Beyond the Taylors: Cyprus, Ukraine, and former residents of Hartbeespoort (RSA)

This post is more of a report on tracing company directors that stem from the Taylor operation highlighted in the previous post. Here we find intermediaries based in Cyprus that are also in the Panama Papers; clients based in the Ukraine, that aren’t mentioned in the Panama Papers; and a whole swag of South African company directors, who also have alternative addresses in the likes of Mauritius, but are mostly domiciled in the United Kingdom. And, Hartbeespoort people who also have some New Zealand links.

Firstly, the patriarch, Geoffrey Taylor, does get a mention in the Panama Papers, and is linked to a Cypriot or two. Taylor was a shareholder from May 2014 in Sutech Ltd, a company registered in the Seychelles from 2000, and with Mossack Fonseca (Samoa) as the intermediary. He is also the beneficiary of Vernon Directors Ltd, a British Virgin Islands company registered in 2003 along with Loizos Christoforou Loizou of Nicosia, Cyprus. Mr Loizou also appears once in the New Zealand companies register, as the director of K.L.S. International Finance Ltd, along with Neoklis Antoniou of Larnaka. K.L.S. was set up in Christchurch in 2008, and it is notable for the shareholding companies. These have included: Dream Mountain Ltd and My Enmar Property Ltd of Nicosia; and Klitos The First Pyla Monarch Ltd, based in Larnaka. Klitos is still a shareholder, although the company was removed in 2015, and then reinstated in early 2016, and is now based in Auckland. The major shareholder is now Burmese Bull Holdings Ltd of Nicosia.

Mr Loizou has been a more regular director based in London, along with other Cypriots like Irina Pilava and Ntemis Ioannou. But Loizou and Ioannou now appear to have resigned their directorships, including in Total Power Investment Ltd, a company now owned by Christo Mathys Britz, one of the South African contingent, from the town of Brits. Britz has one entry in the ICIJ database, which links to two companies, Liberty Sunshine Ltd and Solar Future Ltd, both registered in the Seychelles. In Liberty Sunshine Ltd, Mr Britz succeeded Nesita Manceau as director, who was based in Vanuatu with the Taylors. And in Solar Future, Britz succeeded Nicholas Henry Thom as the shareholder.

Nicholas Henry Thom appears in the British company register many times, and was involved in six New Zealand companies. Of the British companies, for Weissman Advisory Ltd he actually appears to have succeeded Priscila Lustre Taylor as director in early 2012, that being Geoffrey’s wife. Mr Thom gave a Mauritius address for that company, but for his New Zealand companies he had a South Africa address, certainly for the one set up by Angelique Lilley from Nelson, Agrovita Shipping and Trading Ltd. Agrovita’s shareholder was another Taylor associate, Leah Tourelo of Vanuatu, but the company was removed in late 2014. There is also an Agrovita Shipping and Trading Ltd registered in Britain, though it appears to be in danger of being struck off. It is run by Diederick Petrus Naude, who is described as an instrumentation specialist. But Mr Naude appears four times in the Panama Papers, and once in the Bahamas Leaks, and is linked to many offshore companies along with other more well known nominee directors.

Nicholas Henry Thom appears numerous times in the ICIJ database, with addresses in Belize and Mauritius, and is directly involved in at least 14 companies registered in the Seychelles. Most of these entries also include other shareholders labelled as ‘bearer’, and therefore anonymous, with the exception of Ivaco Consultants Ltd. Ivaco was registered in 2008, and in 2014 Mr Thom became a shareholder, before being succeeded by Jan Harm Snyman of Brits, South Africa in 2015. The same process took place for Feduna Ltd, a company first incorporated in 2011. Both Snyman and Thom seem to be associated with Hatherley Ltd, a company linked with numerous entities registered in Hong Kong. There is also a Johanna Elizabeth Snyman in the Panama Papers, a shareholder in VU Group Holding Ltd, a BVI company set up in 2009. Mrs Snyman appears to have replaced Brenda Cocksedge in 2015, another well known nominee director with multiple addresses. But VU Group Holding Ltd is linked with Ukraine rather Samoa, probably because the intermediary company was not Mossack Fonseca in the first instance, but C & A Partners LLP. This appears to be a British based company which is now known as C & A lawyers LLP, which appears to be run by Trusco Management Ltd in Belize. In any case, in the ICIJ database, C & A Partners LLP is the intermediary for 38 entities.

