Panama Papers: the Irish connections
Builders, sportsmen, bankers, solicitors, accountants listed in leaked files
In the leaked Mossack Fonseca files: golfer Pádraig Harrington, former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, accountant Aidan Phelan, businessman Oisin O’Buachalla, Irish biofuel businessman Bart Bonsall and developer Seán Mulryan
On Monday The Irish Times, in conjunction with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its international media partners, is publishing the entire list of offshore companies, shareholders, and beneficial owners, contained in the Panama Papers.
What is published here is a selection of names that are, in various ways, linked to Ireland.
The Panama Papers are the leaked files of the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm, one of the largest providers of offshore services in the world. The massive leaks give an unprecedented view inside the secretive world of offshore companies and services. Members of the ICIJ, including The Irish Times, have spent more than a year examining a cache of 11.5 million documents and records from Mossack Fonseca, which provides offshore services to individuals, companies and middle men who advise them.
The leaked data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 through to the end of 2015 . The files list nearly 15,600 paper companies that banks set up for clients who want keep their finances under wraps
The names published here are in part selected so as to give an insight into the many ways in which the offshore services world is deeply embedded in everyday commercial life in Ireland.
There are firms in Ireland whose business it is to provide a gateway for their clients into the offshore world. Theses firms, such as the Pegasus Trust in Drumcondra, Dublin, are described in the Mossack files as clients. So Pegasus might act for a person or company, Irish or otherwise, who through Pegasus buys a company in an offshore location from Mossack, and then uses Mossack for the provision of nominee services.
Alternatively, an Irish individual might be a direct client of Mossack, and use it for the purposes of establishing an offshore company. Or an offshore company, for which Mossack acts, might do business in Ireland, or locate its registered office here.
One result among many others is a huge amount of correspondence, most of it by way of email, whirring around the world. Most of this correspondence deliberately avoids naming the beneficial owners involved.
This correspondence makes up a large part of the leaked Mossack files. These emails and faxes and letters, and attached documents, are not going to be published; only the names. The material published here today is intended, among other purposes, to give a flavour as to the range of the extent of detail that can be gleaned from the files in relation to particular names.
There is nothing illegal about using offshore companies and there is no suggestion intended that the people named here were involved in any illegality.
Three-time Major winning golfer Pádraig Harrington appears in the leaked Mossack Fonseca files in relation to a Panamanian company called Marksmen Guaranteed Fund V SA. Mossack acted as registered agent for the company, at the behest of its client, International Management Group (Overseas) Inc, with an address in Monaco. Marksmen, which invested in shares, was incorporated in 1998 and dissolved in 2005, according to the leaked files.
The documents on the company include minutes of an annual general meeting held in Monaco in May 2000 and attended by Harrington by way of proxy, along with Welsh golfer Ian Woosnam, Swedish tennis player Thomas Enqvist, and South African golfer Retief Goosen. The meeting approved the annual accounts for 1998, and other matters.
A copy of the 1999 accounts shows shareholders’ funds of $4 million at the end of that year, and lists shareholdings in such US public companies as Xerox, Abbott Laboratories, Intel and Bristol Myers Squibb. The accounts say that 245 shares in the company, costing $10,000 each, were issued in July 1998, and that the fund is to run for five years. Investments that cost $2.3 million when bought were valued at just double that at the end of the period.
A request for a comment from Harrington met no response.
The property developer and founder of the Ballymore group, Seán Mulryan, also appears in the leaked files. He is recorded as the beneficial owner of British Virgin Islands company Dewdrop Properties Ltd, which was incorporated in 1997 and in 2004 was the party behind a controversial planning permission application to develop 22 apartments and 30 houses on a green space in the Leopardstown Oaks estate, on Brewery Road, in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area. The green space, known as the Esso Fields, was one of a number in housing estates which had not been formally handed over to the council and were being targeted by property developers. Permission for the scheme was refused on the basis the company did not have adequate legal title.
Mr Mulryan, when contacted, told The Irish Times he had never heard of Dewdrop, and would have to investigate. He later said the company was behind a “silly” planning application in Dublin which had not been successful and probably should never have happened. He said Dewdrop was now a “one pound company”.
