Great Danes, Acquisitive Australians, and a coterie of Swiss accountants

This post is something of a sequel to one I wrote a year ago (Great Danes) about the link between the Equinor Trust, based in Auckland, and Equinor A/S in Denmark. It will be worth another consideration of the crew involved with this, both the New Zealanders and the residents of Copenhagen, with some Swiss and Australian connections. I fell on to this topic while looking once again at the shell companies being run by Steven James Green, and will return to that next time, but for now concentrate on Lachlan Williams.

It was Lachlan Williams that was involved in the Kiwi Deposit Building Society, a NZ company that was doing significant business before its activities raised concerns about money laundering. Curiously, the records of this company appear to have disappeared without a trace from the Companies Office website. Nonetheless, there are records for the Kiwi Deposit Holdings Ltd, a company set up by Lachlan Williams in 2009, with the 100 shares held by the Kiwi Deposit Building Society. The company went through several shareholders, including Glencaple Holdings Ltd, before being run by Allanzia Trust Services and Matthew Hitchman in 2014. By that time, Kiwi Deposit Holdings had become Burlington Holdings Ltd, and the building society had been removed from the register.

Around the time that Kiwi Deposit Building Society got into hot water, one of Matthew Hitchman’s other companies, Orbital Capital Investors Ltd, was linked to a controversial share dealing in Australia. This involved a space technology company called NewSat, and the matter was covered extensively by the Sydney Morning Herald. On 19 March 2015, the SMH published a story “Unlawful share trade by Bailleu Holst blue chip broker earns millions”, and linked the New Zealand registered Orbital Capital with NewSat. The deal apparently involved an emergency $A5 million loan in July 2013, with NewSat agreeing to repay it after three months, and through a sale of 17 million shares to Orbital Capital at a significant discount. The share deal was arranged by the prestigious broking firm Bailleu Holst, and their director Stephen Macaw, which resulted in $A2.4 million profit for Orbital, on top of a substantial interest payment. But the key allegation by the SMH was that Macaw’s brother, Scott Campbell Macaw, a director of Kiwi Deposit Building Society, was also involved in the Orbital Capital deal, through a Danish company.

This was quite a complex allegation: so the Sydney Morning Herald claimed that Orbital Capital’s ‘principal’ was a Zurich businessman, Christoph Dietsche; and Orbital Capital was linked to the Kiwi Deposit Building Society [KDBS]; the KDBS also traded in NewSat’s shares; and that Christoph Dietsche and Scott Macaw were both directors in a Danish company. This actually doesn’t quite add up. However, Dietsche and Scott Macaw are obviously known to each other. They have both been directors of Equinor A/S in Denmark (as has Williams), and in Amalie2 Ejendomsinvest A/S, at different times; and both are among the current officers of Doxa Investments A/S. It is the New Zealand connection that is somewhat unclear. Although both are on the register, neither Dietsche or Macaw was obviously involved with Orbital Capital Investors or Orbital Capital GP Ltd, and both companies are now removed from the register. Scott Macaw was an early of Equinor Trust Ltd, now in liquidation; and in March 2013 he became a director of Ruslan Investments Ltd, along with Lachlan Williams, but that company was de-registered later that year. Meanwhile, there is a Christoph Dietsche listed as a shareholder for Baldur International Ltd, along with Serge Girschweiler, who is also listed as living in Zug, Switzerland. Both Dietsche and Girschweiler are on the team at Seed Wealth Management AG, according to their website. While, in Auckland, Baldur International also owned the shares in ITSC Information Technology Services & Consulting FZ Ltd. And there is one entry for Christoph Dietsche in the Panama Papers.

All of the New Zealand companies listed above have had the involvement of Lachlan Williams. In the previous post I briefly referred to Williams bringing overseas companies onto the New Zealand register. He appears to have also done this a number of times for a coterie of Swiss-based wealth managers: Giovanni Pasqualino, Eugenia Bianchi, and Emilio Bianchi. And it appears that Emilio Bianchi succeeded Scott Campbell Macaw as a director in the Danish company Manter Holdings A/S. The Bianchis have a presence in the U.K. register, including Nairn Investments Ltd; and Eugenia Bianchi and Pasqualino have also set up a few companies in Wyoming. But most of their directorships are in New Zealand and Panama. And while some of their New Zealand companies were set up by Lachlan Williams, other were imported from Wyoming or Delaware, or even Oregon. For example, Topmast Yachting LLC was an Oregon company added to the New Zealand register on 4 July 2011; the agent  for the transfer was listed as Stine Ronne in Auckland, with a local lawyer as witness. Topmast Yachting Ltd is about to be removed from the New Zealand register, and the directors include Martin John Mayhew Allen (also the shareholder), an associate of the Bianchis and Pasqualino, who is now resident in Panama.

