Anti-Money Laundering and the press in New Zealand

There is a strange advertisement that sometimes appears in the community newspapers here, at least some near Wellington. Over an attractive photo of some wilderness there is a catchphrase in largish lettering, “An Oasis For Native Species”; and in smaller type beneath this is “Not for financing terrorism.” This advertisement is for a government campaign against money laundering, known as Keep Our Money Clean. On this website with high production values there are other nice photos with slogans over the top of them, such as: “An Unspoilt Wilderness For Us, Not for Money Launderers.”

The website is meant to announce the phasing in of the AML/CFT legislation, and increasing the scope to more organisations, including real estate agents on 1st January 2019. The intention of the text seems to be to warn people of the extra information now required of them, and that doesn’t explain why this advertisement is in the giveaway local press, perhaps the government can’t afford to advertise in the mainstream press. But there is even more in the way of information that the owners of companies will be required to provide the Companies Office soon. The government want to know who the beneficial owners are, the real owners, and have it added to the public database.

There has been a process of submissions on the beneficial ownership proposal for Parliament. And there has even been a press article on some of the high profile submissions, under the label ‘money laundering’, and in the print version (6/11/18) of the Dominion Post, titled ‘Venture capitalists fret over transparency plan’. Transparency International were in favour of the public register, as well as adding the ownership of the foreign trusts. Even the law firm Russell McVeagh supported the proposal, despite being involved in tax haven activity and tax evasion schemes in the 1980s. However, a previously unknown association of venture capitalists oppose transparency, as it would reduce the attractiveness of New Zealand for investment. The really interesting submission quoted is from Cone Marshall, described as a law and accounting firm in Auckland. They claimed that the proposal put wealthy investors at risk of physical or emotional harm, by which they seem to be referring to the chance of kidnapping.

These transparency proposals are made in conjunction with highlighting the role of residential addresses. Of course, many of the owners of companies seem to have multiple addresses in New Zealand, as well as overseas; Geoffrey Cone apparently has had many residences in South America, as well as around Auckland. There has also been a recent focus on the Chinese owners of New Zealand companies, who have local residences as well as addresses in China or Hong Kong. There are also many Europeans in Hong Kong. And there are examples of where the Companies Office have accepted misleading addresses related to these individuals.

One such expat is Johnathan Ian Banks, who became a director of an overseas Non-ASIC company called Southern Rock Insurance Co. Yes, if that name is familiar it is the insurance company associated with Arron Banks, the controversial donor of millions to the Brexit campaign. But back to his bother Johnathan for a moment. When he took over from his brother as director his address was in Moorslade Lane, Falfield, which looks right, but this was apparently in Wotton-under-Edge. The Google map shows that the latter is some distance from Falfield, though both are Gloucestershire. Jonathan later moved to the Lobster Bay Villas in Clearwater Bay, Gloucestershire, but this is actually in Hong Kong. And by this time it was irrelevant anyway, as the company had ceased business on 31st December 2013. But the notice of this was not placed until the 30th June 2016. There were other directorial changes during this interregnum to Southern Rock Insurance NZ, for which there was still a slew of directors: including Messrs Birrell, Clayden, Coetzee, Gillighan, Wigmore, Robinson; and Ms Trudy McGiffen of Gibraltar.

Southern Rock was apparently part of Arron Banks’ empire, for which there are so many questions, but one of them is not what he and his cronies were doing in the former colonies like New Zealand. The financial reports for Southern Rock on the public database indicate that it did not do very much business at all between 2006 and 2016 (or late 2013). And while Southern Rock appeared to be run from Gibraltar, Arron Andrew Fraser Banks also had a number of New Zealand companies registered between December 2005 and September 2013. Of the five listed there are three named after variations on ‘E Group’ and two titles beginning with ‘Group Direct’. These companies were apparently administered by a small firm of accountants in Palmerston North, a provincial city in the North Island, but are also linked to offices in Brisbane, Australia.

Perhaps more interesting is the short-lived company called Bunker Investments Ltd, that Banks had registered between April 2005 and July 2007. The other shareholder/directors of Bunker Investments included Bruce Phillip West, who appears to be based on the North Shore of Auckland, and John William Gannon. The latter is a well known crony of Banks, and both gave the same business address in Bristol, England to be the directors. But the same documentation provides different addresses for the shareholding: both Banks and Gannon ended up with 25 million shares in Bunker Investments, but gave addresses in Favona, Auckland. Favona is a suburb that most people have not heard of, including me. Banks apparently lived in Favona Road, in a rather modest house by the look of the Google image, and Gannon lived round the corner in Jury Place (probably in a more recent in-fill abode). Was the Arron Banks really slumming it in South Auckland in the mid 2000s, amidst some poor Polynesian people, and at such great risk of being kidnapped?

 

 

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No more Tax Haven in New Zealand?

After a bit of a break from blogging, while doing some historical research, the situation has been moving in New Zealand. A new government was elected and there certainly has been some progress, some of it has an element of continuity, and there are new proposals coming out of the bureaucracy.  Legislation concerning foreign corporations and the Base Erosion and Profit-shifting measures was passed in the Parliament recently. The enhanced Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime has come to place this month. And it was also announced that the new requirements on foreigners holding New Zealand bank accounts has been effective, in that those not complying have had their accounts frozen for the moment.

