Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Re-Domiciliation of Companies in Dubai guide/FAQ

The  purpose  of  this  guide/FAQ  is  to  assist  clients  in  understanding  the  purpose  of  corporate  re- domiciliation, the advantages and disadvantages, and to give an indication of the costs involved.

To avoid repetition, the terms “outgoing” to refer to the existing jurisdiction from which the company is to be re-domiciled, to “incoming” to referring to the jurisdiction into which the company wishes to be re-domiciled.

What does re-domiciliation mean?

Much in the way that a company can change its registered office/registered agent within the same jurisdiction, it can also “move” to a new jurisdiction. Corporate re-domiciliation is the process by which a company moves its ‘domicile’ (or place of incorporation) from one jurisdiction to another by changing the country under whose laws it is registered or incorporated, whilst maintaining the same legal identity. The ease with which re-domiciliation may take place has increased in recent years.

Not all countries allow re-domiciliation. Those that do, tend to be Commonwealth “common Law” (as opposed to Civil law jurisdictions). Notable exceptions are Austria, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, & Liechtenstein which are civil law but do permit re-domiciliation.

Why should I want to re-domicile?

There can be many reasons. Companies’ may re-domicile for a variety of reasons including:

a)    To take advantage of more favourable tax laws
b)    To take advantage of less stringent regulatory provisions;
c)     To align their place of registration with their shareholder base;
d)    To access specialist capital markets.

From and to which countries can a company be re-domiciled?

Countries/jurisdictions from which redomicilliation is possible.

Andorra ,Anguilla ,Antigua and Barbuda Aruba Austria Bahamas Bahrain Barbados Belgium Belize Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei , Cayman Islands

Cook Islands Costa Rica Cyprus Dominica Gibraltar Grenada Guernsey Hungary Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel Jersey Latvia Lebanon Liberia
Lichtenstein Luxembourg Macao
Malaysia (Labuan) Maldives
Marshall Islands
Mauritius Montserrat Nauru
Netherlands Antilles
Portugal (Madeira)

St Kitts and Nevis
St Lucia
St Vincent Grenadines Switzerland
Turks and Caicos
Islands United Arab Emirates (Dubai) Uruguay
US Virgin Islands
USA (Delaware) Vanuatu
Countries/jurisdictions from which redomicilliation is not possible.

 Hong Kong Monaco Netherlands
… together with most “civil law” countries

United Kingdom


To re-domicile, both the existing jurisdiction (where the company is currently registered)  and the target jurisdiction (where the company is to be ‘continued’) need to be on the list of countries where re-domiciliation IS possible. There are certain countries (UK, Hong Kong, Singapore) that one might expect to allow re-domiciliation, but don’t.

In such cases other solutions must be found.

 What is required to re-domicile?

Re-domiciliation will help companies to avoid liquidating the existing company and transfer its portfolio of assets to an entity incorporated for the purpose of the new jurisdiction.

There are two separate parts to re-domiciliation: The outgoing jurisdiction: -

a)  The outgoing company must be fully up to-date (where, for example, accounts are required these must be filed up to date together with any outstanding annual returns etc.)

b) There must be no on-going legal process against the outgoing company.

c) Various documents need to be filed with and obtained from the outgoing registry e.g. resolutions and consent to re-domicile etc.

d) A certificate of good standing and certificate of incumbency must be obtained in every case.

For Example in Dubai TECOM the legal process will be;

 Accordingly an overseas company, if authorized by the laws of the jurisdiction in which it is incorporated, can apply to TECOM for continuation as a company in TECOM. The application should include all information and documents required by TECOM including resolutions, certifications, declarations, confirmations, opinions, authorizations and clearances.

Upon approval of the application for continuation, TECOM shall issue a provisional ‘certificate of continuation' of such terms and conditions as it considers appropriate. The company should, within 3 months from the date of issue of the provisional certificate, file with TECOM the certificate evidencing that the overseas company has ceased to be incorporated under the laws of the current jurisdiction and return the provisional certificate of continuation. TECOM shall issue the final certificate of continuation which shall be effective from the date of continuation stated in the provisional certificate of continuation.

The incoming jurisdiction:-

The requirements of the incoming jurisdiction vary wildly.  As a minimum, a resolution to re-domicile and a Certificate of Good standing (CoGS) may suffice. Other jurisdictions require detailed information, certificates of solvency etc., all of which are expensive and time consuming to obtain. In broad terms; Belize, The Marshall Islands and The Seychelles are the least demanding and consequently the cheapest, whereas Dubai/RAK, Cyprus, Mauritius, and the BVI are more expensive.

What are the advantages of re-domiciliation?

The advantages are subjective and often involve the balancing of the additional costs of re-domiciling against the inconvenience (and costs) of not doing so.

As an example Mr. X formed a Gibraltar company in 2002. He has established bank accounts for this company and the company has a number of commercial contracts. For various reasons Mr. X wishes to re-domicile the company to the Seychelles.

If he re-domiciles, he will pay certain costs, but:

a)  The company continues its legal existence with effect from the original incorporation date – 2002 in this example. … It can quite properly state “in business/incorporated for over 10 years” for example.

b) Websites can remain “as is” with only minor changes to privacy policies and T&C.

c) All of its legal contracts therefore remain valid although notification of the change of jurisdiction may be required to counter-parties.

d) Bank accounts may remain in place as it is still the same company. Please note that banks will almost certainly require a full set of documents pertaining to the incoming jurisdiction.

