Foreign Trusts: Hong Kong and Gibraltar

There is a branch of a trust company that operates from a house in Remuera, Auckland. It is a registered office for such international firms as Zetland Fiduciary Group (Hong Kong),the Fiduciary Trust Group (Gibraltar), and the Astus Trust Group (Hong Kong). Here is how one person basically, Belinda Weil, links Hong Kong and Gibraltar with Auckland.

Zetland Fiduciaries (New Zealand) Ltd was set up in 2007, based on a single share issued to its holding company in Belize, and was registered in Auckland with the Nexus Trust (New Zealand). In 2013 the registered address changed to that of Belinda Weil’s home. The directors up to the end of 2015 were James Lee, the New Zealand manager for Zetland, and James Sutherland, who is the chairman of Zetland. Lee has now ceased to be a director, replaced by Sarah Sutherland, and Simon Weil has been added as a local director. Mr Weil is a lawyer for the legal partnership Anthony Parker, and is a director of many companies.

The Zetland group website has a page about the New Zealand office, and the role of New Zealand Foreign Trusts, one of its more expensive services. After explaining the tax free status, they continue: “therefore a properly constituted NZFT benefits from zero basic taxation in New Zealand…[and] a NZFT may be utilised as a stand-alone instrument or in conjunction with International Double Tax Agreements to minimise tax in another jurisdiction.” They go on to state how important it is to have a resident director, to make it a Qualifying Resident Foreign Trustee. The qualified director is provided by Zetland Fiduciary (New Zealand) Ltd as corporate trustee, and it attends to the disclosure as required by New Zealand law. But with that attended to the client has “a private arrangement and there is no requirement for the NZFT to be registered to be recognised and of legally binding effect in New Zealand.” Unless, of course, the settlor is Australian.

Zetland’s website sets out the role of foreign trusts most clearly for its clients, but its New Zealand operation is not the first for Mr and Mrs Weil. The first appears to have been adopted from Cone Marshall, and a company called Grangeway Limited that initially had a Hong Kong based shareholder, but was then used to set up the Fiduciary Trust Group’s New Zealand operation. Fiduciary Trust (New Zealand) Ltd has a registered office in Gibraltar, where the parent group is based, and has four directors who are employees in the Gibraltar office. The other director is Simon Weil, and his wife is running the office in New Zealand. Fiduciary Trust (NZ) owns a number of other companies with Gibraltar-based directors, which appear to be property companies. One, Facet Property Limited, has 8 shares owned by the Fiduciary Trust (NZ), and one owned by Trafalgar Nominees Inc., which is based in Panama; and this entity is mentioned in the Panama Papers database.

The other Hong Kong based trust company associated with Mr and Mrs Weil is known as Astus Trustees. So Astus Trustees (New Zealand) is owned by Astus Services Group, which seems to be based in Hong Kong. Two of its directors certainly live in Hong Kong, with Simon Weil as the resident director. But it appears to be run by a Randolph van der Burgh from Auckland, with two assistants, and with a representative in China and Hong Kong. Their website includes a description of New Zealand Foreign Trusts, and their tax free status. It also describes how a NZFT can be used for investment purposes, as “regional investment holding vehicle”, or as a partner in limited partnerships or look through companies. The shareholding behind the Astus group is quite complicated, and it involves Mr van der Burgh and another Auckland man, Wayne Richard Jackson, in Forse Associates; van der Burgh also has companies known as Casburgh Financial Services. PEH New Zealand Ltd is also van der Burgh’s vehicle for investment in a company known as Pure Elite Holdings, which markets milk powder in Hong Kong, but with a holding company based in the British Virgin Islands. There had to be a tax haven in there somehow.

Now, Mr and Mrs Weil have this administrative role as part of the New Zealand Trust & Investment Corporation. If you look up that name you find the trust company run by Reuben Tylor and Iafeta Short, who live in the Cook Islands, but are still directors of the New Zealand operation. The Weils appear to have an offshoot, New Zealand Trust & Investment Corporation (2009) Ltd, that runs independently of the parent company. Tylor was still a director of the 2009 version, and until 2013 when Simon Weil was added once again as a director. It must keep him busy, what with being a real property lawyer as well.

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