Web of corruption | The Jackal

12 Jan 2012

Web of corruption

New Zealand winning the top spot in the Transparency International’s Corruptions Perception Index last year would make you think that the authorities have got a good handle on any corruption being undertaken here.

But this doesn't appear to be the case. A few years ago, a New Zealand company called GT Group was implicated in a complex financial scheme that embezzled and laundered funds on an international scale.

Many of the offshore businesses they used were registered in New Zealand at the offices of Ian Taylor and GT Group. Taylor is a Kiwi and director of Lamark Group Ltd., which owns the Romanian company operated by a Laszlo Gyorgy Kiss. Romanian police arrested Kiss in Bucharest in October 2010.

According to this article written by Mihai Munteanu:

Kiss set up the network that helped the group steal and hide the funds. All of the companies were registered at the same Newark, DE address, by Delaware Intercorp, Inc (www.delawareintercorp.com), a Delaware based registery agent. The agency regularly worked with Kiss and with Ian Taylor, his New Zealand partner.
According to the Romanian Registry of Companies, Narfalk is represented in Romania by Lu Zhang. That name shows up on many companies associated with Kiss and Taylor. A Chinese immigrant and former fastfood employee in Auckland, New Zealand, Lu Zhang was an employee of Taylor who filed paperwork and checked emails for the agent but was also regularly used as a proxy by the firm.
She is listed on 75 companies in New Zealand and many more in Romania. She was a proxy for a company involved in shipping illegal weapons from North Korea to Iran. She was also charged in New Zealand for making false statements on documents.

Lu Zhang
Lu Zhang, was the sole director of Queen St registered SP Trading Ltd, a company that hired a plane discovered at Bangkok airport flying arms from North Korea to an unknown destination, most likely to be Iran.

Zhang made false statements in company registration forms by claiming that her office address was her residence. She pleaded guilty on 4 November 2010 to 74 charges in the Auckland District Court.

SP Trading was registered with the New Zealand Companies Office in late 2009. Its 100% owned by Vicam (Auckland) Ltd, registered to Level 5, 369 Queen St, Auckland, one of the virtual addresses used by the GT Group. Vicam is a creation of GT Group Ltd, headed by New Zealander Geoffrey Taylor and his sons Ian and Michael.

In May 2011, stuff reported on the Web of intrigue:

Mexico's brutal Sinaloa cartel, responsible for killing 28,000 people, is using a New Zealand connection to launder drug money.
In Romania, Laszlo Gyorgy Kiss, arrested in a $14.5 million extortion case, is tied to a New Zealand address – the same one that provides cover for North Korean arms smuggling.
Meanwhile, Burger King cook Lu Zhang, 29, one of New Zealand's more unlikely company directors, is also big in Romania.
Central to it all are Geoffrey Taylor and his sons Ian and Michael, who work out of Auckland's inner-city Queen St. Through Vanuatu's GT Group, they run Vicam (Auckland) Ltd, a business that appears to exploit New Zealand's easy company creation laws. Although there is no suggestion of illegality on the part of Taylor, his family members, GT Group or Vicam (Auckland) Ltd, it is clear that some of the shell companies they have incorporated have been linked to a breathtaking array of illegal activity.

There's no suggestion of illegality? Really! The masterminds are simply smart enough to use others as fronts for their operations. Registering a company in New Zealand allows for a proxy to sign a declaration of trust with the beneficiary owner. Operators need only a proxy, like Zhang or Stella Port-Louis, to act as a director.

Ian Taylor is now using another proxy called Angelique Elizabeth Lilley, who has over 80 companies registered in her name since April 2010... 51 of which have been struck off.

Ian Taylor and to a lessor degree, Michael Taylor and other's have been signing Lilley up as a director in companies with questionable addresses, most of which are 100% owned by RSHRS Limited and Atherstone Limited, both entirely belonging to Ian Taylor.

The funny thing is that Ian Taylor is so arrogant that he's using the email address ready@readymadeshelfcompany.com on the registration forms. Lilley uses the email address Globalshelfcompanies@gmail.com.

Ian Taylor has done his best to close the story down:

GT Group's "appointed spokesman", Ian Taylor, emailed The Dominion Post on Friday to say they were "seeking legal advice to pursue an action against your company for the false claims, inferences and misinformation".
"We strongly suggest that you refrain from printing any further articles regarding the following until you have received documentation from our lawyers early next week."
Mr Taylor said there should be no more reporting on "GT Group Limited, GT Group Offshore, Geoffrey Taylor, Michael Taylor, Ian Taylor, Lu Zhang, staff past or present, their associates, any business connections or anyone else, in relation to any matter previously reported by your organisation."

The group that broke the story, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, was subsequently awarded the prestigious Daniel Pearl Global Investigative Journalism Award in October last year. Good on them.