The picture seems to have changed on the tax evasion front. So is New Zealand still a tax haven, and is the legislative framework still in place for foreigners to move money without effective scrutiny? Could be still too early to say. The new AML measures may not be effective, especially as it seems to require so-called ‘professionals’ to report any suspicious activity. A local expert with a PhD from an Australian university, Ron Pol, thinks that the AML regime is still inadequate, based on overseas experience and the expectations placed on New Zealand authorities to make a substantive difference now.

After all there has been a tax haven framework in place, in effect through the trust legislation, since 1988, which was largely unknown. And the officials appear to have been in denial of this, even after it was exposed due to the Panama Papers. Last year a disclosure regime was superimposed on the so-called ‘foreign trust’ sector, and this was judged to have been effective in deterring the money launderers. So there was no talk about there being a tax haven here, even though the trust law had not changed.

But the real problem in denying that the tax haven existed are the views on trusts that remain entrenched in the bureaucracy, and the contradictory proposals that have come out of the ministry responsible for commercial law and company registration. Firstly, there is a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) within the police that is now responsible for the AML regime. They put out a report earlier this year that should be concerning. Not only did they fail to address the historical blind eye turned to the tax haven, but they also denied the link to money laundering over the years, which they could not calculate. Moreover, they seemed to accept the place of trust and company providers, who were offering to set up foreign trusts and shell companies.

In the report the FIU appeared to state that money laundering was a possibility through the abuse of foreign trusts in New Zealand. But, given the way the trust law was changed, it was not really an abuse at all, given that it went unnoticed. The FIU claimed that foreign trusts were the result of a ‘principled’ approach to trust law. It is hard to know what the principle was that they are referring to, in fact, it was just a theory about the role of the ‘settlor’ in setting up trusts. As I have pointed out before, the Treasury were advised putting this so-called principle into practice, since it set up a tax haven framework. This international expert was ignored in 1987-88 and the ‘foreign trust’ legal form was born. Now the FIU claim it was a legitimate market opportunity, and led to the development of asset protection trusts. Of course, the asset protection trusts were actually developed in the Cook Islands, by New Zealand lawyers, to provide a product that was immune from legal probing by creditors etc.

The problem with the trust law, and the regime of the ‘foreign trusts’ still remains. So is there still a tax haven, really? Part of the problem with the new disclosure regime, and the move to make settlors provide tax information, was that the ownership of trusts was not to be made public. Only the Inland Revue Department would be informed. The privacy of trusts still remains the guiding principle underlying new proposals. Thus, the commerce ministry, known here MBIE, has two new proposals. One is to make the beneficial ownership of New Zealand companies transparent, both for tax purposes and for public searches. This would obviously be a blow to the money launderers, and those that use New Zealand shell companies. But the foreign trusts would not have beneficial ownership made public, and so the secrecy remains.

The other new proposal seems to move in the opposite direction. Here it seems that MBIE want to maintain the ease of doing business in New Zealand, and making company formation as simple as possible. So they want to restrict the information that company directors have to make public, in terms of residential addresses. They claim that having directors make their residences searchable has, in a few instance, led to harassment. This means that all directors can opt out of this and just have a registered address for the company. A number of points follow from this. Having searched company records on-line I have noticed the difference between a residential address, and a residence. There are many directors who seem to have multiple residential addresses – so where do they actually reside? This applies to directors who are obviously foreigners, but also seem to have New Zealand residential addresses. Some are obvious nominee directors or shareholders, some are not. Then there are the local residents who act as nominee directors, and have many different addresses over time. Someone like Geoffrey Cone has addresses in South America, especially Uruguay, and across Auckland; he even uses his ex wife’s address and their former holiday home.

A similar problem occurs with relying on company addresses, or the ‘address for service’ given by the information provider. Some of these apparently physical locations just don’t exist, there may be a building there but nobody is home. Other times it may be an address in the literal sense, but not for any substantive business presence. Thus it is hard to see how this change to directors addresses would alter the shell company game. The FIU and MBIE like to refer to action taken against the Taylor family over their shell companies, and their historical case of arms trading, but as I and others have shown, the Taylor operation was never shut down, and other family members simply became the new nominee directors and shareholders for the shell companies.

I may well take a closer look at some of the non-existent, or zombie company addresses, located around Wellington (which is the home of the public service in New Zealand). But the point is that the tax haven here still needs to be pointed out before it can be closed down for good, even if the government officials continue to deny its existence.

 

 

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Bad Apples and the ‘perfectly legal’ media

There has been a spike of interest in the blog, which is no doubt due to the media frenzy over the so-called ‘Paradise Papers’. I have been busy working on the historical aspects of tax haven activity, and not blogged much this year. The Panama Papers and database provided material for most of the posts, so I should be glad that the ICIJ has another massive leak to work with. But things have moved on. For the bloggers it has to be said that the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist, was a more significant story, and a huge setback to those wanting to scrutinise tax cheats.