By contrast, Mr. Y also has a company registered in Gibraltar and wishes to transfer/continue his business in Belize.  He has no contracts and his bank accounts are (relatively) easily replaced. In such a case he might be better advised to register a company (perhaps with the same name) in Belize, establish new banking relationships, and simply arrange for the Gibraltar Company to be struck off.

Costs of re-domiciliation

These vary according to jurisdiction. The cheapest being Belize, Seychelles and the Marshall Islands, where the re- domiciliation process will generally cost less than US $1,000 / €750, to which must be added

The cost of first year domiciliation services in the incoming jurisdiction (registered office, registered agents etc.) in the new jurisdiction
The cost of compliance in the outgoing jurisdiction – this could be as simple as a notarised resolution and a certificate of good standing.

Other jurisdictions e.g. Mauritius, BVI the Emirates (RAK etc) and Cyprus, although ending up with the same thing, require considerably more work and are thus much more expensive (up to around €4,500 in the case of the Emirates/RAK and Cyprus). The existence of a unique feature (eg VAT registration in the case of Cyprus, or a beneficial tax treaty could well make the
more expensive option more attractive.

Should I re-domicile or should I just create a new company with the same name elsewhere?

This will depend entirely on the circumstances of the existing company and the following factors will probably decide this.

The existence of contracts that cannot easily be re-negotiated.

The existence of assets held by the company in the outgoing jurisdictions e.g. property which may be expensive and time consuming to sell and buy back.

Existing bank accounts with banks that no longer offer accounts for “offshore companies” (e.g. certain Swiss banks). If one or more of the above factors are applicable it is probably worth considering re-domiciling the company.

If not, it will probably be more cost effective to simply close the “old” company and establish a new one in a more congenial jurisdiction, with the same, or different name depending on circumstances.

What if my existing or chosen jurisdiction is not on the list?

You may wish to contact us for advice, but, assuming the unanimity of the shareholders, the simplest method would be to create a new company (NewCo) in the chosen jurisdiction. Newco would then acquire 100% of the issued shares of the existing company (OldCo).  Assets would be transferred from OldCo to NewCo over time and NewCo would also take on all new business.

After a suitable period and after all assets had been transferred to NewCo and creditors had been paid, OldCo could be struck off or otherwise dissolved.

The above would necessarily require the consent and agreement of  all shareholders.

Glossary: -

Certificate of good standing – a registry issued document that confirms that the company is fully up to date in its filings. In some cases this document will also confirm the directors and shareholders, thus obviating the need for a Certificate of incumbency.

Certificate of incumbency – this document is normally issued by the company secretary/registered agents and confirms the current directors and shareholders.

Winston Wambua

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Trust Law in the BVI

New Trust legislation in the BVI has broadened the range of trust options accessible to private clients and enhanced BVI trust legislation by making some welcome modifications that boost the attractiveness of BVI trusts as part of international wealth planning and financial structures.

The British Virgin Islands are previously a well-respected trust jurisdiction - mainly because BVI trust law is derived from English trust law, and additional supplemented by statute to offer a variety of flexible and user-friendly trust structuring options to stylish private clients.

The latest legislation came into effect in May 2013 to refine further the trust offering in the BVI, especially the use of Private Trust Companies ("PTCs") and VISTA trusts. The latest changes should help to ensure the BVI remains at the forefront of international trust planning and a jurisdiction of selection for high net worth and ultra high net worth families from around the globe.

The main changes are summarised below:

The Trustee Act

(i) Trust Period – For all new trusts established after May 15, 2013, the maximum perpetuity period has been increased from 100 years to 360 years. For practical purposes, this extends the life of new trusts beyond 4 generations of beneficiaries, which is more than enough for most private trusts.

(ii) Purpose Trusts – the BVI already has highly developed legislation for the creation of non-charitable purpose trusts, but there is a requirement that at least one trustee must be a "Designated Person", which has until now meant a lawyer or auditor in BVI or a BVI trust licence holder. Now this definition has been amended so as to include PTCs. This further enhances the utility of PTCs for those persons who would rather not use a third party, regulated trustee for purpose trusts (including VISTA trusts).

iii) Trust Duty - The trust duty fee has been increased from $100 to $200 and the late fee will increase from $200 to $400 for each year it remains unpaid.

(iv) Third Party Lending/Security – Previously, any third party lending money to a trustee could request (for its own protection and only where there is an express provision in a trust deed that section 101 of the Trustee Act applies) that the trustee restrict its powers of investment, distribution and appointment and removal of trustees. Amendments have now been enacted so as to extend the application of Section 101 to lenders of any assets, not just money. So, this will help to offer further security for third party lenders in future by helping to preserve the value of the trust corpus.


The Virgin Island Special Trusts Act (VISTA) has been in force since 2004. VISTA trusts have become a popular trust structure for holding shares in BVI companies, because VISTA removes the trustees' responsibility to monitor and intervene in the management of the BVI company held in trust, whilst offering the same flexibility for planning as a regular trust. Some welcome clarifications have been made to this legislation.

(i) Application of VISTA is now variable –Although generally considered to be a possibility any way, amendments confirm that a new VISTA trust can now specify the circumstances in which the VISTA regime will apply or cease to apply during the lifetime of a trust. The power to make the declaration that VISTA will apply/cease to apply can be vested in an individual or a committee but not in any of the trustees.