The C & A Partners LLP appears elsewhere in the Panama Papers, such as intermediary for Nga Investment Corp, which is a Panamanian company set up in 2015. The shareholder and beneficiary is Arthur Joseph Grice, a resident of Hartbeespoort in South Africa. Grice also succeeded Nicholas Thom as a shareholder in Light Trading Invest Ltd in 2015, a Seychelles company set up in 2011. Grice is also involved with Hatherley Ltd, and linked with Cartech Ltd, another intermediary involved with Hong Kong companies. Grice had also succeeded Brenda Cocksedge in two BVI companies, as entries in the ICIJ database, and in certain British limited liability partnerships. For example, there is Sevenoaks Solutions LLP, where Grice and Cocksedge were the designated members during 2015; and other members have included Hartbeespoort residents, Christopher Collins and Mirlene Helen Loraine Taljaard, as well as another well known nominee director Christina Cornelia van den Berg. It appears that the person controlling Sevenoaks Solutions LLP is one Roberto Vittorio Gerado Barbagallo of Switzerland. Barbagallo also happens to be a recently appointed director of Ciako Ltd, a New Zealand company.

Going back to the British companies and LLPs, the South African directors appear on many occasions, in various combinations, often linked with Nicholas Thom. Dirk Cornelis Taljaard appears in the Panama Papers in a number of entries, including Ocean Business Solutions Ltd, where he succeeds Mr Thom. Stephanus and Margaret Louise Janke of South Africa, also appear in the database, as shareholders in Seychelles and Hong Kong based companies. Others from the Hartsbeespoort region include the Jouberts, the van Heerdens, and Lunedi-Lidia Jordan, all linked to Seychelles based companies; and the odd New Zealand company being run out of Helmore Ayers office in Christchurch.

But finally a rather farcical example of British company formation involving the Taylor associate, Nesita Manceau, their domestique from Vanuatu. Oldbury Consultants Ltd’s current nominee director is Jan Harm Snyman, who also holds the 100 shares, having bought them from Peter Matovu Mwanje. Mwanje is listed as a journalist living in the U.K., and had two terms as a director during 2015, one lasting all of a day. Nesita Manceau is also listed as a director three times, one beginning in 2006 and ending on 14 April 2015; she also has one day appointments on 2 March 2015, and another on 14 April 2015. One can only wonder what the game was, that required these one day wonders.

Addendum: I just want to note two of the British companies and the Ukrainian links found along the way. Olton Services LLP had two Cypriot designated members, Eleana Christodoulou and Xenia Thoma; the person with significant control was Tatyana Zasukha of Ukraine. Winning Invest & Trade Ltd had Nicholas Henry Thom and Arthur Joseph Grice as directors, and an Ilia Michaeli of Ukraine as director; Eliahu Robinovich was the person with significant control. A closer look indicated that Eli Michael-Robonovich as the shareholder was probably the same person, even though the director was apparently Georgian, and the other Robinovich was apparently an Israeli living in Ukraine.


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Inside the Taylor’s Shell: the Distaff side

Of all the dodgy operations that have appeared to use New Zealand companies it is the Taylors empire that has received the most exposure over the years. The Taylors also appear to have a dynasty going, and possibly three generations of nominee directors, in the formation of shell companies for offshore clients. The media exposure goes back at least a decade. Gerard Ryle, then deputy editor of the Canberra Times, wrote a long article on the Taylors in 2011 entitled “Inside the shell: drugs, arms and tax scams”. Ryle went on to head the ICIJ, which is responsible for the Offshore Leaks database, and the Panama Papers. But then he reported mainly on Geoffrey Taylor, the head of the family, and wife Priscila Lustre Taylor.

In between 2011 and now Geoffrey Taylor retired, but Priscila was also active in the role of nominee director, both in New Zealand and in Britain. She also appears twice in the Offshore Leaks database, though not as many times as her children. Most of the media attention has been on her sons Ian and Michael, who appear to run the family franchise in shell companies, sometimes based in Southport, Australia; but also with bases in Vanuatu, London, and Nelson, New Zealand. The Taylors have been the target for the blogger, Richard Smith, of Naked Capitalism. His most recent blog on New Zealand (December 2016) is called “GT Group’s Protean Ian Taylor in the UK”, and he goes on to connect all the different Ian Taylors that crop up in company records around the world, but especially at 43 Bedford St in London. Richard Smith has also speculated on the role of some of his female associates, which include personal relationships and as employees. He assumes that Rachel Amy Erickson is a (former) spouse, and that Angelique Lilley is an employee. Smith’s piece links to Ian Taylor’s personal website, Taylor Business Consulting. But Taylor also has a company called Global SC Ltd (sometimes listed as being based in Vanuatu and other times in the Seychelles), and a website,, which offers the services of nominee directors/shareholders and bank accounts across the world, with previously used and unused companies.

Rather than speculate on the role of the women in the Taylor empire it would be better to concentrate on the distaff side, and she what this tells us about their current operations. To do this we need to look at one New Zealand company, Land Nominees Ltd, which was removed from the companies register only last month (February 2017). It was set up in 2007 as Sunseeker Nominees Ltd, and the shareholding was split between 12 of the Taylor family, except Geoffrey, and nor did it include Rachel Erickson or Angelique Lilley. But it does include Ian and Michael, and two shareholders with a surname of Lilley living in Nelson (in the South Island of New Zealand), which I’m assuming are Priscila’s grandchildren. If my grandchild theory is correct, this probably makes Angelique Lilley a daughter, with the other grandchildren living in Amberley (a country town also in the South Island); two sets of two grandchildren living at Queensland addresses; and two grandchildren in Vanuatu. Although the two in Vanuatu may be from Priscila’s own extended family. I’ve noticed there is also a Priscila Lamoste Lustre who also appears twice in the Panama Papers, and is listed there as living in Vanuatu. But the same name comes up twice in the NZ companies register, including one active directorship for a company called Hopper NZ Ltd set up in 2016. Ms Lustre gives her address as being in Southport, Queensland; and we see that the documentation was prepared by Peter Burslem, another known Taylor family associate.

