While New Zealand’s Company Law Reform Stalls, GT Group Helps a Thieving Ukrainian Despot

Since the Great New Zealand Shell Company Deregistration Frenzy of 2009-2011, which we rounded up here and here, the New Zealand Government, and the New Zealand Companies Office, have managed to catch a bit of sleep, bless them.

The New Zealand Companies Reform Bill 2011 2012 2013, whose first draft was lashed up in a month or two in 2011, still hasn’t made it into law. If the latest prod by the NZ Green Party is anything to go by, 2014 isn’t much of a prospect, either:

13424 (2013). Dr Russel Norman to the Minister of Commerce (10 Oct 2013): When does he expect to pass the Companies and Limited Partnerships Amendment Bill into law?

Hon Craig Foss (Minister of Commerce) replied: The Bill will be progressed as the legislative programme allows.

Perhaps that wouldn’t matter too much if the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Corporate Risk Profiling Team was living up to its 2012 billing:

The government plans to merge the MED, the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Department of Building and Housing into a new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment from July. Asked whether this would see the monitoring of the companies register stepped up, Foss said MED already operates a dedicated corporate risk profiling team.

“This team monitors all new company formations, requires identity verification for at-risk companies, shares information with other government agencies, and undertakes on-site compliance checks. To date, the team has successfully removed nearly 2,600 at-risk companies from the register. As a result of these activities, two major firms that incorporate companies on the behalf of others have severely curtailed their activities in New Zealand,” he said.

Yeah, right. In fact, the Team haven’t got all that close to putting a stop to the activities of GT Group, the rogue incorporator nonpareil that started this whole panic off, back in 2007. On April 6, 2013 “Naked Capitalism” published some more observations of the action in the NZ register, concluding:

“Evidently GT Group hasn’t quite finished with New Zealand after all. I imagine that the New Zealand authorities haven’t quite finished with GT Group, either.”

Well, the second sentence may have been too optimistic. But the first one is certainly right, and GT have been busy in the UK too. In a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Project, dated 24 May 2013, GT Group veterans cropped up in connection with kleptocracy in Ukraine, which, a year later, is a decidedly topical subject:

A new team has abruptly taken over programming at TVi, one of Ukraine’s few remaining independent media outlets, and journalists are crying foul. Security personnel barred TVi’s former owner and managers from entering the building.  Meanwhile, over five days in April, insiders say, a dizzying series of transactions involving companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and United Kingdom took place amid allegations of fraud and forgery.

The barred managers say their station has been taken over by raiders who have literally stolen the company.  The truth is more complex.

The upheaval culminated on April 29 when more than 30 journalists quit the station, citing the new management’s attempts to pressure [them and] the lack of transparency over the way the new owners obtained control of TVi.

“We don’t see any prospects for fulfilling our professional responsibilities at the channel, because we cannot guarantee our audience fair and unbiased reports and we think that people calling themselves owners and managers of the channel have destroyed TVi’s reputation,” – a TVi journalists said in an online statement.

Prior to the takeover, the station was widely considered to be the only television outlet in Ukraine investigating corruption at top levels of government and openly criticizing Ukraine’s authoritarian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The story’s trail took a number of twists and turns through the murky world of offshore structures amid allegations of fraud, forgery, threats, massive credit-card debt and near-bankruptcy.

The twisting trail takes us to Balmore Invest:

Balmore Invest, the London-registered firm which now controls 95 percent of TVi, appears to have its own credibility problems.

Its Australian nominee director and shareholder, Rachel Amy Erickson, is listed in the UK company registry as running 139 active companies. When contacted by OCCRP, Erickson denied that the signature on Balmore’s incorporation documents was hers.

“This document is bearing my name and not my signature!!!” Erickson said in an email. “I have put in several enquiries into Balmore Invest and have no results as of yet. I need to find out who the registered agent is who lodged the paperwork for the company’s incorporation and registered the office address of 8 Shepherd Market, as there are of course 100’s of companies all registered at the same address and this address is causing me big headaches with all companies registered at this address being not companies to my knowledge!!!”

Whoever registered the company does not appear to have paid close attention to the paperwork. Between April 16 and May 3, The UK company registry notified Balmore that it would be dissolved unless its annual return was filed.  It was filed and the firm was not liquidated.

Erickson claims her signature was forged on that return, and also on Balmore’s “declaration of trust” that names Altman beneficiary of this company. This document raises additional questions as it lists Altman’s US passport, which was expired before Dec. 9, 2011, when the document was issued.

Erickson is [the] former girlfriend of Ian Taylor. Taylor is co-founder of GT Group, a business registration firm based in Auckland, New Zealand, that specialized in setting up untraceable offshore companies, fronted by proxies. Many of the firms businesses have been used by organized crime including the Sinaloa Drug cartel, Russian officials who stole $230 million in tax money, the North Korean government and others, the reports say.

