This time I’ll be looking at some Russian and East European people who have been operating in New Zealand for a while, and at the fringes of the company formation scene. There are three main characters in this saga, who appear to have been based in Auckland and change addresses quite regularly, but their connections spread far and wide. In fact, one of the early addresses is not far away from where I’m writing this post: 4 Kowhai Grove, Raumati Beach, Kapiti. This seems to have been the address for a Kurt Anthony Girdler, who has over 1000 entries in the companies register, and Susan Girdler, who has had about 200 directorships. But there are only 15 companies with that registered address, and all have now been removed, so what is to question. Well, the link to the Russians living in Auckland.
One of the Raumati companies was called Misogi Bancorp Inc Ltd, and its shareholder was Misogi Bank Inc, based in Nauru. The Nauru tax haven has been shut down because it had attracted a lot of Russian banks involved in money laundering. So the three Misogi directors – Sergej Barkov, Andrei Kutiaev, and Vitaly Oustinov – they must be dodgy right? Well, there is only one other company that lists Kutiaev as a director (MBI Ltd), and although he appears to have lived in Mangere, he seems to be in Moscow. Barkov was only involved in four other companies, besides Misogi and MBI Ltd, and seems to be long gone. MBI was the shareholder in some companies with interesting names – World Air Logistic Ltd and Viking Transhipment Services Ltd – but all three were removed from the register in July 2015. That just leaves Vitaly Oustinov and his companies, only three of which survive: ASV Ltd, Endeavour New Zealand Ltd, and Vipland Holdings Ltd. I’ll return to Vipland below, but have to mention Oustinov and Indigo Investments Group Pte Ltd, a company that was brought in from an overseas register, and lists Oustinov as living in Moscow. Oustinov had also declared it non-active in 2013, but he did so with a J.P. from Bundaberg, Australia.
Now to return to Vipland Holdings, this company was set up by Oustinov for World Air Logistic Ltd, with Alexander Kaledin of Epsom and as a director, and a Natalia Kapitonova of Remuera as director and administrator. It then goes through many changes of directors and shareholders, including during 2010, a Panamanian, Diego Batista Valdes. Batista Valdes was director of many New Zealand companies set up by the GT Group and Company Net, all of which were struck off by the Companies Office by 2012. The only exceptions to this were Vipland and Intervip Australia Pty Ltd, another company administered by Oustinov, which both had a director in common: Larysa Boyko of Lugansk, Ukraine. Boyko (who also appears in the documentation as Larissa Boiko) has also been associated with Firstdata Research Ltd, Equipment Group Ltd, and Nordex Developments Ltd. What we can see from all of these companies is a web created by Kaledin, who is associated with the Indigo Group Ltd, which is based in the Seychelles, and appears to have related companies in the Ukraine and Latvia. Kaledin has other tax haven companies: Camboya Financial Corp (British Virgin Islands); Dorland Trading Ltd (Belize); V.I.P. Intertrading Ltd (British Virgin Islands); TNK Technology Corp (Panama); and Copperberg L.P. (set up in Edinburgh, Scotland).
Now, V.I.P. Intertrading Ltd appears in the ICIJ Offshore database, not in the Panama Papers, but the earlier leak from the Commonwealth Trust Ltd documents. So from the database we see that the shareholder is Vipland Holdings; while the directors have been well known nominees: Argyrou Vasiliki (who also appears in the New Zealand register) up to 2008, then Alfred Victor Brewster of the Seychelles from 2008. The intermediary was Apollo Business Solution (Pty) Ltd based in the Seychelles, but also having a presence in Eastern Europe. Another link would be the intermediary for TNK Technology which, judging from the address and because it also appears in the database, is Larssen Corporate Services which is based in Estonia.
If that doesn’t seem complicated enough, there is more. Kaledin also has companies set up in Britain, besides the Copperberg L.P. mentioned above, which link some of the tax haven companies. So based in Sheffield, England we see from the British company records there is an Acrux Trade House LLP, and the partners in the parent company are in fact Dorland Trading Ltd of Belize, and V.I.P. Intertrading Ltd of the British Virgin Islands. These company records don’t tell us who is involved in setting the LLP up, but does indicate that the British Companies Office had moved to strike off Acrux Trade House in 2012, then changed their mind after some documents were produced, we know not what. But we can see that Kaledin also has another British company, Inter Vip Ltd, and from the published accounts it has a minimal financial presence and runs at a loss. Kaledin also set up an Inter Vip Ltd in New Zealand in 2012, then it ceases in 2014. In between times it had to declare that it was non-active, and he got an Auckland J.P. to help, but the rules state that if it is a branch of an overseas company, that company also has to make a declaration. Indigo Group (NZ Branch) Ltd was obviously also in that situation, being a branch, but once again Kaledin got his non-activity form witnessed by Stephanie Mary Stewart Watson J.P. in October 2013.
Non-activity seems to have been a problem for Kaledin’s companies over the past decade. He seems to have set up quite a few, and they mostly had directors from France and Austria who appear to be middle class professionals, rather than than poorly paid nominees. It would seem troublesome to have to get the European-based directors to fill out the forms, but Kaledin obviously has connections there, and gets them witnessed in Bulgaria or Israel. So we see that Mark Faiberg of Tel Aviv, a Notary Public, has observed the declaration of non-activity for Wudstaun Ltd and Boxtel Group Ltd, on 16th December 2009. But the box for the presenter of the document is filled with part of a residential address, not a person. We don’t know what Kaledin and the Indigo Group actually do, and whether it has some legitimate purpose, even for Firstdata Research Ltd.
While doing some research in my business press archives I discovered where Alexander Kaledin began his New Zealand involvement. In the May 24, 1996 issue of National Business Review, front page story “From Russia – without much”, Kaledin was asked to comment about the Prok Bank. This involved the departure of Ross Meurant, a former member of the National Party, who had been a director of the bank, that was registered in Vanuatu. Meurant was, and perhaps still is, a controversial figure who thought he could hold a government post while becoming a director for Prok. Meurant went on to comment on the Prok Bank regularly, hinting at powerful forces behind it from the Russian elite, though not mentioning Kaledin as such. There was a Prok Finacial Corporation that was on the NZ company register from September 1996 to early 2003; and “Prok” Trade House Ltd, that was first registered in 1992, removed in 2002, then briefly re-registered in 2009. The shareholder for the latter company was Rail Finance AG (out of Vaduz), and Victor & Larisa Shumilo (though the NBR article refers to Victor Choumilo), who were apparently living in Epsom, Auckland. Meanwhile, Mr Meurant is involved in some companies set up for a Ukrainian family called Petrenko, and apparently runs the honorary consulate for Morocco from Auckland. His website (rossmeurant.co.nz) includes a photo of himself in Casablanca, with David Wong Tung, the husband of National Party cabinet minister Judith Collins. Wong Tung is better known for his involvement in the export milk powder company Oravida and for having private dinners with bureaucrats in China.