So apart from Ms Lustre, we know that Priscila Lustre Taylor is no longer a director in New Zealand; and neither is Angelique Elizabeth Lilley, who does not appear to reside in Nelson anymore. Rachel Amy Erickson appeared only once in the New Zealand register, but has a greater presence in the British company register, called Beta. Before looking more closely at that, I will refer to the Offshore Leaks database again. Priscila Lamoste Lustre was the director for two BVI companies that are both listed as ‘defaulted’ and directly linked to Mossack Fonseca as intermediary. Priscila Lustre Taylor appears as a shareholder in one Samoan company for Mossack Fonseca; and as the director and shareholder for Develcan Ventures Ltd, a company linked to Russia, along with Elisana Marie-Antoinette Labonte of the Seychelles. Labonte has 18 other entries in the database. Meanwhile, Angelique Elizabeth Lilley has 4 entries based on her Nelson addresses. In one BVI company, Ardrey Enterprises, she has been a shareholder along with other known Taylor associates, Abigail Kalopong and Zsolt Adam Vajgel. Vajgel was also a preceding shareholder in Lichmere Investments Corp, before both he and Lilley were superceded by two companies based in Cyprus. Lilley was also the shareholder for Pod Investment Global Ltd, before being replaced by Rachel Amy Erickson in 2014. Erickson was a shareholder in 5 other BVI registered companies, but Chemspace Ltd is the only other one listed as active.

All of those companies in which Lilley or Erickson were nominee shareholders were created by intermediaries based in the Ukraine, either K.A.C. Ltd or Anglo Business Advisers Ltd, which has 110 entries in the Offshore Leaks database. There are at least two of their other companies linked to the Taylor family, with Ian Taylor as the shareholder. One is registered in the Seychelles, Keeton International S.A.; the other is a BVI company known as Kenton Investments Capital Group Corp. Taylor appears as a shareholder in 4 other companies created by Mossack Fonseca, one of which, Ravot Ltd, also had Rachel Erickson as a shareholder. Erickson and Taylor appear in the British company register many times, particularly for Limited Liability Partnerships. For example, there is RH Chemical Industrial Company LLP, for which they are ‘designated members’, along with Keeton Holdings Ltd, a company listed at the same address as Erickson in Queensland. Keeton Holdings, along with Erickson and Taylor, were also designated members for S.T.A. Technics and Engineering LLP, now dissolved. Keeton Holdings was appointed to that role in 2015, whereas Erickson and Taylor replaced Andreas Ellinas and Emilios Hadjivangeli in 2008. Taylor and Erickson also replaced the Cypriots, Ellinas and Hadjivangeli, in Ajax Trade LLP, in April 2009; while Ian and Priscila Taylor did the same the previous year for Bav Enterprises LLP. A similar thing happened for Global Consulting LLP in 2009, except that Ian Taylor resigned in 2015, leaving Erickson and Keeton Holdings as designated members.

It seems the Taylors often took over these roles in LLPs from Cypriots, for example, Priscila Taylor and Erickson relieved Eleni Papapavlou and Argyris Argyrou in BCH Research LLP in 2008. Argyrou appears 5 times in the Offshore Leaks database; Papapavlou has 24 entries; Ellinas 26 entries; and Hadjivangeli’s name appears 18 times. All of these LLPs are based in Stockport, England, at Minshull House (67 Wellington Road North). Erickson seems to be the most involved in this operation, although Angelique Lilley is still the other designated member of Grownowys LLP, and Leah Toureleo of Vanuatu also features (she appears twice in the Panama Papers). Taylor, Toureleo, and Erickson are involved in hundreds of British companies, as well as the LLPs based in Stockport, but we don’t know who is behind them. All except for Global Consulting Trade LLP. On the Beta website there’s a category ‘Persons with significant control’. This was usually vacant when I clicked on it, but, for Global Consulting Trade LLP, I found that the person with significant control was named as Sergii Soloviov, of the Ukraine. Soloviov lives in Kyiv, Ukraine, and was born in October 1972. There seems to be another Sergii Soloviov in the Beta system, controlling SLPT Development Ltd, but this one is listed as living in Lugansk, and being born in April 1982. One wonders if they are actually the same person, but it is not clear why these two examples appear on the website. Neither Soloviov is in the Panama Papers, in any case.