(ii) Conversion of Non-VISTA Trusts - BVI non-VISTA trusts can now be converted into VISTA trusts provided they meet all the conditions to qualify as such ( e.g. holding BVI company shares) and provided further that one of the trustees of the trust is a PTC or a trust licence holder.

iii) Number of VISTA Trustees –previously VISTA stated that there could only be one trustee of a VISTA trust and that that trustee had to be a trust licence holder. Now, in addition to permitting a PTC to act as a trustee of a VISTA trust, VISTA has been amended so as to permit the appointment of additional trustees, provided that there is at least one trustee that is a PTC or trust licence holder. This means that non-BVI resident individuals or non-BVI companies can now be co-trustees of VISTA trusts, if preferred.

(iv) BVI Company Shares - The rules as to which BVI companies cannot be held in a VISTA trust have been updated to reflect changes in BVI corporate legislation. VISTA trust can now be formed for all types of BVI Company other than those that are licensed in the BVI.

(v) Appointed Inquirer - In relation to permitted grounds for complaint, it is provided that an appointed inquirer can be paid from the trust assets and is to be given information about the trust.

(vi)  Corporate Settlors - It has been made clear that corporate settlors can establish VISTA trusts.


BVI PTCs have been able to act as trustees of trusts without the need to obtain a BVI trust licence since 2007. They have become very popular, especially among High-Net-Worth families and clients from civil law jurisdictions who do not necessarily welcome the prospect of transferring their wealth to an independent third party trustee when establishing a trust.

PTCs can only avoid licensing in the BVI if they undertake "unremunerated trust business" or (for related family trusts where the PTC is to charge fees for its services) "related trust business".

The problem previously was that if a settlor was included in the class of beneficiaries, then the relevant trust could not fall within the category of "related trust business", which meant the PTC could not charge for its services. That position has now been rectified, so that a PTC can now charge for its services for family trusts where the settlor is in the class of beneficiaries.


The new legislation has brought about some very positive changes for the BVI – expanding the suite of trust vehicles available to international clients and assisting the jurisdiction in cementing and promoting its position as a leading jurisdiction for international wealth planning structures.
Winston Wambua

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Skype: Winston.wambua

Friday, 8 November 2013

Cayman Highest Ranking Offshore Centre In HSBC Expat Survey

Cayman Highest Ranking Offshore Centre In HSBC Expat Survey

In a global comparison of countries conducted by HSBC's Expat Explorer Survey for 2013, the Cayman Islands ranked fourth out of all countries when it comes to the best place for expats to thrive, beaten only by first-place China, second-place Germany, and third-place Singapore.  In addition, it was ranked number one as the friendliest place in the world to live for expats.

The largest global expat survey of its kind, HSBC's Expat Explorer Survey asked 7,000 expats questions relating to their finances, quality of life, and what it’s like to raise children abroad — all key decision-influencing issues when it comes to choosing the right overseas environment in which to live if you are an expat.

The Expat Explorer Survey highlights some important advantages that positively influence professionals from overseas making the decision to move to this jurisdiction. Often professionals who look to move overseas will have families, and so, quality of life for the entire family within the new country is of paramount importance.  The Cayman Islands ranks highest for the 'Setting Up' criteria in the Expat Experience league tables, which means expats based here rank Cayman higher than expats from any other country.  This includes a range of setting-up measures, including traveling around locally, getting used to the local culture, making friends, finding accommodation, and organising healthcare.

In addition, the survey highlighted how a higher proportion of expats (67%) agreed Cayman was an easy place to organise their finances, compared with the global average (51%).  As a result, seven in ten (70%) expats in the Cayman Islands stated they enjoyed a higher quality of life — almost twice the global average (45%).  The survey also indicated Cayman remains the friendliest country in the world, with eight in ten expats rating the destination as an easy place to make friends — the highest out of all countries worldwide.

The survey puts the Cayman Islands in an extremely favourable light when compared to its main rivals. Not only did Cayman reach an extremely high level when compared to other countries globally, its offshore financial centre competitors, such as Bermuda, were not even mentioned in the rankings' tables. This confirms the Cayman Islands is in a league all of its own when it comes to choosing the right environment in which to live and work. The Cayman Islands is highly prized for its incredibly high level of quality of life for all residents, expats, and locals alike.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
Winston Wambua

For more information please contact me on

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze

Secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveal tens of thousands of people in more than 170 countries and territories linked to offshore companies and trusts. Here are some examples from around the world: source


Paul Hogan


Details: The Crocodile Dundee star is accusing Philip Egglishaw, his once-trusted tax adviser, of disappearing with $34 million he helped Hogan hide in offshore tax havens. Egglishaw is alleged to have ''absconded with or spent all'' of Hogan's millions.

Offshore businessCarthage Trust was set up for Hogan in 2005 by Egglishaw after the Crime Commission and Tax office began stepping up their inquiries into the actor. Carthage Trust replaced the Quatre Saison Trust which was alleged to have been a vehicle set up by Geneva firm Strachans to enable Hogan to stream revenue from his Crocodile Dundee franchise into offshore accounts and avoid paying tax. Hogan disputes this.

Comment: Hogan's US lawyer Craig Emanuel told Fairfax Media: ''For a variety of ethical reasons, I am not available to comment on your inquiries.''