Some more interesting examples of the tax haven companies transferred to New Zealand, on behalf of the Eugenia Bianchi and Giovanni Pasqualino, are South Europe Invest LLC and Investidora El Tunal LLC. Both companies are now about to removed, and the directors are Martin Allen and Herlinda del Carmen Suarez Medina of Panama. And both companies were transferred from the Delaware register on 14 June 2011, with the agent being Stine Ronne, but with an interesting difference. The witness was named as being a Timothy Whittley, and his signature was beside the stamp of the Australian embassy in Copenhagen, Denamrk. So, although Ms Ronne gives an Auckland address, she was actually in Copenhagen at the time, and a quick search indicates she now works for a shipping firm there. While Mr Whittley is presumably still an employee, possibly the staff driver at the Australian embassy in Denmark. How he got involved with Lachlan Williams offshore adventures would be interesting to know.

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The Taylors Legacy: some Cypriots with a link to Belize, the Marshall Islands & Cactus Kate

The legacy of the Taylors shell company games is something of a gift that keeps giving. In this post I will look at a few more of Taylors’ New Zealand companies, the role of Cypriot directors and beyond. We will also see a new player in the domestic shelf company game, this time from Devonport, Auckland, and their link to the blogger known as Cactus Kate.

I was looking back at some press print-outs from just before the Panama Papers came out last year, and found an article in the (March 5) New Zealand Herald by Hamish Fletcher. After referring to the Maltese politicians with New Zealand trusts, he went on to mention the ‘shell games’ played by the Taylors, and the liquidation of Vicam Ltd, the Taylor company with Nesita Manceau as director. He then referred to another Manceau company, Dolven Ltd, that had not been removed, but had been liquidated on the order of the High Court. In fact, it had been removed in July 2011, but had been reinstated in May 2015, and then liquidated in February 2016, with KPMG appointed as the liquidator. KPMG had been appointed because of a British creditor, Sontrin Products LLP, which, according to Fletcher, was owned by two firms registered in Belize, an obvious tax haven.

In March 2016, KPMG made its first report to the Companies Office about the Dolven liquidation. This, and two later 6-monthly reports, referred to Dolven Ltd as operating as a shell company, until it acquired trademark rights from several European companies in 2010. This seemed to involve a Serbian company, and then negotiations with Dolven’s bank in Latvia, on behalf of Sontrin LLP. Now, it so happens that Sontrin Products LLP was based at the Cornwall Buildings, Birmingham. I say ‘was’ because it was struck off the company register as of yesterday, 2 May 2017, according to the BETA website. A look at its filing history indicates that this was not the first time, as in 2010 it was also ‘administratively dissolved’, but a ‘statement of compliance’ was provided on behalf of Corporate Solutions Ltd (of Belize). This was signed by Mrs Lana Zamba; and other documentation indicates the role of Panagiotis Georgiou. Both Zamba and Georgiou appear many times as the directors of British companies, though most are now dissolved, and have also been directors of Ferron Technology Ltd, one of the only active companies. Zamba appears in the Panama Papers once, as shareholder of Omalley Holdings Ltd, a BVI company linked to the Czech republic.

Lana Zamba turns out to be one of the more notorious nominee directors in Europe, even if she is probably not really aware of it. The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) had a number of investigations which turned up Mrs Zamba as a player, whom they describe as a yoga instructor from Cyprus. One example is how she was the nominal owner of one of the companies (Altkom Ltd) that renovated the Ukrainian Olympic stadium, that had served as the base for the Euro 2012 football tournament. The OCCRP also highlighted what they called the ‘Russian Laundering Machine’ in 2011, and linked it to the so-called Magnitsky case. Two companies involved in this were based in Britain, including Nomirex Trading Ltd, and one in New Zealand, Bristoll Export Ltd, a Taylor company. In early 2013, the Daily Telegraph referred to Zamba as a ‘yoga guru’, who was born in Ukraine, but based in Cyprus, and pointed to her role in Eurobalt Ltd. Eurobalt had a controlling interest in Altkom. And Eurobalt Ltd is still listed as active, but Zamba was succeeded by another Cypriot, Andrea Kakouris, in 2011. The person with significant control of Eurobalt is listed as a Dutchman, resident of the Netherlands Antilles, Gregory Edward Elias.