And, as with all the pieces that try to explore the activities of the Taylors in shell company formation, there are more remaining questions than answers. One just has to wonder how they almost always get away with it.


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A Turning Point for tax evaders in New Zealand?

The 3rd of March 2017 may well be remembered for the beginning of the end for corporate tax evasion in New Zealand, as the revenue minister announced proposals to mitigate the profit shifting practices of multinational corporations in New Zealand. In truth this is a grudging measure, and only involves a consultation proposal, timed to coincide with the OECD measures known as BEPS. Since there is an election here in September it is very unlikely that the current government will pass any legislation before then, and a new government might have more pressing matters. In any case, based on media reports of the proposal it seems that there will not an actual measure against profit-shifting itself.

These corporate tax avoidance proposals come soon after legislation was finally passed to change the trust law. It is getting on for a year since people in this country were finally informed that a tax haven operation was functioning here, designed for the ‘foreign settlors’ of New Zealand trusts. The category of a ‘foreign trust’ could have been removed overnight, after the Shewan review last year, if the National Government had been at all worried about the tax haven operation. But the then leader, John Key, had actually wanted to create a fully-fledged tax haven, only he called it an ‘international financial hub’. Key also had his own legal advisor, Ken Whitney, offering trust company services, and made the absurd claim that there was already full disclosure of trust information to the revenue department. The new legislation apparently does ensure that the New Zealand IRD, and foreign tax authorities, will now get all the information they need. But there is to be no public register of these foreign trusts when the other measures are to be introduced in June.

The news media like to take credit for exposing the trust law issues, that actually date back to the 1980s, and revealing that there was a tax haven here all along. In fact, the media utterly failed to inform the public of this, even though some of the business journalists knew well enough, as did many tax lawyers and legal academics. The media were also not interested when I showed them documents from the New Zealand Treasury, from their archived tax policy files, that indicated they knew that a tax haven operation could result from the trust law change but they went ahead anyway. If the Panama Papers had not been leaked nothing would have changed, and only a few journalists actually got to see the original Mossack Fonseca documents. Of those that did only the public broadcaster, RNZ, have kept tabs on the Panama Papers and the links with certain New Zealand players such as Bentleys. Indeed, RNZ led news bulletins this morning with a story about how Mossack Fonseca had severed its links with Bentleys, meaning the Orion Trust would no longer function. The story then went on to quote another trust industry player, Roger Taylor, with the usual line that most of the other foreign trusts were legitimate anyway. Yeah right, as we like to say here, but it was extraordinary to have two tax stories run at the same time.

Yet neither of these stories actually used the term tax haven, even though it was central to both, including the profit-shifting by multinational corporations to their subsidiaries in the Caribbean tax havens. As Richard Murphy has pointed out in his new book Dirty Secrets, first world countries don’t like to think that they have tax haven operations within their orbit, whether that includes the Channel Islands or states like Delaware. The fact that he refers to New Zealand as having a “thriving trust industry” is good, at least since writers in the northern hemisphere have not really noticed developments down here, despite the Pacific being fully integrated in the offshore world. Murphy is of course the founder of the Tax Justice Network, and an academic in London, with a quirky blog in which he now spends a lot of time attacking Jeremy Corbyn. Dirty Secrets is also a bit of a rush job, as it desperately needed more time with the editor given some obvious copy-editing errors.

Nonetheless, Murphy’s book ties together the aspects of the tax haven world, and those parts that are usually portrayed as legitimate, as well as the money launder structures that flourish in just the same way. As with other experts in the field, Murphy reminds us that the key part of the offshore world is secrecy and the use of shell companies, with nominee directors and shareholders, who have no idea what the real owners and beneficiaries are doing with the companies. These companies don’t usually prepare accounts, and, as I’ve noted before, in New Zealand they often file ‘non-activity’ declarations year after year. The key point is that the tax authorities and company office bureaucrats don’t ask questions, until some legal dispute occurs as in the Jho Low situation. I’ve found another interesting example of legal difficulties providing an insight into a shell company, this time created by the Taylor family, whose GT Group and ST Trading companies came to light in 2009 after some dodgy arms trading was linked to their shell companies.

Loan Consulting Ltd was a shell company set up by Michael Taylor (NZCI Ltd), who seems to have been the only Taylor actually resident in New Zealand. The only director of Loan Consulting Ltd was Nesita Manceau, a Philippino woman who worked for the Taylors in Vanuatu, and was perfect as a nominee director. She appears many times in the Panama Papers, and was then the unfortunate victim of media attention last year. Loan Consulting’s shareholder was Enviro (NZ) Ltd, which had been set by with a Vanuatu-based director, but became the Ukrainian Trust Ltd in 2014 (The Enviro name is now used by another group of ex-pats based in Hong Kong). But Loan Consulting Ltd did not last long, it was removed from the register in June 2011, as was Enviro (NZ) Ltd. Both were then restored to the Company Register in January 2014 due to the appointment of a liquidator (and while the liquidation process was underway Enviro became Ukrainian Trust Ltd). The first of the Insolvency Documents is interesting for Loan Consulting Ltd: “the Company is incorporated in New Zealand, managed from Vanuatu and operated in Europe as an offshore trust.” Now, in between 2011 and 2014 most of the Taylor Group companies had been struck off, but it seems these particular companies had held deposits with the Akcine Bendrove Bank Snoras, in Lithuania. This bank had been bankrupted, and was nationalised by the Lithuanian government. The bank’s chairman, a Russian, Vladimir Antonov, had once owned Portsmouth F.C., but then had to fight extradition from England to Lithuania.

