International shell company formation naturally involves franchising and outsourcing deals.
If, like , this year’s alias for notorious company agent GT Group, you market yourself as a global incorporator (click the image to make it readable; good luck if you are on a mobile device)…
…then simply making a referral, for a small fee, can be a good way to manipulate the economics of sporadic incorporation activity. Or you might slap your brand on top of some other local expert’s offering. Either way, you avoid the fixed overhead of a load of locals that you have to train and pay and retain, and handle peak workload via your outsourced incorporator or franchisee.
For the really offbeat stuff (maybe the Seychelles, Mauritius, Vanuatu, St Kitts and Nevis, Vanuatu) you might have your genuine in-house distinctive offering and long term trusted employees; in those cases, the specialist premium takes care of the economics of employee retention.
So much for the outsourcing happy talk: an equally compelling reason for the likes of Taylor to work via other company agents is obfuscation, plain and simple.
But if there are other ‘tells’, such as heavy use of a small set of stooge directors, the outsourcing deal and the underlying network are still detectable. Just such a deal seems to have been going on between GT Group of New Zealand and The Company Net of New Zealand. Among the tells are GT Group stooge Agnes Jouaneau, , and Leah Toureleo, who is employed by GT Group and successors, and also .
Those stooges were just too conspicuous. The NZ Registrar of Companies spotted most of that joint Company Net/GT Group network and all quite a lot of those companies were struck off. It would have been great if the Registrar had pulled off a clean sweep, but, as we saw in a previous post in this series, he didn’t.
Another GT Group franchising deal surfaces when one scrutinizes the fleeting New Zealand presence of another big-time offshore incorporator, , who have this to say about themselves:
Our parent firm Unitrust Corporate Services Ltd. was founded in 1993. It is a highly skilled Canadian incorporator with a considerable clientele mostly in the former Soviet Union.
Unitrust Capital Corp. was established in 2000 as a specialized firm within the Unitrust Group to provide offshore and onshore incorporation and corporate services to the clients based in Canada, USA, European Union, Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Unitrust Capital Corp. is licensed by the Anguilla government for online company formation and other corporate services in Anguilla. We are proudly a corporate member of Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Unitrust Capital Corp. is a verified PayPal merchant.
Since July 2000 we’ve incorporated more than 3,000 companies in the following jurisdictions: Anguilla, Alderney (Channel Islands), Bahamas, Belize, BVI, Canada (Federal Corporations, New Brunswick, Ontario), Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Liberia,, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nevis, New Zealand, Panama, Seychelles, United Kingdom, USA (Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, New York State, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming).
Company formation, offshore bank accounts opening, corporate services
I do hope all the jurisdictions mentioned are cheered by that endorsement. Alas, the New Zealand end of this splendid business didn’t last all that long. Unitrust were using GT Group’s notorious serviced office at Level 5 Queen Street as a drop-off address. That bespeaks a certain level of collaboration between GT Group and Unitrust, of course.
When that address got too hot, Unitrust moved to 334 Te Atatu Road. Unfortunately, that is the address of another renowned cowboy incorporator, Bizoffice, sister company of The Company Net Limited, which registered 3,000+ dodgy offshore companies, including a good thousand with obvious connections to organized crime. So Unitrust, via their addresses, were kinda drawing attention to themselves, in New Zealand.
Raising their profile some more, their New Zealand incorporation vehicle, , was directed by renowned offshore stooge Sarah Petre-Mears, snapshotted “in charge” of 1251 dodgy companies worldwide. The New Zealand Registrar of companies couldn’t overlook that, and Unitrust Corporate Services Limited was struck off, at last, on 18 Jun 2013. By the way, Sarah Petre-Mears has a husband, Edward; he’ll turn up in a minute.
Unitrust’s identifiable portfolio of New Zealand companies, which they proudly mention in their blurb, are in fact just 7 in number, on 06 Dec 2010 and all struck off since then. They aren’t especially distinguished: sported a director called Tracy Khdir, a name associated with rental scams in this . had a director called Barbara Glynne McGee, a name associated with rental scams at . There’s another McGee at the same address in another Unitrust company registered on the same day, , so that company just might have something to do with rental scams too. Mindful of identity theft, one should remember that the actual Ms Khdir, or the actual McGees, assuming they even exist, may have no involvement whatsoever in the scams.
One might reasonably conjecture that these 7 companies, Unitrust’s entire known NZ portfolio, are all the handiwork of one ring of, um, rental scammers, but three out of seven in one day’s incorporation is already a high enough hit rate, even on this tiny sample, to suggest that Unitrust have a touch of sleaze about them.
Unitrust sound rather lame and small time, don’t they? Well, that would be the wrong impression to take away. Here’s a corrective from , reviewing the companies and company incorporators associated with various dodgy moguls:
• Soverint Holdings; Lyndhurst Development
• The bankrupt Irishman is alleged to use offshore entities to hide Russian activities and profits. The Quinn family, once lionised as “Ireland’s richest,” are being pursued after the collapse of the Allied Irish Bank, for alleged debts to the bank of more than £2bn. This follows a buying spree of Russian property, commenced in 2007, including shopping malls in Moscow and Kiev bought via offshore companies. Since Quinn’s bankruptcy, Irish courts have declared that assets have been shuffled away into other offshore companies in a dishonest “charade.” As a result, Quinn is currently serving a 9-week prison sentences imposed by a Dublin court for contempt.
• Company formation: Unitrust, London and Canada
• Quinn denies any wrongdoing
• Danforth Ventures Inc; Paterson Association Inc; Griffon Properties [Jersey]; . . . and others
• This major Russian oligarch and one-time Portsmouth FC owner is fighting extradition from London, following collapse of a Lithuanian bank and assassination attempts. The Danforth entity was used to buy a superyacht in 2007 in Antibes in the south of France. The 37-year-old Antonov also allegedly used offshore entities to hide property holdings. He moved to Notting Hill in west London after his father narrowly survived an assassination attempt in Moscow by Chechen hitmen. Antonov is now accused of looting the assets of the Snoras bank in Lithuania, which is trying to have him extradited on a European arrest warrant. Assets worth €492m (£397m) have been frozen. As director, he used his business associate Vladimir Oplanchuk, then nominee director Edward Petre-Mears in Nevis.
• Company formation: Unitrust, London and Canada
• Antonov’s lawyers say the allegations are politically motivated, following articles criticizing the government published by an Antonov media company.
Unitrust work for rental scammers one minute, billionaires and oligarchs the next. That’s really not such a big contrast, is it? It’s mostly a matter of scale.
Another mistaken impression that one might take away from the demise of Unitrust in New Zealand is that these obfuscatory “franchising” deals between offshore agents aren’t so great for hiding what’s going on, after all. That’s wrong. Unitrust is relatively inept and unlucky; others have hidden themselves better, or have had better fortune. We will penetrate superior camouflage, and do our best to rain on some more dodgy parades, in future posts.