In the aftermath of the scandal, New Zealand authorities removed 1,800 companies from the New Zealand Companies Register, all of them established by GT Group. Erickson denied to OCCRP having any links with GT Group and claims to have split with Taylor in 2009.

Ms Erickson evidently misunderstood the OCCRP’s question, which was about her ongoing business relationship with Mr Taylor. Whether or not she’s still working for Taylor, or still, rather less relevantly, sleeping with him, note well: a year after she was alerted to the “forgery” of her signature on company documents in the UK, Ms Erickson is still landing directorships at many new UK companies.

If some rogue agent had been exploiting the UK register’s occasionally less than stellar verification of director identities, and nominating Ms Erickson as director without her consent, one imagines Ms Erickson would have had a little word with the UK Companies House about the signature forgeries. One would then have seen the registrations stop. But one has not seen the registrations stop.

Back to Balmore Invest:

Altman wouldn’t respond to OCCRP request for comments emailed to him on May 13. Eight days later Balmore’s corporate structure underwent drastic changes.

On May 21, Balmore’s filings with the UK registrar of companies showed that Erickson was replaced as Balmore’s director by Altman. Likewise, ownership of Balmore was transferred to five UK companies. All of them were registered on April 23, the same day when new management and owners showed up at TVi.

Also effective April 23 was the transfer of Balmore’s shares from nominee holder Erickson to the four UK companies in equal shares: Invest Info One, Invest Rating Two, Invest Media Three, Invest Creative Four and Invest Active Five. In four companies the proxy shareholders and directors resigned on the same day – May 21 – and Altman took over.

The nominee in Invest Active Five is still Erickson, while Invest Info One was established by Ian Taylor. Invest Creative Four lists Angelique Elizabeth Lilley as a director and shareholder.

Well, I’m not sure those stakes all add up quite right, but it hardly matters. The picture has changed in the mean time, anyway: right now (free registration required), Invest Creative Four is 100% owned by Mr Altman, while Ms Angelique Elizabeth Lilley is still a “director”.

Ms Lilley is, of course, another old hand at the cowboy company agent formerly known as GT Group. Rachel Amy Erickson’s good faith may be hard to substantiate; Angelique Elizabeth Lilley’s is at least equally precarious. She has a brisk way with reporters:

Approached by a Fairfax New Zealand reporter at her back section house in Nayland Rd, Stoke, this week, Ms Lilley declined to answer questions or be photographed.

“I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m just working,” she said.

She said incorrect information about “us” had been printed in the past but wouldn’t say who she was working for, or confirm any relationship with Geoffrey or Ian Taylor.

“Those are the names that always come up.”

I bet they do, sweetie. As a cynic might expect to discover, New Zealand Companies Office affirms that Angelique Elizabeth Lilley works for Ian Taylor, in the GT Group successor vehicles RMSC LIMITED, struck off on 25 Jun 2012, and ATHERSTONE, which, puzzlingly, is still registered in New Zealand.

Coming bang up to date, GT Group continues to register companies with that address in Nayland Road, Stoke, New Zealand. Right now, there are 34 of them.

There are also companies that the New Zealand Registrar of Companies missed, at a GT Group drop-off address, variant here; that’s another 20 live companies in all.

Then there are a few GT Group strays, here and here, though they at least may be on the brink of being struck off, and more here, here, here, here and here. Thus, in New Zealand, there are still 60-plus registered GT Group companies that are easy to trace. GT Group’s contribution to Yanukovych’s final spree of theft and repression required just a handful of companies. In the inexplicably oblivious UK, GT Group still have hundreds and hundreds of live companies.

Amid the still-developing Ukraine mess, the continued tolerance shown by the New Zealand government and its agencies towards the machinations of GT Group and the defects of New Zealand Company Law, is very surprising.

New Zealand’s Corporate Risk Profiling Team doesn’t exactly look razor-sharp, either.

As a response to the crisis in Ukraine, the US is now threatening to implement antimoneylaundering action against post- Soviet kleptocrats. Slack company law and slack supervision of company registers will be natural targets for any US agencies keen to point fingers. The Brits will be first in line, no doubt, but I can’t help wondering if the New Zealand government will soon be having a very painful conversation with some impatient Americans.

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  1. hunkerdown

    the US is now threatening to implement antimoneylaundering action against post- Soviet kleptocrats. Slack company law and slack supervision of company registers will be natural targets for any US agencies keen to point fingers.

    Is thinking that the USTR might stay said agencies’ hands too cynical?

