New Zealand remains vulnerable to the flow of illicit offshore assets.
An Auckland company is caught up in an international money laundering controversy after it was identified helping to manage a network of New Zealand-registered companies and trusts for its secret clients.
Murder of Journalist
A team of 46 journalists from 18 news organisations including Radio New Zealand (RNZ) is pursuing the work of murdered Maltese journalist-blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia.
She was reporting on Maltese government corruption and Azerbaijan-linked money laundering when she was killed by a car bomb on October 16, 2017.
In an article published by RNZ on April 19, 2018, Auckland-based wealth management firm Denton Morrell has been identified as the parent and controlling entity of a number of Azerbaijan linked companies holding millions of dollars of foreign property assets for hidden owners. Denton Morrell is owned and managed by Matthew Butterfield.
According to the article, “(Butterfield) initially headed a company called Allianza, where he took over managing a set of high value offshore clients from a company called Equinor Trust.
According to Interest.co.nz, the trust’s Executive Director Lachlan Williams told the Reserve Bank of New Zealand that it specialised in New Zealand foreign trusts for high net worth families.
It managed “almost 150 trusts” with assets “conservatively” worth more than five billion Euros.
A Google search revealed another iteration: Denton Morrell (USA) LLC, a legal entity registered under the law of State Nevada managed by one person: Matthew J Butterfield.
This article is striking. The amount of money involved, and the newness of this activity are a strong signal that more needs to be done to prevent New Zealand trusts and companies from laundering foreign assets acquired under suspicious circumstances. We are left wondering just how much corrupt wealth is sheltered through New Zealand.
The work of The Daphne Project highlights the value and need for a public repository of the overseas beneficial owners of assets registered in New Zealand for all legal.
Suzanne Snively is Chair of the Wellington-based Transparency International.
The Daphne Project
While the inquiry into the murder of Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is ongoing, it is widely believed that she was targeted because of her ongoing investigation into Maltese government corruption and international money-laundering.
Daphne spoke about the scandal on Radio New Zealand (RNZ) in 2016 following publication of the Panama Papers, which showed that the Maltese Energy Minister and Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff had secret New Zealand trusts called the ‘Haast Trust and Rotorua Trust.’
At the time she was killed, Daphne was researching new leads about secret financial links between the Malta and Azerbaijan leaderships, and a private bank in Malta called Pilatus Bank.
A team of 46 journalists from the 16 countries have continued her work, under the banner of ‘The Daphne Project,’ collecting more than 750,000 files and official documents in order to complete and publish the stories of the slain journalist.
The project motto is “They killed the journalist. But not the stories.”
The investigation has found evidence of a network of New Zealand-registered companies and trusts, which sources say lead back to Azerbaijan.
As a part of the Daphne Project, RNZ published revelations from freelance Investigative Journalist Nicky Hager. His reporting shines a light on a little-known Denton Morrell.
The investigation has revealed more connections to a world-wide network of companies and assets connected to the families of Azerbaijan leaders.
The Daphne Project has revealed that many of the companies in the Azerbaijan-Pilatus network linked back to an address in Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand.
Please read our Leader, ‘Global efforts essential to tackle money-launderers’ under Viewlink.
The destroyed car; Inset: Daphne Caruana Galizia
(Picture Courtesy: Sky News)