They play a key role in maintaining the secrecy of thousands of beneficial owners and hundreds of thousands of business transactions. They do this by selling their names for use on official documents of the company, using addresses in obscure parts of the world, providing the anonymity for corrupt officials, tax evaders and organized criminals.
Opaque legal structures are one of the key ways to hide the real ownership of entities that can sometimes facilitate tax evasion, corruption and organized crimes. Using nominees is a key way of hiding the real owners. One of the problems is that legal authorities in the United States, United Kingdom and many other countries don’t hold nominee directors responsible for the conduct of the companies they front.
In addition, documents setting up offshore companies often include clauses that shield nominees from financial liability if the companies get sued. It is perfectly legal in many countries to avoid having your name appear as the director or owner of a company by employing the services of a nominee, whose name appears instead. Nominees are, in essence, renting out their name, and in doing so, providing the anonymity that corrupt officials, tax evaders and organized criminals require to move dirty money around the world. Gorin and Vanagels are far from lone players in this regulatory wilderness. They just became legendary.
The ICIJ, working with The Guardian newspaper in England and the BBC’s Panorama program, identified a group of 28 other nominee directors who have represented more than 21,000 companies between them, with individual nominees representing as many as 4,000 companies. The data went public with the offshore leak scandal of 2013.
For example, Jesse Grant Hester — a young nominee director based on the English Channel island of Sark— was the director for an Irish entity Candonly Limited, which an official inquiry later found was used by the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to cheat the United Nations’ Oil for Food Program. Until the practice was stamped out in the late 1990s, it was common for Sark residents like Hester to lend their names as directors to businesses around the world wanting anonymity. At the height of what became known as the “Sark Lark”, the 600 inhabitants of the island held 15,000 directorships between them, some of which later led to controversy.
After a crackdown by the British government, many nominee directors from Sark relocated to other jurisdictions like Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Ireland and Switzerland and, as a simple search in the company records shows, they simply resumed operations. For example, Jesse Grant Hester, born in 1976, has been listed as a director for at least 1,500 companies in the British Virgin Islands, Britain, Ireland, Mauritius, New Zealand, London, Lugano and Geneva. Listed below you can identify the new guard of the most important nominee directors among the 28 recognized in the offshore leek scandal:
- Jesse Grant Hester (UK, DOB 1976),
- Brenda Patricia Cocksedge (UK, DOB 1949),
- Christina Cornelia Van Den Berg (South Africa, DOB 1964),
- Marea Jean O’toole (Ireland, DOB 1972),
- Stephen John Kelly (UK, DOB 1964)
They play a key role in maintaining the secrecy of thousands of beneficial owners and hundreds of thousands of business transactions. They do this by selling their names for use on official documents of the company, using addresses in obscure parts of the world. Some of the companies they represent are so evidently related to organized crime activities that even a child could find out: for example there is a company in Lugano held by Jesse Grant Hester together with the controversial trustee Rudy Chereghetti in Lugano, arrested and convicted for associations with mafia operations and fraud in Italy. Few simply queries in google will show this to you.