    1. Richard Smith

      USTR and others: I suspect the usual US interdepartmental slugfest has broken out behind the scenes. I have a specific example in mind, for later in the post series.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Re: Ukraine. My, how the plot doth thicken.
    One supposes that if James Bond were working today, he’d need to have expertise in accounting forensics.

  3. InvestigationAccuracy

    “If some rogue agent had been exploiting the UK register’s occasionally less than stellar verification of director identities, and nominating Ms Erickson as director without her consent, one imagines Ms Erickson would have had a little word with the UK Companies House about the signature forgeries. One would then have seen the registrations stop. But one has not seen the registrations stop.”
    *** Surely if this reporter had done their ground work they would have contacted companies house UK himself and found the answer to this is a declaration by Companies house that they ” merely incorporate companies it is not up to them to check the viability or the accuracy of the identity of the applicant and information provided” this is a constant battle for people and leaves wide open cases of “identity theft” ….. ALSO a little birdie told me Ms Erickson HAS sent several emails to UK Companies house in reference to how incorporations could possibly happen without her knowledge or signature….. only to be given a page and a half regurgitated email citing the above!!!! & Also that she has reported this matter to Action FRAUD UK!!! in all details she had available!!………
    …” Whether or not she’s still working for Taylor, or still, rather less relevantly, sleeping with him, note well”””” REALLY ??? this passes as journalism these days ? …. Suggest you find accurate facts before you go slandering someone’s name and person with your suggestive text.

    1. Richard Smith Post author

      If the little birdie were to make a comment here that included the full text of the email exchange with Companies House, then I’d be *very* happy to do a follow up post clarifying Ms Erickson’s position and correct any mistaken impression that I may have given.

      The little birdie should remove the complainant’s email address of course, but the details would have to include dates and times and the email address used by Companies House.

      The info sent to Action Fraud would also be of interest.

  4. Little Birdie

    out of interest to see if you may have more joy on this matter….. (interesting to note after all declarations from UK Companies house as to the non verifying of information….. the 2nd email is indeed from “PROOF & Fraud Team” why the need for a proof and fraud team if they have no jurisdiction to “Prove or investigate FRAUD”!!!! every email or call made on this matter is met with same response. Have fun…. I have often thought it may be humorous to incorporate a company with a director of “Mickey Mouse” or “Count Dracula”

    Email dated 20/11/2013 from Companies House UK internally sent to another team in response to RE’s Fraud Allegations and request for help.

    “Attached is a recent enquiry we have received via e-mail. Can you please respond to the customers query directly.

    Dear Customer, please note, this e-mail has been forwarded to the relevant department for a reply to your enquiry. You have been copied in for information only and do not need to respond.

    Yours faithfully,
    Sarah Thomas
    Companies House Contact Centre

    Sent: 19 November 2013
    Subject: Premier Property Invest Ltd


    This company has my name Rachel Amy Erickson appointed as Director to it FRAUDULENTLY, I have called the UK several times at my own expense, I have also called and lodged a complaint with Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission, and Action Fraud UK.

    I have had no action from you now, and I cannot afford to continue wasting my time on these matters.

    This is beyond a joke now! Someone MUST know how to solve this problem, I never incorporated this company, I have NEVER signed any documents for this company as its director, someone is FRAUDULENTLY using my name, I would hope you would want your system and records correct not part of this FRAUD.


    Rachel Amy Erickson
    This message and any attachments are intended for the persons named as addressees only and may contain confidential information. In addition they may be protected by copyright. If you receive it in error, notify us, delete it and do not make use of or copy it. You must not copy, disseminate or otherwise distribute or publish this message, except for the purposes for which this message is intended, without our consent. Please note that this e-mail has been created in the knowledge that Internet e-mail is not a 100% secure communications medium. We advise that you understand and accept this lack of security when e-mailing us. For company information, guidance and how to file documents online, please visit our website http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk. This message has been scanned for viruses by MailControl, a service from BlackSpider Technologies.

    EMAIL # 2 response from Relevant Uk Companies house team……….dated 21/11/2013 9:24pm

    “Dear Mrs Erickson
    Thank you for your recent correspondence informing us about your appointment as an officer of Premier Property Invest Ltd without your knowledge or consent.
    I have checked our records and can confirm that Companies House did receive a form AP01 advising us of your appointment electronically on 4 April 2013. We then received a form TM01 terminating your appointment on 18 November 2013. Copies are attached for your reference.