Mr Mulryan is one of Ireland’s biggest property developers and his Ballymore group is heavily involved in major building projects in London. When the crash came it is believed his companies owed Irish banks more than €2 billion. He co-operated with the National Asset Management Agency, which took over the loans, and has since re-emerged from the agency, having repaid the loans.
Companies linked to the Manchester-based Irish property developer Donal Mulryan appear in the leaked files, with the documents including lengthy banking documents associated with personal guarantees given by Mr Mulryan when loans were being negotiated. Mr Mulryan is a brother of Sean Mulryan of Ballymore.
The files show that British Virgin Islands (BVI) company Wheatley Properties Ltd, borrowed €27.7 million from Anglo Irish Bank in Manchester in December 2006, and that a personal guarantee from Mr Mulryan was part of the security.
They also show details of a 2006 loan between Anglo in Manchester and Mr Mulryan’s main corporate vehicle, West Properties (UK) Ltd, a UK incorporated company. The files include correspondence with Mossack in the BVI in relation to refinancing arrangements and the reassignments of security to a company called Cronus Debt Limited.
Coxland Holdings, a BVI company with an address in Jersey, also appears in the files in relation to mortgages and borrowings associated with a series of apartments at New Providence Wharf, London. The banks involved are the offshore services division of Northern Bank, in the Isle of Man, and Britannic Money plc, in Epsom, Surrey. The documentation in relation to the Britannic loans cites 12 apartments in New Providence Wharf, ranging in value between £396,000 and £260,000. The security involved included personal guarantees from Mulryan.
In relation to Oakleigh International Holdings Ltd, of the BVI, a company incorporated in 1999 and with an address in Jersey, the leaked files include a minute of an August 2005 board meeting in Jersey in which it is recorded the company was proposing to take out loans from Northern Bank in relation to nine apartments in the Colefax Building, Aldgate Triangle, London, with the mortgages associated with each apartment ranging from £275,000 to £174,500, and being a total of £1.73 million. The minute records that Mulryan was to offer a personal guarantee to the bank as part of the transaction.
Loans from Irish banks to Mulryan’s companies were transferred to Nama after the property crash, and it is understood some of them were subsequently sold to Morgan Stanley. Efforts to contact Mulryan were unsuccessful.
The businessman and former manager of U2, Paul McGuinness, appears in the files as a shareholder in Treibreu Group Ltd, a real estate group that owns more than 2,000 apartments in Germany, as well as property in the US, France, and Ireland. Another Irish businessman, Trevor Bowen, also appears in the files as a shareholder in Treibreu, as does Guy French, of Blackrock, Co Dublin, and Robert Maharry, of Dalkey, Co Dublin. The shareholdings range from 15 per cent to one per cent. The documents say that 69 per cent of the group is owned by the Taylor Brothers Trust, the beneficiaries of which are four people with that surname from England. A request for a comment met with no response.
Oisin O’Buachalla, a well-known businessman involved in property and other activities, appears in the files as the ultimate beneficial owner of a Panamanian company, Patdevice Overseas Inc, which was linked to the purchase of a site and the building of a villa in Portugal. The documents in the leaked files include a 2004 letter from the company to Anglo Irish Bank on St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, in relation to a facility being offered by the bank, and pledging that no power of attorney to sell or deal in a property in Quinta do Lago in Portugal, owned by Patdevice, will be issued by the Panamanian company’s directors, without the bank’s consent in writing. An email from the following year indicates the loan was issued and that the residency of Patdevice was being moved to Portugal to avoid “penal taxes”. The role of Mossack in relation to Patdevice then ended. Efforts to contact O’Buachalla were unsuccessful.
Calderdew Investments Ltd
A British Virgin Islands company, Calderdew Investments, was used to buy a house in London in 2001, the files indicate, with a loan coming from Bank of Ireland Private Banking and correspondence with Mossack in relation to the matter also going to the Bank of Ireland branch in Jersey. The house was to be occupied by the owner of the BVI company, but the files do not disclose that person’s identity.