Daphne took risks and named names. The ICIJ name names, but only those who are already well known, mostly political figures, and who are easy targets. So not only do they cherry pick the targets for their stories, and seek to maximise attention, but they also play safe. How many times in the coverage so far have the media outlets framed their coverage by stating that everything is legal, and merely tax avoidance. This has been made worse by the decision to include the BBC in the team, one of the most conservative broadcast outlets in every sense of the term. On BBC World, for instance, they began stories by saying the vast majority of the 13 million documents were ‘legal’. Really? What makes them ‘legal’ according to the media, and how would they know?

This blog is based in New Zealand. In the past there has been a loose association with the ICIJ, which means a handful of media people saw documents from the previous leaks. That didn’t lead to many stories anyway. We are more likely to get in-depth reporting from the Australian Financial Review, but that publication has a paywall, so any good Australasian or Pacific stories have to be filtered from very risk averse media outlets. But my main point is that the tax authorities here have what is known as a ‘general anti-avoidance clause’ in the tax code. Even though they are reluctant to use it against the foreign corporations operating here, it is up to the I.R.D. to decide if tax avoidance is legal or not.

So back to the BBC coverage of the British establishment that are linked to the Appleby firm, and therefore appear in the Paradise Papers. There are obviously some soft targets here, mostly in the royal family, and the odd millionaire sportsman. But the main man that was exposed was a Tory Party insider, Lord Ashcroft, and this was a great target for the BBC, partly because it helps make them seem less politically biased. So on the BBC Panorama programme we saw their reporter, Richard Bilton, appear to confront Lord Ashcroft at the Conservative Party conference. He then pursued him for some minutes across the conference venue to the bathrooms. This was quite amusing, and was vaguely reminiscent of those old Benny Hill skits, if it had been speeded up and with soundtrack added. But it explained nothing about how tax havens work.

We haven’t been able to access any of the actual documents from the previous tax haven leaks, and there is no sign of that policy changing. But the ICIJ should also be criticised for the misleading coverage, that targets the well known personalities and not the real crooks; and because of the erroneous claims that there is no obvious illegality or tax evasion involved. As mentioned, how do the media know what is evasion, or mere avoidance, without legal advice or rulings from the respective tax authorities? By claiming that almost all of it is ‘perfectly legal’, one of the media’s favourite cliches, they are not helping the fight against tax havens at all. There is a systemic problem, and tax havens are used for tax evasion by definition. It is the media who seem to be claiming that tax havens are legal, and avoidance is the default position, if only because of a deference to the legal professionals that exploit them.

No, the media should now be called out for failing to report the offshore leaks accurately, as well as preventing civil society groups and experts from researching the documents. It is the media that have decided that the only dubious cases are those of high profile people, who are effectively ‘bad apples’ in a system that is functioning as expected, given the limitations of government action. For a while it seemed that, with the Panama Papers, it was leaning towards tax evasion as the norm for the use of offshore structures and trusts. But the ICIJ have brought back into the mix the multinationals, like Apple, who are not the ‘bad apples’, and are seen to be merely playing the system, but within the rules. It is usually not the rules that need changing, it is actually the existing tax laws that are not being enforced for the tax evaders.

Addendum 20/11/17: The ICIJ have now added the data from the Paradise Papers to the Offshore Leaks database. But neither them nor the New Zealand media have observed the political exposed persons in it from New Zealand. The most significant is the current head of state, the Governor-General, Patsy Reddy. Dame Patsy, then just Patricia L. Reddy was a former a tax lawyer with Brierley Investments Ltd. Through this she, and a number of other B.I.L. people, are linked to the Appleby law firm. She was involved in two entities: one is an Australian company, Oil Basins Ltd; and the other was called Depositary (Bermuda) Ltd. Reddy was a director of Depositary (Bermuda) from December 2000 to April 2005. Another New Zealand director during that time was R.J. Diack, the former Bank of New Zealand executive who was also in the centre of the Winebox documents, and was closely linked to B.I.L. accountant, B.S. Paddy Marra. Even Sir Ron Brierley himself appears in the Paradise Papers, in his role for Gucco Leisure Ltd, and offshoot of B.I.L., that had been a listed company in New Zealand and Singapore. Philip Burdon, the former National Party cabinet minister, and a millionaire, was also associated with Gucco Leisure. Another key figure from the National Party in the 1990s was Jennifer Mary Shipley, who was briefly Prime Minister. She appears in the Paradise Papers through her activity on the boards of Richina Pacific and Richina Leather Ltd, the former company being linked to the failed construction company Mainzeal.

 

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Great Danes, Acquisitive Australians, and a coterie of Swiss accountants

This post is something of a sequel to one I wrote a year ago (Great Danes) about the link between the Equinor Trust, based in Auckland, and Equinor A/S in Denmark. It will be worth another consideration of the crew involved with this, both the New Zealanders and the residents of Copenhagen, with some Swiss and Australian connections. I fell on to this topic while looking once again at the shell companies being run by Steven James Green, and will return to that next time, but for now concentrate on Lachlan Williams.

