Linking John Hart with Virtus and looking over the Ramparts

I had a look at some of John Hart’s activities in Auckland in the previous post, when he was the local contact for London-based family financial planners, Nean Wealth Advisers. Their Forte Trust Company linked up with a number of International financial agents across the world, including Brian Luck (Al Mal Capital) in Dubai, and Douglas Marston of Marston Capital Partners in Switzerland. Another link was with Christian Verling of Liechtenstein in a New Zealand company called Mistral International Ltd, and Verling’s association with Hart has continued beyond that. But before looking further at this I will note of one of Hart’s other linkages, with the Virtus Trust Limited of Guernsey.

Virtus appears a number of times in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database, mainly in the Panama Papers as an ‘officer’. There is a one entry for Virtus Trust NZ Ltd, and it is linked to a company registered in the Bahamas called Ursus Investments Inc. This company has three individual shareholders, though Belen Velutini is listed twice, once with an address in Caracas, Venezuela; the other listed address is care of a Miami lawyer named Charles Rack; and the other individual is Helen Quiroba of Caracas. Virtus Trust NZ Ltd is actually licensed as a ‘fiduciary’ by the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, and its financial statements are based on sterling transactions; it’s 100 shares are owned by Virtus Trust Management of Guernsey. Virtus Trust NZ was set up in 2005 by Cone Marshall, before being transferred to John Hart’s company Kitchener Trustees Ltd, which acted as a nominee for Virtus Management Ltd, at the time incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. After a slew of directorial changes the current directors include: Hart, Belen Velutini, Charles Rack, and the Earl of Balfour, Roderick Francis Arthur Balfour. Virtus Trust also owns Pronos Corporation Ltd, which was originally named Cadiz Ltd; and the Inversiones Altano General Partner Ltd, which is presumably a vehicle for Mr Rack and Ms Belutini Perez’s legal arrangements. Like the other companies associated with Hart, it went without having a New Zealand resident director for some years.

We now go from a New Zealand trust company which actually operates out of Guernsey, to some Panamanian companies which Hart has had transferred onto the New Zealand register. And it is here that Christian Verling enters the picture – he heads a Liechtenstein firm called Crea, but is listed in the Panama Papers with Avina Management Ltd (BVI). Verling was an original director for Rampart Services Ltd, which Hart set up in 2003, with Rafael Morice of Costa Rica as the other director. There were 17 000 shares which were soon owned by Brinler International Inc., a BVI based company linked to the trust company of the Morgan & Morgan law firm. In 2007 the shares were transferred to the Nemont Foundation, which is based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Now, Rampart Services holds the single share in two companies: Nylia Trading Ltd and Mint Castle Business Ltd; and both were transferred from the Panamanian register om 20th March 2014. The translated documents show that the Panamanian agent was the Sucre, Aria & Reyes firm. Both Nylia Trading Inc and Mint Castle Business S.A. had the same officers: the President was Verling; Hart was listed as the secretary; and the treasurer was Christena Pazos, another well known nominee director. She remains the director of the New Zealand versions of Nylia and Mint Castle Business, along with Christian Verling and John Hart.

One might wonder what Rampart Services did before it took over the two Panamanian companies. Well, the financial statements on the companies website gives some indication, in the financial notes to the 2011 accounts. So it seems that Rampart was the trustee of the ‘Pacific Trust’, which apparently also owed Rampart Services the sum of NZ$22 313. This was because the Pacific Trust was owed NZ$16 109 by Nylia Trading Inc, which was described as its ‘underlying company’. So we see that Nylia was controlled by Hart before the transfer to the New Zealand register. And we also see how New Zealand trusts can own foreign companies without anyone really knowing who the beneficial owner is. Although the transferring documents do refer to two ‘subscribers’: Emma Lina Martinez, and Elba Fernandez de Garcia. Maybe the meaning was lost in translation.

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