Truvest, Anchor Trustees, and a dodgy Brazilian or two

Anchor Trustees is at the heart of the trust industry in New Zealand, and have been around since 1996. Their website states that they were pivotal in introducing STEP into New Zealand, which is an international organisation that apparently has professional standards. They are also one of the few practitioners who put names to faces, with the key people being Michael John Reynolds and David Frank Willis, while other regular directors of their vehicles include Nicholas John Shepherd and Geoffrey Stewart Pownall. They even have a representative in Switzerland, Nicole Epp, who is a director of Anchor Trustees International Ltd. Anchor Trustees International does appear twice in the Panama Papers: once it is linked to a ¬†company based in the Bahamas, the Strategic Business Group Corp, set up in 2014; and with a British Virgins Island entity, perhaps aptly called Shaftbury Investments Ltd, set up in 2008 and still active. One might initially think they’d steered clear of nominee companies and directors, other than Ajayootum Sewraz of Mauritius.

However, a closer look at some of the companies that Anchor Trustees administer in Auckland turn up more links to the Panama Papers, and entities listed in the Offshore Leaks database. The main one I will look at is now called Konfido Trustees ( New Zealand) Ltd, having previously been known as Corpura Trustees until January 2016, and originally set up as Truvest Trustees (New Zealand) Ltd in 2009. Corpura Trustees appear once in the database, along with a Swiss company Corpura AG, which provided the client and an entity known as Tulipanes Verde Investments Ltd, that is also registered in the Bahamas. But it seems Truvest Trustees has 4 entries, and with a link to a Swiss firm of the same name, that looks rather dodgy. The database also mentions Truvex GMBH and there being a Zug client.

The New Zealand entries include two listed as “Truvest Trustees (New Zealand) Ltd as Trustee for the Mahogany Trust”, and the other two entries are similar, just with the Lumiar Trust and the Mulberry Trust. The latter includes a links to New Spring Estates Ltd, set up in the British Virgin Islands for the Zug client in 2014; and the Mulberry entry links to the Bergerac Assets S.A., a company set up in the Bahamas in 2015 (and not in Jersey). One of the entries for the Mahogany Trust leads to Balam Asset Ltd (Bahamas), and the other to Rhiannon Investments Ltd (Bahamas), both being incorporated in 2010. The shareholders for both companies include the Julius Baer Family Office & Trust Ltd in Zurich, and a Mercedes Serruya Monteiro of Belem, Brazil. A Google search for her comes up with some interesting reading, if one can understand Portugese, but she is clearly linked with a firm called River Consulting Inc., which is a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands. A River Management (BVI) Ltd does appear in the Offshore Leaks database, involving the earlier leak of the Commonwealth Trust documents, and it is linked to G.S.L. Law & Consulting of Cyprus, and it obviously has a Russian connection as well. Two of River Management’s nominee shareholders are Matthew Charles Stokes and Christina Cornelia van den Berg, who have also been nominees as New Zealand directors and shareholders.

But back to Mercedes Monteiro, she is apparently the mother-in-law of a fugitive Brazilian Fabrizio Dulcetti Neves, who was involved with a fraud involving the Brazilian postal workers pension fund. In 2012 the U.S.A. regulator, the SEC, took a case against Neves, an employee of a Florida-based company LatAm Investments LLC. This involved ‘structured note’ transactions, whereby Neves and another broker added mark up fees to inflate the price of U.S. bonds being purchased for the pension funds by up to 60%. Neves owned a Brazilian asset management firm, Atlantica Investimondes, which managed the Brazilian Sovereign 2 FIDEX Fund, and the postal workers pension fund for Postalis. So Neves extracted about US$24 million from the Brazilian funds, and $12 million from a Colombian institution the Corporacion Autonoma Regional de Valle del Cauca. The process involved using nominee accounts in entities such as River Consulting Inc. for the transactions in 2009, after beginning in 2008 with another BVI registered company called Spectra Group Holdings, and the Spectra Trust, whose settlor was an employee of Postalis. It seems that Neves settled the SEC case in 2014, but the Postalis fraud was investigated by the Brazilian authorities in 2015 when it emerged that Alexej Predtechensky, the President of Postalis was the settlor of the Spectra Trust; and this was linked to his appointment by the Brazialian ministers, Edison Labao, and Renan Calheiros, who was also the Senate leader.

So does all this involve New Zealand trusts managed by Anchor or not? Hopefully not.

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