Ilham AliyevIlham AliyevIlham Aliyev, Mehriban Aliyeva, Arzu Aliyeva and Leyla Aliyeva

Ruling family

Details: Ilham Aliyev is the president of Azerbaijan and Mehriban Aliyeva is his wife. Arzu and Leyla are the couple's daughters. The Aliyev family, beginning with Ilham’s father, Heydar Aliyev, has held power in Azerbaijan almost without interruption since the late 1960s.

Offshore businessIlham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva were directors of Rosamund International Ltd (2003) in the British Virgin Islands. Arzu Aliyeva was a director and shareholder of BVI company Arbor Investments (2008).  Leyla Aliyeva was director and shareholder of LaBelleza Holdings Ltd. (2008) and Harvard Management Ltd. (2008) both in the BVI.

Comment: Ilham Aliyev, Mehriban Aliyeva, Arzu Aliyeva and Leyla Aliyeva did not respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.


Santosh Kumar Agarwal (Kedia)


Details: Santosh Kumar Agarwal was on the board of directors for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. He has withdrawn from the board, pending the results of a possible investigation.

Offshore business: In 2008, Agarwal created the Platinum Estate Trust in Singapore, acting as the settlor, protector and a beneficiary of the trust.

Comment: Agarwal declined to comment.


Clarice, Leo and Fabio Steinbruch


Details: Members of one of Brazil's richest families, which owns large steel and textile companies and a bank.

Offshore business: Shareholders and directors of Peak Management Inc. (2007) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Leo Steinbruch told ICIJ that “Peak Management exists, is active, it’s been declared on its owners’ tax forms and has been duly disclosed to the Brazilian Central Bank as a Brazilian investment abroad.”


Tony MerchantTony MerchantE.F. Anthony “Tony” Merchant

Trial lawyer

Details: A former politician, he is married to Canadian senator Pana Merchant. He has been involved in a number of high-volume class action suits, including a $1.9 billion settlement with the Canadian government on behalf of native groups over abuse of students in residential schools.  Merchant has had repeated battles with the Canadian revenue agency over his tax payments. He has also been disciplined by the Law Society for "conduct unbecoming of a member." 

Offshore businessBeneficiary (1998-2002), settlor and protector of the Merchant (2000) US Inc Trust (incorporated 1998) in the Cook Islands.  His wife, Canadian senator Pana Merchant, is a beneficiary of the trust.

Comment: Anthony and Pana Merchant declined to comment.


Alvaro Uribe and his sons.Alvaro Uribe and his sons.Tomás Uribe Moreno and Jerónimo Alberto Uribe Moreno


Details: Sons of former Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe. During their father’s eight years in office, they were accused of influence-peddling in two high-profile scandals, including in a case in which they acquired land in an area whose value skyrocketed after authorities granted it tax-free status. They were acquitted in both cases but prosecutors have started investigating new leads related to the land acquisitions.

Offshore business: Shareholders of Asia America Investment Corporation (2008) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: A lawyer for Tomás and Jerónimo Uribe Moreno, Jaime Lombana, said the company was created with the purpose of selling Colombian handcrafts abroad but the business never took off. The company was incorporated in the BVI because one of the partners in the venture lived there, said Lombana. The firm, he said, “didn’t produce any income.”


Abdourahman "Charles" Boreh Abdourahman "Charles" Boreh Abdourahman "Charles" Boreh            

Businessman and politician

Details: One of Djibouti's most wealthy and powerful businessmen and a 2011 presidential election candidate. He is exiled in Dubai.              

Offshore business: Beneficial owner of Net Support Holdings Ltd (2007) in the British Virgin Islands and Value Additions Ltd (2007) in Samoa

Comment: Boreh said he uses his offshore companies to steer his many investments worldwide and to protect his assets from potential political instability.


Fred Marafono Fred Marafono Fred Marafono       


Details: Ex-British SAS, he was involved in security work and diamond mining during the Sierra Leone civil war.

Offshore business: Director of Hinterland Mining Brokers Limited (1997-2000) in the Cook Islands.

Comment: Marafono passed away on March 27; earlier attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.


Itella Oyj

State-owned national postal company

Details: In a 2008 move to expand its operations in Russia, the corporation acquired the leading Russian logistics warehousing service provider for around €200 million ($310 million). Its parent company was registered in the British Virgin Islands and still exists there. 

Offshore business: Shareholder (since 2008) of NLC International Corporation (incorporated 2005) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: The director of Itella Logistics in Russia, Vesa Vertanen, said in an interview with Finnish State Television that Itella would dissolve the company in the BVI by the end of 2013 and transfer it to Cyprus. When asked why Itella had not dissolved its company in the BVI, Mr Vertanen said that it was very complicated to dissolve offshore companies and it takes time, a statement that was countered by the Finnish tax authority. 


Jean-Jacques Augier.Jean-Jacques AugierJean-Jacques Augier


Details: Campaign treasurer of François Hollande for the 2012 presidential elections. They studied together at the prestigious National School of Management (ENA). He’s also chief executive officer of investment holding company Eurane SA, mainly focused on the publishing field.

Offshore businessShareholder — through Eurane SA — and director of International Bookstores Ltd (2005) in the Cayman Islands.

Comment: Jean-Jacques Augier said he used the company to do a large investment in China in 2005. One of his partners in the offshore firm was Xi Shu, a businessman and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body in China dominated by the Communist Party but with representatives from other parties and organizations. 