It was Lachlan Williams that was involved in the Kiwi Deposit Building Society, a NZ company that was doing significant business before its activities raised concerns about money laundering. Curiously, the records of this company appear to have disappeared without a trace from the Companies Office website. Nonetheless, there are records for the Kiwi Deposit Holdings Ltd, a company set up by Lachlan Williams in 2009, with the 100 shares held by the Kiwi Deposit Building Society. The company went through several shareholders, including Glencaple Holdings Ltd, before being run by Allanzia Trust Services and Matthew Hitchman in 2014. By that time, Kiwi Deposit Holdings had become Burlington Holdings Ltd, and the building society had been removed from the register.

Around the time that Kiwi Deposit Building Society got into hot water, one of Matthew Hitchman’s other companies, Orbital Capital Investors Ltd, was linked to a controversial share dealing in Australia. This involved a space technology company called NewSat, and the matter was covered extensively by the Sydney Morning Herald. On 19 March 2015, the SMH published a story “Unlawful share trade by Bailleu Holst blue chip broker earns millions”, and linked the New Zealand registered Orbital Capital with NewSat. The deal apparently involved an emergency $A5 million loan in July 2013, with NewSat agreeing to repay it after three months, and through a sale of 17 million shares to Orbital Capital at a significant discount. The share deal was arranged by the prestigious broking firm Bailleu Holst, and their director Stephen Macaw, which resulted in $A2.4 million profit for Orbital, on top of a substantial interest payment. But the key allegation by the SMH was that Macaw’s brother, Scott Campbell Macaw, a director of Kiwi Deposit Building Society, was also involved in the Orbital Capital deal, through a Danish company.

This was quite a complex allegation: so the Sydney Morning Herald claimed that Orbital Capital’s ‘principal’ was a Zurich businessman, Christoph Dietsche; and Orbital Capital was linked to the Kiwi Deposit Building Society [KDBS]; the KDBS also traded in NewSat’s shares; and that Christoph Dietsche and Scott Macaw were both directors in a Danish company. This actually doesn’t quite add up. However, Dietsche and Scott Macaw are obviously known to each other. They have both been directors of Equinor A/S in Denmark (as has Williams), and in Amalie2 Ejendomsinvest A/S, at different times; and both are among the current officers of Doxa Investments A/S. It is the New Zealand connection that is somewhat unclear. Although both are on the register, neither Dietsche or Macaw was obviously involved with Orbital Capital Investors or Orbital Capital GP Ltd, and both companies are now removed from the register. Scott Macaw was an early of Equinor Trust Ltd, now in liquidation; and in March 2013 he became a director of Ruslan Investments Ltd, along with Lachlan Williams, but that company was de-registered later that year. Meanwhile, there is a Christoph Dietsche listed as a shareholder for Baldur International Ltd, along with Serge Girschweiler, who is also listed as living in Zug, Switzerland. Both Dietsche and Girschweiler are on the team at Seed Wealth Management AG, according to their website. While, in Auckland, Baldur International also owned the shares in ITSC Information Technology Services & Consulting FZ Ltd. And there is one entry for Christoph Dietsche in the Panama Papers.

All of the New Zealand companies listed above have had the involvement of Lachlan Williams. In the previous post I briefly referred to Williams bringing overseas companies onto the New Zealand register. He appears to have also done this a number of times for a coterie of Swiss-based wealth managers: Giovanni Pasqualino, Eugenia Bianchi, and Emilio Bianchi. And it appears that Emilio Bianchi succeeded Scott Campbell Macaw as a director in the Danish company Manter Holdings A/S. The Bianchis have a presence in the U.K. register, including Nairn Investments Ltd; and Eugenia Bianchi and Pasqualino have also set up a few companies in Wyoming. But most of their directorships are in New Zealand and Panama. And while some of their New Zealand companies were set up by Lachlan Williams, other were imported from Wyoming or Delaware, or even Oregon. For example, Topmast Yachting LLC was an Oregon company added to the New Zealand register on 4 July 2011; the agent  for the transfer was listed as Stine Ronne in Auckland, with a local lawyer as witness. Topmast Yachting Ltd is about to be removed from the New Zealand register, and the directors include Martin John Mayhew Allen (also the shareholder), an associate of the Bianchis and Pasqualino, who is now resident in Panama.

Some more interesting examples of the tax haven companies transferred to New Zealand, on behalf of the Eugenia Bianchi and Giovanni Pasqualino, are South Europe Invest LLC and Investidora El Tunal LLC. Both companies are now about to be removed, and the directors are Martin Allen and Herlinda del Carmen Suarez Medina of Panama. And both companies were transferred from the Delaware register on 14 June 2011, with the agent being Stine Ronne, but with an interesting difference. The witness was named as being a Timothy Whittley, and his signature was beside the stamp of the Australian embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. So, although Ms Ronne gives an Auckland address, she was actually in Copenhagen at the time, and a quick search indicates she now works for a shipping firm there. While Mr Whittley is presumably still an employee, possibly the staff driver at the Australian embassy in Denmark. How he got involved with Lachlan Williams offshore adventures would be interesting to know.

