in the process of moving two thousand tons of gold--during a time period when coincidentally two thousand tons of Soviet gold mysteriously disappeared from the Central Bank.
By December 1991 Wanta and his partner Kok Howe Kwong had set up a food for petroleum joint venture in Moscow. Accounts in dollars and rubles were opened at Status Credit Bank in Singapore by the two through Asian-Europa Development Pte Ltd. Asian-Europa proceeded to export Soviet petroleum and import Western goods at an exchange rate (oil for goods) very favorable to Asian-Europa. Asian-Europa appears to be a U.S. government/CIA proprietary company set up under USCA Title 18, Sec. 6., Line 11. And it appears to have had a relationship with Mochtar Riady's Lippo Group.
Without a doubt, Wanta dealt the fading Soviet apparatus a body slam or two. Does that make Leo Wanta an American hero? And if so, why was he incarcerated? Was it just to keep him off the streets because of what he knew (a standard maneuver in the intelligence community)? Does that explain Wanta's bogus extradition from Switzerland? Or was Wanta just a clever con artist who could somehow come up with the contacts and billions of dollars necessary to deceive a crumbling superpower, not to mention the CIA and the U.S. Treasury? Either way, Wanta ain't your average used-car salesman. Wanta may be a victim railroaded by the government he served.
Leo Wanta was appointed Ambassador of Somalia for Switzerland and Canada in March 1993. In July, Wanta had been in Switzerland to make $250,000,000 available for the Children's Defense Fund at the request of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster. Children's Defense Fund? Whose idea was that? What was going on there?
Shortly after Wanta's arrest, and following his daughter's birthday on July 20, 1993, the Superintendent for the Swiss prison where Wanta was being held came by and told Wanta that Wanta's friend Foster had been murdered.
Wanta used to visit FBI Director William Sessions at his office through a secret entry known as the "back of stage". There he would nearly always meet with a Mr.Gonzalez and a Mr. Jim Moody, who were the FBI enforcers for RICO and organized crime issues. Moody was the head of the FBI's organized crime section.
Can any of this shed some light on the death of Vince Foster? Clearly Foster was engaged in some major financial dealings--including the $250,000,000 for the Children's Fund that Wanta discusses. Foster's financial dealings may not explain why he was killed. But they could very well explain why there was no investigation.
What does Wanta think?