Sacklers accused of moving fortune to Swiss banks

Purdue Pharma, controlled by the Sackler family, is accused of fueling the US opioid epidemic through sales of its painkiller OxyContin (AFP Photo/Drew Angerer)

New York (AFP) - Investigators have found at least one billion dollars in wire transfers between the wealthy Sackler family, accused of fuelling the United States's opioid crisis, and financial institutions including Swiss bank accounts, officials said Friday.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the Sacklers and their company Purdue Pharma, last month asked some 30 financial institutions that had worked with the family to hand over documents about their assets.

While she has not received all the information requested, James said in a statement: "Records from one financial institution alone have shown approximately $1 billion in wire transfers between the Sacklers, entities they control and different financial institutions, including those that have funneled funds into Swiss bank accounts."

The prosecutor, confirming information first reported in The New York Times, did not name the financial institutions involved.

Forbes estimates the wealth of the Sackler family at $13 billion, but many US states, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, claim their fortune is greater and hidden overseas.

Those states have opposed a draft agreement reached on Wednesday between the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma and the nearly two dozen states and thousands of local governments that are challenging them in court.

"The scope and scale of the pain, death and destruction that Purdue and the Sacklers have caused far exceeds anything that has been offered thus far," said William Tong, attorney general of Connecticut, where Purdue Pharma is headquartered and which has not backed the proposed settlement.

The draft agreement, which would see the Sacklers give up control of Purdue Pharma and personally contribute $3 billion to a legal settlement that could reach between $10 to $12 billion, is intended to head off legal proceedings set to begin in October in Ohio.

Purdue Pharma makes OxyContin, a painkiller at the heart of the opioid crisis that caused 47,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 alone.