Anyway, the point in highlighting Loan Consulting Ltd, and the Ukrainian Trust Ltd, was that the liquidator did actually get some funds back from Lithuania’s Deposit and Investment Insurance facility, via an ‘overseas based subsidiary’. There seems to have been an initial distribution to shareholders and creditors. But the liquidator’s report for the Ukrainian Trust states that the distribution to the shareholder (apparently named Charlie Kalopungi) was returned by the beneficiary bank, perhaps due to money laundering concerns. Further reports indicated that the shareholder was reluctant to provide company records to make the required tax returns, for both companies, and this comment has been repeated in 6-monthly reports to the Companies Office to this year, the latest one for Loan Consulting Ltd being listed as of yesterday. So it seems that the Taylors want to avoid the tax authorities even when the payment was in their favour, given the secrecy required by their clients. From the Panama Papers database we can see that these clients appear to be Russian, or East European, which seems to be fashionable at the moment in the West, especially with their links to Cyprus banks and trust companies.

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Jho Low, Rothschild Trustees, FFP, and the High Court in Auckland

I’ve noticed a spike in the page view statistics for this blog over the last couple of days. They are still modest, but yesterday was a new record, and mostly because of visitors within New Zealand. This is the first post for 2017, so it isn’t because of something new. I’m figuring it’s because of some journalism by Matt Nippert in the New Zealand Herald, which has revived interest in the foreign trust issue. It concerns a court case heard today in Auckland where Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) – part of the infamous 1MDB scandal – has been trying to regain control of a series of trusts that control assets which the U.S. authorities effectively want to get as forfeiture, given the allegations of money laundering at 1MDB.

Of course, the 1MDB scandal has been hitting the headlines overseas, as it includes Swiss banks and trust firms, the PetroSaudi firm and U.A.E.-based investment bankers, and the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The 1MDB saga has been written about extensively by the Sarawak Report, and the Ethical Alliance collates the many related stories about it. But it hasn’t really been covered at all in the New Zealand media, at least, until Mr Nippert found the New Zealand connection in the litigation currently taking place in California. It seems that the ownership by the Low family of various assets in the USA, mainly in property in New York and Los Angeles, was buried in a structure of companies with shares owned by various trusts. The trusts were controlled by two Swiss firms, Virtue Trustees (AG) and Rothschild Trust (Schweiz) AG, and the latter also used some of its New Zealand companies.

Now, the Swiss companies appear to have been reluctant to take part in any legal action concerning the Low family assets, apparently because of fear of the consequences from the U.S. authorities in regard to money laundering. So to prevent the forfeiture of these property assets worth over $US250 million, Jho Low got legal advice about changing the trustees in the structures, and asking the courts in the Cayman Islands and New Zealand to allow this change, so that the new trustees could contest the U.S. litigation. It seems that the two Swiss companies would only contest the legal action to remove them as trustees on the basis of being adequately compensated, given the tangled web they were part of. So the Cayman Islands authorities had already approved of the change, as far as Virtue Trustees (AG) are concerned; and the New Zealand case was in the Auckland High Court this week. Mr Nippert has also provided the legal papers on the Herald website.

Rather than get into the detail of the case I just want to touch on a few anomalies, and point to some facts that emerge from the company register in New Zealand. Firstly, I have referred to Virtue Trustees in an earlier post [Anchor and some Swiss Virtues], which had a New Zealand company being run by the Anchor Trustees firm. But it is Rothschild Trustees that have involved their New Zealand companies, these are administered by the Cone Marshall law firm, and one of their vehicles, Arrow Master Holdings Ltd. Now what Jho Low has done is to ask a trust firm based in the Cayman Islands, called FFP Trustees (Cayman) Ltd, to take over the trustee role from the Rothschild Trustees AG in the Caymans, and in New Zealand. The Rothschild companies in New Zealand included Elephant Sun Ltd, Star Towers Ltd, and, as it appears in the actual litigation, a company called Indigo Management Ltd. The former names also appear in overseas companies linked to Jho Low; while Indigo Management was set up by Cone Marshall in 2010. The original shareholder was a company called Great Wairua Ltd, before Arrow Master Holdings eventually took over the 100 shares. Great Wairua had a Swiss national, Peter Henggeler as an original director, and he was also involved in another company, Kaumatua Trustees Ltd. Henggeler had worked for the Rothschild Trustees until recently.

