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Oil Investor Zukerman Charged with $45M Tax Evasion

A federal indictment made public on Monday alleges that Morris Zukerman, founder of the investment firm M.E. Zukerman & Co., evaded US$45 million in taxes owed to the U.S. government after he sold his Penreco oil company for US$267 million.

The charges say the businessman declined to report profits he had made from the sale of the oil and specialty solvents company, which he co-owned with ConocoPhillips. Later, he lied to his accountants about the issue by fabricating backdated documents that worked with his story.

The indictment also accuses Zukerman of shipping expensive paintings to locations in Delaware and New Jersey in order to dodge sales taxes mandated by the New York state government. The paintings currently hang in his Park Avenue duplex, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

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In addition, he reportedly took tax deductions for charitable contributions that he had not completed as reported. The documents also suggest that he used the phony contributions to mask profits for which he had been legally obligated to pay taxes.

The Tribune attempted to contact Zukerman; however, messages left with his office were not returned. Court filings say his arraignment had been scheduled to take place on Monday.

The Tribune said M.E. Zukerman & Co.’s website states that it specializes in "stable assets used to produce, gather, process, transport, store, refine or distribute crude oil, natural gas and related products,” though the firm’s site has been blocked to the public at the time of this article’s writing.

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Zukerman has had a storied career: he has served in the Nixon White House, worked for Morgan Stanley for 16 years, and been a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers. The now-71-year-old started his own firm in 1988 in New York, through which he partnered with several major American oil companies, including ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil, and Kinder Morgan.

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The accused’s partners and past employers have not been named in the suit, which had been filed under deal on May 11th.

By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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