Stranger than the Panama Papers

This is primarily a post about the Wellington man, Gordon Ralph Stewart, who has been in the offshore game for a long time, and appears in a number of guises in the Offshore Leaks database. That means in the Panama Papers and the earlier Trustnet leak. Stewart has used the term the Fidco in the past, and it appears by his name in the New Zealand companies registration details on-line. But his shareholding company is actually called the New Zealand Trust Nominees ltd, and it has many shelf companies still active.

First a quick mention of Fidco in the Panama Papers. Entering the name does not lead too far in the database. Though it did link to a Swiss intermediary, Patrick T Bittel, who is a partner in a respectable looking law firm known as Budin Partners. Respectable, that is, until one sees how many time it appears in the Panama Papers. Anyway, Stewart has a another new shelf company, called Fidinam & Partners Trustess Ltd, a bit similar to his Fiduciary and Trustee Ltd, and the Fiduciarie International. So there is another firm called Fidinam, based in Geneva, but with a worldwide reach including a new Australian office.

Stewart hardly used the Fidco moniker, except for Fidcobahamas Ltd, which is now removed from the New Zealand register. But there is an interesting byway entering the term Fidco on the companies website. It has also been used by one Thomas Victor Henry Ronald Cattermole. Mr Cattermole, sometimes known as Victor or Thomas, is a rather notorious resident in Christchurch, with a chequered history of failed companies and offshore adventures. David Fisher of the New Zealand Herald wrote in 2010 about how Cattermole, who had just been evicted from a former Catholic boarding school, was trying to save the Portsmouth Football Club. Fisher referred to Cattermole owning a company called Fidco Global, and being CEO of the Endeavour Plan Group. Fidco Global was based in the British Virgin Islands, and both its subsidiaries, Fidco Finance and Endeavour Plan Australasia Ltd, have been removed from the New Zealand companies register.

But there is a strange thing about the documentation for these companies, particularly Endeavour Plan. Cattermole obviously liked to boost up the shareholding by the million, and include local Christchurch residents as shareholders. However, Endeavour Plan Australasia also had a big name shareholder in 2010: American General Stanley McChrystal. He is listed in the documentation, and the change of share parcels to Fidco Global. Hard to believe, but stranger things have happened. McChrystal was busy in Afghanistan at the time, so even if the media had noticed they couldn’t have asked him about it. There could be an innocent explanation of why a military figure shared a few million shareholding in a scam company with a couple living on the edge of Christchurch, near the epi-centre of a major earthquake, but maybe it was just a sham. After Endeavour Plan Australasia Ltd was removed, Cattermole has carried on in the offshore world, with a company called Perfect Day Global Ltd, also based in the British Virgin Islands.

I assume that Gordon Stewart has had nothing to do with Cattermole, although he does live rather close to the American embassy in Thorndon, Wellington. That address certainly appears more often than Fidco in the Panama Papers. Stewart also seems to have an outfit called Republic International Trust Co (shame he didn’t call it Republican). This appears to offer trusts for individuals and families in Britain, but some in the Pacific, such as Vinod Patel (assumed to be the Fijian businessman with his own website). But Stewart is not free from associations with dubious characters, judging by links to the intermediary known as Leighton & Leighton. The principal of the firm, Norman Leighton, was based in Monaco, and acted as a trustee for Caribbean based companies. But he also had an Australian share trading operation that fell foul of the ATO, according to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2010.

Back to the Panama Papers, there are many more links between Gordon Stewart and men based in Monaco, or using it for a base. A lot of these lead to one Anthony Janse van Vuuren, who seems to be well known there. He has an operation known as Acces International, and his offsider, Lance Peter Luigi Lawson, also appears in the database. Hopefully the next post will look at some more Monaco connections.

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