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June 26, 2024 61 mins

For the vast majority of humans, freeports don't really matter, nor impact their lives. But make now mistake: for the well-heeled and criminals alike, these international storage sites can provide mission-critical loopholes for money laundering, tax dodging and more. In tonight's episode, Ben, Matt and Noel dive into the strange, international web of conspiracies surrounding these obscure -- and technically legal -- storage facilities.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
From UFOs to psychic powers and government conspiracies. History is
riddled with unexplained events. You can turn back now or
learn this stuff they don't want you to know. A
production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:24):
Hello, welcome back to the show. My name is Matt,
my name is Noah.

Speaker 3 (00:28):
They call me Ben. We're joined as always with our
super producer, Paul Mission Control decand most importantly, you are you.
You are here. That makes this the stuff they don't
want you to know worldwide technically, because that's how podcasts work.
Tonight's episode takes us around this vast globe of ours

into a web of proven conspiracies, not conspiracy theories, proven
conspiracies that have gone on for decades at the very least,
and are going to continue because they're mainly invisible for
the vast majority of humans. I mean, we we were
talking about this a little bit off air, and uh,

Paul Rocket Launch Decad said, hang on freeport, like in
Tenant by Christopher Nolan.

Speaker 2 (01:18):
Yeah, precisely, precisely, and like in what was it last
season of what's that show about all the rich people?
Based on the Fox success success it's in billions. Uh,
this these freeport things, they're popular.

Speaker 4 (01:34):
It's a rich people think quick question that we'll understand
your freeports help me understand the plot of Tenant better
or or no, no, not really.

Speaker 3 (01:44):
But the but you can read some excellent uh, some
excellent film theory and analysis on Tenant. I think Tenant's
a three watch. I think by the third time, you
know it either makes sense or you just sort of
give up at all. But like freeports are interesting, Matt's

You're Not in Succession another work of fiction. They're described
as my father has some Financial Impressions, which I thought
was a cool euphemism. This is a sordid tale of
billionaires in crime and fine art and stolen antiques, dirty
muddy trafficking, terrorist cartels, all gathered in a strange set

of locations that are in a very real sense, in
a very literal sense, they are above the laws of
the common and the poor. And it's strange that, despite
how expensive it is to get into these things, we
still commonly call them free ports. I can't do the
air quotes hard. Here are the facts.

Speaker 4 (02:55):
I mean, you know, you mentioned the idea of these euphemisms.
Would you say, like some economic impressions, isn't the term
freeport essentially a euphemism in and of itself. It doesn't
really mean what it seems like it should mean, right,
because they're very expensive, you know, to to participate in.

Speaker 2 (03:13):
Right, Yeah, for the private services offered at a lot
of them. Right, But they are free from molestation by
the government in like of the country you're porting in.

Speaker 3 (03:25):
I love describing rule of law as molestation. Yeah, yeah, right,
free from all these pesky rules that the common have
to practice. There's sometimes called freeport now is like a
street name for a genre of what we call special
economic zone. They can sometimes be called free economic zones
or free territories or just free zones because there's not

always a water port attached to these locations and their
goal overall is to encourage economic activity.

Speaker 4 (03:57):
Well, for we mere mortals, the closest thing to a
freeport that we can actually benefit from be like a
duty free shop.

Speaker 2 (04:05):
In the US, they have government designated zones.

Speaker 3 (04:08):
Right right, which are totally different and above board because
it's this US.

Speaker 4 (04:14):
Yeah, But the idea that the nature of your or
whatever where this place exists is it's sort of this
liminal space economically speaking, That's kind of what duty free
shops or zones are as well, where you can if
you have an international ticket, you can buy stuff without
paying duty taxes on them, like things like liquor and

perfume and whatever else they have at those places.

Speaker 2 (04:38):
Yeah, but theoretically these well correct me if I'm wrong here, guys.
But my understanding is that these things are often set
up so a big company can bring something like steel
in and they don't have to pay the tariffs and
all the taxes on that raw steel they bring in.
Then they can turn that steel in or near the
freeport into something new and then export it from that freeport,

and then they pay the country, the freeport's country the
taxes on exporting it.

Speaker 3 (05:08):
Yeah, and we'll get into we'll get into that as
well in tonight's episode. Yeah, Like that's a that's a
perfect encapsulation of when it's supposed to work correctly. According
to the revised Kyoto Convention of two thousand and three,
a freeport is quote a part of a territory of
a contracting party, which could be anyone, by the way,

where any goods introduced are regarded as being outside of
the territory of that country. So the import duties, the tariffs,
the taxes, they don't count. It's kind of like another
microcosm since said do you freestore. Another microcosmic example of
this would be if you are traveling internationally and you

have a layover in a second country before you get
to your destination country. You don't leave the airport, right,
You just hang in the lounge, get you know, coffee
or whatever, and you never have to clear customs. You
can do that with things as well, especially if you're
quite wealthy. I will say, in most cases, if you

are regular Joe Schmoe traveling around, so.

Speaker 2 (06:16):
We're talking about like a night stay over a couple hours.

Speaker 4 (06:20):
Right, if you don't leave the airport, if you have
to leave the airport and come back or whatever, then
I guess it resets.

Speaker 2 (06:26):
I mean with the stuff going into a freeport, you
just leave for a couple hours, right.

Speaker 3 (06:30):
So yeah, the in most cases, if you are human traveling,
there is an implied agreement that you will only be
at that airport or that's liminal space, as we said,
for a certain amount of time. This does not necessarily
apply to the things. Originally, and we'll just summarize the
history here so we can move on. Originally, a lot

of like we see freeports of all of in step
with the modern idea of the nation state, because you know,
you look at things like the Automan Empire, for instance,
they were a theocracy. However, they also liked money and
they needed economic passage between the infidels and the Ottomans,

and so they would have these specific areas where you
could go as a merchant and you didn't have to
you know, convert Islam. A lot of empires did this.
You also could ostensibly preserve your own identity within these
limited spaces. That's the one of the origins of freeports.
And they were big in colonialism as well. Singapore, Hong Kong,

Saint Thomas and the Caribbean. They all had these things,
and they mainly evolved to They primarily evolved to help
people pass customs get away with customs. How would we
describe customs. I think it's familiar to most people have.

