In the first half, retired financial industry professional Bradley Birkenfeld discussed how he blew the whistle on decades of dirty dealings by Swiss banks — and brought down a corrupt system that enabled powerful, moneyed people to hide assets and evade taxes. His testimony helped the US Treasury recover $15 billion in back taxes, fines and penalties -- and forever ended offshore banking as we know it. While the privacy of the Swiss bank accounts began as a positive thing, by the 1960s and 70s, abuse started to become rampant, especially with the globalization of the world. It wasn't just the wealthy in the US, but people around the world like African dictators who were secretly hiding their money in Switzerland, he cited.
When Birkenfeld, who'd been a private banker for UBS, decided to blow the whistle, revealing his first hand knowledge of what was going on, the US Dept. of Justice charged him with conspiracy, but he still brought the information to the US Senate, the SEC, and the IRS. Ironically, though he ended up serving a 30-month sentence in federal prison, he was given a $104 million whistleblower award from the IRS, upon his release. Back when the Senate was holding investigative hearings on UBS in 2008, he said that UBS only gave up 4,700 out of 19,000 accounts in question. Then Senator Obama was on this Committee, but he didn't attend, and Birkenfeld claimed he was actually taking millions in donations from UBS for his presidential campaign.
In the latter half, an associate professor at Cardiff University in Wales, Jan Bondeson shared his most recent work on Fortean stories from Victorian times, like eagle abductions, medical freaks, extraordinary animals, Dog-Faced Men, and reincarnated cats. He culled many of the tales from the Illustrated Police News, an early British tabloid that was first published in 1864, sold for 1 cent an issue, and featured items that were often apocryphal or sensationalized (see related images). One of the spookiest stories was of a "haunted cottage" where an old man named Samuel Churchill was murdered-- witnesses described seeing his ghost "looking into the window with a hideous countenance," he recalled.
He also recounted the story of a 'white gorilla,' an albino creature that was brought to London for exhibition, and called a 'missing link.' Bondeson has concluded the animal was faked, and likely was a shaved chimpanzee. When small children went missing mysteriously, people believed they were being abducted by giant eagles. In a 1904 case in Scotland, the remains of a child were found in an eagle's nest, but a coroner suggested that the birds may have carried remains back after the child had gotten lost and died. Bondeson also detailed various Victorian murder mysteries and serial killer cases, as well as incidents where people were said to be buried alive.
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