The Forte Trust Company appears ten times as an ‘officer’ in the Panama Papers part of the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database. Four of these entries mention the ‘New Lara Trust’, and there is also a Lacom Trust, and a Waterloo Trust. Following the links in the database comes up with a number of fiduciary or trust firms across the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and Switzerland. It also has two Auckland addresses: one is the home of the Asiaciti trust firm in Shortland St; the other is the registered office of John Hart’s trust firm in Kitchener St. The nominal owner of the Forte Trust Company Ltd is one of Asiaciti’s vehicles, Asiatrust NZ Ltd, the registered address is in Kitchener St, and John Hart has been a director since October 2015. The administration of Forte Trust is actually conducted from London, by Nean Wealth Advisers, but they don’t appear in the Panama Papers. I will try to explain how this jumble of companies and intermediaries link up.
The Forte Trust Company Ltd was set up in October 2002 by Asiaciti in Auckland, with the original shareholder/director being Simon John Evans of England. Evans also set up the Nean Wealth Advisers at the same time, and some of the companies listed in the Panama Papers also date from that time. Forte Trust Company has also been the nominal owner of 10 companies on the New Zealand register, though some have involved associates like John Roselip and Rolf Wasmer who are based in Switzerland, Brian Luck in Dubai, or a fellow director of Nean, Michael Ashurst in Singapore. It was Ashurst who was listed as the shareholder in Forte Trust when it was passed on to Asiaciti’s vehicle, Asiatrust New Zealand Ltd, in 2014, but the administration of the company did not change. In a publication called Citywire, in September 2010, there is an article: “NWA founder Simon Evans on shaking up the family office sector.” It goes on to explain how Evans’ high-end boutique advisory work is split between about 35 families in Far East, Arabian Gulf, and Indian sub-continent areas. The sub-continent seems to dominate judging by the names listed as shareholders in the Panama Papers, though in Nigeria, London, or Hong Kong.
I want to first look at the specific companies that link up with Forte and John Hart in New Zealand. One of the links for the ‘Lara Trust’ leads to Corlingwood Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands in November 2005, with the intermediary being Baker Tilly Isle of Man Fiduciaries Ltd. One of the shareholders is the ‘Evergreens Business Ltd as Trustees of the Donnan Trust’, and the beneficiary is Gulubrai Sugnomal Aswani in Singapore. Now, there was an Evergreen Business Ltd set up by Nean in New Zealand in 2010, with Rolf Wasmer being the original shareholder and director. The shareholding was assumed by Forte Trust Company in 2011, and the company name was changed to Evergreen Trust Company Ltd in 2012. Simon Evans had also declared the company as ‘non-active’ twice up to 2012, as he has often done with his New Zealand companies. After many director changes, the current directors are John Hart, and a Cypriot lawyer, Foteini Kaimaklioti.
I will now mention some of the Forte Trust Company’s other shareholdings, especially those that were set up by Asiaciti in the mid 2000s, and appear to have a nominal link to John Hart in Auckland. Guardian International Ltd was set up in 2006, with the original directors being Simon Evans, Naraindas Parmanand Kirpalani of Lagos, Nigeria, and Sanjay Naraindas Kirpalani, who is based in Singapore. The Kirpalanis still remain, but they have declared the company ‘non-active’ three times. Kamaraz Holdings Ltd was set up in 2005 for the Delgado family in the Phillipines, who appear to run a large company called the Transnational Diversified Group. After it was declared ‘non-active’ for the third time in 2012 it was actually removed. Finally, MJAS International Holdings Ltd was set up in 2005, with the original directors being Evans, and Mubarak and Jasmene Al Sabah of Kuwait. They are part of the ruling family in Kuwait, and now live in the Dasman Palace. There are many Al Sabah entries in the Panama Papers, but not Mubarak and his own family, who appear to run hotels. Although MJAS has been declared ‘non-active’ three times, it is still active, and Evans remains a director, with John Hart added in 2015.
The fact that John Hart seems to have only become a director of the Forte companies in 2015 indicates how long most of them have gone without a New Zealand resident director, and without the Companies Office noticing. One of the later Forte companies was Barbicon Trust Company Ltd, set up in 2010, with Rolf Wasmer as the original director. Barbicon follows the usual pattern of being declared ‘non-active’ by Evans; but it then in 2013 it changes from Hart’s registered address in Auckland, to that of Johnston Associates. Then in June 2014 the shareholding changes from Forte to SHRM Trustees Ltd, a company based in the British Virgin Islands. The Barbicon Trust Co appears in the Panama Papers as an officer for Euro-Afro Holdings Ltd, which was registered in the Bahamas with the help of Mossack Fonseca (UK) Ltd. Among the shareholders of Euro-Afro Holdings are the ‘Forte Trust Company as Trustee of the Waterloo Trust’, and a Tim Bennett of Chesieres, in Switzerland. This is the same Tim Bennett that was a director of Barbicon Trust in New Zealand, along with Tasmin Animashaun of Lagos, and Robert Thurlow, who is based in Hong Kong. Barbicon Trust was removed from the New Zealand register in early 2016.