South Meade Property Holdings
The files include details of South Meade Property Holdings, a British Virgin Islands company which borrowed money from AIB, Bank Centre, Dublin, in February 2001, to buy six apartments in Barnes, London. The company was owned by way of bearer shares up to 2006, and thereafter by way of a nominee shareholder in Jersey. Bearer shares are shares that belong to the party who has the share certificate in their possession and are controversial because of the extreme level of confidentiality they provide. The true beneficial owner of South Meade is not disclosed in the files. The properties were sold in 2011, the mortgages discharged, and the company placed into liquidation.
Twister Properties Limited
In 2002 a British Virgin Islands company, Twister Properties Limited, issued a guarantee of up to £500,000 to support a loan from AIB Group (UK) plc to Brackenvale Limited, a company with an address in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. The loan was to assist in the purchase of a company called Marble City Limited. Filings in Companies House in the UK show that Marble City Limited is a UK company owned by Brackenvale, a company incorporated in the Bahamas. The files show the security was also to include a charge over property in Schull, Co Cork, vesting in the name of Woodland Properties Ltd, a company with an address in Dublin. The agreement was to include confirmation as to the value of an apartment in Vincent Square, Westminster, London.
In March 2015 Brendan Hayes of IOM Corporate Solutions, in the Isle of Man, bought a British Virgin Islands company, Gold Prosper Investments Ltd, from Mossack and informed it the company would have an investment account with Credit Suisse and hold investments in shares, bonds and cash. Mr Hayes and another man also with an address in the Isle of Man would hold the shares and act as directors. The beneficial owner would be Aidan Phelan, with an address in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Mr Phelan was an accountant for and an associate of businessman Denis O’Brien in the 1990s and gave evidence to the Moriarty tribunal’s inquiries into financial links between Mr O’Brien and the politician Michael Lowry. Mr Phelan subsequently moved to the Isle of Man, and is understood to be tax resident there. He did not want to comment.
Former chief executive of Tara Mines and former chairman of Telecom Eireann Brendan Hynes appears in the files as a client of Mossack Fonseca. With an address in Venezuela, Mr Hynes is mentioned in relation to a British Virgin Islands company, Carriage Investments Ltd, described as an investment advice and consulting company.
A Jersey company, Continental Financial Services, was the Mossack client for Carriage up to 2013, when Mossack was advised the new beneficial owner of the company was to be Mr Hynes, and that he would also be taking over administration of the company and becoming the Mossack client.
“There is likely to be a transfer of beneficial ownership to Hynes of two other BVI companies of which Mossack is agent and I will advise you of this in due course,” Continental told Mossack in a 2013 email. Mr Hynes and a man in Geneva became directors of Carriage.
The files show that Leman solicitors in Dublin acted for Mr Hynes in some of his dealings with Mossack. In a letter from Leman solicitors to Mossack in November 2013, Mossack was told that from then on Carriage company documents would be located in Venezuela.
The documents in the leaked files said Mr Hynes had offices in Zulia Edo, Venezuela, and Dame Street, Dublin, with the former related to a company called Companies Carbonifera Cano Seco CA, and the latter related to Arklow Holidays Ltd.
He was described in 2013 as the proprietor of Intros Corp & Foigneac Holdings Inc, an investment company, and of Vectorex Ltd, a software development company, both of the Bahamas, and of Fahy Gurteen Labs, in Cambridgeshire, England.
An email in December 2015 said that an entity called the Cleethorpes Settlement had shares in a BVI company, Miranda Property Holdings, which in turn owned another BVI company, Ashenda Holdings, with Mossack acting as agent for both the BVI companies. The email, from the Volaw Group in Jersey, to Mossack, said Mr Hynes was being appointed a director of Ashenda, and as secretary of Miranda, of which he was already a director. Volaw was resigning from certain roles. Cleethorpes was selling its shares in Miranda to a company called Ovoca Ltd, the email said. Filings in the Companies Registration Office show Arklow Holidays, with an address in Mount Street Crescent, Dublin, is owned by Ashenda. Arklow, the business of which is unclear, recently registered a mortgage against it in the name of Glanduff Holdings Ltd, of the Bahamas.
Efforts to contact Mr Hynes were unsuccessful.
Mikhail Slipenchuk, a wealthy businessman and member of the Duma, the Russian parliament, for the United Russia party, is mentioned in the files in relation to a British Virgin Islands company, Euroimpex Group Corp. The files state the company is involved in trading and that its activities are mainly in the BVI, Cyprus and Ireland. Mr Slipenchuk, from the Buratiya region of Russia, is deputy head of the Russian parliament’s committee on natural resources and ecology.
