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Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2012

‘Filthy Rich’ not about the glamour

February 23, 2012

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As the saying goes, you can’t be too thin or too rich. But you can be “Filthy Rich” (8 p.m., CNBC). Tonight’s program is no celebration of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but a troubling examination of money sheltering and furtive investments.

We hear a lot about liberation movements in dictatorships like Libya or Syria, but there are still many countries on the periphery of our attention that remain harsh dictatorships, places where a handful of people and their families retain all of the wealth while the vast populace barely survive.

For years, these tyrants hid their loot in Swiss banks or offshore accounts. According to “Filthy,” an increasing number of these folks are finding the United States to be hospitable to their money, their investments and even their relatives.

One Nevada man discloses that he has helped people form more than 2,000 “shell corporations,” companies that don’t disclose their true owners. Some are less discreet. On one spending spree, a ruling family from a West African dictatorship bought millions of dollars of cars, jewelry and even Michael Jackson’s crystal-studded glove. It was a steal at $275,000.

Some state officials interviewed here welcome investments and corporate formation any way they can get them. Others in the federal government fear that turning a blind eye to this foreign-plundered wealth invites corruption and worse.

But it’s difficult to take the high road when you need gasoline to get there. Many of the worst offenders in this global kleptocracy come from oil-producing nations. We may abhor their values, but for the time being, they have us over a barrel.

• Except for the goof-offs on “Unsupervised” (9:30 p.m., FX), it’s almost impossible to be a teenager in a cartoon and not have superpowers. “Monsuno” (7 p.m., Nicktoons) embarks on a 52-episode adventure involving kids who have gained the power to control the Monsumo, creatures whose DNA was carried to Earth in a prehistoric asteroid. Dormant for millions of years, they’re back with a vengeance and ready for action.

Tonight’s other highlights

• “Leap day” proves challenging on “30 Rock” (7 p.m., NBC).

• Risky business on “Person of Interest” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Andy makes an unusual request on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• “Bones” character Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) appears on a crossover episode of “The Finder” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A critic of cults makes his last observation on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

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