Fake German heiress convicted of bilking banks, businesses

Anna Sorokin is seen in the courtroom during her trial at New York State Supreme Court in New York on April 11, 2019. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
Updated 26 April 2019

Fake German heiress convicted of bilking banks, businesses

  • Sorokin claimed her father was diplomat and went to extraordinary lengths to have others pay her way
  • She also faces deportation to Germany because authorities say she overstayed her visa

NEW YORK: A New York jury on Thursday convicted an extravagant socialite who bankrolled an implausibly lavish lifestyle with tens of thousands of dollars she swindled from banks, hotels and friends who believed she was a wealthy German heiress.
The Manhattan jury found Anna Sorokin guilty of four counts of theft of services, three counts of grand larceny and one count of attempted grand larceny following a monthlong trial that attracted international attention. She was acquitted of one count of grand larceny and one count of attempted grand larceny.
Her defense attorney, Todd Spodek, said Sorokin could face between five and 15 years in prison on the most serious charge. She is scheduled to be sentenced May 9.
Sorokin also faces deportation to Germany because authorities say she overstayed her visa.
Using the name Anna Delvey, Sorokin deceived friends and financial institutions into believing she had a fortune of about $67 million (60 million euros) overseas that would cover her high-end clothing, luxury hotel stays and trans-Atlantic travel.
She claimed her father was a diplomat or an oil baron and went to extraordinary lengths to have others pay her way. Prosecutors alleged that she promised one friend an all-expenses paid trip to Morocco but then stuck her with the $62,000 bill — Sorokin was acquitted of that charge.
She also was accused of forging financial records in an application for a $22 million loan to fund a private arts club she wanted to build, complete with exhibitions, installations and pop-up shops, prosecutors said. She was denied the loan but persuaded one bank to lend her $100,000 she failed to repay.
Spodek insisted that Sorokin planned to settle her six-figure debts and was merely “buying time.” He portrayed her as an ambitious entrepreneur who had merely gotten in over her head but had no criminal intent.
Spodek said Sorokin was “upset, as anyone would be,” following the verdict. But he said he was pleased Sorokin had been acquitted of one of the most serious charges in the indictment: attempting to steal more than $1 million from City National Bank.
The verdict followed two days of often tedious deliberations, in which jurors asked for repeated clarification on the law and, in one note to the judge, indicated they had reached a “stalemate” due to a single uncompromising juror. In another note Thursday, jurors said they were “unable to reach a unanimous verdict because we fundamentally disagree.”
They reached their verdict less than two hours later.


Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

Updated 31 min 50 sec ago

Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

  • Afghan government excluded from all rounds of talks
  • Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1

KABUL: Afghanistan said on Saturday it expects the US to share details of a peace deal with the Taliban before it is signed, having been excluded from all rounds of talks.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has led diplomats through at least nine rounds of talks with members of the armed group in Qatar since last summer.

A deal could pave the way for a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and end almost two decades of fighting in the country.

But President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been left out of the talks because of objections from the Taliban, which views his regime as a puppet of the West.

The current round of discussions has been described as crucial because, according to present and former Taliban officials, both parties are expected to soon sign a deal.

“The Afghan government expects that it (agreement) will be shared before it is finalized for signing,” Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told Arab News.

He said Kabul could not say when the deal would be signed, and that troops’ departure would be condition-based and not based on a timeline set by the Taliban.

“Well, force reduction will be based on conditions, the terrorist threat is potential and we must fight it together for our common safety and in order to prevent any major terrorist attacks on the world’s capitals. 

“We must deny terrorists from holding free ground in Afghanistan and turning it into a safe haven. The presence of some forces, and continued and meaningful support to the Afghan security and defense forces, will be key to our success.”

The Taliban wants all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan within a set timetable and, in return, the group says it will not allow Afghan soil to be used against any foreign country or US interests.

Afghan and US officials have warned against a total pullout of troops because, they argue, the Taliban will try to regain power by force and the country will slide back into chaos after troops leave.

But some say a continued presence will prolong the conflict, as neighboring powers oppose the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and see it as a trigger for extremism.

The Taliban could not be reached immediately for comment about media reports, which cited the group’s former and current officials as saying that a deal with Washington was imminent.

“We have an agreement on a timeframe for the withdrawal,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman for the Qatar talks, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “Discussions are now focused on its implementation mechanism. We have had general discussions today,” he added, referring to current discussions in Doha. “Tomorrow, we shall have discussions on the implementation part.”

Another Taliban spokesman said the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, had taken part in the current talks which, according to some observers, showed the importance of the discussions and the possibility of a final deal.

Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1, weeks ahead of a crucial and controversial presidential poll in Afghanistan. 

Ghani, who is standing for re-election, says the polls are his priority. Some politicians believe that peace will have to come first and that the vote will have to be delayed.

Abdul Satar Saadat, who served as an adviser to Ghani, said the Taliban and US were racing against time as any delay would damage trust between the two and prompt the Taliban to fight for another five years.

“Because of this both sides are doing their utmost to sign the deal, delay the polls and begin an intra-Afghan dialogue like Oslo,” he told Arab News.