Panama Papers: the Russian connection

Since the previous post I have found a few more trust companies operating in New Zealand, that are branch operations, or were set up by leading figures in the offshore world. Last time I looked at Turnstone Trustees, based in the Isle of Man, who were quite open about the the link to New Zealand. So is Minerva trust group, whose chairman, John Wood, is a New Zealander. But there are more interesting connections on the Isle of Man, and a link to a major London trust company that runs some trusts for Russian oligarchs.

My attention was drawn to a company named Wellington Shield, and various other ‘shield’ companies and trusts in the database. Having gone back to the British companies website there were originally three directors: Mark Omelnitski, Martin Katz, and Thomas T K Tyrrell. Katz and Tyrrell are both from the Isle of Man; and the former is part of the Middleton Katz accounting firm that appears often in the Panama Papers. But Mr Tyrrell is perhaps more interesting, a retired banker who offers to lecture around the world, and has his own website. On it he states that he has set up a trust company in New Zealand, with others.

Looking through the links on the ICIJ database, the company seems to be called the Aeterus Trust, and it is based in the Fonterra Centre, in Princes St, Auckland. There are many interesting firms and trusts linked to Aeterus, but perhaps the most significant is one called Chicken Kitchen International trust. The leading light in Chicken Kitchen, a franchise business in America, is a Christian de Berdouare. Mr Berdouare is a millionaire, and dabbles in property in his home base of Miami, Florida. There are many stories about him online, including how he bought Pablo Escobar’s former house and then found unopened safes.

But back to the database and our trio that started with Wellington Shield. It turns out that Mark Omelnitski is a big player in the offshore world, and runs Markom Management from London, with various trust companies around the world. Markom Trust (New Zealand) is based in Auckland, and in the Shortland St offices of Jackson Russell solicitors, in close proximity to the local trust companies. Omelmitski owns all 100 shares in Markom Trust (New Zealand), and the fellow directors are Ms Marina Yurievna Paramonova of Moscow, and Richard George Wilson of the Jackson Russell firm. Now, entering Markom Trust in the ICIJ database comes up with thousands of entries, and filtering by country (i.e. New Zealand) still brings up nearly 1300 entities and hundreds of officers and addresses. It seems that Markom Trust (New Zealand) has some form of link with all the other players.

But Mark Omelmitski is also big time in London, and judging from his website and its mention of Mossack Fonseca, knows that he will get scrutinised. This is because of his Markom Trust (formerly SP Nominees) being officers for trusts linked to Arkady and Boris Rotemberg (aka Rotenberg in the database). The Rotemberg brothers, along with son/nephew Igor, have trusts called Breckenbridge, Kenrick, Culloden etc, mostly found in the Marshall Islands, a former American colony in the Pacific. And this is ironic because the Rotembergs appear to be very close friends of Vladimir Putin. Which is quite scary really.

Addendum: I have subsequently found out that Mr Tyrrell ceased being a director of Aeternus Trust in December 2015, and that Aeternus is in fact managed by Jackson Russell and based at 41 Shortland St, Auckland.


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