By Richard Smith and David Leask
THE creators of “zero-tax offshore companies” who file no accounts but are registered in Scotland can be laid bare today.
Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) have been embroiled in a series of scandals ranging from the £1 billion looting of banks in Moldova to acting as alleged fronts for arms-dealing and porn sites.
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The UK Government has strongly hinted at action to try and to stop SLPs being exploited by criminals amid pressure from the SNP, Scottish Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The Herald has carried out an analysis of roughly 6,000 SLP registrations between May 2015 and April 2016. We found that half of all SLPs were produced by agencies which do not appear to be registered with HMRC, as required.
There is no suggestion any of the agencies or groups creating SLPs are involved in any unethical or criminal activity subsequently carried out by those who buy their firms off the shelf. However, here is the list of the biggest five manufacturers of SLPs – and what some of their creations have concocted:
1 Trinity Services Inc This Panamanian company pioneered anonymous SLP registrations, often through a large Irish company agent, Kearney Curran.
Trinity registered four of the SLPs named by American investigators Kroll as they tried to work out what happened to $1bn alleged looted from Moldovan banks. This was the case – the details of which were revealed by this newspaper last year – which helped expose Scotland’s tax haven firms.
2 Gloriela Agragel and Friends Mystery surrounds the second biggest creator of SLPs. It sets up its shell companies at virtual offices or mail drops from Ayr to St Andrews.
The names “Gloriela Agragel” (possibly a Panamanian nominee director), “James Dickins” and “William O’Donoghue” all recur on hundreds of registrations. The partners – or shareholders – of the SLPs they create are typically either impossible to locate from the information given, or based in secrecy jurisdictions such as Nevis.
Gloriela Agragel registered a number of Scottish and other entities implicated in the Moldova bank fraud, such as Genyral Trade LP. Ms Agragel, was later named in the Panama Papers leak of confidential Panamanian offshore firms.
3 Las International (UK) Ltd This London agency created several SLPs featured in The Herald in recent weeks as it investigated so-called “binary options” sites, essentially unregulated high-risk financial gambling firms with addresses in St Vincent Street, Edinburgh. One such site belonged to Israeli binary options magnates arrested on tax evasion charges.
4 The South Pacific Connection There is more mystery about the identity of the fourth-biggest SLP creator. It supplies cryptic presenter details on its SLP registration paperwork. Apart from its characteristic maildrops at South Bridge Street, Edinburgh, and Station Square, Inverness, its most distinctive feature is the way its SLPs have corporate partners registered in the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific. An example is Tennant Shipping LP. This was one of the SLPs named by Kroll in connection with the Moldova case.
5 Royston Business Services This Scottish-based agency featured prominently in Kroll’s investigation in to the Moldovan scam. The BBC last year revealed that Royston’s principals, Viktorija Zirnelyte and Remigius Miklalauskas, are now the nominal owners of $1bn-worth of Moldovan bank debt, but are reluctant to disclose the true owner.