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The Taylors Legacy: some Cypriots with a link to Belize, the Marshall Islands & Cactus Kate

The legacy of the Taylors shell company games is something of a gift that keeps giving. In this post I will look at a few more of Taylors’ New Zealand companies, the role of Cypriot directors and beyond. We will also see a new player in the domestic shelf company game, this time from Devonport, Auckland, and their link to the blogger known as Cactus Kate.

I was looking back at some press print-outs from just before the Panama Papers came out last year, and found an article in the (March 5) New Zealand Herald by Hamish Fletcher. After referring to the Maltese politicians with New Zealand trusts, he went on to mention the ‘shell games’ played by the Taylors, and the liquidation of Vicam Ltd, the Taylor company with Nesita Manceau as director. He then referred to another Manceau company, Dolven Ltd, that had not been removed, but had been liquidated on the order of the High Court. In fact, it had been removed in July 2011, but had been reinstated in May 2015, and then liquidated in February 2016, with KPMG appointed as the liquidator. KPMG had been appointed because of a British creditor, Sontrin Products LLP, which, according to Fletcher, was owned by two firms registered in Belize, an obvious tax haven.

In March 2016, KPMG made its first report to the Companies Office about the Dolven liquidation. This, and two later 6-monthly reports, referred to Dolven Ltd as operating as a shell company, until it acquired trademark rights from several European companies in 2010. This seemed to involve a Serbian company, and then negotiations with Dolven’s bank in Latvia, on behalf of Sontrin LLP. Now, it so happens that Sontrin Products LLP was based at the Cornwall Buildings, Birmingham. I say ‘was’ because it was struck off the company register as of yesterday, 2 May 2017, according to the BETA website. A look at its filing history indicates that this was not the first time, as in 2010 it was also ‘administratively dissolved’, but a ‘statement of compliance’ was provided on behalf of Corporate Solutions Ltd (of Belize). This was signed by Mrs Lana Zamba; and other documentation indicates the role of Panagiotis Georgiou. Both Zamba and Georgiou appear many times as the directors of British companies, though most are now dissolved, and have also been directors of Ferron Technology Ltd, one of the only active companies. Zamba appears in the Panama Papers once, as shareholder of Omalley Holdings Ltd, a BVI company linked to the Czech republic.

Lana Zamba turns out to be one of the more notorious nominee directors in Europe, even if she is probably not really aware of it. The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) had a number of investigations which turned up Mrs Zamba as a player, whom they describe as a yoga instructor from Cyprus. One example is how she was the nominal owner of one of the companies (Altkom Ltd) that renovated the Ukrainian Olympic stadium, that had served as the base for the Euro 2012 football tournament. The OCCRP also highlighted what they called the ‘Russian Laundering Machine’ in 2011, and linked it to the so-called Magnitsky case. Two companies involved in this were based in Britain, including Nomirex Trading Ltd, and one in New Zealand, Bristoll Export Ltd, a Taylor company. In early 2013, the Daily Telegraph referred to Zamba as a ‘yoga guru’, who was born in Ukraine, but based in Cyprus, and pointed to her role in Eurobalt Ltd. Eurobalt had a controlling interest in Altkom. And Eurobalt Ltd is still listed as active, but Zamba was succeeded by another Cypriot, Andrea Kakouris, in 2011. The person with significant control of Eurobalt is listed as a Dutchman, resident of the Netherlands Antilles, Gregory Edward Elias.

Lana Zamba’s role also extends to many New Zealand companies. In late 2012 Michael Field of Fairfax reported on her apparent role as the registered owner of a web address forextime.com, operating out of Auckland. The linked company, Forextime NZ Ltd, was set up in 2011, and later removed in January 2016. The shareholder and director was a Yiangos Yiangou of Cyprus, represented by Campbell Law in Auckland. Yiangos Yiangou appears once in the Panama Papers, with a BVI company called Palavar Commercial Inc, a company set up by Unitrust Corporate Services of London (see my previous post). Meanwhile, Lana Zamba, as well as Panagiotis Georgiou, and Andreas Kakouris have all been directors of New Zealand companies. Kakouris has succeeded Zamba as director in three companies set up an accountancy firm, Gannaway Mercer Ltd, of Devenport, Auckland. Two of these companies are owned by the Syten Group, a company based in the Marshall Islands. A company called Potterson Ltd, with Panagiotis Georgiou as a director, was also owned by company based in the Marshall Island, A & P Henderson Ltd. But most of the companies run by Gannaway Mercer Ltd, and directed by Mrs Zamba, were set up by the Anchor Trustees of Auckland, and had another Cypriot, Athina Georgiou, as the original director. And most of these companies had the shareholding assumed by a New Zealand company, GCSL (New Zealand) Ltd. There are a couple of exceptions to this, one being Ariona Sales Ltd, which was owned by Trade Invest System Ltd, a company based at Barrack Rd, Belize (an address that Zamba also used). And the other one was called Intratex Ltd, a company set up by Michael Taylor in Auckland, with Stella Port-Louis, of the Seychelles, as the original director, before Lana Zamba took over with the help of Gannaway Mercer Ltd, in August 2009. All of Zamba’s 75 companies were removed by 2012.