Speaker 4 (07:54):
Traveled well, and I just wanted to point out to
you I traveled it nationally recently, and I hadn't for many,
many years, and have you know a few times in
the last handful of years. But customs isn't the same
as passport control, right like when you pass through into
a new country and you go through that thing where
you have the line of like windows and you have
to show your passport and you get you might get
a stamp there as well, But that's not the same

as customs because they're not it's not your your destination.
So your final destination is where you have to like
declare what you may have brought that could be subject
to these kinds of import export duties.

Speaker 3 (08:27):
Right, yeah, they're best to think of it as a
ven diagram. Today, Clearing customs is usually colloquially took to
mean the passport control. Right you're landing, you know, hopefully
you got your visa or whatever, and you have more
than ten thousand dollars US. You have to declare it

at customs, which doesn't mean they're going to take it
all the time most of the time in fact. But
the way it works is you present your pass where
your other paperwork, you answer hopefully a few questions, you
might get a little fun stamp, and then you go
on your merry way. But the experience widely varies depending
on any number of variables. So these factors could include

things like your destination country, your ultimate your point z
your origin country. That's a huge one. What kind of
passport you have for any international travel nerds? Right now,
the number one best passport is Singapore. That gets you
into the most places. Huh interesting, that's cool. You got
some freeports. They're down to clown And you know, there's

stuff that obviously you shouldn't bring with you that will
make trouble at customs, like Heroin. Don't you know a spoiler,
don't bring Heroin with you abroad. You know, in general,
don't do Heroin. But then there are other things that
might surprise foreigners, you know, like if you ever travel
to a place and they have some pretty hard bands

on different fruit or vegetables or animal products, like Australia.
Hawaii's big for this. Hawaii enforces this on other residents
of the United States just because of their unique ecosystem.

Speaker 4 (10:07):
Certain types of maybe pork products that are processed in
a certain way that is not permitted here in the
United States, for example, like Iberico ham or that is
actually illegal to bring back from Spain. I was told
by that butcher.

Speaker 3 (10:23):
Oh I didn't know that.

Speaker 4 (10:25):
Yeah, it has to do with the way it's processed
and cured or something like that. I don't know exactly
the specifics, but you are not allowed to travel back
with it, and when you do end up in customs
back in the US, there's a lot of signs about parasites,
the little cute infographics saying be careful, don't bring back
whatever because it could be an invasive species and cause
all kinds of chaos in the ecosystem of Atlanta, and

like raw.

Speaker 3 (10:49):
Milk with Canada and the US border exactly.

Speaker 2 (10:51):
Yeah, I would just want to go back to something
you have in the outline here, Ben. It is really
interesting and just mentioning Singapore as being having like one
of the best passports makes sense that you found Singapore
was one of the early freeports, and I think for
my understanding of Hong Kong's relationship between China and the
rest of the world, it also is really interesting that

it once was or was a freeport early on, because
it would make sense as almost a way to get
into China or do dealings with China, or for trying
to do dealings with other countries. Back in the day,
you could use Hong Kong as almost this, as you said,
a liminal zone.

Speaker 3 (11:30):
Up till nineteen ninety nine. I think that's really when
the lease expired. So yeah, in Singapore course, being in
an autocracy based at the Strait of Malacca, which they
largely control. Look, so let's say you bring in more
than ten grand or whatever it is. You've got a
valuable artifact, it belongs to a museum type stuff. You

declare that a customs because you don't want to get
in trouble. You want to be by the book. These
things might not be technically illegal, but they'll invite some
scrutiny that will almost certainly complicate your trip. So if
we're a terrorist organization or a shadowy billionaire, how do
we get around all this bureaucratic hub up. The answer

is simple, put your stuff in places where laws don't apply.
Find yourself a real life Schrodinger's box. Your objects are
physically present, but they are not considered to exist in
the country in which they're stored. They're just in transit
on the way to somewhere else. Loophole.

Speaker 4 (12:35):
Sorry, it just seems made up, doesn't It's weird.

Speaker 2 (12:40):
It's like agreed upon indivisualized pirate bays or something, you know,
where everybody can sail in.

Speaker 4 (12:48):
Stuff it's like codified the opposite of object object impermanence,
or it's like I don't see anything. Why I don't
see that?

Speaker 3 (12:58):
Are those blood diamonds? Yeah, but they're not here the
diamonds you're looking for.

Speaker 2 (13:04):
All these guys with machine guns.

Speaker 3 (13:06):
Hey, they're in transit and punk brace. Yeah, I mean.
The first modern freeports were meant to prevent what you're
describing mat which is a really good point. Double taxation
and in places with like VAT or value add attacks,
this is a huge deal. So you could say, hey,
we're a bunch of manufacturers in Australia. We got this machinery.

It's going to go to the United Kingdom, but it
has to make stops along the way, and if we
use freeports then we won't get taxed or tariffed at
every single stop. Theoretically, this makes sense and you need
it for global business. But the boffins, the eggheads, the
legal beagles quickly realized there is no time limit on

this concept of being in transit. They're parking lots with
no no clock. You can deposit something. As a matter
of fact, many people have, including stuff Nazis stole back
in World War two, you could just deposit it in
a freeport and then it'll appreciate indefinitely. Eventually you can

sell it, and depending on how you sell it, you
never have to pay a dime of tax or a pence,
I should say. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (14:18):
So when you use the term like deposit, the implication
there is that not all freeports involve water, right, not
all freeports involve a port per se.

Speaker 2 (14:26):
Right, Well, an airport is also a good.

Speaker 4 (14:30):
Point a port of call. That's right.

Speaker 2 (14:32):
It's not as common, but you know it's it's usually
v a c or river or wherever you get through.

Speaker 3 (14:39):
Geneva is landlocked, right, and they have the world's largest
art collection because of their freeport. Yes, not a museum
you can go to. This is big stuff.

Speaker 2 (14:48):
Do you mind if we just really quickly to talk
about the raw material angle, because I think it's just
important for me to understand what I was thinking about this.
Countries want to you have a ton offact manufacturing in
their country if they're like expensive goods, especially if the
country is going to make a lot of money when
those goods are sold, If that company altogether is going

to be generating income tax in some way or state tax,
country tax whatever.

Speaker 3 (15:17):
It is just economic activity.