The legal brief for the litigation in the Auckland High Court was prepared by an American, Daniel A Zaheer, in San Francisco, California. In the affidavit by Zaheer, dated 5 December 2016, he states that Alix Partners LLP, and FFP Caymans, will take over the trustee roles; and FFP provide a detailed covering letter to the American court in support of the action. The FFP letter is signed by Michael Pearson, as a director; but Pearson also appears on the New Zealand register for companies that have been removed, and seems to have been a resident in Wellington (NZ), and later in Brisbane, Australia. In the letter Pearson talks about the experience of FFP as a replacement trustee, and its involvement in forfeiture actions related to the FIFA scandals. But the really interesting thing is the schedule of 17 trusts that FFP are to be the replacement for. In the actual litigation in Auckland there is a list of over 20 trusts that the plaintiff’s brief refer to, 23 of which involved the Rothschild Trust; and there was one controlled by Indigo Management Ltd called Avenue Raphael (Paris) Trust. So the interesting thing is that these schedules involve completely different sets of names: the only similar one is Global One Aviation (Global 5000) Trust in the FFP schedule, which in the second version is the Global One Aviation (Global G650) Trust.

The case in the New Zealand High Court (CIV-2016-404-3115 [2017] NZHC0025) is Low Hock Peng & ORS v Rothschild Trust (Schweiz) AG as first defendant. Low Hock Peng is Jho Low’s father. The other defendants include Rothschild’s three New Zealand companies, and two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, Global One Real Estate Ltd and Boluo Investments (US) Ltd. To briefly summarise the judgement of Toogood J in the case: while he recognised that the US litigation involved a serious case of money laundering, as alleged in the 1 MDB scandal, he still had to allow for the defendants to use the legal process to prevent their assets from being forfeited without a fight. He also refers to a “waterfall effect” where, by allowing FFP to take over all the functions as replacement trustees, all of the official roles of each company are passed over to ‘professionals’ in the Cayman Islands. Of course, FFP did create a subsidiary company in New Zealand, and it was registered as FFP Trustee (NZ) Ltd on 12 January 2017. Its directors include Michael Pearson, Stephen Briscoe, Christopher Rowland, and Andrew Childe, all resident in the Caymans; along with Douglas Mark Andrew Burgess acting as the token local director.

Justice Toogood may have been only concerned with facilitating proper legal processes for the Low family in the USA. But, by effectively being a legal adjunct to the activity of the tax haven in the Cayman Islands, he also highlighted how New Zealand trusts and companies are used as part of money laundering structures; and he has ensured that the legal action proceeding in the USA will be far more complicated and expensive than it needed to be.

Addendum 20/6/17: On 15 June 2017 the US Justice Department filed the latest stage in their case against Jho Low for the money laundering involving 1MDB. The case is called U.S.A v. Certain rights to and interest in the Viceroy Hotel Group. On page 185, under section R, there are allegations that Jho Low used 1MDB proceeds to purchase the Stratton Penthouse and Stratton Flat in London, using the Good Star Account. In paragraph 689, sub-section c, there are the details about how Rothschilds indicated the use of Stratton Street (London) Trust and Seven Stratton Street (London) Trust, being New Zealand foreign trusts, to administer two of the three London properties held in trust for the Low family. The money was transferred from a company Low owned called Selune Ltd. The document then goes on to Section S, on page 187. This section details how Low purchased the Stratton Office using diverted 2013 bond purchases. This involved the former Rothschild administered trust, Eight Nine Stratton Street (London) Trust, being another New Zealand foreign trust. It was the third London property, linked with Park Lane Partnership, and Condor Acquisition (Cayman) Ltd, and an oil investment in the U.S.A. called Coastal Energy. The purchase was made from the One Universe Account.

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Orion Trust (New Zealand) Ltd: Auckland, Wellington and Las Vegas?

This is the 50th post on my blog, and to begin with I will follow up on the Orion Trust (NZ) that was highlighted in the previous post. Orion Trust is apparently run out of the Bentleys accountancy firm in Auckland, by Roger Thompson, on behalf of Mossack Fonseca. But there is an interest point about the addresses for Orion Trust listed in the Panama Papers, according to the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database. By entering Orion 13 addresses come up, two of which are for Orion Trust (New Zealand) Ltd. One is a New Zealand address, but not for Auckland, this one is in the capital city, Wellington; the other address is actually in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA), and that address also appears for a lot of other shell companies linked to South Americans. And the Las Vegas address strongly suggests a gambling link.