Baron Elie de RothschildBaron Elie de RothschildBaron Elie de Rothschild

Businessman from the Rothschild banking dynasty

Details: The guardian of French branch of banking dynasty built a web of at least 20 secrecy-cloaked trusts in the South Pacific between 1996 and 2003, some of which continued operating after his death in 1997.

Offshore businessInternal documents reveal at least 20 trusts and 10 holding companies were set up for Rothschild in the Cook Islands, with typically opaque names including, fittingly, Anon Trust. The companies have a common shareholder called Mandalor Limited, an equally opaque company based in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Comment: Despite repeated attempts, Le Monde was unable to speak to Rothschild’s heirs.


Bidzina Ivanishvili

Prime MinisterBidzina IvanishviliBidzina Ivanishvili

Details: Georgia’s richest man, with a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine at more than $5 billion. Was elected prime minister in October 2012, straight from the business world.

Offshore business: Director of Bosherston Overseas Corp. in the British Virgin Islands (2006). The company is still in existence, according to BVI records.

Comment: “For the reporting period of 2011-2012 Prime Minister Ivanishvili had no interest in the company you have mentioned in your inquiry and therefore there was no obligation to report it in his declaration. The Prime Minister takes these reporting requirements seriously and everything is done according to the law,” a spokesman said.


Gunter SachsGunter SachsGunter Sachs

Millionaire author, photographer, industrialist and ex-husband of Brigitte Bardot

Details: The famous Gunter Sachs is revealed to have had a vast and inscrutable wealth-hiding web, involving nominee directors, shell companies, and law firm trustees, to create multiple layers of secrecy in an already secret world.

Offshore business: Sachs commissioned a private secretary to oversee his business dealings, who travelled to the Cook Islands to create two shell corporations, Triton Ltd. and another company called Tantris Ltd. The companies acted as trustees for five trusts set up between 1994 and 2007 – the Moon Crystal Trust, the Espan Water Trust, the Sequoia Trust, the Triton Trust and the Parkland Oak Trust. Sachs’s vast offshore web has been visualized here.

Comment: Before he died, Sachs asserted he was being persecuted and the investigations stemmed from envy. Swiss fiscal law expert Andreas Kolb says the signing lawyers will face legal consequences over the inventory of Sachs’s estate, “if they can be proven to have participated in or incited to tax fraud”.


Apostolos VakakisApostolos VakakisApostolos Vakakis


Details: CEO of the retail conglomerate Jumbo SA, one of Greece’s largest companies.

Offshore businessShareholder of Karpathia Ltd. (2007) in the British Virgin Islands. Company transferred to another offshore service provider in 2009.

Comment: “I have declared officially all without exception my transactions that should be announced in public, as provided by relevant Greek legislation. … One does not use a legal entity in order to hide the identity of the beneficial owner by using shadow names but to be able to complete a transaction in a straightforward manner,” said Vakakis.


Ravikant RuiaRavikant RuiaRavikant Ruia


Details: In December 2011, he was accused of criminal conspiracy by India's principal anti-corruption enforcement agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation. The accusation relates to a broader investigation of politicians, government officials and telecom executives in India for alleged irregularities in the award of cell phone frequencies to telephone companies.  Ruia’s firm is disputing the charges made against him and others.

Offshore business: Shareholder in one firm in the British Virgin Islands, Orion Worldwide Universal Corporation (2008). His daughter, Smiti, is a shareholder in two others. One of Ruia's flagship companies, Essar Power, has further BVI entities that are named in the ICIJ documents.

Comment: A company spokesman said that of the eight companies registered in Ruia’s name as well as in the name of his flagship business Essar Power, five have since been liquidated. Three continue to be operational. “These companies were started as SPVs [Special Purpose Vehicles] to make investments and are in the knowledge of the authorities concerned,” the spokesman added.


Eka Tjipta Widjaja Eka Tjipta Widjaja Eka Tjipta Widjaja              


Details: Head of Indonesia’s second richest family (2012), owns rainforest-clearing Asia Pulp and Paper and world's second largest palm oil plantations.     

Offshore business: Beneficial owner, through his Sinar Mas conglomerate, of various pulp and palm oil British Virgin Islands and Labuan offshore companies.

Comment: Widjaja did not respond to a request for comment.


Fabio GhioniFabio GhioniFabio Ghioni


Details: Former head of information security at Telecom Italia, arrested in 2007 for leading a unit that illegally obtained data of 4,000 people, including politicians and journalists. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Cassation confirmed his 2010 plea bargain and his sentence of 3 years and 4 months in prison.

Offshore business: Owner of Constant Surge Investments Ltd (2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Fabio Ghioni denied being the owner of Constant Surge Invesments Ltd. “The BVI? I don't know where they are located!" he said on the phone. ICIJ verified Ghioni’s connection to the BVI firm through the address he used upon incorporation of the company which is that of his personal residence in Milan. The corporate files also include annotations describing Ghioni’s occupation at the time.


Marubeni Corp and Tohoku Electric Power Co.

Trading and utility companies

Details: Marubeni Corp., a leading trading house, and utility Tohoku Electric Power Co., used offshore subsidiaries to invest in an overseas energy firm, allowing returns on the investment to be shielded from domestic taxes.

Offshore businessTohoku Electric established a subsidiary, Tohoku Power Investment Co. (TPIC), in the Netherlands in 2002 to invest 3 billion yen ($32.6 million) in an independent power producer in Millmerran in Queensland, Australia. The utility funneled the sum to an investment arm of Marubeni, which was founded in Labuan Island in Malaysia, also a tax haven, through TPIC.