But GCSL (New Zealand) Ltd had another 25 companies set up by Gannaway Mercer, this time with Najwa Smaili, another Cypriot, as a director. GCSL itself was created by the Anchor Management Services Ltd in 2008, with three Hong Kong residents as the original directors. In February 2011 these directors were replaced by Catherine Michelle Odgers, a resident of Hong Kong. She is better known as Cathy Odgers, or the blogger Cactus Kate, a rather well-connected right wing lawyer. In 2014 her political connections came to light in what is now known as the ‘Dirty Politics’ saga in New Zealand.

In the meantime all of Najwa Smaili companies have been removed from the New Zealand companies register. But she remains active in at least four British companies. She is a director of Layford Ltd, also based at the Cornwall Buildings in Birmingham. The person with significant control in the company is Oleg Strazding, a Russian who appears once in the Panama Papers with a BVI company called Tempetrol Ltd. In Broghammer Ltd the person with significant control is also Russian, Aleksandr Nikulnikov. The interesting thing here is that Smaili succeeded Rachel Amy Erickson as director, one of the Taylor clan. And Smaili is also the nominee director in two companies controlled by Ukrainians, Anatoly Butko and Yurii Pilkevich, for Vember Capital Ltd and High-Tech Scientific Investments Ltd, respectively. There are no doubt many more Russian and Ukrainian links to Cypriots in the British company register, as well as New Zealand’s.

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Some more on the Taylor men

It seems that I can’t quite leave the notorious Taylor clan behind, but what a tangled web it was. Or perhaps still is. I will be looking more closely at Geoffrey Taylor, the father, and Michael Taylor, one of the sons, with the help of the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database. And I will be looking for links with Unitrust Corporate Services, or Unitrust Capital Corp, which appears to be one and the same; as well as the collaboration of the Taylors with Mr & Mrs Petre-Mears, residents of the Caribbean island of Nevis, who are notorious nominee directors. This topic has been covered on the Naked Capitalism Blog, but that was really before the Panama Papers were released, and there is a local angle here in New Zealand.

So I have previously mentioned the links between the Taylors and some Cypriots, and their links in turn with Russian law firms, and other East European individuals. Most of the entries in the ICIJ database for Geoffrey Taylor appear in the earlier document leak, and are sourced from the Commonwealth Trust Ltd as an agent. Taylor senior appears as director 89 times, based on one of his entries, and is linked to a number of Russian and Cypriot firms. As an example, G.T. has been a director of RosTiford Ltd since the year 2000, and the intermediary is the Andreas Petrou law office of Nicosia, which has 129 entries overall.  Another (presumably BVI company) is Russmotors Ltd, for which G.T. has been a director since 2004, and the intermediary was Corporaterra Ltd of Nicosia, which has 117 entries overall. This is nothing on Christabel Corporate Services Ltd, of Limassol, which has over 900 entities linked to it in the database. From the Panama Papers, G.T. is a shareholder in Sequioa European Asset Management Ltd, a BVI registered company, where he appears to have succeeded a company named Vernon Directors Ltd in 2013. In another entry for Vernon Directors Ltd, G.T. is listed as a shareholder and the beneficiary, along with a Loizos Loizou of Nicosia in Cyprus. Mr Loizou is also listed as a director of Olpi Ltd, from 2007, where the intermediary is Unitrust Corporate Services of London, which has a whopping 5699 entries in the ICIJ database.

Geoffrey Taylor is also linked with a Luxembourg firm, GESFO S.A., and Maypark Associates Ltd, where he was succeeded as a director in 2004 by Sarah Petre-Mears of Petre-Mears Corporate Services. Mrs Petre-Mears is more well known as a regular nominee director for Unitrust Corporate Services, and both she and her husband Edward appear in the New Zealand company register a number of times. The New Zealand version of Unitrust Corporate Services Ltd was established in late 2008, with Sarah Petre-Mears as shareholder/director, and it was not removed from the register until June 2013. I want to look at the details of the link between Unitrust and the G.T. Group, and the locations involved. The presenter of the documentation for Unitrust was Olga Vovchenko, who otherwise does not appear in the companies register, and it was first located in Tauranga, New Zealand. It was around December 2009 that the Unitrust-administered companies had a new address in Queen St, Auckland, being the base for the G.T. Group. The other company that Mrs Petre-Mears was involved in, Conteron Group Limited, moved a number of times in its brief existence: starting in Tauranga, it was moved to G.T. headquarters in Auckland, then apparently back to Tauranga, to be managed by the Abaconda Management Group, before having a final address in Queens St, Auckland. However, this was a different address for the G.T. Group, and it was in fact the building next door, at 363 Queens St, which is the home of the Quest Apartments.