Speaker 2 (15:18):
They want these big companies they're manufacturing things, to apply
their goods essentially and their sales to the GDP of
that country. So what they'll do is encourage a big
company to come in and manufacture their stuff, let's say
in the United States, and use this freeport to bring
in the raw materials so they don't have to pay

all those tariffs and taxes on bringing in let's say,
steal from China or something like that, and then they
manufacture their goods and then they send them out and
then they pay their taxes bypassing trade wars all together. Yeah,
but so it's weird, like you'd think a country like
the US would want to have that company any pay

taxes twice or three times or seven times, or have
her many, you know times they can get away with it.
But ultimately it's like it means that every country pretty
much that wants these big money players to be in
their country, to have these freeports and have that accessibility
for companies to go under the radar like that.

Speaker 4 (16:19):
Well, but guys, can I start a freeport? How does
one start? How does one initiate the paperwork to begin
establishing a freeport.

Speaker 3 (16:29):
I would say, first you find a vulnerable post EU
archipelago and then promise their politicians.

Speaker 2 (16:38):
Really any country that's in turmoil, hop in and make
some friends, and then have a bunch of capital.

Speaker 3 (16:46):
Start an abusive financial relationship, which is you know, capitalism.
But you're right, we'll get to this too. There are
there are ways to do it, and a lot of
it goes back to power. Accreting power right, Fire makes friends,
wealth likes wealth, and that's a feedback loop that can
be leveraged. Has been and like, look, there are legitimate uses.

We're being very careful to say that there are legitimate
uses for these global hideaways, and they're often sold to
the public under what we could call optimistic terms. The
idea that the idea is, you know, you're in Liverpool
or Kenshasha, insert any country or city or municipality here,

and the promise that the politicians and the businesses make
is this is a source of job creation. Things have
been kind of tough, will get you jobs in this
neighborhood will also have economic prosperity because all these businesses
are going to be coming in here and they'll be
free from that pesky regulation and taxation and being free

from taxes and regulations. Well, that's the foundation for prosperity. Right.
This might be good for the rich, but it's all
so good for everyone, trickle down type stuff, right, Ors
and Sparrow.

Speaker 2 (18:05):
Yeah, Well, for every freeport, you're looking at thousands, if
not tens of thousands of jobs, like actual jobs, for
as long as the freeport exists. And that's another weird
thing about them. They tend to pop up and then
go away after a couple of decades or even years depending.

Speaker 3 (18:24):
Yeah, and how much of that is calculated like a
pop up restaurant, and how much of that is the
pendulum of public awareness swinging back?

Speaker 4 (18:31):
There is a certain in the knowness about it, isn't there?
Like how I like to even know where they are,
what they are, and how to exploit them. You've got
to be in a certain echelon of humanity to, you know,
to tick all those boxes.

Speaker 3 (18:45):
Right, that's absolutely correct. Sure it might be good for
the rich, but it's also good for everyone. What if
we told you there was more to the story. We're
not going to This is the end of the episode,
spoil kitty. Yeah, they will take a break for some mats.

Here's where it gets crazy, all right. You let people
sanan once. They're gonna shenan again. As the Internet loves
to say.

Speaker 4 (19:13):
Use is that an Internet thing? I've never encountered that.
That's cute.

Speaker 3 (19:17):
Like, there are quite a few very concerning opportunities for corruption, conspiracy,
and crime in the world of freeports. First, the crime,
there's a ton of it. There's so much of it,
it's everywhere. Thing Like, ah, I hate to say it,
I would pause it that you can at any single

freeport in the world right now, you can find something
sketchy going on, especially when we look at financial crimes
because now they've replaced banks.

Speaker 4 (19:50):
Yeah, people love the shenan again and again and again
when it comes to financial crimes. Because as international banking
started to find itself or the thumb of new regulations,
because of governmental crackdowns worldwide on tax fraud, freeport's kind
of slipped into that role of like offshore bank accounts, right.

Speaker 3 (20:14):
One hundred percent. Yeah, tax avoidance, tax shelters, tax havens,
all the hits, all the good ones. Tax avoidance is
a legal thing. Tax avoidance is just the sort of
the group term for the toolbox of stuff that theoretically
anybody can do to minimize the amount they have to

give to the tax man. We've all felt this sting.
It feels great to It feels fantastic when you're done
with a return and you think, ah, I'm not getting
burned that bad.

Speaker 4 (20:43):
Well, avoidance, though, is not inherently the same as fraud
or necessarily illegal, right. You can you can employ certain loopholes,
as we know, very very wealthy people tend to do
and be completely on the right side of the law
by avoiding certain tax taxes, you know, income text.

Speaker 3 (21:01):
One hundred percent. Look into IKEA's nonprofit.

Speaker 4 (21:04):
And really quickly, guys, I meane, I know this is
an episode for another day, but it just got me
thinking because you know me, I'm always complaining about not
knowing where my tax money goes. But did you guys
see Trump's kind of big move to maybe like get
some people on his side talking about eliminating the income
tax and and and replacing it with tariffs, which you know,

based on the quick and dirty analysis I read, would
fundamentally shift the way kind of business is done. A
lot of these types of situations would be included, but
also just in general, it could really be a you know,
finger in the eye of countries like China and stuff
like that. But it obviously it seems real appealing to
folks who are like God, income text sucks, you know.

Speaker 3 (21:46):
Yeah, I would say this is an apolitical point that
is objectively a very stupid idea. It just it's not
supported by the lack of enforcement we see in teriff Regimesently.

Speaker 2 (22:00):
Yeah, every company would leave, every nobody would do business
in the United States anymore because it's that easy to
just shift it and say, all right, cool.

Speaker 4 (22:13):
But it sure is a night shiny political object to
dangle out there for folks that maybe don't do their homework, right.
I appreciate you guys, you know, offering that perspective, but
it does seem like the kind of ditch effort, you know,
policy point that maybe would get some people's eyes lightened up.
You know, no more taxes, why that sounds awesome.

Speaker 2 (22:31):
The best that could happen is you could reduce the
percentages of income tax But there's almost no way. I
don't whatever, I'm not a politician, but I don't see
how you could ever do that considering the spending that
the United States is like the ramp that it's currently
on and has been on. How do you reduce that?