Lana Zamba’s role also extends to many New Zealand companies. In late 2012 Michael Field of Fairfax reported on her apparent role as the registered owner of a web address forextime.com, operating out of Auckland. The linked company, Forextime NZ Ltd, was set up in 2011, and later removed in January 2016. The shareholder and director was a Yiangos Yiangou of Cyprus, represented by Campbell Law in Auckland. Yiangos Yiangou appears once in the Panama Papers, with a BVI company called Palavar Commercial Inc, a company set up by Unitrust Corporate Services of London (see my previous post). Meanwhile, Lana Zamba, as well as Panagiotis Georgiou, and Andreas Kakouris have all been directors of New Zealand companies. Kakouris has succeeded Zamba as director in three companies set up an accountancy firm, Gannaway Mercer Ltd, of Devenport, Auckland. Two of these companies are owned by the Syten Group, a company based in the Marshall Islands. A company called Potterson Ltd, with Panagiotis Georgiou as a director, was also owned by company based in the Marshall Island, A & P Henderson Ltd. But most of the companies run by Gannaway Mercer Ltd, and directed by Mrs Zamba, were set up by the Anchor Trustees of Auckland, and had another Cypriot, Athina Georgiou, as the original director. And most of these companies had the shareholding assumed by a New Zealand company, GCSL (New Zealand) Ltd. There are a couple of exceptions to this, one being Ariona Sales Ltd, which was owned by Trade Invest System Ltd, a company based at Barrack Rd, Belize (an address that Zamba also used). And the other one was called Intratex Ltd, a company set up by Michael Taylor in Auckland, with Stella Port-Louis, of the Seychelles, as the original director, before Lana Zamba took over with the help of Gannaway Mercer Ltd, in August 2009. All of Zamba’s 75 companies were removed by 2012.

But GCSL (New Zealand) Ltd had another 25 companies set up by Gannaway Mercer, this time with Najwa Smaili, another Cypriot, as a director. GCSL itself was created by the Anchor Management Services Ltd in 2008, with three Hong Kong residents as the original directors. In February 2011 these directors were replaced by Catherine Michelle Odgers, a resident of Hong Kong. She is better known as Cathy Odgers, or the blogger Cactus Kate, a rather well-connected right wing lawyer. In 2014 her political connections came to light in what is now known as the ‘Dirty Politics’ saga in New Zealand.

In the meantime all of Najwa Smaili companies have been removed from the New Zealand companies register. But she remains active in at least four British companies. She is a director of Layford Ltd, also based at the Cornwall Buildings in Birmingham. The person with significant control in the company is Oleg Strazding, a Russian who appears once in the Panama Papers with a BVI company called Tempetrol Ltd. In Broghammer Ltd the person with significant control is also Russian, Aleksandr Nikulnikov. The interesting thing here is that Smaili succeeded Rachel Amy Erickson as director, one of the Taylor clan. And Smaili is also the nominee director in two companies controlled by Ukrainians, Anatoly Butko and Yurii Pilkevich, for Vember Capital Ltd and High-Tech Scientific Investments Ltd, respectively. There are no doubt many more Russian and Ukrainian links to Cypriots in the British company register, as well as New Zealand’s.

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Some more on the Taylor men

It seems that I can’t quite leave the notorious Taylor clan behind, but what a tangled web it was. Or perhaps still is. I will be looking more closely at Geoffrey Taylor, the father, and Michael Taylor, one of the sons, with the help of the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database. And I will be looking for links with Unitrust Corporate Services, or Unitrust Capital Corp, which appears to be one and the same; as well as the collaboration of the Taylors with Mr & Mrs Petre-Mears, residents of the Caribbean island of Nevis, who are notorious nominee directors. This topic has been covered on the Naked Capitalism Blog, but that was really before the Panama Papers were released, and there is a local angle here in New Zealand.

So I have previously mentioned the links between the Taylors and some Cypriots, and their links in turn with Russian law firms, and other East European individuals. Most of the entries in the ICIJ database for Geoffrey Taylor appear in the earlier document leak, and are sourced from the Commonwealth Trust Ltd as an agent. Taylor senior appears as director 89 times, based on one of his entries, and is linked to a number of Russian and Cypriot firms. As an example, G.T. has been a director of RosTiford Ltd since the year 2000, and the intermediary is the Andreas Petrou law office of Nicosia, which has 129 entries overall.  Another (presumably BVI company) is Russmotors Ltd, for which G.T. has been a director since 2004, and the intermediary was Corporaterra Ltd of Nicosia, which has 117 entries overall. This is nothing on Christabel Corporate Services Ltd, of Limassol, which has over 900 entities linked to it in the database. From the Panama Papers, G.T. is a shareholder in Sequioa European Asset Management Ltd, a BVI registered company, where he appears to have succeeded a company named Vernon Directors Ltd in 2013. In another entry for Vernon Directors Ltd, G.T. is listed as a shareholder and the beneficiary, along with a Loizos Loizou of Nicosia in Cyprus. Mr Loizou is also listed as a director of Olpi Ltd, from 2007, where the intermediary is Unitrust Corporate Services of London, which has a whopping 5699 entries in the ICIJ database.

