This post is one of the more interesting to put together. It concerns the activities of a Dutchman, Ian Hugh William van Stratum, resident in London, and with various merchant banking interests around the world. Including in New Zealand, according to the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database, and the Panama Papers. But the companies that he was the beneficial owner for in New Zealand, until 15 October 2015, are actually administered by the Orion Trust out of Auckland. Now, the Orion Trust, run by Roger Thompson for Mossack Fonseca, is linked to five companies. But according to the local media reports on the Orion Trust, four of the companies were set up by a Spaniard, Jose Ramon Lopez Lombana. And the journalists who had access to the Mossack Fonseca documents didn’t even mention Ian van Stratum.
It gets rather complicated if one doesn’t also utilise the ICIJ database, and then do a lot of internet searching. Then there are still two interesting questions that we can’t find the answer to. Did van Stratum and Lopez Lombana ever meet, or is the latter simply one of the nominee directors that Mossack Fonseca, and other players in the offshore world, randomly put together? The second question is that we don’t know what these New Zealand companies (and the related trusts) actually did, but it soon becomes clear that something significant happened to them on 15 October 2015.
Using the now usual method, I have looked at New Zealand Companies Office records and matched them with names in the Panama Papers. Jose Lopez Lombana appears twice in the database: once as the shareholder of a BVI company called Lomasia S.A.; and the second entity is a New Zealand company called Blue Ridge Company Ltd, where Lopez Lombana is listed as a shareholder for a day (15 October 2015), in between stints by the Orion Trust. Both Lomasia S.A. and the Blue Ridge Company Ltd have a shared intermediary called Bald Eagle Services S.A. (BVI), and the database lists 187 other entities that it has created, and links the company to Malta. However, the reporting in New Zealand about the Orion Trust suggested that Bald Eagle Services was a Mexican company; and it was stated that Lopez Lombana had created four companies being used to funnel funds into the Czech Republic.
These reports linking Lopez Lombana with Mexican companies and the Czech Republic were in the main newspaper websites, along with public broadcaster RNZ, which did have access to the leaked documents. Apparently Lombana is also an electrical engineer who is fluent in Russian. But he is also the ultimate transitional figure, as his role in Blue Ridge Company ends at 16:46 pm on October 2015, perhaps part of the ownership changes in four companies owned by Ian van Stratum and administered by Roger Thompson. So following on the links to Blue Ridge Company, and clicking on Orion Trust (New Zealand) Ltd indicates the other four New Zealand companies: Panorama Ventures Ltd, Ultimate Resources Ltd, Founders Company Ltd, and Interactive Solutions Ltd. And between 16:18 pm and 16:40pm on 15 October 2015, they all had their shareholding change from Ian van Stratum to the Orion Trust. These four companies were first registered on 3 October 2013, and all have two Panamanian directors, who mostly do not appear as directors for any other New Zealand companies, except with Panorama Ventures, who has Giselle Ocampo Fonseca herself as a director. Roger Thompson of Bentleys Accountants is a director of all four and of the Blue Ridge Company Ltd.
So who is Ian Hugh William van Stratum? He is Dutch, a resident of Burpham, Arundel, in England, and he has had various merchant banking vehicles with partners. He has five entries in the Panama Papers, three of which involve the New Zealand companies. The other two involve two companies: Sedeco International Corporation, which is registered in the Seychelles; and Deerfield Investments Group Ltd, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. Sedeco International had another shareholder named Joao Manuel Lagos Homem de Melo, who appears to be a Portugese aristocrat; while Deerfield Investments Group has another active shareholder in Nathaniel Edouard Glas, who appears to be a London banker. But Deerfield is more interesting, and is an example of when to do a separate search in the ICIJ database. Deerfield Investments Group appears as an ‘officer’ twice, and both entries link up with a shareholding company called Helios G20 Fund Ltd, which was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in March 2012. Helios G20 has three officers besides Deerfield: N2 Investments Ltd, another New Zealand company, as a shareholder; and two beneficiaries, Monica Vidal of Spain, and ‘Paul Heathcote William Tatham’, resident in the United Arab Emirates.
I will now look at these officers in Deerfield and their possible links with Ian van Stratum. N2 Investments Ltd was a company set up by Gordon Ralph Stewart in Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, and has been removed in early 2016 presumably having served its purpose. Monica Vidal is possibly Monica E. Vidal Sanz, a merchant banker now resident in New York, but between 2002 and 2009 she was a director in Global Investment Strategy UK Ltd, along with Ian van Stratum. Meanwhile, the entry for Mr Tatham is scrambled and it should be William Paul Heathcote Tatham, a lawyer who had been with an outfit called Towry Law in London, but is now part of Towry Law (Asia) HK Ltd, which is an overseas company registered in Cyprus. We can also discover that van Stratum is involved in Helios Asset Management Ltd, and speculate that he is also involved in Helios Investment Partners, which is a company specialising in African investments.
Ian van Stratum has some previous form in Australasian and African investments. In the past decade he was involved in some contretemps over an Australian mining company called City View Corporation. City View’s share price collapsed in 2009 after some dodgy dealing in African mining, especially in Angola, came to light. Some of the small shareholders banded together to try to prevent a City View rights issue taking place which would leave most of the new shares with the underwriters, involving three firms being run by Ian van Stratum and John William Gunn. One of these was Global Investment Strategy UK Ltd, for which Monica Vidal was also a director. City View seems to have then changed its name, and traded on with a new ownership structure. But it would be interesting to speculate on whether Mr van Stratum’s interest in African mining is a more significant story than his fleeting link to the Spaniard, Lopez Lombana, and the payments made to some Czechs.