    The act of filing an appointment form at Companies House is not confirmation that a valid appointment has been made. The form AP01 has no bearing on the validity of the appointment and is simply a notification of an event happening within a company.
    Companies House acts primarily as a registry of company information. Currently we do not have any powers to verify or validate the information – including signatures – contained on them. The person, or company, filing the documents is responsible for the content of them; our statutory duty is to register the documents in line with the Companies Act.
    We cannot refuse to register any document delivered for registration, if on face value, it is correctly completed. If we did, we would be in breach of our own statutory duty under the Companies Act. The Registrar has new powers to remove certain documents from the public record. In order to apply for this process, please send us completed forms RP02a which can be downloaded from our website. On receipt of a correctly completed forms RP02a we will write to all interested parties. Providing we receive no objections within the prescribed time, the incorrectly filed form AP01 and TM01 will then be removed from the public record.
    For further advice and support relating to matters of fraud, please visit Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre via their website: http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/
    If you are concerned about identity theft you may wish to visit one of the following websites that offer practical advice and information http://www.cifas.org.uk or http://www.identitytheft.org.uk

    I regret that I am unable to send you a more favourable reply. However, I hope that I have clarified our position.
    Yours sincerely

    Sue Jones
    PROOF & Fraud Team
    Customer Services

  5. Little Birdie

    Email addresses from UK Companies house responses

    16/5/2013 0001 hours AEST RE to UK Companies house…… dlewis@companieshouse.gov.uk;

    “Dear Debbie, ” I BELIEVE HER NAME IS WRONG HERE, should have been Diane, attributed to a frustrating situation and late hours!

    More companies I Did not agree to become the director of nor did I sign ANY documents for.

    Delox Integro Limited
    North Broker Trader Ltd
    Power Commerce Limited

    These companies appear to be incorporated by a company called CORPORATE MANAGEMENT AND SECRETARIES LIMITED they also appear to be known as Fitton Legal , or Admiral business Consult or T & T incorporators LLP

    I would like to get to the bottom of who is doing this and how it is exactly that the Companies house UK is able to accept company registrations without the signature of a REAL PERSON aka without a Notarised and or apostilled copy of their Identification and signature of acceptance of directorship.

    I would appreciate your help with these matters, this is MADNESS and I do not know what to do all I know is there are hundreds of COMPANIES that I DID NOT agree to be a director of !!!

    Kind regards,


  6. Richard Smith Post author

    Many thanks, Little Birdie/Rachel. You have *almost* got me on your side. I’ll definitely do another post when I have got nearer the bottom of it. Let me see what sort of a stink I can raise elsewhere, too. No promises, and if even I can, it’ll take a while (as you can guess from your own difficulties).

    Here are some things that might help while I mess around offline.

    1. According to duedil, Rachel Erickson is currently the director of about 30 UK companies and LLPs, and used to be director of another 300. They are here, but you will have to register with duedil (it’s free & quick).

    Among the companies you complain about are Fitton Legal and Admiral Business Consulting (Abc) Ltd. MS Erickson is listed as a director of both of these companies.
    Fitton Legal https://opencorporates.com/companies/gb/04631129 (the name Kalopung might ring a bell, that’s a family in Vanuatu associated with Ian Taylor)
    Admiral Business Consulting https://opencorporates.com/companies/gb/05066180

    One of the directors at Admiral is KING HOWARD CORDERO ENRIQUEZ. If you look at another of his companies, Paragon Impex Ltd, you will find that his co-director is Ian Taylor. So either someone is using Taylor’s details as well as yours, or this is all Taylor just doing what he does: registering shell companies with stooge directors. Here: https://opencorporates.com/companies/gb/07544261

    For me it is overwhelmingly likely that the person behind Fitton Legal, Admiral Business Consulting, T & T Incorporators LLP, CORPORATE MANAGEMENT AND SECRETARIES LIMITED, is Ian Taylor. So he is most likely responsible for Ms Erickson’s multiple unwanted directorships. It *could* be more complicated than that, but that is the likely truth.

    2. It’s very easy to resign from a UK company using form TM01 here:
    Usually people don’t have to resign from 30 at once but I think that is the best thing you can do. As you can see from the post, Ms Erickson’s name, if not the lady herself, is in pretty deep water.

    3.Ms Erickson is also the current director of a couple of companies in Florida. They are the ones in bold at this URL:

    I’ll get around to the Florida companies after the UK ones are sorted. It’s probably up to you to tackle the UK ones. Let me know if you want to give it a try.

    4. If I see you resigning from some UK companies (comment here to wake me up), I’ll get in touch by email. Otherwise, any further questions, post a comment here.

  7. Richard Smith Post author

    Rachel, I forgot to mention, you are also a director of some Panama companies. There is more here
    and here

    Some of this could be out of date but I did check Debt Recovery Service Inc, company number 640980, and in the Panama register, you are still a director of it, alongside Charlie Kalopungi and Ian Taylor.

    There is quite a mess to clear up.

  8. Richard Smith

    Actually, there are more than a couple in Oregon. Not all of them are live companies.


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