Comment: While refusing to disclose their investment profits, Tohoku Electric confirmed that an agent had been contracted to operate on financial matters, saying “We concluded the contract in compliance with the law, and it was already in place before we made the investment (in Australia). And we have little knowledge of the background of it." Marubeni Corp declined to comment. 


The Shoman familyThe Shoman familySuha, Omar and Aysha Shoman            

Widow and children of one of Jordan’s richest families

Details: The family’s father, Khalid Shoman, was — until his death in 2001 — vice-chairman of the Arab Bank Group, one of the main banks in the Arab world, founded by his father. Omar sold their share of the bank for about $375 million in 2003.

Offshore business: Omar and Aysha are shareholders — jointly or on their own — of 12 companies in the British Virgin Islands, including OS Investments Inc. (2002), OAKS Inc. (2003), Fisch Investments Inc. (2005) and OS Tech Inc. (2006). Their mother is connected with two of the firms as a shareholder and one as a director. Most entities were transferred to another offshore service provider between 2007 and 2009.

Comment: Omar Shoman didn’t reply to requests to comment through his assistant and email. The ICIJ could not locate Aysha Shoman and could not reach Suha Shoman on the phone despite several attempts.


Mukhtar AblyazovMukhtar AblyazovMukhtar Ablyazov


Details: Ablyazov stands accused of embezzling up to $5 billion from a state-owned Kazakhstan bank in what British media describe as the biggest fraud in history.

Offshore business: An individual later named in U.K. court documents as a front man for Mukhtar Ablyazov set up 31 companies in 2006 and 2007 in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Ablyazov's attorneys in London did not respond to a request for comment. Ablyazov has denied the fraud allegations in the past.



Mirzan Bin Mahathir

Mirzan Bin MahathirMirzan Bin Mahathir


Details: Son of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the longest-serving prime minister of Malaysia (1981-2003), who modernized the country under an autocratic rule. Mahathir Mohamad was accused of abusing his extensive political powers to enrich his family and key business associates. Mirzan is a prominent entrepreneur, with directorships in various companies in Malaysia and internationally.

Offshore business: Shareholder and director of Utara Capital Limited (1997), Crescent Energy Limited (2003), and Al Sadd Investments Pte. Ltd. (2009) in Labuan.

Comment: An aide for Mirzan told Malaysiakini and ICIJ that Mirzan could not answer questions because he was out of town.  

Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin

Raja Nong ChikRaja Nong Chik Zainal AbidinFederal Territories and Urban Well-Being Minister 

Background: Prior to his senatorship, Raja Nong Chik was a corporate figure who founded and managed an engineering firm for 20 years.

Offshore business: Raja Nong Chik is shareholder and director of RZA International Corporation, a British Virgin Islands entity incorporated on Aug 21, 2007, through Singapore. The company is a mirror of Malaysian entity Kumpulan RZA Sdn Bhd, a 1979-founded company dealing in real estate and equities investment. He set up the offshore entity with his father, Raja Zainal Abidin Raja Tachik, a number of his sisters and brothers as well as other family members. Most of them are also shareholders and directors of Kumpulan RZA Sdn Bhd.

Comment: Contacted by Malaysiakini, the minister confirmed that RZA International was set up by his father, who will turn 96 this year, “for the purpose of holding legitimate offshore investments for the family.” However, the minister did not elaborate on the offshore investments made by his family through the company. He added that RZA International was de-registered in 2009. “The company was not used to obscure activities of Kumpulan RZA Sdn Bhd, and neither was it used to circumvent taxes or hide transactions overseas,” Raja Nong Chik said in an email to Malaysiakini.

Chia Tien Foh (Michael Chia)

Business tycoon 

Background: Chia is a prominent Malaysian businessman and the alleged ‘“bagman'” for Musa Aman, the chief minister and financl minister of the state of Sabah.

Offshore business: Chia has three offshore companies in which he is listed as either as director or shareholder. One of them was CTF International Ltd, with ‘“CTF'” seen as the initials of Chia’s full name. It was incorporated on April 18, 20067, in the British Virgin Islands. CTF International gained notoriety when it was named by whistleblower website Sarawak Report of being a conduit in channelling millions of ringgit to a Hong Kong account allegedly linked to Musa, who has denied links to Chia. CTF was de-registered in 2008. The other two offshore companies owned by Chia are Ravenswood Development Ltd and Ark Capital Technologies Ltd. In addition, Chia’s wife Yap Loo Mien and another woman, who is alleged to be his mistress, Yap Siaw Lin, also appear on the list as key shareholders in three separate British Virgin Islands entities.

Comment: Malaysiakini contacted Chia through the address stated in his company registration documents for comments, but there has been no response.


Dionisio Garza MedinaDionisio Garza MedinaDionisio Garza Medina


Details: His family co-owns Alfa, a conglomerate with interests in oil, food and telecommunications.

Offshore business: Shareholder of Vercors Private Limited (2005) in Singapore.

Comment: Garza Medina did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Alfa, of which Garza Medina was CEO until 2010, declined to answer questions saying this is a “private matter of Mr. Garza not related to Alfa.” 