Speaker 3 (22:51):
Also, the president has no power over that nature of
legislation speeches. Yeah, but objectively, that's that sideline mascotrey, which
I don't know is a word, but oh why don't
know it's a word, but yeah, it's American English. Also,
shout out to Ireland. They've been making headway as a

tax haven, so this would be very helpful to Ireland.
Maybe we should get our citizenship. But anyway, you're right, Uh,
there are a lot of up to statements. And again,
just to be very clear, when we're saying something is
objectively a stupid idea, we would say the same thing
if any presidential candidate propose something that Wack could do.

Speaker 4 (23:34):
Oh one hundred percent.

Speaker 3 (23:35):

Speaker 4 (23:35):
I appreciate the very you know, uh, non partisan perspective,
because that's all I was asking for, and I think
that's just it's a fascinating thing to trot out there,
especially given what you just said.

Speaker 3 (23:47):
What if we turn the whole of the United States
into non American free zones, but just one big freeport,
you know what I mean, Roll the dice. Let's see
how it goes. It's look, everybody tries not to overpay
in taxes. The US tax system as a whole bag
of badgers. But we know that tax avoidance techniques become

more sophisticated the more money you have to begin with.
So I would argue that for the upper echelon of
the wealthy, these tax avoidance techniques are on the level
of sorcery. This is like financial wizardry. There are accountants
who make more money than you will ever see in
your life, and they work just a couple couple months

a year.

Speaker 2 (24:33):
Mm hmm. Well in art not art dealers, art liaisons.
There maybe goods liaisons, people who sell goods via the
freeport who pretend to be the owners of objects and property.

Speaker 3 (24:48):
Sub tenants, yeah, brokers.

Speaker 2 (24:51):
Yeah, well that's the whole thing when you get into
But it's part of this, I mean, it's it's part
of the financial crimes. It's you don't in most freeports.
You don't have to have an end like who is
the human being that actually owns this property?

Speaker 3 (25:07):
Right? And who is the human being at the other
side of the table.

Speaker 2 (25:11):
Yeah, you got you got some people who are talking
about selling some art for a ninety five million or
one hundred and eleven million dollars, and then it does
change hands and it all happens there, but nobody knows
who sold what to who.

Speaker 3 (25:26):
I'm not the CEO of Discordia LLC. I am the
liaison between IGU and Discordia, and then I can forward
the email if you would like customs. But that's going
to take eight months minimum, at by which point I
may have another job with a totally different shell company,
but I will still be here. Ye.

Speaker 2 (25:48):
And it's often for a broker like that to make
two percent on a sale, two to five percent on
a sale, which means, let's say it's one hundred million
dollar sale, My god, you're a millionaire. You just made
one sale exactly, and.

Speaker 3 (26:01):
Then you take the rest of the year off this job.
Bro These freeports play a huge role in this financial
sorcery because they are a genuine way of rigging the market,
and the it can become so surrealed and absurd. We
talked about this in our previous episode, The Fine Art
of Money Laundering. You can have an artifact change hands

multiple times, and the price can increase with each iteration,
so it gets more and more expensive, more and more
money in play there on the craps table, but that
actual artifact may never physically leave the single storage room.
It's almost like speculation when people are trading in oil

futures and the oil was just left in the same
ship off the coast.

Speaker 2 (26:48):
Yeah, And it's so weird because often the contracts, the
initial contracts for goods that go into a freeport are
for several months and at maximum they're like six months
or something like that. But then they get what it
elongated and negotiated up to several years. And then sometimes
depending on the freeport, it can be a permanent storage

facility basically, or a storage facility within the freeport system
that is another private service, right.

Speaker 3 (27:16):
And they're still finding stuff stolen by the Nazis in
European freeports. That's how long it can stay in that
parking well.

Speaker 2 (27:24):
Eighteen eighty eight is the Geneva freeport, right, right, so
if you I mean, that's the biggest one around. And
what was the there's something crazy some statistic that was
in a twenty sixteen New York Times article, the louver.
The louver is that how you.

Speaker 3 (27:42):
Say it.

Speaker 2 (27:44):
Had like has at the time twenty sixteen had around
three hundred and fifty thousand pieces of art in it, right,
But then this one freeport in Geneva had one point
two million pieces of like serious art stored in it.

Speaker 4 (28:00):
Is it just frozen in time?

Speaker 1 (28:01):

Speaker 4 (28:01):
How does appreciation and depreciation work in that case?

Speaker 3 (28:05):
Well, I'm glad you asked in our earlier episode on
the fine art of money laundry. It's it's dystopian level
free market stuff. The piece of art or the artifact whatever,
whatever it's like. The materials used to make it don't matter.
It's how much a willing seller is ready to sell

it for and how much a willing buyer is ready
to pay for it. So if you have connections with
a terrorist organization and you need to move say thirty
million dollars, then just buy any old piece of fine art.
Don't even move it from the freeport. Now, congratulations, you
own a Matista or a Goya or whatever that you
never have to see.

Speaker 2 (28:46):
It's so weird. There's a great example of this exact
kind of thing. There was in Town and Country Boys,
a little Town and Country article.

Speaker 4 (28:56):
You guys, y, I've long had.

Speaker 3 (28:59):
A subscribe Loki have some great reporting.

Speaker 2 (29:05):
Oh absolutely there's some reporting from twenty fifteen about this
guy named Eves Bouvier who was one of these art
go between bovie of course, Eves, yes, And he was
working for this Russian oligarch I don't even know how
to say his name, Dmitri Rebolevbolov. And he was working

for this guy as an art go between, and the
oligarch found out that he was overpaying for all of
his art, just over a dinner conversation. So just to
give you some numbers here, there's this one piece of
art Madoligani, I don't know what that is, but some
masterpiece was sold to this Russian oligarch for one hundred

and eighteen million dollars and then he found out that
it was actually only worth ninety three million dollars and
that's what it was sold for. But this go between
dude was charging like twenty five million dollars a pop
for the transactions.

Speaker 4 (30:04):
Has one thing rich people, Hey, it is overpaying for stuff,
but we're paying for stuff.

Speaker 2 (30:09):
Oh yeah, exactly. But that the whole point of that
is that the masterpiece they were charged twenty five million
dollars more for it. So when it was spoken about
or when it was written about. It was sold for
one hundred and eighteen million. It was actually, yeah, exactly.
So it's kind of that thing, that speculation thing that
Ben was talking about with oil prices, that it just

kind of just goes up and up and up every
time somebody pays a little more for it.

