It seems to be tax haven week in the UK. The BBC’s Panorama has an investigative TV series, and in parallel, The Guardian and the ICIJ are publishing some of the underlying research, including some colorful undercover video.
Here’s the frame
A worldwide investigation aimed at stripping away the anonymity that binds together one of the most shadowy aspects of Britain’s financial industry: the offshore company. In a unique collaboration, the Guardian and BBC Panorama have sifted through many gigabytes of data obtained by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Among the findings was information that helped us to identify more than 20 offshore incorporation firms operating out of the UK, several of which help supply sham directors.
The Guardian also gives this data table, which shows a group of 28 nominee directors controlling no fewer than 21,500 companies in three continents.
This blog has something to add to that analysis. The New Zealand company register is very easy to access, so for convenience, let’s just concentrate on the New Zealand companies in that list, and look at the connections implied by the various company agents the nominee directors have worked with in New Zealand. We get a shorter list, with a startling implication: of the 21,500 companies in the ICIJ investigation, just under 11,000 were or are controlled by 16 nominee directors who have worked closely with GT Group, the maverick company registration agent that formed the companies behind the biggest moneylaundering scheme ever detected; oh and a giant fraud in the Ukraine, and oh yes, arms smuggling to Iran.
Do nominee directors work with just one company agent at a time? Possibly not, for small numbers of company formations, but this kind of industrial scale company formation might indeed involve rather a short list of nominees, just for a practical reason: recruitment. So one should give more than passing consideration to the possibility that this whole 11,000 company network may be the creation of just three people: Geoffrey Taylor, Ian Taylor, and Michael Taylor. What busy beavers they have been, if that is so.
Here’s the list, a subset of The Guardian’s table, including links to the New Zealand companies.
|Director||BVI||UK||Ireland||NZ||Total||GT Group connection?|
|Alastair Matthew Cunningham||33||765||230||11||1,039||YES|
|Andrew Moray-Stuart||214||36||43||4||297||YES, via The Company Net Ltd|
|Brenda Patricia Cocksedge||132||522||50||5||709||YES, see Edward Petre-Mears|
|Christina Van Den Berg||18||360||7||4||389||YES, via The Company Net Ltd|
|Damian Calderbank||229||430||44||5||708||YES, via Bizoffice|
|Elizabeth Mary Fox||71||28||10||3||112||YES, via Bizoffice|
|Jesse Hester||201||776||528||4||1,509||YES (limited?)|
|John Wortley-Hunt||256||364||29||3||652||YES, via Bizoffice|
|Marea Jean O’Toole||37||152||10||3||202||YES, via The Company Net Ltd|
|Matthew Charles Stokes||332||668||248||8||1,256||YES, via Bizoffice and directly|
|Nicholas Henry Thom||-||70||3||2||75||YES, via Bizoffice and directly|
|Sarah Petre-Mears||221||963||62||5||1,251||YES, via Bizoffice and directly|
|Stephen John Kelly||377||493||36||24||930||YES|
As you can see, the New Zealand companies are just the tip of the iceberg. What a sublime piece of mischief this is.
When it comes to company registration, poor old New Zealand is going to have some company in the doghouse, I suspect: Ireland and the UK, for starters.