All above board?: Cone Marshall and the Rothschild Trusts

This post follows on from the previous one, looking at the Swiss connections to New Zealand companies. But this time the focus will be on the Cone Marshall firm in Auckland, the leaders of the trust industry in New Zealand, and their various vehicles for foreign tax evasion. Another interesting aspect of this will be the practice of transferring companies from Panama, or the Cayman Islands, to the New Zealand register. And once again we’ll see that the Rothschild Group and its offshoots will appear often in the Panama Papers.

In the previous post we looked at some of the companies owned by Global Fiduciary (NZ) Ltd. Global Fiduciary was previously known as Rawlinson & Hunter Trustees, and the shareholding was assumed by Geoffrey Cone in 2008. One of the companies that was first registered in 2009 with Global Fiduciary as shareholders is called Cetinale Ltd. Looking at the incorporation documentation this was not a new company at all, it had in fact been created 40 years before in the Cayman Islands. So the company name was changed from Casuarina Ltd to Centinale in July 2009, before the transfer to New Zealand in September. Also in the documentation are the notes from a 1994 extraordinary general meeting for Casuarina, when the shares on issue were halved to 25 000. The two officers noted were representing Redshield Holdings Ltd and Redlion Investments Ltd, and the document was certified by the Caledonian Trust (Cayman) Ltd. The latter was a subsidiary of Caledonian Bank which then went into voluntary liquidation in 2009 and had been sold to the Sterling Financial Group of the Bahamas. Sterling appears in the ICIJ database, of course, with Redlion being listed as an ‘officer’ six times and Redshield appearing eight times, in the Caymans or the Bahamas. Though none of these entries directly link to New Zealand.

Now back to the Rothschilds, and the Swiss-based versions, including the Rothschild Trust (Schweiz) AG. But it is the Rothschild Private Trust Holdings AG that owns Rothschild Trust New Zealand Ltd. This company was set up by Gordon Stewart of Wellington in 2000, but was soon administered by Geoffrey Cone, and has had a succession of Swiss based directors, including Stefan Liniger, who is the head of the Rothschild Private Trust in Switzerland. The current foreign directors for Rothschild Trust New Zealand include: Marco Jager, Christopher Schallenberg, Gilbert Kellerhals, and Dieter Kindlimann, all resident in Switzerland, and Britta Pfister (Singapore residence). Rothschild Trust New Zealand seems to have been used as a ownership vehicle, but there are a number of other companies that have been formed in a familiar pattern. The titles begin with a New Zealand native tree, followed by ‘Truco’ and ‘PTC’ (which usually stands for Private Trust Company). Thus we have Pohutukawa Truco PTC Ltd, Kowhai, Nikau, Hinau, Tawa etc. All of these companies were set up in 2009, usually with a particlar shareholding company from Cone’s stable, and then all were removed in 2014. Among the other Swiss directors have been: Alessandra Rossi, Katrin Vasold, Sandra Nesensohn, Fabienne Boller, Doris Hofer, Peter Koenig, Markus Ducrey, Peter Chadney, and Serge Meili. Meili, who seems to be the head of Rothschild Trust (Schweiz), has had directorships in 15 New Zealand companies. Peter Chadney appears seven times, and shared a directorship in Nikau Truco Ptc Ltd with Simone von Graffenried Simperl. They also appeared to have shared a luxury apartment in New York, which was purchased by a Malaysian, Riaz Aziz, for $US33.5 Million in 2012. Aziz is related to a former Malaysian Prime Minister, produced a film Wolf of Wall Street, and is now implicated in the 1MDB scandal. This is either an interesting coincidence or symptomatic of the offshore scene.

A number of the New Zealand companies with Rothschild connections are owned, or had shareholding, in other tax haven companies. Odillard Ltd was set up in 2006, and was owned by Rez Investments Inc. (BVI), until being removed from the register last week (9 September). Constelatio Properties and Constelatio Equity Ltd were set up by Cone in 2008, and he still owns the latter; but the former company had been owned offshore for a period of time, including by KFS Nominees Ltd (BVI).KFS Nominees appears three times in the Panama Papers, but the entities are not directly linked to the Rothschilds. However, there are other Cone Marshall companies linked to the Rothschilds, including through the Arrow Master Holdings Ltd. Helliot NZ Ltd was set up in 2011 with Rothschild Trust Guernsey as the shareholders, and with Schallenberg and Meili as directors. Stag Financial and Stag Properties Ltd were set up in 2006, and the shareholdings were held by ZRH Nominees (0001) Ltd, another British Virgins Islands company. Forte Dei Marmi Ltd was set up in 2006 with one of Cone’s companies holding the shares, but this was soon transferred to ZRH Nominees (0002) Ltd, and the company still remains on the register. ZRH Nomiees (0002) has also owned three other New Zealand companies, two of which remain: Stella Polaris Trust Company and Alexander Investment Services Ltd. And ‘ZRH Nominees’ appears 19 times as an ‘officer’ in the Panama Papers; most of these entities are the (0001) or (0002) companies, but there are also (0004) and (0043) entities. These nominee companies are, in turn, linked to Rothschild Trusts in Switzerland, including RTS Geneva SA (Rothschild Trust Zurich client), and also in Guernsey and in Singapore. There is no direct link to New Zealand listed, but it is hard to believe there aren’t any in practice.

 

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