Speaker 4 (30:34):
And is that a feature not a bug? Perhaps in
this type of situation.

Speaker 3 (30:38):
It very much is, because it's setting precedents. It's jurisprudence,
there's another word to say it. And this leads us
to the next big problem, which is money laundry. The
world is full of people and organizations that have made
a ton of cash doing a lot of dirt. We're
talking human trafficking, evil drug stuff, slavery, terrorism. In some cases,

rogue nations get slapped with what we call sanctions, which
prevent them from engaging in international in the international political
and economic order. So how do we make the money move.
We do a bigger version of a breaking bag car
wash scheme. First, you set up a shell company, You
make a series of shell companies, and preferably you span

these out across international borders, because the rules for corporate
governance change country to country, right, So you spread your
breadcrumbs wide and this helps throw off the stench of
your dirty money. Then you move illegal funds through the
international system to kind of slowly wash it. We call

this trade based money laundry. And the weird thing is
this sounds so small time for international spector level evil organizations.
But the weird thing is often they're selling cigarettes, add
alcohol and like knockoff handbags in weight through these freeports

and then they you do this legal parkore where you
cook the invoices right or you over under deliver the
stuff you agree you're going to deliver, and then no
one on either side has a problem with it because
the two the buyer and the seller, once you get
through the proxy companies, they're the same group. So they're

just moving their money.

Speaker 4 (32:29):
Yeah, you can convert money into whatever you want, right Like,
it doesn't have to be actual luxury goods. It could
be just like POGs, you know, or whatever it might be.
And it's just a way of like temporarily converting it
to something and then you know, converting it back yep.

Speaker 2 (32:44):
And back in the day, a lot of this stuff
ended up funneling through Panama and Swiss banks, and we've
done episodes on that stuff too, where Panama papers it
all kind of functions together.

Speaker 3 (32:58):
It's a big launch. Is the problem or the advantage,
you know, depending on who you are and where you're at.
We also we see that there's a lot of people
or there are a lot of institutions that are trying
to raise awareness about this. There is a steep divide,
a precipitous chasm between the people who are against reports

and the people who are a forum, and I want
to shout out this group called Comply Advantage, who monitors
this and provides different analytical and security services. They had
a great example of what we just outlined. They said,
all right, if you're reading this and you're an authority
trying to keep your freeports clean, which is good luck, right,

it's sisyphia and it's sort of ocean versus a bucket
of water, but you know, good hustle guys. Right.

Speaker 4 (33:50):
So just in by way of an example here, the
first beneficiary of a multimillion dollar credit line, I guess,
or a letter of credit is to supply medical goods
for another country's bureau of health. But the second and
you know, final beneficiary of the credit issues invoices that
don't match the first ones. This is I don't know.

It seems very much like a classic mafia type scam,
almost like a no show job kind of thing on
the Sopranos, right, or like you're billing extra for like
goods and services that actually don't cost what you're billing
it for, and you're disguising things that way, right, And
these kind of mismatched invoices, So the first beneficiary is
revealed to have substituted invoices that were marked up by

three hundred percent exactly like like I was just describing,
and additionally revealed to a connection with the firm acting
as its agent to the Bureau of Health, so the
go between is in on the deal and facilitating it
to benefit the first party.

Speaker 2 (34:50):
There's some stuff in real estate that happens that's very
similar to.

Speaker 3 (34:54):
That continues today. And either any of these cases where
outlining if you don't look closely enough, and freeports heavily
incentivized not looking closely enough if you don't, this looks
like everyday international business. Worse, it looks like the boring stuff,
you know what I mean. Now, we're just selling loose

cigarettes and discman or something but the issue is smart
criminals like boring stuff. You know, one of the best
neighbors you might encounter in Atlanta, or at least personal
experience here was the guy who owned the local drug operation,
made sure Halloween was safe for the kids. Was basically
an unofficial hoa intervened in crime and petty theft, repeatedly

sent over what I will call drug enthusiasts to mow
my lawn for free, just anything to keep scrutiny of
law enforcement away.

Speaker 4 (35:48):
That's right. That's why I like people can kind of
seem get off the mark significantly when they act like
you know, all drug dealers are, all illegal enterprises are
just chaos in the streets, blasting way causing you know,
the quality of life for those around it just decline.
I mean, of course, there are examples of things like
that with Cartel's, of course, but it's not the run

of It's not the smart way to run an illegal operation.
It just isn't. You know, the best way to do
it is to actually watch people's backs and you know,
do like Pablo Escobar did, where he made sure that
the people who were surrounding him where he lived loved
him and and and protected him and treated him like,
you know, like with the respect you would usually reserve
for a.

Speaker 3 (36:30):
Monarch or a political figure. Real G's move in silence
like Lasagna. That's from Little Wayne. I would also say,
I think Gus Fring legitimately cared about the chicken.

Speaker 4 (36:40):
Is design of the silence because it has a silent
g Yeah, real silence, just making sure, Uh I get it,
geez ah, sorry, got it. Clever, that's very clever.

Speaker 3 (36:52):
I think you probably came down between real g's moving
silence like Balgoney or real G's moving silence like Lasagna,
and he went with the more mop stir of the two.

Speaker 4 (37:01):
Absolutely. It's also you know, I would argue, taste here.
You're a big blogoney person but never been my thing.

Speaker 3 (37:06):
Oh now we're going to get an email about bologney lasagna.

Speaker 4 (37:10):
No, thank you. I'm well, but I don't know or
you know, there is a fancy boloney is more or
less like that Mortadell kind of the real fancy cold
cut of that is essentially just fancy blogoney. So you know,
I guess it's all it's all in in what you're
looking for.

Speaker 3 (37:27):
And then there's another thing, not necessarily even financial, crime,
but what we foreshadowed earlier, it belongs in a museum.
People are looting artifacts and putting them in freeports and
kind of waiting and cooking till they get the best
socio political environment to move these to private collectors like

things you cannot put a price on, or perhaps to
get a good deal with a museum they're stealing. It
occurs off in war, during like in times of turmoil,
in ancient troubled areas of the world like the Middle
East is huge for this.

Speaker 4 (38:09):
So in December of twenty sixteen, authorities in Switzerland seized
cultural relics that had been looted from several Middle Eastern countries,
including the Yemen, Libya, and Syria, that had up until
that point been stored in Geneva's freeport, which is home
currently to billions of Swiss francs worth of fine art

and other you know treasures, including the world's biggest, most
valuable wine cellar.

