The New York attorney general’s office disclosed Friday that it uncovered about $1 billion in wire transfers between the Sackler family, which owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, and international financial institutions, suggesting the family sought to shield its wealth in overseas bank accounts.
On Wednesday, the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma reached a tentative settlement with 23 states and thousands of local governments that sued the company over its role in the opioid crisis. The negotiated terms required the Sacklers to relinquish control of Purdue Pharma but admit to no wrongdoing.
The wire transfers were released as part of a court filing by Attorney General Letitia James in an ongoing lawsuit in New York, according to a report by the New York Times. Last month, the New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to nearly three dozen banks and advisers of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in an attempt to determine the full scope of their fortune.
Mortimer D.A. Sackler has defended the offshore transfer of millions of dollars from the company to his family, calling them “perfectly legal and appropriate in every respect,” the Associated Press reported.
Instead, he said the attorney general was attempting to “torpedo a mutually beneficial settlement that is supported by so many other states and would result in billions of dollars going to communities and individuals across the country that need help.”
The negotiated deal, if finalized, would be the first wide-ranging settlement to hold a drug company accountable for its role in the opioid epidemic, which has taken more than 200,000 lives through overdoses since 1999, according to federal statistics.
The agreement drew criticism from several Democratic attorneys general — including those from California, Connecticut, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania — who argued the terms were not severe enough.
Friday’s court filings suggest Sackler participated in 137 wire transfers, with some as recently as last year, placing millions of dollars in “New York real estate holdings in the name of shell companies.”
“Their ownership would have been impossible to detect from publicly available records and without access to financial records,” state prosecutors said in the filing, urging the judge to enforce the subpoenas with which the family has not yet complied. “These records have allowed the state to identify previously unknown shell companies that one of the Sackler defendants used to shift Purdue money through accounts around the world and then conceal it in at least two separate multimillion-dollar real estate investments back here in New York.”