Lamford was an Irish company based at Hume House, Ballsbridge, Dublin, which was involved in the provision of nominee services and was linked to the ownership of a villa in Spain owned by two Spanish sisters. The leaked Mossack files show that in February 2006 its shares were the subject of a deed of assignment involving a Panamanian trust, Full Equality Foundation, and a Jersey trust, the T.349 Trust. A deed of assignment of the same date shows Lamford assigning to Full Equality Foundation 90 shares in a Spanish company, Investbrila SA (Palma de Mallorca), which appears to be the direct owner of the Spanish villa.
Lamford was incorporated in 1996 and dissolved in 2010 and its directors included Leticia Montoya, a Mossack employee in Panama. Its address was the same as that of Pearse Trust, an Irish that did business with Mossack Fonseca. Based at Hume House, it is majority-owned by Joseph Hickey. He said Lamford was an Irish company and that Pearse Trust resigned as its local filing agent in 2008.
Emails in the leaked Mossack files show that Lamford’s ultimate beneficial owners more recently sought to have the company restored. By January 2014, the Revenue Commissioners was asking for the reasons for the restoration. Emails between Mossack and the Pearse Trust discuss whether the process is worth going through given the costs involved. At one stage Mossack informed the Dublin firm that the owners are “two very mature women [sisters] who have very complex personalities”. The leaked files indicate that the sisters were Spanish and lived in Spain. The process of restoration was abandoned.
The Old Schoolhouse, Avoca, Co Wicklow
At a meeting in Guernsey of the directors of Sanhurst Properties Ltd in December 2000, it was agreed that the company would sell The Old Schoolhouse, Castlemacadam, Avoca, Co Wicklow, to a named couple, for £500,000, as this was in the best interests of the company. The leaked files do not disclose the owners of Sanhurst.
Prometheus was a Bahamian company that used an address in Cyprus and owned a property in Clonakilty, Co Cork. The property was bought by Prometheus in October 1998, according to Land Registry filings, and sold in July 2011, for €320,000 to named couple from Co Tipperary. The ownership of Prometheus is not revealed in the files.
Patrick Anthony Rhatigan
The files show that Dublin businessman Patrick Anthony Rhatigan, with an address in Kilgobbin, Dublin 18, was appointed as a director of a company in the British Virgin Islands called Ninesprings Enterprises Ltd, when it was established in August 2014, and also held its shares. A resolution signed by Mr Rhatigan that month said the registered agent of the company would be Mossack Fonseca in the British Virgin Islands, and that the company would be involved in “the sale and purchase of government bonds in Latin American countries”. Mr Rhatigan said he left Ireland in the 1980s and has been involved in business around the world in the time since. He said Ninesprings was a shelf company with no assets.
The files show that a company called M.J. Properties Ltd, with a registered address at the offices of the Pegasus Trust group, on Botanic Avenue, Dublin 9, was incorporated in 1994 in the Bahamas and dissolved in 2005. The company took out a mortgage on an unidentified property in Ireland in 1994, which it sold in 2004. The directors and shareholders of the company were John Muldoon, of the First Fryer Stud, Pollardstown, the Curragh, Co Kildare, and Yoshiki Akazawa, with an address in Tokyo.
The leaked files indicate that the two men were associated with two companies incorporated in the Bahamas, M.J. Properties and Duke Enterprises Ltd. Correspondence between Pegasus and Mossack often deals with both companies. For instance in April 1995 GP Gestion De Patrimoines SA, with an address in Geneva, Switzerland, told ILS (Corporate Services), in the Isle of Man, that they have been mandated by the beneficial owners of both Bahamian companies to take over management of their current affairs in replacement of Valmet Trust (Ireland) Ltd.
On June 22nd 2004 Pegasus Trust, then with an address in Warrington Place, Dublin 2, wrote to Mossack saying MJ Properties “owns a property in Ireland which it is presently in the process of selling”. Pegasus informed Mossack that it would like a certificate of good standing for MJ Properties, confirmation that it has the power to sell the property, and confirmation that a power of attorney in favour of Mr Muldoon dated June 9th, 2004, was valid and fully effective under Bahamian law.