Speaker 3 (38:41):
That is true.

Speaker 4 (38:41):
Yeah, can you store a wine cellar? That seems like
I guess it's just all packed up. Maybe it's just
climate controlled, baby. Yeah, that's all you need.

Speaker 3 (38:51):
You got to be the cellar, you know what I mean?
So the the European Union did this investigation in this
you absolute correct. It was a huge crackdown and they
found that three of these pieces at least were from
a UNESCO World Heritage site that the Islamic State had
been destroying, because we may recall not too long ago,

the Islamic State or various factions thereof were super centered
on destroying you know, things that like if you're human
listening now, they were destroying your stuff, like the marks
of your ancestors, the story of human civilization, erasing all
of it. And looters, you know, despite their maybe fundamentalist leanings,

they like to make a little bit of coin, you know,
a couple of euros, so they hid this stuff shipped
out via cutter to Switzerland and the Middle East is
also big on freeports. This launched a new crackdown and
the Swiss government when they reacted, they went pretty hard.
They're trying to remove all the typical, advantageous or attractive

parts of a freeport. Like you were saying earlier, the
idea is now, if you are what's called a tenant
there like two hundred something tenants in Geneva for their freeport,
you have to have an independent firm of specialist, a
third party firm investigate the providence of your relics. And

then you have to tell them who is really making
money and who is really buying it. And then the
craziest part, the most like Christopher Nolan part of it,
they have to submit to a quote biometric system that'll
track your individual movements through the freeport. So you can't
because what used to happen is people would say, hey,

I work for Company A, and they might actually work
for Company A, but when they get past you know,
the bar wire and everything, they go to their other job,
company B, and that's where they help the you know,
drug cartels make money. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (41:01):
But it's so weird to me though, because that's one
freeport in Geneva because they had issues and they kind
of had to deal with it. There are thousands of
other freeports out there that don't have this. You don't
need an ultimate beneficial owner or UBO, and nobody ever
gots to know about you, whoever you are. I mean,

thank goodness that I mean, weirdly enough, thank goodness this
terrible thing happened, because at least it's going to bring
some transparency to one freeport.

Speaker 3 (41:33):
Keep it on the low anyway. Yeah, So you're absolutely right.
It's bigger than hip hop, right, it's deeper than wrap.
This is a systemic issue. It's a conspiracy that is
working for a lot of powerful people. And it doesn't
stop just at the you know, the billionaire doesn't want
to pay taxes. It doesn't stop at the evil character

in an Indiana Jones film. Each of these freeports has
a great deal of autonomy, and the rules in one
place are not the same as the rules in the next.
And it touches on war, which we'll talk about. What
is it good for freeports after word from our sponsors, and.

Speaker 4 (42:22):
We've returned war. It never changes and it's not good
for anything at all, absolutely nothing, right, huh. Now to
your point bent before the break, it is very very
good for freeports.

Speaker 2 (42:35):
And weapons manufacturers and people who like to extract resources
for profit.

Speaker 3 (42:42):
Yeah. Switzerland. Again, it sounds like we may be picking
on this country, but they were, you know, they're very
big in the world of banking secrecy, or were for
a long time. Neutrality also very big in the world
of freeports.

Speaker 2 (42:59):
So I thought you're going to say watches.

Speaker 3 (43:01):
And watches, watches, chocolate, overpriced sandwiches, I said it going back.
But so the war in Ukraine and the Russian invasion
of Ukraine, which was a slow boil, I think we
can all agree and is currently continuing now. We don't

have to get in the weeds on it, but we
know that this part of the fallout of this as
it resulted in Switzerland having to face scrutiny over handling
Russian assets. As of twenty twenty two, the Swiss government
went back on its historical neutrality laws. They froze six
points three three billion US dollars worth of Russian assets.

They confiscated eleven properties, They took sanctions against Russian individuals
and various shell companies and proxy entities to follow the
European Union. And to be clear, Zerland is not part
of the European Union. They're just sort of they're buddies
the way that sometimes other people rap with the Wu
Tang shannged area.

Speaker 2 (44:09):
Yeah yeah, yeah, yeah, totally.

Speaker 3 (44:12):
So the issue is that even if you are the
government of Switzerland, you know, you're like Swiss passport control
your Swiss customs, you are still going to have problems
getting into these freeports. That's nuts. That's like being the
president of the United States and they say you can't

go into this building.

Speaker 4 (44:34):
Do you know who I am? I'm the President of
the United States.

Speaker 3 (44:40):
A pictoring security going a president if we let one
of you, and yeah, there's going to be like forty
more immediately, misdent.

Speaker 2 (44:49):
This is for skullin bones members only, exactly.

Speaker 3 (44:54):
And this this was a historically big move for Switzerland.
One of the things that might on strange is the
idea that they're taking action against specific Russian individuals. That
may sound prejudiced until we realize the post communist Russia
is a kleptocracy. The very well to do oligarchs of

Russia and their oligarchs all over the world. The US
has several The very well to do oligarchs are representatives
of Russian state power. Like they don't wake up every
day and say I wonder what I would like to
do with gasprop They take their orders. They are an
unofficial government. So targeting those individuals is targeting the Russian state.

And then we have probably this is a very weird
thing to say, but the hottest debate or the hottest
conspiracy juggling about freeports now, at least in the West,
concerns the United Kingdom.

Speaker 4 (45:55):
Oh yeah, because of Brexit fallout right, because it was
sort of a debacle, didn't work out the way anyone
thought or hoped or expect it, or maybe exactly as
it was intended. So the idea of freeports, I guess
that it makes them more important in order to claw
back some of that capital that was lost in instituting

this catastrophic plan. I mean, I don't know. Again, it's
up in the air as to whether you think there's
anybody Ben or Matt I'd love to hear that benefited
from Brexit, or if it was just in general to
sort of like a dumb nationalistic move that shot everybody.

Speaker 3 (46:31):
In the foot.

Speaker 2 (46:32):
I don't have enough information to give you a clear
answer there. I do know that there's some weird freeport
stuff going on in the UK. There was a there's
a brand new one. There was news about it, gosh
from this month June, like a couple of days ago.
What is it called the Fourth Green Freeport. It's officially

open for business as of June twelfth.