Bayartsogt SangajavBayartsogt SangajavBayartsogt Sangajav


Details: Became his country’s finance minister in September 2008, a position he held until a cabinet reshuffle in August 2012. During those years he attended international meetings and served as a governor of the Asian Development Bank, pushing the case for his poor nation to receive foreign development assistance and investment. He was at the forefront of encouraging foreign mining and other companies to move into Mongolia. He currently serves as deputy speaker of the Mongolian Parliament.

Offshore businessBayartsogt Sangajav controlled Legend Plus Capital Limited, an offshore company administered from Hong Kong but incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (2008). The documents show the company was used to open a secret Swiss bank account, controlled by Bayartsogt, just months before he was appointed his country’s minister of finance.

Comment: Bayartsogt said the company and the bank account were set up as a syndicate by him and three unnamed business friends to trade in stocks. Both the bank account and the company remain in his name, and he did not declare them to Parliament, something he now describes as a “mistake.” He said he was considering resigning from Parliament over the issue.


Aye Zaw Win            

Son-in-law of Burma's former dictator Ne Win

Details: General Ne Win was a military strongman who ruled Burma during three decades, 1962-1988. His family became wealthy through business activities including forestry and fisheries.

Offshore business: Shareholder of Compass Point Finance Limited (1996) and Sky-Link Communications Ltd. (1997) in the British Virgin Islands. The companies were transferred to another offshore service provider, but the records do not provide a date.

Comment: Aye Zaw Win could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.


Moonis ElahiMoonis ElahiMoonis Elahi


Details: Son of Chaudry Pervez Elahi, who until last month was Pakistan's deputy prime minister. The Chaudry family has had a powerful role in the country’s politics for the past five decades. In 2010, Moonis Elahi was accused of receiving illicit payments as part of an alleged land scam. He was later acquitted amidst what Pakistan's Supreme Court said was intense government interference in the investigation.

Offshore businessShareholder and director of Olive Groves Assets Ltd. (2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Moonis Elahi denied that he owns or controls Olive Grove Assets Ltd. He did not answer whether he had owned the firm in the past. ICIJ verified Elahi’s connection to the firm through the address listed for the politician in the corporate records, which is that of the Chaudry family residence in Lahore.


Imee MarcosImee MarcosMaria Imelda Marcos Manotoc  


Details: Daughter of former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and at present governor of the province of Ilocos Norte.  

Offshore businessBeneficiary and investment advisor to Sintra Trust (2002) in the British Virgin Islands. She was also a financial advisor for a company in which the Sintra Trust was a shareholder, ComCentre Corporation (2002), and a “master client” for the M Trust in Labuan, Malaysia (2007-2009).

Comment:  Manotoc did not respond to a request for comment.


Olga Shuvalova

Wife of Russian Deputy Prime Minister

Detail:  Wife of Igor Shuvalov, who has served as first deputy prime minister since 2008.

Offshore business: Shareholder in Severin Enterprises Inc., which was registered in the British Virgin Islands and owned at least two other offshore companies, which in turn owned more companies. The dealings of one of the companies, Sevenkey Ltd., were laid out in a 2011 investigative article in Barron’s, which tied the company to her husband, who has denied wrongdoing.

Comment: Olga Shuvalova did not respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.

Valery GolubevValery GolubevValery Golubev and Boris Paikin

Gazprom executives

Detail: Golubev is the deputy chair of the management committee of Gazprom, with personal ties to Putin dating back to the 1990s. Paikin is the general director of a Gazprom construction subsidiary called Gazprom Sotsinvest that builds projects such as a $200 million stadium in St. Petersburg and an Olympic ski resort.

Offshore business: Golubev held half of the shares of Sander International Inc., which was registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2008 and was dissolved later the same year. Paikin also held Sander International shares.

Comment: Golubev and Paikin did not respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.


Zoltan Varga

Executive Managing Director and Head of Asian Investing for Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC

Details: Based in Hong Kong, Varga is a partner at Och-Ziff, one of the largest investment funds in the world.

Offshore business: Internal documents reveal Varga purchased three offshore companies, Bofita Limited, Trend Express Holdings Limited and Garden Town Trading Limited, in November 2007.  He also has a yacht called Pershing 50, registered in Gibraltar, another tax haven.

Comment: Varga declined to comment.

South Africa/Zimbabwe

"Billy" Rautenbach"Billy" RautenbachMuller Conrad "Billy" Rautenbach


Details: Zimbabwean millionaire with close links to the Mugabe regime. The United States blacklisted him saying he has helped organized huge mining projects in Zimbabwe that “benefit a small number of corrupt senior officials.” Rautenbach fled South Africa in 1999 after being accused of fraud. The charges lodged personally against him were dismissed, but a South African company he controlled pleaded guilty to criminal charges and paid a fine of roughly $4 million.

Offshore business: Shareholder of Artemis Group, LTD. (2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Rautenbach denies U.S. authorities’ allegations, contending that they made “significant factual and legal errors” in their blacklisting decision, his attorney, Ian Small Smith, said. Smith said Rautenbach’s BVI company was set up as “special purpose vehicle for investment in Moscow” and that it complied with all disclosure regulations. The company is no longer active.


Carmen Thyssen-BornemiszaCarmen Thyssen-BornemiszaCarmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Art collector and philanthropist

Details: Former Miss Spain and widow of a German-Hungarian baron, she’s one of the world’s top art collectors. Her hundreds of works of art ranging from Van Gogh to Goya are exhibited in museums in Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga.

