A lawyer can become a billionaire
This is how billionaire Urs Schwarzenbach's lawyer ticks
Lawyer Ulrich Kohli sees himself on the side of the weaker. Even if he represents billionaire and Dolder owner Urs Schwarzenbach.
Ulrich Kohli and Donald Trump climbed a long flight of stairs to view a secret antenna on the roof level of the 55-story skyscraper. The Swiss lawyer bought two apartments in Manhattan from the real estate mogul - first one in Trump Parc on Central Park in 1988 and later one in Trump Palace on 69th Street. Now he found himself at 190 meters above ground, several floors above his apartment. And inspected equipment that the Secret Service apparently used with the current US President.
Ulrich Kohli loves such stories. Celebrities, secret service, tomorrow's technology - and he is right in the middle of it all.
At the beginning of this week, the lawyer received the “Tages-Anzeiger” in his office. As a representative of the billionaire Urs Schwarzenbach, he himself has become a public figure. Kohli's equipment at the meeting: Macbook, iPad, iPhone, large screen - and over a dozen pages of printed notes, some of which he dictated into the reporter's recording device in written German.
The advocate is careful. Subsequent taxes of over 100 million francs and fines of millions are in the room. Schwarzenbach is in a clinch with customs and tax authorities because of his art activities, they accuse the owner of the Hotel Dolder of incorrectly taxing art treasures and importing them unpaid.
Video - The police confiscated around 30 works of art from Urs Schwarzenbach's Dolder luxury hotel.
Kohli is more than the billionaire's representative. He has known "the Urs" since "primeval times" since they fired their pistols at targets in the Küsnacht rifle club. Later they met again at the Bure arsenal in the Jura, mountain infantryman Schwarzenbach visited the tank troops, where Kohli later made it to lieutenant colonel. The military camaraderie turned into a business relationship, and the lawyer became the co-builder of the forex trader's realm. "Our relationship is friendly, but distant," says Kohli. Urs Schwarzenbach himself did not want to answer any questions for this portrait.
The offshore architect
At least the business relationship cannot be too distant. According to research by the TA, Kohli looks after companies in Switzerland, England, Panama and Liberia that are part of Schwarzenbach's universe - some for more than twenty years. He is a specialist for offshore companies, which is why he has been the focus of the media several times. Nothing got stuck. "I've never been charged, not even in traffic, so it was a fine," he says. His law firm was screened twice last year by the self-regulatory organization of the bar association. And got top marks twice.
Now, in the Schwarzenbach case, the authorities have asked Kohli as an “informant”, as the finance portal “Inside Paradeplatz” revealed. This is something between the witness and the accused, in which a contribution to the crime cannot be completely ruled out. Kohli doesn't want to go into the details on this point. Instead, he attacks the “arbitrariness” of the customs officials: the removal of works of art from the Dolder, the “iconoclasm”, was just a “memo” for Schwarzenbach.
On that day, Kohli also took on the role of speaker. It was he who contacted the press and denounced the "raid" by customs. So he is, always on the side of the weaker and the attacked. “If you have prominent clients, then you come into focus as a lawyer. Then I'll just stand in the line of fire, like the President's Secret Service. "
Such US comparisons keep coming up with Kohli. He has admired the United States since he traveled to New York in the 1970s as chief counsel for Bank Julius Baer. “There is enormous drama there that is missing in Europe. You have the race issue. The death penalty. Organized crime. The Mafia. And then the 19 Washington secret services. That's where I learned to write thrillers. "
The shooting range in the attic
Now lawyer Ulrich Kohli is no longer speaking, now author James Douglas is speaking. He has published 14 novels under the pseudonym - «Thrillers, no crime novels!». In the latest work, two «Allahu Akbar!» screaming terrorists at the Hotel Bellevue in Bern, where an Israeli minister is giving a lecture. Bodies are “riddled” and a terrorist's brain “splashes (...) On the silver letters 'Hotel Bellevue'” before the prologue is over.
Kohli's fascination with guns and crime goes way back. He grew up at Schwarzenburg Castle in the canton of Bern, his father served as court president and governor, and the property also included the remand prison. The boy rummaged through police files, heard a prison breakout, and set up a shooting range in the attic. The first stories were written on the official typewriter, he says.