Speaker 3 (46:55):
They reduced their environmental footprint.

Speaker 1 (46:58):

Speaker 2 (46:59):
Oh, and they're going to do it more with this
fourth Green Freeport, apparently, because it's going to be focused
on all kinds of things like hydrogen, offshore wind, sustainable fuels,
modular manufacturing.

Speaker 3 (47:11):
Matt waved his hands when he said modular manufacturing.

Speaker 2 (47:14):
But it's that thing we're talking about where you you
are encouraging outsiders essentially to come into this freeport so
that their private company can bring stuff in, manufacture it,
work on things there, and then the UK will make
money afterwards, Scotland will make money.

Speaker 4 (47:30):
Doesn't It just go to show how little the actual
consumer is regarded in all of these things, all of
these goings on. When you see what we get the
occasional tax free holiday, you know, or whatever, like the
ability to write something off on our taxes, et cetera,
when you have these just massive tax loopholes that are

designed not to benefit us but to benefit the folks
that you know, are charging us for all of the
goods and services and things that we you know, rely on.
Door enjoy.

Speaker 3 (48:01):
I'm drinking out of a paper straw like a sucker.
The characterized Yeah, right exactly, you know what I mean?

Speaker 4 (48:10):
Though, It's like what we get the the the amount
of quote unquote tax grace that we get as individual
humans is just a joke compared to the things that
are available and accessible to the the larger you know,
profiteers in these in.

Speaker 3 (48:25):
These situation last Monday murders is right, well exactly the
magic part.

Speaker 2 (48:30):
But yeah, because it has nothing to do with us overall.
It has to do with the GDP of the country
or the gross value added amount or whatever the other
economic numbers are that they toally gross, that's.

Speaker 3 (48:42):
For sure GNP shout out to Bhutan for gross domestic happiness. Yes,
it's still still a weird one.

Speaker 2 (48:51):
But just this example, this fourth Green Freeport in Scotland
that just opened up. Right, everybody in Scotland who is
of a certain economic level or things about you know,
the country of the United Kingdom and specific areas of
Scotland and tax dollars and all that stuff, they're there.
They believe that's going to bring in around seven hundred

million dollars in private and public investment every year for
the next ten years. So like seven billion dollars that
they're gonna make.

Speaker 3 (49:21):
And also a great deal of the public in Scotland
was not aware of it. If you read like the
Scotsman dot com and other articles. You'll see that the
public didn't know what was going on. Yeah for a
great deal. And you know, is that a bug? Is
that by a design Scotland is its own place. It's

got a lot of other stuff going on. It's easy
to miss the boring news. Well.

Speaker 2 (49:48):
Yeah, and the and they'll the politicians will talk to
the public about it. The economic specialists will talk to
the public about it and say things like it could
generate up to thirty eight thousand well paid, quote highly
skilled green jobs, with nearly nineteen thousand of these being
direct gross jobs linked to target sectors and tax sites.

But what they're not saying is if this is private investment,
a lot of it's private investment, and it's a company
coming in to do business through this freeport, are those
jobs coming in from other countries where human beings are
going to work, have work visas from other countries? Or
are they hiring people directly there?

Speaker 3 (50:30):
That goes to the question we'll get to at the end,
which is do these actually work? Well?

Speaker 4 (50:34):
Yeah, and I hate to keep harping on this, but
like things like stimulus, you know, they have measurable results.
And I mean it's an economic move that some would argue, Yeah,
stimulus does increase you know, spending, and it's injection back
into the economy, and it's ultimately good for the big picture.
But the there's so few things that are like that

that actually benefit the consumer or directly. And if you
and with the number, the sheer number of these types
of tax havens and loopholes and freeport situations that are
out there, I sure would hope that it would benefit
the big picture in some way.

Speaker 3 (51:14):
Right get asked to well, it's the old advertising thing.
Are we selling a product or are we selling a story?
And I would add I would argue that to the
vast majority of the public, freeports, the public approval of
them is based upon selling a story, which is not
We'll get to the idea of whether they work, but
for the background, freeports are not, by any means a

new idea. In the United Kingdom, in the age of
Thatcherite austerity, there were multiple freeports set up in the eighties,
including Liverpool and Southampton. They were phased out later in
twenty twelve, but the UK government post brexit said we
need to bring these back, and again that chasm of

vibe we're talking about here. The people who are pro
freeport tend to be private businesses, high net individuals, and
the politicians who call those entities masters. The people against
it tend to be a well informed public, and all
the nerds who were paid to objectively look at it.
The Office of Budgetary Responsibility over there in the UK said, look,

the tax breaks were given these folks, and these freeports
are proposing they're going to cost US fifty million pounds
sterling a year. They said that in twenty twenty one
quick ballpark math, that's about sixty three point four million
US dollars per year. They also said, we're not really
making anything new. We're taking economic activity from other places.

We're taking jobs from other places. We're just like cloud seeding.
We're not making rain, we're moving moisture. And it may
be to the detriment of other people in this large
interconnecttion did system and then also boom, just one last
mic drop. They don't actually work. Freeports don't work the
way that they are sold to the public as working well.

Speaker 4 (53:09):
And then just to double back on something that I
believe Matt or Ben you pointed out earlier, these do
create jobs. Right, Well, if there's a silver lining at all,
maybe that's one of them.

Speaker 2 (53:21):
I would say they create jobs to run the freeport
the way an airport creates jobs to run parts of
the airport.

Speaker 3 (53:28):

Speaker 2 (53:30):
That's a thing. You got to have people to make
it happen. But when it comes to creating jobs for
specific companies that are coming in, like the private investment
they're talking about, it's a maybe situation at best.

Speaker 3 (53:45):
Yeah, and old jobs are all jobs are worthwhile endeavors. Right,
It's tough to get one, it's tough to keep one.
But there is a difference between high paying jobs and
low wage jobs. And the argument here is that a
lot of the free ports, due to the inherent nature
of the way they're structured, they will move jobs at least,

but they're often going to be low wage jobs aka
not what the public was promised. Also, they're moving stuff around. Again,
they're not necessarily creating higher skilled jobs that would change
the fortune of an economy. You know, you don't have
to look far to see examples of quote unquote forward

investment or private public partnerships that do not benefit the
communities in which they are created. Right, But then the
question is if they might not work in terms of
what the public's promise, but if you're the guy trying
to clean the money or the person or the entity
trying to clean the money, and freeports are great, they
work perfectly. Why change it?