So the Wellington address for Orion Trust (NZ) is Level 5, 10 Customhouse Quay. There is a small possibility that there might be some confusion with the local branch of the Citco firm, which is at Level 5, 50 Customhouse Quay, and also appears once in the database. But I think that the first address is the correct, as it belongs to a firm called Trustees Executors Ltd, which has been around for a while. It is currently owned by a company called Sterling Grace (NZ) Ltd, which is the local vehicle for an expatriate New Zealand, John Sheffield Grace, who had previously used the name Sheffield Investments for a number of companies. John Grace lives in Switzerland, as does his offsider, David Neidhart, who is now a director of Trustees Executors Ltd. Sterling Grace (NZ) Ltd appears to be owned by a prominent local lawyer, Andrew Scott-Howman. But Trustees Executors Ltd had some media attention this year because of its chairman, former Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, who had recently resigned. A media report on TV3 around the time of the Panama Papers played on this aspect, although that report is now hard to find. In any case, Trustees Executors appears to be a legitimate financial company, and is involved in the Kiwisaver scheme, where it helps administrate for the Fisher Funds Kiwisaver operation, that is run for the Co-operative Bank in New Zealand. But there are other former Trustees Executors subsidiaries that have appeared in other blog posts, and are now run by other Trust industry players, such as Ross Hanning’s Craigellachie Fiduciaries (NZ) Ltd.

Now back to the address in the Panama Papers, it is linked to the Cabita Trust, which has a shareholding officer, Perval Holding Business Ltd, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. The listed address for Perval Holding includes this phrase: “Melbury Investments CV/Stichting M.P. Melbury”; and the physical address is in Zug, Switzerland. The intermediary linked to Cabita and Perval Holding is listed as Doporto & Asociados, which has created 13 entities. The most interesting one of these is called World Tactic Limited, partly because it is the only one based in Hong Kong, and also because it then links up with the Orion Trust (NZ) Ltd. This produces two addresses both involving the firm Staples Rodway Ltd in Auckland (now Bentleys), with one entry linked to World Tactic Ltd, and the other to a firm called Wellington Minerals & Mining Ltd. Wellington Minerals was created by Roger Thompson when he was at Staples Rodway in 2013, and the original shareholder was the Orion Trust, but the shares are now owned by Beatriz Lorena Romero Alfaro of Panama. All of this would be very confusing if not for the Spanish language press, particularly Mexican publications, that are interested in the activities of Senor Doporto and family. To cut a long story short, Luis Alejandre Doporto and his in-laws, the Alcantara family, have used the Orion Trust to form the Cabita and Maximus Trusts. The Cabita Trust has been used in structures related to the Mexican pharmaceutical industry; and the Maximus Trust is part of a structure using Dutch companies, as well as the Hong Kong company (World Tactic), for a number of purposes, but included are the Alcantara’s children clothing brand Livanna. My summary here is limited by having to use Google translation, and still does not explain the role of Melbury Investments, but will do for now.

I now want to move on the the Las Vegas link to Orion Trust (NZ), and the gambling connection, which was much better documented even before the Panama Papers were released.  The Nevada address is “520 S. 7th Street Suite C Las Vegas”. This is also the listed address for an Edmund Ward, who is described in press reports as being English, and usually resident in Delaware. In the Panama Papers he shows up pretty much everywhere in South America, especially in Uruguay, but for our purposes here it is the Argentinian link which is the most important. This is because of Ward’s role in Mossack Fonseca’s operations in Nevada and the company known as Val de Loire LLC. Val de Loire appears twice in the Panama Papers, linked with Uruguay and Venezuela, but historically it was accused of money-laundering activities for the Kirchner regime in Argentina. This involved the gambling operations of two Kirchner associates, Lazaro Baez and Cristobal Lopez, who had used the Val de Loire company. The complication for them came with the Argentinian Government’s default in the early 2000s, and the role of what are called ‘vulture funds’, that try to purchase the bonds involved from creditors and then pursued the Argentinians in the US courts. This was successfully done by a company called NML Capital Ltd in 2014-15. So prior to the Panama Papers being leaked, NML took legal action for discovery of companies linked to Baez and Lopez’s gambling structures, beginning with Val de Loire. A whole lot of company names were then linked: Tornbell Associates Inc. (Panama), Gairns Ltd (Seychelles), Aldyne Ltd (Seychelles), Fintech Holdings Ltd (Nevada), Balmont Holdings Ltd (Nevada), Plascot Ltd (Seychelles), Forbest Ltd (British Anguilla), and Bugloss Holdings Ltd (British Virgin Islands). These are just the ones that also appear in the ICIJ database, but there were 253 overall. Mr Edmund Ward denied all knowledge of what these companies did, but since the release of the Panama Papers these kind of denials look very weak indeed.

Well, that is the 50th post on my blog, most of which have been written since May. It takes a lot of time, but has reached more readers than expected. It was designed to show the extent of the trust industry in New Zealand, and the publicly known links to the offshore world, most of which have gone unexamined in New Zealand. During the year there were meant to be law changes to curb the trust industry, even though the idea of being a tax haven was never accepted politically, but Parliament has closed down for the year with no change made at all. We will see what next year might bring.


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Blue Ridge Company: Jose Lopez Lombana & Ian van Stratum

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.