The correspondence states that the secretary of MJ Properties was Silent Secretaries Ltd, of Commercial Centre Square, Alofi, Niue, in the South Pacific, and the shareholder is a company called Fovarrane Ltd, with the same address. Both Niue entities are linked to Pegasus in the leaked files.
The leaked files also include a notice that M.J. Properties, which had been inactive, was restored to the Bahamian register of international companies on June 13th, 2003. They also include signed copies of minutes of an emergency general meeting of MJ Properties held in Warrrington Place in 2003 and 2004. The minutes record certain changes in directors and shareholders (both seemingly nominee). Efforts to contact Mr Muldoon were not successful.
Denville Consultants SA
Denville Consultants is a Panamanian company that acted as a client of Mossack Fonseca and had an address at a PO box in the post office in Castlegregory, Co Kerry. It in turn used Mossack as an agent for a number of offshore companies Denville provided services to on behalf of its clients. The company is associated in the Mossack files with a Sue Mole, who used the same address. Ms Mole is a former director of two Irish companies, Mannix International and Westline Investments, according to filings in the Companies Registration Office which show her using the same post office box as her address. Emails in the files show that in 2007 letters sent by Mossack in Panama, to Denville at the post box in Castlegregory, were being returned. Efforts to contact Ms Mole were not successful.
Seaberry Holdings/Bank of Ireland
The files show that in 1998 a Jersey-based company, Seaberry Holdings, got a £450,000 bridging loan from the Bank of Ireland in London, in relation to the purchase of a five-bedroom, five-reception room Georgian mansion in Convent Garden, London. As part of the security for the loan, Seaberry gave the bank all rights and title to a bank account held by the company with the bank. The documents in the files do not show how much was sitting in the London bank account at the time. They do indicate that the sum borrowed was the same as the price paid for the house. The beneficial owner of Seaberry is not disclosed.
Comax Technical Trade & Invest Limited
Comax Technical Trade & Invest Ltd was an Irish-incorporated company with an address on St Columbanus Road, Dundrum, Dublin 14, which, according to the leaked files, signed an agreement in October 2003 with a British Virgin Islands company, Control Global Ltd, in relation to the Irish company acting as sole agent in Turkey and India for the sale of printing ink on behalf of the BVI company. The agent was to get 5 per cent of all gross profits arising from the arrangement.
The leaked files show that Paul Newman, managing director of Stembridge Trust (Ireland) Ltd, wrote to Mossack in December 2003 asking that the enclosed agreement and board minutes of Control Global should be signed by the company’s directors, who were being provided by Mossack. The minutes record the decision to enter into the agency agreement with Comax. Filings for Comax show it was incorporated in 2003 and dissolved in 2008, and that nominee services were provided to it by companies associated with Mr Stembridge.
The leaked files show that Control Global is a company for which Mossack acted with Mossack’s client being the Swiss bank, Bank Julius Baer, having earlier been HSBC in Switzerland. The company’s shares were held by way of bearer certificates from 1993 to 2006, after which they were held by a Panamanian foundation. In 2011 they were transferred to a company with an address at a post office box in the BVI. Email correspondence between Mossack and an Ali Demir Akel in 2011, indicates that he is the beneficial owner and is transferring Global Control from Mossack to a new registered agent. A request for a comment from Stembridge met with no response.
Greg Murphy and Bart Bonsall
Two businessmen associated with the Irish biofuel sector were directors and shareholders in two British Virgin Islands companies that were in turn shareholders in an Irish company that went into voluntary liquidation in 2011 with a cash balance of €44.3 million, and no liabilities.
Greg Murphy and Bart Bonsall (pictured above) established two offshore companies in the BVI in 2009, using the services of Mossack Fonseca’s office in the UK, the leaked files show. The companies were called Bio Feedstock Procurement Services Ltd, and Bio Fuel Procurement Services Ltd.
Mr Murphy told The Irish Times the companies belonged to Mr Bonsall who was investing money in a project which aimed to establish a biofuel facility in an old Shell plant in the port in Greenore, Co Louth, in the late 2000s.