Indeed, the address of Quest 1504B, 363 Queens St, was often used by Michael Taylor in the company registration process. It looks like an apartment address, but it is in fact effectively a hotel room. Even I have stayed in the Quest Apartments. I also want to look at a few examples of the companies linked to the Taylors, Unitrust, and Edward Petre-Mears. One was Omega Pacific (NZ) Ltd, which is quite a common name. It was registered in 2008 by Ed Kruger, of Abaconda Management in Tauranga, with Mr Petre-Mears as the shareholder/director. Within a month the shareholding was transferred to Sergey Koshkin, of Moscow, and the company address was moved to Auckland before it is removed in July 2012. But Sergey Koshkin also appears in the Panama Papers, along with 3 other comrades, as the shareholders of Helena Associates Corp, a BVI company that was also subject to ‘inactivation’ in July 2012, before being struck off in 2013.

Another New Zealand company administered by Unitrust, with the help of the G.T. Group, was Kazantip Ltd, which was active between 2010 and 2012. This one started off its shelf life at the Quest Apartments address in central Auckland, before being moved out to Te Atatu, in West Auckland. Along the way the shareholding was transferred from Charlie Kalopungi of Vanuatu, a G.T. regular nominee director, to Edward Petre-Mears of Nevis. The interesting thing here is that the presenter of the only annual return for Kazantip Ltd was given as being Kirill Kiriantychev, of Unitrust Capital Corp. He also gives an address as a ‘suite’ in Steeles Ave, Concord, Ontario, Canada. Kirill Kiriantychev is not in the ICIJ database, but is listed on the Open Corporates database, where he appears to have set up a lot of companies in Arkansas. But Unitrust Capital Corp, and the Canadian address, is listed as one of the 5699 entities in the Unitrust Corporate Services category, based at their London address; and there are a further 680 entries linked to a Russian address. I also looked for a link between Sarah Petre-Mears and Kiriantychev. There is a company created by Unitrust Corporate Services, called Entera Ventures Corp, where Sarah Petre-Mears is the director, but the shareholder is a Mr Kirill Neklyudov of Moscow. Neklyudov is also the shareholder in another Unitrust company, this time called Dretomak Financial Inc., but the director is Kellee France (of Nevis) this time. Ms France was also the shareholder/director in five New Zealand companies that follow the same pattern, having been set up by Unitrust in Tauranga, and then assumed by the G.T. Group at their various Auckland addresses. She also has 19 entries in the ICIJ database.

Finally, one of the companies that Sarah Petre-Mears is a director of is Vendome International Ltd, though the intermediary was GESFO of Luxembourg. However, Vendome is quite a popular name for a company. There is a BVI company called Vendome Estates Ltd, which has a number of shareholders, and the beneficiary is listed as Michael John Taylor of Monaco. I don’t think this is the same Michael Taylor, the resident of Quest Apartments in Auckland. But Michael J. Taylor had three other BVI companies, and these had shareholders in the form of Aztec Holdings Ltd, and the Republic International Trust Company Ltd, and these two companies do link Monaco with Australasian trust company players.

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Beyond the Taylors: Cyprus, Ukraine, and former residents of Hartbeespoort (RSA)

This post is more of a report on tracing company directors that stem from the Taylor operation highlighted in the previous post. Here we find intermediaries based in Cyprus that are also in the Panama Papers; clients based in the Ukraine, that aren’t mentioned in the Panama Papers; and a whole swag of South African company directors, who also have alternative addresses in the likes of Mauritius, but are mostly domiciled in the United Kingdom. And, Hartbeespoort people who also have some New Zealand links.

Firstly, the patriarch, Geoffrey Taylor, does get a mention in the Panama Papers, and is linked to a Cypriot or two. Taylor was a shareholder from May 2014 in Sutech Ltd, a company registered in the Seychelles from 2000, and with Mossack Fonseca (Samoa) as the intermediary. He is also the beneficiary of Vernon Directors Ltd, a British Virgin Islands company registered in 2003 along with Loizos Christoforou Loizou of Nicosia, Cyprus. Mr Loizou also appears once in the New Zealand companies register, as the director of K.L.S. International Finance Ltd, along with Neoklis Antoniou of Larnaka. K.L.S. was set up in Christchurch in 2008, and it is notable for the shareholding companies. These have included: Dream Mountain Ltd and My Enmar Property Ltd of Nicosia; and Klitos The First Pyla Monarch Ltd, based in Larnaka. Klitos is still a shareholder, although the company was removed in 2015, and then reinstated in early 2016, and is now based in Auckland. The major shareholder is now Burmese Bull Holdings Ltd of Nicosia.

Mr Loizou has been a more regular director based in London, along with other Cypriots like Irina Pilava and Ntemis Ioannou. But Loizou and Ioannou now appear to have resigned their directorships, including in Total Power Investment Ltd, a company now owned by Christo Mathys Britz, one of the South African contingent, from the town of Brits. Britz has one entry in the ICIJ database, which links to two companies, Liberty Sunshine Ltd and Solar Future Ltd, both registered in the Seychelles. In Liberty Sunshine Ltd, Mr Britz succeeded Nesita Manceau as director, who was based in Vanuatu with the Taylors. And in Solar Future, Britz succeeded Nicholas Henry Thom as the shareholder.

