Equity Trust, the TMF Group, and the search for Global Unity’s pension funds

In this post I will be looking at the TMF Group, and who is behind it, but not so much what it does in New Zealand. It certainly has a branch office in Auckland, New Zealand. This will continue the examination of the activities of the main players in the Auckland trust industry, firstly with John Hart’s role in the trust companies set up by Ken Whitney and later assumed by the TMF Group, and also another set of companies that were taken over by Whitney’s Antipodes trust company in Auckland. So we will be looking first at European firms, especially in the Netherlands, then get to Malaysian companies via Singapore.

The key site for most of the companies named here is in the North of Borneo, in Labuan, and it’s called Brumby House (in Jalan Bahasa). So in July 1999, Ken Whitney and Ian Ross helped to set up Brumby & Co Trust (New Zealand) Ltd, with 800 shares owned by Brumby & Co Holdings Ltd, of Brumby House, Labuan. The name of the trust company then changed regularly over the next 12 years: from Brumby to Insinger de Beaufort Trust (NZ) Ltdin 2000, then it changed to Equity Trustees (NZ) Ltd in 2003, and then it became TMF Trustees New Zealand Ltd in 2012. Fortunately, the new shareholders had the same name as the trust companies. Insinger de Beaufort is a Dutch firm which is now part of the BNP Paribas group; and Equity Trust was a Dutch fiduciary firm that was merged with the TMF Group in 2011. Actually the latter is more complicated than that, because the TMF Group was acquired by the London private equity firm, Doughty Hanson & Co, in 2008, and was then owned by its Fund V. The head of Equity Trust, Federik van Tuyll, became the chief executive of the TMF Group. But back in 2003, he was a director of Equity Trustees (NZ) Ltd, with Frederique Schillern (also of Hong Kong), Wai Bun Wong of Labuan, Ken Whitney, and John Hart. Hart’s firm became the registered address, but that was the only change; the shareholders changed, but their address didn’t, it was still Brumby House.

No real change? Well, on the face of it the whole purpose of the Equity Trust was supposedly changed. Before it was merged with TMF, Equity Trust was heavily invested in the offshore world. In June 2009 it had taken over Commonwealth Trust Ltd, a firm set up by two Canadians in the British Virgin Islands that dealt in shell company games. CTL was in such bad shape, especially through its links to dodgy Russians (especially in the so-called ‘Magnitsky affair’), that even the BVI Financial Commission had been preventing it from taking on more clients until it complied with anti-money laundering rules. But after the takeover by Equity Trust, CTL continued to use Russian law firm G.S.L. Law & Consulting, and their leaked documents form part of the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database. There are of course many entries for Equity Trust and also Insinger. In fact, there is also one for ‘Insinger Brumby Trust (Labuan)’, care of Brumby House, Jalan Bahasa. This links to an entity named Cyber Trading Ltd, registered in Labuan, and one of the ‘officers’ is called Torino Ltd, which is linked to an address in west Auckland. Brumby House also comes up for an entity called ‘PVP V Labuan Ltd’, which had a director named Wai Bun Wong, a shareholder Marriott Investments Ltd (unkown registration), and an intermediary called Parallax Capital Management Ltd, which was based in Orchard Rd, Singapore.

One group of companies which was also based at Brumby House in Jalan Bahasa, Labuan did do substantive business in the Pacific region. Global Pensions (Trustees) NZ Ltd was taken over by John Hart in 2004, at least in its administration, when it was called the International Superannuation and Pensions Ltd. At the time the directors included Federik van Tuyll and Federique Schillern of Hong Kong, and the shareholder was Global Executive Solutions Ltd, located at Brumby House. By 2007 the Hong Kong based directors were gone, and Global Unity Pensions Ltd was the shareholder, listed at the Brumby House address. Global Unity also controlled a number of other companies, including the International Employee Welfare Fund Ltd and Tropicana Ltd. In April 2008 Ken Whitney and Ian Ross took over the administration of Global Pensions (Trustees) NZ Ltd, and in 2010 they also controlled the shareholding throough one of their nominee vehicles, after a stint with the Meridienne Consultants Ltd of Hong Kong.

But in 2009, Global Unity Pensions Ltd of Labuan had taken over as trustee for the International Employee Welfare Fund from a subsidiary, and still had the New Zealand company administering the International Superannuation and Pension Fund. Tropicana Ltd had been set up in 2004 by Whitney and Ross, as a subsidiary of the International Superannuation and Pension Ltd, and then as Global Pension Trustees (NZ) Ltd. In May 2011 a liquidator was appointed for Tropicana Ltd, after its investment in the development of a tourism project in Fiji called the Molaniki resort had failed. A Fijian resort company called Paroli had gone under in 2008, owing Tropicana A$520 000. A further A$150 000 was lost in court fees in Australia, after legal proceedings failed. So with the insolvency of Tropicana Ltd, the I.S. & P. Superannuation Fund had lost everything in that investment, which was presumably overseen by Whitney and Ian Ross. Ken Whitney is of course John Key’s former lawyer, and his current trustee – presumably he doesn’t invest Key’s millions in speculative tourist resorts in the Pacific.

Postcript: The full name of the TMF head referred to as Federik van Tuyll, is:
Federik baron van Tuyll van Serooskerken
and that is how appears it in the New Zealand Companies Office register, but without ‘baron’. Also, the director from Labuan, Wai Bun Wong, is also referred to as Raymond Wong in some of the documentation on the companies register, such as non-activity declarations.


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