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Investigative journalists find suspicious foreign trusts

Investigative journalists find suspicious foreign trusts in New Zealand

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.

The Daphne Project -a team of 46 journalists from 18 news organizations including Radio New Zealand (RNZ) - is pursuing the work of murdered Maltese journalist-blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. Galizia was reporting on Maltese government corruption and Azerbaijan-linked money laundering when she was killed by a car bomb on 16 October 2017. (See Global shockwaves from bombing of Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia.)

In an article published by RNZ yesterday, Auckland based wealth management firm Denton Morrell is 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 it specialised in New Zealand foreign trusts for high net worth families. It managed "almost 150 trusts" with assets "conservatively" worth more than 5 billion euros."

A Google search reveals 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," says Suzanne Snively, Chair of Transparency International New Zealand.

Snively adds "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 entities."

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