At Least Half of the 21,500 Companies Revealed by the Guardian/ICIJ Offshore Investigation Have Connections With Rogue Agent GT Group

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
Edward Petre-Mears 150 795 65 16 1,026  YES
Elizabeth Mary Fox 71 28 10 3 112  YES, via Bizoffice
Geoffrey Taylor 142 37 179  YES
Ian Taylor 149 405 554  YES
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
Filtered totals 2,562 6,864 1,365 97 10,888

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.

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  1. juliania

    Dark Riders are infesting MiddleEarth – well, you did warn us about this and, native hobbit that I am, I thank you.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves

    So interesting to watch the Guardian, and blogs, starting to use databases to reveal patterns, connectedness, and… well, ‘evidence’. Puts a bounce in my step.

    1. Larrin Sandford

      Business intelligence is powerful stuff.

      You should see what Gov Incorporated and banks do with your personal transactions! National insecurity is even more powerful.

      Bought and sold like cattle to slaughter.

  3. steelhead23

    OK, I get that New Zealand, Ireland and the UK business registries are loaded with sham companies. Sorry to be the class dunce, but how does proliferation of sham companies lead to such nefarious behavior as money laundering, fraud, and arms smuggling? Perhaps these companies form a series of shells, designed to make it hard for regulators to ferret out who owns what such that efforts to control them would turn into a game of whack-a-mole. If I am correct, right now the work of the Guardian et al. should have the undivided attention of regulators/prosecutors. I am certain it has come to the attention of Mssrs. Taylor.

    I’ll read the links when I get a chance.

  4. ChrisPacific

    At least the New Zealand register has enough transparency that you can easily see what’s going on. As you state, I suspect that the NZ registrations are just the visible tip of a very large iceberg.

    Fairfax, having learned the trick of trawling the register for suspicious entries, are now using it to observe dodgy companies being born in real time (and indulging in a little self-congratulatory back-patting for good measure). Here’s the article:

  5. OpenThePodBayDoorHAL

    This looks like small potatoes. The real dodgers are in plain sight: Microsoft, that parks its IP in Luxembourg and then charges its subsidiaries to license it; Lockheed Martin, who paid the CEO more than it paid in taxes last year despite massive war profiteering; Mariott (one of the worst offenders), the list is endless…

    1. Fíréan

      The Cayman Islands got little mention and gives well the impression of looking like small potatoes article.When i first read it online i thought the article to be very weak in substance. A purposeful distraction from the big offshore business ?
      Where is there any reference to the offshore banking (more than two hundred banks), the greatest number , around 10,000, of mutual funds, hedge funds and umbrella funds ; special purpose vehicles, SPV, in Cayman Islands used for the issuance 80% of CDO market around year 2007 ( allowing USA banks to circumvent the over view of USA legislation). And we surely remember the entities involved in this business some five years ago ? some big names where using Cayman Islands for issuance of their controversial CDOs.

      The Cayman Islands Stock Exchange (CSX) opened in 1996 and specifically targeted at mutual funds and specialised debt securities (SPVs)and, in 2011, had market capitalisation was just under USD144bn. The CSX is a “recognised stock exchange” by the UK’s Board of the Inland Revenue, a very beneficial term for the avoidance of certain taxes.
      No big secrets. all this information has been available online for years and used in promotional literature too.

      The Cayman banking sector had December 2011, reported total assets of USD 1.607 trillion($).

      The Cayman Islands has one of the largest captive insurance communities in the world. Trust management,, shipping management. All legal offshore businesses, all the information easily available.
      As the previou sposter states, real dodgers are in plain sight.

      I could write on and on with regards to the Cayman Islands’ legitinate and internationally recognised off-shore facilites and who uses, past or present, yet i’m not a paid “ïnvestigatibe journalist”.

  6. OMF

    Just so people know, in Ireland, in its normal course of business, the majority of directors for most public, private and semi-state bodies came from a group of about 50 people. Someone, somewhere has a list.

    Company law in Ireland is basically a thieves charter where you can set up a company, or company group in 2 days, transfers assets between them like a game of pass the parcel, and liquidate individual companies — pension funds and all– at the drop of a hat.

    I personally do not believe that the current model of corporate goverance is suitable for Ireland, or possibly anywhere else. Here, the whole idea of boards of directors which are accountable to shareholders is a farce, and it’s “mischief” by default.

    We need to move away from this 19th centruty model as soon as possible.

  7. Yonatan

    I don’t see the problem. The government can close these individuals down financially in an instant. Look at Assange and Wikileaks – just a few words from Lieberman and King and pooof! all financial transactions blocked.

  8. jospar

    When will global witness and ICIJ stop begging their millions of dollars and stop avoiding their own tax duties, they have multi million incomes but are non-profit making,supported by Oxfam and nations.they operate in at least as shady way as some of their targets(victims).stop hiding and pay your taxes.

  9. John

    Even more interesting approximately half of the named directors have at one time or the other been falsely witnessed by British Solicitors Peter & Oliver Joseph.
    We proved several directors had never been to the United Kingdom but the authorities seem to do absolutely nothing.

    I set up a website to expose a fraud I was subjected to by the use of a nominee director, Rachel Amy Erickson who coincidentally is Ian Taylors ex-girlfriend and mother of his children.

  10. John

    Two of the names on the list, Van den Berg and Wortley-Hunt are actually listed as Mossack Fonseca employees.
    Most on your list are also tied with the Cobus Group Limited a prolific UK incoporator who also works with the Taylors.

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