Swiss banking major UBS AG figures as the “master client” for several offshore entities floated by members of Bank Negara Governor Zeti Aziz’s family in tax havens such as British Virgin Islands (BVI), according to the database put up by the International Consortium Of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Master client refers to an intermediary or go-between, which helps a client set up an offshore entity. It is a method used by rich individuals to mask the true ownership of companies. Offshore bank accounts are used by the wealthy to avoid taxes, protect assets from the reach of the law whilst maintaining a high level of secrecy.
In an effort to mask the fact that true ownership in the companies Iron Rhapsody Limited and Glittering Snow international ltd is held by members of Zeti Aziz’s family, multiple layers of BVI shell companies were used.
It is learnt that UBS AG’s Singapore unit helped Zeti Aziz’s family set up the BVI’s whilst the company Portcullis TrustNet Group appears as the record and register keeper of the family’s offshore companies.
In a deliberate attempt to mask the true ownership of the companies, complex structures of registration and ownership of shell companies through nominees were used.
UBS Singapore was used to set up companies registered under Porticulis TrustNet (BVI) Limited. An offshore entity known as Sharecorp Ltd acted as nominee shareholder. This is a nominee company that acts on behalf of the beneficial owner of an entity to provide an extra level of secrecy.
This was followed by additional layers of proxy companies where by Sharecorp limited was listed as a shareholder of a company called Excorp Limited which was listed as nominee shareholder of Mermeden Ltd which listed shareholding rights in the companies Iron Rhapsody Limited and Glittering Snow international ltd.
Sharecorp is nominee shareholder of at least 100s of companies for Asian high net worth individuals and holds a stake in a few hundred offshore entities, according to ICIJ.
Hidden Funds under the control of the Family
Two offshore BVI companies are clearly under the control of the family. The first company Glittering Snow International Ltd lists the following as shareholders:
The second British Virgin Isles (BVI) offshore company known as Iron Rhapsody Limited lists the following as shareholders:
The address linked to the companies include that of 23 Jalan Tunku Putra, Bukit Tunku 50480 Kuala Lumpur which we were able to verify as the home of Zeti Aziz.
Portcullis TrustNet Group – Used by the families of the ruling elite, clients include the likes of Suharto, Ne Win and Marcos
The Portcullis TrustNet Group describes itself as “an external service provider engaged by individuals who have planning needs”.
After the fall of the Indonesian dictator Suharto in 1998, a number of his family and other rich Indonesians began appearing as TrustNet clients, the documents obtained by ICIJ show.
Among the wealthy Indonesians was Suharto’s cousin Sudwikatmono. In the months after Suharto’s fall, Sudwikatmono retained a lawyer thousands of miles away in California by the name of Machiavelli W. Chao. The lawyer in turn sent Sudwikatmono and his money thousands of miles from both California and Indonesia, to the Cook Islands.
TrustNet helped the family set up the secret Wilshire International Trust and two offshore companies, Truease Ltd. and Rodeo International. The trust’s beneficiaries, according to documents, included Sudwikatmono’s wife, his son Agus and what appear to be his three daughters.
Sudwikatmono has since died, but his son emerged as one of Indonesia’s richest people, according to Forbes.
TrustNet also set up the secretive Sintra Trust in the British Virgin Islands for Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc and her three sons. Imee, as she is known, is the oldest child of the former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos who plundered his country’s finances and resources and enriched his family and business associates.
Hidden funds and conflict of Interests
It comes as a complete shock that the very person who is responsible for maintaining monetary and financial system stability in Malaysia does not maintain her family’s wealth locally.
Are we missing a part of the puzzle? Are there hidden reasons as to why it is necessary for the family to keep their assets abroad?
Perhaps Zeti and her family can explain why funds are being kept in two BVI companies in a similar fashion that we have seen with BVI’s set up for Marcos and Suharto.
Bank Negara Malaysia is the sole authority in issuing the national currency and in managing the country’s international reserves. Governor Zeti is also entrusted to protect and strengthen the foreign exchange market. The existence of BVI accounts linked to the Zeti Aziz’s family brings into questions significant questions about the fiscal stability of Malaysia.
In order to maintain the credibility of Bank Negara Malaysia and it’s Governor, it is critical that Zeti Aziz reveals the full details of bank accounts linked to her family. Failure to give full public access to the linked BVI company accounts would only imply guilt.
ICIJ’s reporting to date has revealed the offshore dealings of politicians, oligarchs, rogue nations and even religious leaders. Extensive reporting by ICIJ and others show that the anonymity granted by the offshore economy facilitates money laundering, tax evasion, fraud and other crimes.
Even when it’s legal, transparency advocates argue that the use of an alternative, parallel economy undermines democracy because it benefits a few at the expense of the majority.