Nicholas Henry Thom appears in the British company register many times, and was involved in six New Zealand companies. Of the British companies, for Weissman Advisory Ltd he actually appears to have succeeded Priscila Lustre Taylor as director in early 2012, that being Geoffrey’s wife. Mr Thom gave a Mauritius address for that company, but for his New Zealand companies he had a South Africa address, certainly for the one set up by Angelique Lilley from Nelson, Agrovita Shipping and Trading Ltd. Agrovita’s shareholder was another Taylor associate, Leah Tourelo of Vanuatu, but the company was removed in late 2014. There is also an Agrovita Shipping and Trading Ltd registered in Britain, though it appears to be in danger of being struck off. It is run by Diederick Petrus Naude, who is described as an instrumentation specialist. But Mr Naude appears four times in the Panama Papers, and once in the Bahamas Leaks, and is linked to many offshore companies along with other more well known nominee directors.

Nicholas Henry Thom appears numerous times in the ICIJ database, with addresses in Belize and Mauritius, and is directly involved in at least 14 companies registered in the Seychelles. Most of these entries also include other shareholders labelled as ‘bearer’, and therefore anonymous, with the exception of Ivaco Consultants Ltd. Ivaco was registered in 2008, and in 2014 Mr Thom became a shareholder, before being succeeded by Jan Harm Snyman of Brits, South Africa in 2015. The same process took place for Feduna Ltd, a company first incorporated in 2011. Both Snyman and Thom seem to be associated with Hatherley Ltd, a company linked with numerous entities registered in Hong Kong. There is also a Johanna Elizabeth Snyman in the Panama Papers, a shareholder in VU Group Holding Ltd, a BVI company set up in 2009. Mrs Snyman appears to have replaced Brenda Cocksedge in 2015, another well known nominee director with multiple addresses. But VU Group Holding Ltd is linked with Ukraine rather Samoa, probably because the intermediary company was not Mossack Fonseca in the first instance, but C & A Partners LLP. This appears to be a British based company which is now known as C & A lawyers LLP, which appears to be run by Trusco Management Ltd in Belize. In any case, in the ICIJ database, C & A Partners LLP is the intermediary for 38 entities.

The C & A Partners LLP appears elsewhere in the Panama Papers, such as intermediary for Nga Investment Corp, which is a Panamanian company set up in 2015. The shareholder and beneficiary is Arthur Joseph Grice, a resident of Hartbeespoort in South Africa. Grice also succeeded Nicholas Thom as a shareholder in Light Trading Invest Ltd in 2015, a Seychelles company set up in 2011. Grice is also involved with Hatherley Ltd, and linked with Cartech Ltd, another intermediary involved with Hong Kong companies. Grice had also succeeded Brenda Cocksedge in two BVI companies, as entries in the ICIJ database, and in certain British limited liability partnerships. For example, there is Sevenoaks Solutions LLP, where Grice and Cocksedge were the designated members during 2015; and other members have included Hartbeespoort residents, Christopher Collins and Mirlene Helen Loraine Taljaard, as well as another well known nominee director Christina Cornelia van den Berg. It appears that the person controlling Sevenoaks Solutions LLP is one Roberto Vittorio Gerado Barbagallo of Switzerland. Barbagallo also happens to be a recently appointed director of Ciako Ltd, a New Zealand company.

Going back to the British companies and LLPs, the South African directors appear on many occasions, in various combinations, often linked with Nicholas Thom. Dirk Cornelis Taljaard appears in the Panama Papers in a number of entries, including Ocean Business Solutions Ltd, where he succeeds Mr Thom. Stephanus and Margaret Louise Janke of South Africa, also appear in the database, as shareholders in Seychelles and Hong Kong based companies. Others from the Hartsbeespoort region include the Jouberts, the van Heerdens, and Lunedi-Lidia Jordan, all linked to Seychelles based companies; and the odd New Zealand company being run out of Helmore Ayers office in Christchurch.

But finally a rather farcical example of British company formation involving the Taylor associate, Nesita Manceau, their domestique from Vanuatu. Oldbury Consultants Ltd’s current nominee director is Jan Harm Snyman, who also holds the 100 shares, having bought them from Peter Matovu Mwanje. Mwanje is listed as a journalist living in the U.K., and had two terms as a director during 2015, one lasting all of a day. Nesita Manceau is also listed as a director three times, one beginning in 2006 and ending on 14 April 2015; she also has one day appointments on 2 March 2015, and another on 14 April 2015. One can only wonder what the game was, that required these one day wonders.

Addendum: I just want to note two of the British companies and the Ukrainian links found along the way. Olton Services LLP had two Cypriot designated members, Eleana Christodoulou and Xenia Thoma; the person with significant control was Tatyana Zasukha of Ukraine. Winning Invest & Trade Ltd had Nicholas Henry Thom and Arthur Joseph Grice as directors, and an Ilia Michaeli of Ukraine as director; Eliahu Robinovich was the person with significant control. A closer look indicated that Eli Michael-Robonovich as the shareholder was probably the same person, even though the director was apparently Georgian, and the other Robinovich was apparently an Israeli living in Ukraine.

 

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