Above: Detective with Meyer Lansky (right). Source for text and image Wikipedia.
Lansky broke the Cosa Nostra Stereotype
The Sicilian Cosa Nostra, or Mafia, was a group of family businesses. Blood ties were essential for advancement. Meyer Lansky was not even Italian. He was born in Poland to Jewish parents, but this did not prevent him from reaching the top levels of syndicated crime. Lansky may have never taken the Cosa Nostra blood oath, the Omertà. La Cosa Nostra might not have put a burning card depicting a saint in the palm of his hand, but he was in charge.

Referred to often as the “Godfather of Godfathers“, Lansky, along with Charles Luciano, was responsible for the development of The Commission, the governing body of the Mafia in the U.S..
Meyer’s brutal rise to the top was glamourized by his depiction as gangster Hyman Roth in the film Godfather II. He rose through the ranks by the use of violent threats combined with the bloody serial murders of his competitors. Murder, Inc. is one of his most notorious organizations.
Meyer was not only famous for his brutality. After the conviction of Al Capone for tax evasion, Meyer realized his vulnerability. He perfected the art of money laundering by using many shell corporations. Meyer himself kept a low profile: (Wikipedia)

Lansky invariably kept very little property in his name throughout his career, concealing his equity through
partnerships, and appeared to be just another struggling old man.
Lansky: “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel”

The character Hyman Roth from the film The Godfather Part II (1974), portrayed by Lee Strasberg, is based on Lansky. In fact, shortly after the premiere in 1974, Lansky phoned Strasberg and congratulated him on a good performance (Strasberg was nominated for an Oscar for his role), but added “You could’ve made me more sympathetic”. Roth’s statement to Michael Corleone that “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel” was actually a direct quote from Lansky, who said the same thing to his wife while watching a news story on the Cosa Nostra. Additionally, the character Moe Greene, who was a friend of Roth’s, is modeled upon Bugsy Siegel.
Lansky Pioneered the use of Shell Corporations

After Al Capone’s 1931 conviction for tax evasion, Lansky realized his own vulnerability to this type of prosecution. In response, he transferred illegal funds from his growing casino empire to Europe, where he opened a numbered bank account following the 1934 Swiss Banking Act. Later, according to Lucy Komisar, Lansky would even buy an offshore bank in Switzerland, which he used for money laundering through a network of shell and holding companies.[1]
Shell Corporation Definition:

A shell corporation is defined in Barron’s Finance & Investment Handbook as “a company that is incorporated, but has no significant assets or operations.” Shell corporations are not in themselves illegal and they may have legitimate business purposes. However, they are a main component of the underground economy, especially those based in tax
havens
. They may also be known as International Business Corporations (IBCs), Personal Investment Companies (PICs), front companies, or “mailbox” companies.


A classic tax avoidance operation is based on the buying and selling through tax haven shell companies to disguise true profits. The firm does its international operations through this shell corporation, thus not having to report to its country the sums involved, avoiding any taxes. Oxfam International calculates that the flux of money flowing out from developing countries and deposited in tax havens at $50 billion a year. (from Shell Corporation, Wikipedia)
Are Lansky’s techniques currently in use in Barbados?

During the 1930s, Meyer Lansky ‘discovered’ the Caribbean for northeastern syndicate bosses and invested their illegal profits in an assortment of lucrative gambling ventures.
Most of Lansky’s dealings were in Cuba, but he must be given credit for bringing money laundering techniques to the region. I will discuss some of Lansky’s techniques in my next post - “Shell Corporations in Barbados