As the investigation into Trudeau’s relationship with Aga Khan moves forward, it is revealed that the legal ownership of Bell Island, which Aga Khan used to host Trudeau is with an off-shore company. These are the very off-shore companies which were revealed in the infamous Pamana Leaks through the leaked records of Mossack Fonseca. In Aga Khan’s case, CBC revealed that Aga Khan’s Bahamas hideaway is “linked to web of companies in countries that impose strict financial secrecy”.
A title search of Bell Island conducted for CBC News reveals that it is legally owned by Island of Discovery Ltd., a Bahamas-registered company set up only two months before the island was purchased from Exuma Bell Island Ltd. in March 2009 for US$100 million.
Secret “layered” legal Structure of Bell Island’s ownership
Ownership of Bell Island by Island of Discovery Limited is not the end of the trail, it is just the beginning. Island of Discovery Ltd. is in turn connected to at least two companies mentioned in the Panama Papers.
One is Triangle Administration Ltd., a British Virgin Islands-registered company that is listed as president and as a director of Island of Discovery Ltd.
Another company, Circle Corporate Services, also incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, is listed as secretary for Island of Discovery Limited.
Triangle Administration and Circle Corporate Services appear together in the ICIJ database (Panama Leaks) in connection with many other companies. They were both incorporated on Dec. 6, 1999. On Jan. 7, 2013, both companies moved their registration from the British Virgin Islands to the Bahamas.
Credit Suisse, a leading Swiss-based financial institution with a reputation for keeping its clients’ secrets very secret, appears to play a key role in the corporate structure around Bell Island.
The names of all of the directors of Triangle Administration correspond to names of employees of Credit Suisse at that time.
When the Panama Papers stories began to emerge, Credit Suisse’s CEO Tidjane Thiam said the bank does use offshore financial structures for wealthy clients but does not condone tax avoidance.
The Panama Papers leak sent shock waves around the world, lifting the veil of secrecy that enabled many wealthy individuals and public officials to avoid or evade taxes in their home countries. Many of the documents outlined structures similar to those behind the ownership of Bell Island.
Denis Meunier, a former deputy director of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) who viewed the documents located by CBC News, said there can be a variety of reasons to set up webs of related offshore companies.
“What appears to me is what is quite similar to what we’ve seen in other situations in complex corporate structures is that there is an objective here — either to minimize tax or to distance the beneficial owner from the source of funds. It could be for totally legitimate reasons — that remains to be seen.”
Kim Marsh, a retired RCMP officer who now works in the private sector with IPSA International, has years of experience tracking complicated financial arrangements. He said it is common for wealthy individuals to own property through companies. What is less common, he said, is setting up layers of companies.
“When you see layering, different layers, then that puts alarm bells up right away. Why do that? All you are doing is hindering someone who is trying to investigate and get to the bottom of a situation as to who is the beneficial owner.”
Offshore tax havens have come under increasing scrutiny by Canada and other G7 governments in recent years, especially in the wake of the Panama Papers. Trudeau has said his government takes the issue of tax avoidance and evasion “very, very seriously.”
Lexthree Limited – Another off-shore company linked to Aga Khan and Island of Discovery Limited
In addition to Island of Discovery Ltd. and the companies that control it, documents obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act identify yet another company associated with Bell Island.
A handwritten notation on the travel expenses for Privy Council technician Brad Cotten’s trip indicates a $1,200 US payment for Cotten’s accommodation on the island was “to be remitted to Lexthree Ltd.”
Lexthree Ltd. is also incorporated in the Bahamas. Its three directors — James Galbraith, Alan Abela and Jane Piacentini-Moore — have other ties to the Aga Khan. Abela and Piacentini-Moore are listed as directors of the Luxembourg-registered company Marine Promotion Services S.A., which also included the Aga Khan as a director in documents filed in 2011.
In a May 2016 photo with the Aga Khan, Piacentini-Moore was listed as the head of international financial affairs for the Ismaili Imamat, the Aga Khan’s religious office.
Jane Piacentini-Moore, left, with the Aga Khan, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and top officials of the Ismaili Imamat in May 2016. (AKDN/Luis Filipe Catarina from AKDN.org website)
Helicopter also in the name of ‘off-shore’ company
The helicopter that whisked Trudeau and his family from Nassau to Bell Island isn’t owned in a Aga Khan’s name either. The helicopter’s purebred owners is an aircraft trust formed during a Wells Fargo Bank in Utah.
The AG139 helicopter, sequence series 31012, started out life purebred in Luxembourg with a association called One Thirty Nine Sarl listed as a owners and Aiglemont S.A. as a operator. In 2016, Abela and Piacentini-Moore were listed as directors along with Olivier Hamou, a financial services confidant who appears as an director of One Thirty Nine Sarl.
Photos of a helicopter taken in 2008 during a Ascot Racecourse Heliport uncover a Aga Khan’s button on a tail.
The helicopter, still owned by One Thirty Nine, was re-registered in Bermuda in 2010 afterwards re-registered after that same year in a U.S as N-139AK in a name of a Wells Fargo Bank aircraft trust.
Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s Directors also linked to Panama Papers
One of the directors of Aga Khan Foundation Canada, Amin Lalji is also linked to the Panama tax haven through his company Larco Investments.
Larco Investments bought the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for $180 million from Ivanhoe Cambridge in 2015. The company also owns Park Royal Shopping Centre, Burnaby’s Bridge Studios, Morgan Crossing in Surrey and the Maple Leaf Self Storage chain. It gained national attention in 2007 for a $1.7 billion deal with the Conservative government to become the landlord of Canada Revenue Agency, the RCMP and other departments.
The closely held private company, run by brothers Amin, Mansoor and Shiraz Lalji, was estimated to be worth $2.87 billion by Canadian Business, but the union representing workers at four Larco-owned hotels published a website last year that questions why it has offshore holdings. UNITE HERE recently updated that website with discoveries from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Panama Papers database.
After the Panama Leaks, Amin Lalji’s name has been removed from the AKFC website and is replaced by another family member and director from Larco Investments.
UNITE HERE representative Michelle Travis said she faxed Amin and Mansoor Lalji a letter last September 1 that sought clarity about the structure of their ownership in the J.W. Marriott Las Vegas Resort and Rampart Casino, among other holdings. She said UNITE HERE never received a response.
The Panama Papers database shows a British Virgin Islands-registered company called Oakdene Finance Ltd., which is also named in a 2014 annual report as the ultimate parent undertaking of Access Self Storage. Access, the third largest storage chain in the United Kingdom, includes Shiraz Lalji as a director. From 2004 to 2007, Oakdene was a shareholder in the Alamut Foundation, which shares the same Jersey address as Royal Bank of Canada Trust Company (Jersey) Ltd. Alamut is ultimately based in Liechtenstein.
When Business in Vancouver called Larco to seek an interview with Amin Lalji, his assistant referred the request to executive vice-president Thad Alston. But Alston did not respond to repeated phone and email messages.
CBC News: Aga Khan island that hosted Trudeau owned by company with offshore ties, records show
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World News: Aga Khan island that hosted Trudeau owned by company with offshore ties, records show