Pandora Papers presentation: On the trail of trust networks linked to Nadesan | Print edition
By Namini Wijedasa
The offshore financial world is a Byzantine maze that allows clients to protect their wealth from the national tax regimes that govern the rest of us. But continued data breaches by whistleblowers are slowly removing layers to reveal how much money is hidden abroad.
It is a complex body of trusts, holding companies, other entities and bank accounts. While there are legitimate uses for all of these – and there is often no documentary evidence to say wealth is ill-gotten – the use of multiple instruments in multiple tax havens via proxies indicates a strong desire to secret.
The latest leak concerns the Pandora Papers, 11.9 million confidential files obtained and analyzed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with hundreds of journalists from around the world. Sri Lanka was among the best stories because businessman Thirukumar Nadesan and his wife, retired parliamentarian Nirupama Rajapaksa, were included with some precision in the documents.
Although Mr. Nadesan is not a politician, unlike his wife, he is identified in the documents as a “PPE” or a “politically exposed person”.
Among the most fascinating details of the data breach is a sprawling collection of paintings owned by the offshore company Pacific Commodities Ltd (PCL) which was incorporated in Samoa. Its purpose is “investment holding” and its beneficial owner is Thirukumar Nadesan.
PCL is linked to the Pacific Trust which was originally established in February 1990. Its directors are Raffles Directors Ltd and the shareholder is Raffles Nominees Ltd as representative of Mr. Nadesan. PCL controls the paints.
The masterpieces – documents show each of them have market values of tens of thousands of dollars – include at least 11 works by Sri Lankan cubist master, George Keyt. Among them are ‘The Reigning Powers of Europe’, ‘The Royalties’, ‘Lovers Untitled (1982),’ Sasajataka 3 ‘,’ Mother And Daughter (1989), ‘Seated Woman Dressing’, ‘Woman with Mirror’ and ‘Woman with Parasol’. There is also a watercolor by Andrew Nicholl entitled “Ceylon”.
A pro forma invoice dated January 2018 showed the transfer of artwork from a London-based art warehouse and transporter to the Geneva Freeport, a large art storage complex in Switzerland. The sender was Asiaciti Trust Singapore Pte Ltd, a financial services provider through which Mr. Nadesan carried on all of his business.
Asiaciti has overseen the set-up of the businessman’s many offshore entities (according to email communications, key events are happening on ‘lucky dates’) including the Sri Nithi Trust of which he is a director. ‘investment. It was registered in New Zealand but transferred to the Cook Islands in May 2017. Until then it was administered by AsiaTrust New Zealand Ltd (incorporated in New Zealand) with Mr. Nadesan as settlor and the children as beneficiaries. It was created for “succession planning” purposes.
Sri Nithi has three underlying companies: Pallene Investments (incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2012) which was formed to own two apartments in Holland Park and St. James’s Garden in London and a bank account; Concord Assets Inc, which was incorporated in 2012 in Samoa, for “investment holding”, but is dormant; and Chalan Oil Exploration Ltd (incorporated in Jersey in 1993) which owns a property at Haymarket in Sydney, Australia.
The directors of Pallene Investments are Westco Director’s Ltd and its beneficiary is Mr. Nadesan. The couple are also related to Rosetti Ltd, registered on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1991. It is the holding company of Chalan Oil Exploration and its income is “through contracts entered into by Rosetti Ltd with various entities. foreign and fees collected for services. rendered by Rosetti Ltd ”. However, he had not made any income for a long period of time, according to the newspapers. It was liquidated in January 2013 after transferring its cash and investment securities to Pallene.
Meanwhile, Rosetti’s financial statement ending December 31, 2010, shows that the one-time Hong Kong dollar share of Red Ruth Investments Limited – an entity incorporated in Hong Kong for the purpose of holding investments and owned at 100 % by Rosetti – was transferred during the year to Mr. Nadesan.
The documents contain details of subsequent transactions between Red Ruth and Sri Nithi and several other entities cited in this article. They also state that Red Ruth exists outside of the Sri Nithi Trust structure (with all of its companies) and is owned by UBO. [ultimate beneficial owner].
This entire network is owned by a single financial services provider, Asiaciti, which was part of the Pandora Papers. Entities have been used to make investments, sell or buy properties, lend to each other and other financial matters.
The papers end with transactions related to 2019 but there is activity going back to 2011 and before. The documents also show that another entity called the Nadesan Trust was first established around 1991 as a Guernsey trust. It was then moved to Monaco and the Channel Islands. 90% of its assets would consist of a real estate portfolio and investments.