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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