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Venezuelan Chocolates and New Zealand Trusts: Luis Aguilar’s legal labyrinth Part 2

This time we will look specifically at the Venezuelan chocolate business run by Jorge Redmond Schlageter, and its legal structure in the USA. Chocolate El Rey SA apparently dates back to the 1920s in Venezuela, but its presence in the US market took off in the mid 1990s, and is for all intents and purposes a successful business. Once Jorge Redmond took over in Caracas he met up with an old school friend, Randall M Turner, who is based in Fredericksburg, Texas. Rand Turner is the President of Chocolates El Rey Inc., which was set up as a Delaware company in 1993, with the Texas branch dating from 1995. Turner also set up a company called Aroa Fine Chocolates LLC, which is another Delaware company that was registered in Massachusetts between 2007 and 2013. This is, of course, the period in which Jorge Redmond was involved in his contretemps with compatriot Luis Aguilar.

Randall M Turner was the son of a Texas oil man who was transferred to Venezuela, and hence he was born in Maracaibo. According to a 1996 story in the Texas Monthly, Turner went back to the States to attend a prep school in Tennessee, and it was there that he met Jorge Redmond. Redmond’s father was a chemical engineer from Louisiana, and it was his mother’s side of the family that had an interest in the Venezuelan chocolate company. The article “Holy Cacao” raves about the quality of the El Rey chocolate, and Redmond hosting 30 chefs and journalists at his new facility in Venezuela. Chocolates El Rey also expanded into Japan, and their subsidiary there became known as Cacao Fino Ltd. Of course, there is no reference to the El Rey structure of ownership of trusts and companies in New Zealand.

Chocolates El Rey (New Zealand) Ltd was set up by the Cone Marshall firm in 2006, and had five directors, including Turner, Redmond, and Luis Aguilar. It was actually formally removed in 2008, presumably because of the dispute between Aguilar and Geoffrey Cone, as described in Part 1. But the key New Zealand company turns out to be Amix Harbour Chocolates Prima Ltd, that was set up by Aguilar in 2008, and had Turner and Redmond as directors until January 2012, when it appears that Aguilar forced the other two out. There are two other New Zealand companies that are relevant to the Chocolate El Rey structure, Antitox Ltd and Delmatter National and Provincial Ltd (the latter also had Turner and Redmond as directors). As explained in Aguilar’s affidavit, Amix Harbour Chocolates Prima Ltd was one of three owners of Chocolates El Rey Inc., the Delaware corporation; the other two are Randall Turner, and Jorge Redmond holding about 80% of El Rey through a limited partnership called Antitox CV. The Amix company acts as a trustee for a foreign trust in New Zealand, which was called the USA Matrix Trust; it also acted as trustee of the Premium Brands Trust, another foreign trust, which owned the El Rey trademarks. Amix was also the trustee for the foreign trust that owned shares in the Japanese subsidiary, the Japan Matrix Trust. It seems that Aguilar tried to oust Turner and Redmond from the Amix part of the structure after he claims to have discovered a fraud in 2011, and the specific claim involved the sum of US$500 000, though he claimed there were other irregularities.

Aguilar’s allegations were made in a complaint to the Consumer Protection Division of the State of Texas, and published on-line by Aguilar after reiterating the complaint in February 2013. This affidavit is based on a more chronological sequence of events, and includes emails from Turner, Redmond, and their accountant. The latter suggests getting that a trust company be approached to establish ‘tax-free corporations’, and it appears that the Citco (out of Curcao) firm was involved. But the basic claim by Aguilar was that funds from Chocolate El Rey were funneled into Turner’s Aroa company, in the form of unauthorised credit lines, and something similar happened in Redmond’s Antitox CV company structure. The latter is interesting because it seems to include New Zealand companies that Aguilar had set up: Antitox (NZ) Ltd, Delmatter National and Provincial Ltd, and Estimulo Foundation Ltd. Aguilar hints that Redmond’s attempt to change his structure “created a problem with AsiaCiti Trust New Zealand Ltd”, and was being pursued by the authorities, without any outcome. But the basic structure was for each of the New Zealand companies to act as the trustee for a NZ foreign trust, with Delmatter National as the trustee for the Morusso Trust, and Antitox (NZ) being the trustee for Maurois Trust. And, in turn, the trusts were part of a Dutch limited partnership: so the Maurois Trust was the effective owner of a company, Redko CV, through which Jorge Redmond owned some properties in New York; and the Maurois Trust was the ‘general partner’ for Antitox CV, which was the vehicle for controlling Chocolate El Rey. The complication was that these New Zealand companies were apparently under Aguilar’s control, until he gave up in 2015.

So, after all that legal action, Jorge Redmond still appears to be in the chocolate business, although Aguilar had suggested that he had tried to sell out to Nestle in 2011, until he realised that the due diligence might expose his financial shenanigans. And Luis Aguilar himself, has gone after bigger fish, writing open affidavits about the legal position of Nicholas Maduro’s nephews who seem to be now facing up to drugs charges in the USA.



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