Geoffrey Taylor is also linked with a Luxembourg firm, GESFO S.A., and Maypark Associates Ltd, where he was succeeded as a director in 2004 by Sarah Petre-Mears of Petre-Mears Corporate Services. Mrs Petre-Mears is more well known as a regular nominee director for Unitrust Corporate Services, and both she and her husband Edward appear in the New Zealand company register a number of times. The New Zealand version of Unitrust Corporate Services Ltd was established in late 2008, with Sarah Petre-Mears as shareholder/director, and it was not removed from the register until June 2013. I want to look at the details of the link between Unitrust and the G.T. Group, and the locations involved. The presenter of the documentation for Unitrust was Olga Vovchenko, who otherwise does not appear in the companies register, and it was first located in Tauranga, New Zealand. It was around December 2009 that the Unitrust-administered companies had a new address in Queen St, Auckland, being the base for the G.T. Group. The other company that Mrs Petre-Mears was involved in, Conteron Group Limited, moved a number of times in its brief existence: starting in Tauranga, it was moved to G.T. headquarters in Auckland, then apparently back to Tauranga, to be managed by the Abaconda Management Group, before having a final address in Queens St, Auckland. However, this was a different address for the G.T. Group, and it was in fact the building next door, at 363 Queens St, which is the home of the Quest Apartments.

Indeed, the address of Quest 1504B, 363 Queens St, was often used by Michael Taylor in the company registration process. It looks like an apartment address, but it is in fact effectively a hotel room. Even I have stayed in the Quest Apartments. I also want to look at a few examples of the companies linked to the Taylors, Unitrust, and Edward Petre-Mears. One was Omega Pacific (NZ) Ltd, which is quite a common name. It was registered in 2008 by Ed Kruger, of Abaconda Management in Tauranga, with Mr Petre-Mears as the shareholder/director. Within a month the shareholding was transferred to Sergey Koshkin, of Moscow, and the company address was moved to Auckland before it is removed in July 2012. But Sergey Koshkin also appears in the Panama Papers, along with 3 other comrades, as the shareholders of Helena Associates Corp, a BVI company that was also subject to ‘inactivation’ in July 2012, before being struck off in 2013.

Another New Zealand company administered by Unitrust, with the help of the G.T. Group, was Kazantip Ltd, which was active between 2010 and 2012. This one started off its shelf life at the Quest Apartments address in central Auckland, before being moved out to Te Atatu, in West Auckland. Along the way the shareholding was transferred from Charlie Kalopungi of Vanuatu, a G.T. regular nominee director, to Edward Petre-Mears of Nevis. The interesting thing here is that the presenter of the only annual return for Kazantip Ltd was given as being Kirill Kiriantychev, of Unitrust Capital Corp. He also gives an address as a ‘suite’ in Steeles Ave, Concord, Ontario, Canada. Kirill Kiriantychev is not in the ICIJ database, but is listed on the Open Corporates database, where he appears to have set up a lot of companies in Arkansas. But Unitrust Capital Corp, and the Canadian address, is listed as one of the 5699 entities in the Unitrust Corporate Services category, based at their London address; and there are a further 680 entries linked to a Russian address. I also looked for a link between Sarah Petre-Mears and Kiriantychev. There is a company created by Unitrust Corporate Services, called Entera Ventures Corp, where Sarah Petre-Mears is the director, but the shareholder is a Mr Kirill Neklyudov of Moscow. Neklyudov is also the shareholder in another Unitrust company, this time called Dretomak Financial Inc., but the director is Kellee France (of Nevis) this time. Ms France was also the shareholder/director in five New Zealand companies that follow the same pattern, having been set up by Unitrust in Tauranga, and then assumed by the G.T. Group at their various Auckland addresses. She also has 19 entries in the ICIJ database.

Finally, one of the companies that Sarah Petre-Mears is a director of is Vendome International Ltd, though the intermediary was GESFO of Luxembourg. However, Vendome is quite a popular name for a company. There is a BVI company called Vendome Estates Ltd, which has a number of shareholders, and the beneficiary is listed as Michael John Taylor of Monaco. I don’t think this is the same Michael Taylor, the resident of Quest Apartments in Auckland. But Michael J. Taylor had three other BVI companies, and these had shareholders in the form of Aztec Holdings Ltd, and the Republic International Trust Company Ltd, and these two companies do link Monaco with Australasian trust company players.

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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, http://www.readymadeshelfcompany.com, 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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