The plan did not work out for various reasons, he said. Among the necessary requirements for the project’s success was procuring reliable lines of feed for the plant, from national and international suppliers.
Mr Murphy said he served temporarily as a shareholder and director of the BVI companies, so that he could promote the sourcing of biofuel feed, but he never put money into the companies or received any money from them. Efforts to contact Mr Bonsall were not successful.
Mr Bonsall, a US citizen living in Co Limerick, was formerly a chief executive of Chorus, an Irish broadband communications company which was jointly owned by Independent News & Media and US company Liberty Media. He stepped down from the position in 2001.
He is now a managing director of TCBB Resource, which is co-hosted by four Irish universities, is concerned with renewable energy projects, and has been funded by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. He is an Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine nominee on an EU agricultural research committee on bio-refining.
Two documents filed in the Dublin Companies Registration Office, both dated June 1st, 2010, concern shareholdings in Greenore Facility and Plant Development Ltd, which had been incorporated in January of that year.
Bio Feedstock Procurement Services, of the BVI, had 40 deferred ordinary shares in the Irish company, while Murphy had 59 deferred ordinary shares, according to one of the documents.
The leaked files indicate that Bio Feedstock was dissolved in 2013 and that Bio Fuel is still active.
There is a “letter of rectification” in the Companies Office files in relation to Greenore Facility and Plant Development Ltd, dated June 2011, in which Bio Fuel Procurement Services and Biodiesel Production Ireland Ltd, state that they have no objection to it being confirmed that the correct total value of the consideration for their being given two ordinary shares of €1 each, in June 2010, in Greenore Facility, was not €2 “as originally notified” but was in fact €4,236,540.
Murphy and Bonsall were directors and shareholders in Biodiesel Production Ireland up to 2011, when Mr Murphy became the owner of Mr Bonsall’s shares. Greenore Facility and Plant Development did not publish accounts prior to it being placed in voluntary liquidation. However a statement of assets and liabilities at the time of the proposed liquidation shows the cash balance of €4.3 million.
The leaked Mossack files include a February 2012 email from Mossack’s office in the UK to the BVI office, saying the client wants to “back date the directorship to 2009” in relation to Bio Fuel Procurement Services Ltd, and that the reason was a transaction outlined in attached documents.
These documents are an unsigned minute of directors’ authorisations dated June 18th, 2009, granting Mr Bonsall and Mr Murphy power of attorney to act on behalf of the BVI company in relation to unspecified authorised activities.
The minute also includes a directors’ decision whereby the company can enter into a service arrangement with its customers where the company, for an agreed fee, will investigate the sources of supply and assist its customers in the negotiation of fixed margin contracts for procurement of biodiesel fuels on the international markets, and the directors authorise Mr Bonsall and Mr Murphy to enter into the designated service agreement.
The minute says Murphy has notified the directors of a transfer of shares, being three shares to Mr Bonsall and three to Ita Devine. Ms Devine is a director of a number of Irish companies of which Mr Bonsall is also a director, and has the same Limerick address as Mr Bonsall. The minute does not give the names of the directors who are said to have given the authorisations.
The documents also include an unsigned minute of directors’ authorisations dated May 28th, 2010, authorising Mr Bonsall to enter into a share subscription agreement to purchase one share in Greenore Facilities (sic) and Plant Development Ltd and to “appoint Mr Bonsall as the company representative to the Greenore Facilities [sic] and Plant Development Ltd board of directors” .
A third minute of directors’ authorisations, dated September 2011, authorised Mr Bonsall to approve the voluntary liquidation of Greenore Facilities [sic] and “to organise the return of the company’s original investment together with any interest earned thereon to the company”.
The leaked files include details of a number of resource companies that are linked to Dublin and London stock exchanges, or low-cap exploration companies generally. Canyon Oil & Gas, of the British Virgin Islands, is in the files, along with its shareholders. Irish oil and gas exploration company Aminex bought the BVI company in 2013. Likewise Mossack acted for Bahamian company Orca Gold Corporation International Ltd, which was acquired in 2003 by Dublin exploration company, Minco plc.
There are numerous instances in the files of well-known investors and professionals from the Irish exploration sector, having shareholdings in offshore exploration companies which used the services of Mossack.