Speaker 2 (54:50):
I don't make more of them? And so we can
move our stuff to other freeports and just keep on
moving it.

Speaker 3 (54:57):
Always in transit, you know what I mean, keep on trucking.

Speaker 4 (55:02):
So I mean, surely we're not the only one making
these observations in terms of like what good are these
to the average you know, citizen, Like what are the
benefits that do they outweigh the Shenanigan agains that are happening.
Are there is there any you know, are there any

moves being made towards, you know, maybe clamping down on
these things a little bit since they have been kind
of compared to shady banking deals.

Speaker 3 (55:32):
Yeah, in Europe, at least in just about four years ago,
the European Union clamped down on around eighty two freeports
and they said, look, all you have been doing, you've
been you've been helping some economies, but you haven't been
helping the economies of your country. You've been helping the
economies of terrorists and money launderers and organized crime. And

those are spoiler, not the people you said you were
going to help with this whole with this whole experiment.

Speaker 2 (56:02):
Yeah, or individual literally billionaires, yes, like that oligarch we
mentioned earlier, who's just keeping hundreds, if not more, priceless
objects and just waiting to offload them when it may,
when the time is right.

Speaker 3 (56:20):
Just seriously, Monty Burns style steepled fingers going, hm, these
lab grown diamonds may become an issue.

Speaker 2 (56:29):
Yeah, I'm telling you.

Speaker 3 (56:30):
Yeah, And you know, shout out to the EU because
they're making that move, because they concluded what we had
talked about at the very beginning of this evening's episode.
They said, these freeports are essentially becoming the sketchy banks
that we had so much trouble with earlier. And the
game of international financial regulation is the game of whackable.

You kill one institution or you make it honest, then
another one springs up in a place it's even worse.
It's it's like the old myth about the hydra. You
cut off one avenue of dirty money and two more
spring forth. So what will replace the freeports. I don't
know something is being done. But the question, maybe the

real final question here is will any legislation make a
difference in the face of all this money? It is
so much money. No one knows how much money it is.

Speaker 2 (57:27):
Yeah, I don't. I don't see it happening because let's
say you shut down all the European Union freeports. Guess
what the people who are using these uh, they've they've
got shipping on lock, they've got yachts, they've got to
move some stuff around.

Speaker 4 (57:46):
Guys. It just occurred to me. You know what else
is another good freeport that's in in in pop culture
and literature enter zone and william S Burrow's Naked Lunch
is a freeport. And it also it's like kind of
of scum and villainy type situation that evolves around there.
And we haven't really talked much about what life is

like in these freeports, but that is how it's depicted
in Naked Lunch.

Speaker 3 (58:12):
Very nice.

Speaker 2 (58:12):
Oh, Ben, I think I have an answer to your question.
If they shut down all the freeports, what do they
replace it with? Moon ports?

Speaker 3 (58:19):
Oh? I thought you were gonna say Dave and Busters.
All right, Moon and Busters. Yeah, let's do it. Do
check out also our episode on mysterious holes. I promise
that that makes sense.

Speaker 2 (58:33):
Right where they're going to keep stuff.

Speaker 3 (58:35):
A loophole is a mysterious hole. I guess.

Speaker 4 (58:37):
Technically we promise we only get childish maybe half a
dozen times, probably less. It's a great episode. Actually, I would.

Speaker 3 (58:45):
Argue, this is my wine cave, right, Please visit me
at my port. Don't worry, it's free.

Speaker 4 (58:57):
It's full of port. Fine port is what I keep
in mind.

Speaker 3 (59:01):
Freeport and this something like this will inevitably continue because
most of the public is never going to personally encounter
this outside of you know, scamp references in fiction and film.
We would love to hear your experiences, help your fellow
conspiracy realist out if you have boots on the ground
with shady international dealings and heck, you know, if you

work at a freeport or free economic zone, please tell
us the stuff they don't want you to know. We
try to be easy to find online.

Speaker 4 (59:31):
Well, yeah, like what's it? Like, what's the setup? Like
I'm picturing, you know, the way an airport operates or whatever,
But I just want to know, like, if you do
work at one of these describe a day in the
life of a freeport employee. I think that's fascinating. You
can find this yeah at the handle conspiracy Stuff, where
we exist on Facebook, where we have our Facebook group

Here's where it gets crazy, which you can join and
get in on the conversation. We are also conspiracy stuff
on xfka, Twitter and on YouTube. Or we have video
content rolling out every single week. Bet youa we'll do
something freeport related one of these days very soon on
Instagram and TikTok or conspiracy Stuff show.

Speaker 2 (01:00:10):
Hey, do you like to call people?

Speaker 4 (01:00:11):
Call us.

Speaker 2 (01:00:12):
Our number is one eight three three std WYTK. Tell
us what happens when an airplane runs into your freeport.
Also tell us what you want us to call you,
what your nickname is, and then you've got three minutes
say whatever you'd like.

Speaker 3 (01:00:25):
Just do.

Speaker 2 (01:00:25):
Let us know if we can use your name and
message on the air. If you got more to say
than could fit in that message, why not instead send
us an email.

Speaker 3 (01:00:32):
We are the entities who read every single email we receive.
And yes, by the way, when you look in the
mirror in the dark, we can hear you. Conspiracy at
iHeartRadio dot.

Speaker 2 (01:00:45):
Com stuff They Don't Want You to Know is a

production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the
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Let's Be Clear with Shannen Doherty

Let's Be Clear with Shannen Doherty

Let’s Be Clear… a new podcast from Shannen Doherty. The actress will open up like never before in a live memoir. She will cover everything from her TV and film credits, to her Stage IV cancer battle, friendships, divorces and more. She will share her own personal stories, how she manages the lows all while celebrating the highs, and her hopes and dreams for the future. As Shannen says, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, it’s about how you get back up. So, LET’S BE CLEAR… this is the truth and nothing but. Join Shannen Doherty each week. Let’s Be Clear, an iHeartRadio podcast.

The Dan Bongino Show

The Dan Bongino Show

He’s a former Secret Service Agent, former NYPD officer, and New York Times best-selling author. Join Dan Bongino each weekday as he tackles the hottest political issues, debunking both liberal and Republican establishment rhetoric.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


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