- Don Johnson is caught with £5bn in suitcase German
customs suspect Miami Vice star of running money-laundering operation,
writes Alison Chiesa...
- The plot line is one that the scriptwriters of Miami
Vice, the 1980s cool cop drama, would have taken pride in penning.
- However, Don Johnson, the star of the show who, as Sonny
Crockett, frequently broke the gangland power behind money-laundering crime,
is himself now under investigation.
- The actor was stopped leaving Switzerland carrying a
suitcase filled with more than £5bn-worth of share certificates,
cheques, credit notes, and bonds.
- Johnson is suspected of running his own money-laundering
operation, customs authorities in Germany, who are investigating the incident,
- No charges have been filed, but an official said tax
and customs authorities in the US had been told of the discovery.
- Leonhard Bierl, of the Customs Criminal Investigation
Department in Cologne, said: "That wouldn't have happened unless we
were suspicious about why he had all these stocks and shares and so on
with him. This was a lot of numbers."
- Johnson's documents were photocopied, his personal details
taken and he was allowed to continue on his way. However, he was warned
an official investigation could ensue.
- "A decision on whether to launch a criminal probe
against him will come soon," said Mr Bierl. "American authorities
have been fully informed of what we found."
- Johnson, 53, who had his paper fortune concealed in a
suitcase as he returned from Zurich to Germany, found fame as Crockett
alongside police partner Ricardo Tubbs, played by Phillip Michael Thomas,
in the popular series set in the sunshine crime capital of Florida.
- The actor was stopped at a roadblock two miles over the
border in the town of Bietingen. He was with three other men in a black
Mercedes, but the paperwork was all in the actor's suitcase. Although he
was stopped in November of last year, the details emerged only yesterday.
- Customs officials said Johnson introduced two of the
men to officers as his investment manager and his personal assistant. The
role of the third man was unclear.
- A customs spokesman did not specify the nationality of
the other men, but admitted that the money was in the name of several people
"including Don Johnson".
- The spokesman confirmed that the other men were also
under suspicion of money laundering.
- In recent years, German authorities have accelerated
spot checks on routes leading to banking havens across its borders - including
Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg - in a bid to stanch the flow
of black money into undeclared accounts.
- Officials said Johnson was subdued and co-operative when
they asked to search his luggage. However, he became "extremely critical"
as the paperwork was photocopied, page by page - a process that took several
hours, with the documents subjected to intense scrutiny.
- According to the customs record of the incident, Johnson
"was extremely critical and worried whether American tax authorities
would be informed".
- Mr Bierl said the paperwork weighed "several kilos"
and that each document was being carefully examined.
- A customs spokesman added: "We are still awaiting
information from authorities at the clearing station down where the incident
happened. This is why this is taking so long."
- It was reported yesterday that included in the monetary
papers were large payments made out to Johnson, which included cash drawn
from the Union Bank of Switzerland and the Bank of Taiwan.
- When asked what he needed so many billions in paper for,
Johnson allegedly replied: "I am going to buy a car."
- A customs official was reported replying: "With
that kind of money you could buy the factory."