In 1979 he started his own business. He later gave up a career in the Zurich SVP and a judge's office at the administrative court in order to be able to write more. According to his own statements, he sold over 100,000 books, which is unusual for a Swiss author. The features cut him, however, like many thriller writers. There are only a few Douglas reviews in established newspapers. In the NZZ, it is Lieutenant Colonel Kohli who campaigns for the army in guest articles. James Douglas? Banished in the footnotes of the articles.
The Sean Connery era
The alter ego, made up of “James Bond” and “Michael Douglas”, has long grown into Kohli. At the entrance to the office there is a second plaque under the sign “Kohli & Partner Rechtsanwälte”: “James Douglas Operations”. And sometimes the levels mix - in the Schwarzenbach case, Douglas appeared as the exclusive interviewer who visited the billionaire at his property in Marrakech. The finance portal “Finews.ch” published the interview - without realizing that Kohli had a mandate for Schwarzenbach, as the NZZ first reported.
Among Zurich lawyers, Kohli is considered competent, capable, but also a bit out of date. "He likes that James Bond thing - I mean the Sean Connery era," says an acquaintance. Kohli drives a red Corvette, for the "Schweizer Illustrierte" he had himself photographed in the pose of an agent, with his pistol drawn. In his current book he lets a “beautiful” and “fairytale rich” woman appear who approaches a protagonist “with the grace of a puma” and in doing so “loosens the belt of her bathrobe, which immediately slipped off her shoulder”.
In the meantime he has started to reduce his mandates for reasons of age. But the accusation that he is old school hits the 74-year-old: “That’s wrong in both directions. I am a visionary, I see something coming before others notice it. " Domiciliary companies in Panama are over, today companies are being founded in the USA. Confronted with a number of Panama companies in which Kohli is still active, he speaks of "old stocks" that he still looks after. These are mandates from non-EU nationals who have no “tax exposure” in Europe, i.e. no tax problems.
The client thing is tricky for Kohli. He would like to talk, tell stories. Yes, billionaire Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of the small state of Brunei, is his client. What exactly is he doing for him? Legal confidentiality. Connections between Schwarzenbach and the Sultan? Legal confidentiality. Details about the client Uri Geller, the «spoon bender» and illusionist? Legal confidentiality.
With Obama at the Harvard Club
It is easier with acquaintances who are not his clients. With Donald Trump, for example, whom he met at the Christmas party of the Trump apartment owners, or on the roof of Trump Palace. Kohli says: The mysterious antenna ensured the communication of the US presidents whenever they were in New York - "who would have thought at the time that this antenna would one day serve for Mr. Trump's own protection?"
He also met Barack Obama in New York's Harvard Club. And he had letters of thanks from George W. Bush. As a donor, he was accepted into an «Inner Circle». These stories - are the levels mixed up again here?
No, the antenna exists. The US portal “Buzzfeed” revealed that Trump has received around 150,000 dollars from the Secret Service since 2011. Two campaign donations from Kohli can also be found. An official US donation database shows transfers totaling $ 1,300. Mail to Kohli: Is that so? "Thanks for the info, it'll be true," he emails back. "Greetings, Kohli."
Raid in the Dolder: No claim for damages yet
Employees of the Federal Customs Administration removed paintings and sculptures from Hotel Dolder Grand on March 7th. During the campaign, which lasted several hours, over 30 works worth over 50 million francs were confiscated. At the same time, the customs investigators searched the Villa Falkenstein on Schanzengasse in District 7, where Dolder owner Urs E. Schwarzenbach runs his family office. The reason: Schwarzenbach owes Customs VAT in the amount of twelve million francs. This is because he is said to have illegally imported works of art into Switzerland. The Federal Customs Administration does not comment on the current status of the investigation, and no information is provided on ongoing proceedings. Only this much: a claim for damages against the customs administration threatened by Schwarzenbach has not yet been received.
Now, according to the "Handelszeitung", an art exhibition in Locarno threatens to fall victim to the dispute between customs and Schwarzenbach. In the Pinacoteca Comunale of Locarno, an exhibition by the pop artist Robert Indiana is due to start on April 9th. The core of the exhibition are paintings and sculptures that Schwarzenbach promised to loan in January. This also includes the “New Glory Banner” hung by customs in the lobby of the Hotel Dolder. As "Blick online" reported yesterday, Schwarzenbach has now sent those four Indiana pictures to Locarno that are still in his care, but without informing customs. Schwarzenbach wants customs to release the three still confiscated Indiana pictures. His lawyer had already made a reconsideration request. "Now we hope to get a positive answer." The Pinakothek would like to show all seven works. (high)
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