Offshore business: Beneficial owner of Sargasso Trustees Limited (1996-2004)  and shareholder of Nautilus Limited (incorporated 1994) in the Cook Islands.

Comment: Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza’s lawyer acknowledged that she gains tax benefits by holding ownership of her art offshore, but stressed that she uses tax havens primarily because they give her “maximum flexibility” when she moves art from country to country.


Mehbub Yusufali ManjiMehbub Yusufali ManjiMehbub Yusufali Manji


Details: The Manji family is one of the richest in Tanzania. It started Quality Group Limited, the country’s major conglomerate with interests ranging from automotive to food processing.

Offshore business: Director and shareholder of Intertrade Commercial Services Inc. (2007-2009) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Yusuf Manji, chairman and CEO of the company, did not reply to ICIJ’s emailed request for comment. The contact address in the records is that of the company in Dar-Es-Salaam.


Nalinee TaveesinNalinee TaveesinNalinee Taveesin

International trade representative, former government minister

Details: In 2008, Taveesin was designated as one of four “Mugabe regime cronies” by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The OFAC statement read, “Nalinee Taveesin has participated in a number of initiatives on corruption and growth challenges in Africa and Southeast Asia while secretly supporting the kleptocratic practices of one of Africa’s most corrupt regimes.” This statement became a point of controversy in Thailand when Taveesin was appointed minister for the prime minister’s office in January 2012. She strongly denied the allegations, saying that her relationship with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and his wife is “strictly social” and that she is a victim of guilt by association.

Offshore businessTaveesin and her brother Anuraj Mishra in 2008 bought a company called Hall Kingston International Limited that had recently been incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. They appear in the documents as directors and shareholders. The offshore company was acquired shortly after Taveesin’s first appointment to a political position, as secretary to the commerce minister in 2008. The company does not appear in her 2012 public statement of assets. Though the company still exists, according to records in the BVI, it is unclear whether it had to be publicly declared.

Comment: Taveesin’s secretary Ms. Supavadee responded that “She [Taveesin] strongly affirmed that she had neither known nor heard about this so-called Hall Kingston. The information about her being [a company] shareholder is incorrect,” When asked if it was possible that Taveesin’s brother, Anuraj Mishra, was a shareholder of Hall Kingston International Limited, Supavadee repeated, “She [Taveesin] had no knowledge about the company and none of her family members were involved in the company.”

Adm. Banawit Kengrian

Former Deputy Permanent Secretary of Defense

Background: Kengrian was appointed a member of the National Legislative Council after the military coup in 2006. He resigned as a naval officer in 2007 but was later appointed chairperson of a transportation committee under the National Legislative Council with a mandate to investigate corruption cases within the Ministry of Transportation that had allegedly occurred under the previous government led by Shinawatra.

Offshore business: Kengrian is listed as one of many shareholders in the British Virgin Islands company Vnet Capital International Co., Ltd in 1998.There is no suggestion Kengrian avoided his disclosure responsibilities.

Comment: Kengrian said he had bought a small stake in the company as a personal investment. “I have never gotten involved with company management,” he said. “As far as I understand, the company has changed status. It has merged with another company a while ago. I do not really have the details though.”

Potjaman Na PombejraPotjaman Na PombejraPotjaman Na Pombejra

Former Thai first lady

Details: Former wife of Thailand’s ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Potjaman and Shinawatra obtained a high-profile divorce at the Thai consular office in Hong Kong in 2008Two years later, about $1.4 billion of Shinawatra’s family assets were seized after he was found guilty by the Supreme Court of corruption and abuse of power to benefit his family’s telecommunication company, Shin Corporation, while he was prime minister.

Offshore business Potjaman Na Pombejra acquired an offshore company called Premium Select Inc. (2007) in the British Virgin Islands, and soon after she was listed as the sole beneficial owner. The company was set up through the service of UBS AG Singapore.

Comment: Potjaman’s lawyer, Somporn Pongsuwan, did not return several phone calls seeking information on the offshore entity.


Dmytro FirtashDmytro FirtashDmytro Firtash


Details: Co-owns RosUkrEnergo, a partnership with Gazprom, the Russian natural gas giant. U.S. law enforcement officials and diplomats have linked him to arms and drug trafficking and to reputed Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich.

Offshore business: Shareholder and director (since 2007) in Group DF Limited (incorporated in 2006) in the British Virgin Islands, which became a holding company for Firtash’s interests in energy, chemicals and real estate.

Comment: Firtash could not be reached for comment.

United States

Denise RichDenise RichDenise Rich


Details: Ex-wife of the United States’ most famous tax fugitive, Marc Rich, who was controversially pardoned by former President Bill Clinton on Clinton’s last day in office. She is a Grammy-nominated songwriter, having written chart-topping songs for the likes of Sister Sledge and Celine Dion. In 2012, Rich resigned her U.S. citizenship.

Offshore business: Settlor and beneficiary of The Dry Trust (1992) and director of DTD Limited (2007), both in the Cook Islands.

Comment: Denise Rich did not respond to a request for comment.


José Eliecer Pinto Gutiérrez

Army General

Details: Top commander in the Amazonas state, overseeing security in the Venezuela-Colombia border.

Offshore business: Shareholder, director and secretary of Romana International Holdings, Ltd. (2003-2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Pinto Gutiérrez could not be reached for comment. ICIJ verified his connection to the offshore company through his identity card, a copy of which was included in the offshore files.

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