New York finds $1bn in hidden Sackler family wire transfers

NY state Attorney General Letitia James says owners of Oxycontin-producer Purdue Pharma made off with opioid 'proceeds'.

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    Purdue Pharma LP and the Sackler family are in the midst of settlement talks with attorneys for some 2,000 plaintiffs [Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]
    Purdue Pharma LP and the Sackler family are in the midst of settlement talks with attorneys for some 2,000 plaintiffs [Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]

    The billionaire family that owns Oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma LP made about $1 billion in transfers among themselves and their shell companies while they were "draining Purdue of its opioids proceeds," New York Attorney General Letitia James told a judge in a letter.

    The transfers, some through Swiss bank accounts, were revealed in documents provided by an unspecified financial institution in response to a subpoena - one of at least 10 banks facing demands for information in New York's lawsuit against Purdue and the Sackler family, the state said in a court filing Friday.

    James said she wrote the letter to show the judge the importance of the subpoenas, as Purdue seeks to quash them before the other banks respond. In a statement Friday, the attorney general accused the Sacklers of misusing the court to "shield their financial misconduct."

    "The limited number of documents provided to us so far underscore the necessity for compliance with every subpoena," James said in a statement.

    New York's lawsuit is separate from about 2,000 lawsuits by cities, counties and Native American tribes accusing opioid makers and distributors of causing a massive public-health crisis that's led to the deaths of more than 400,000 Americans.

    The dispute over the subpoenas comes as Purdue is seeking approval of a tentative $12 billion settlement to resolve most of the claims consolidated before a judge in Cleveland, Ohio - a proposal that James and several of her colleagues scoffed at this week.

    Friday's filing lists several examples of transfers, such as $64 million transferred by a "newly discovered entity" called Purdue Pharma Trust MDAS to Mortimer D.A. Sackler in 2009.

    Representatives for the Sacklers didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the attorney general's letter.

    - With assistance by Jef Feeley

    SOURCE: Bloomberg