Asiaciti Trust building on Tutakimoa road. 21100501
The Cook Islands made an appearance in the Pandora Papers – the leaked cache of 11.9 million financial records – which includes a high-profile Israeli businessman who allegedly tried to hide over $1 billion in a trust company here.
Pandora Papers is the name given to the confidential information unlocked from
14 offshore financial service providers – including one that operates here –
that set up and manage shell companies and trusts in tax havens around the
information was found by the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that was shared with 150 media
According to The Times of Israel, Beny Steinmetz, an Israeli mining magnate “tried to squirrel away $1 billion in Cook Islands”.
Also revealed in the Papers, “politically
connected” Sri Lankan, Thirukumar Nadesan, who is
married to a former member of Sri Lanka’s parliament, used the Cook Islands for
According to an ICIJ
article, Asiaciti Trust which is among the 14
offshore financial service providers, set up a trust for Nadesan in New Zealand and moved it to the Cook
Islands in 2012.
The article said the Cook Islands is a
jurisdiction that U.S law enforcement agencies
consider “vulnerable” to money laundering, with laws that protect trust
beneficiaries from court judgments.
Asiaciti Trust, also operates out of New
Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Nevi, Panama and Samoa.
Cook Islands News approached the branch
based in Avarua for comments on the Pandora Papers. Asiaciti Trust Cook
Islands’ managing director Tine Ponia said she could not comment on the leak
and directed the newspaper to the company’s media response.
The response from Asiaciti Trust said,
“the ICIJ and its partners have published a series of coordinated stories that
seek to negatively characterise our industry, company and clients. These
articles are based on incomplete and sometimes erroneous information, including
some confidential information that was illegally obtained from Asiaciti Trust
as part of a global attack on industry service providers.”
“Asiaciti Trust provides fiduciary
services to clients around the world. Our work is subject to stringent law and
regulation by the relevant authorities in each jurisdiction in which we
operate. We are committed to the highest business standards, including ensuring
that our operations fully comply with all laws and regulations.
“We maintain a strong compliance program
and each of our offices have passed third party audits for Anti-Money
Laundering & Counter-Financing of Terrorism practices in recent years,
which reflects our intense focus on this area.”
The response said media coverage by the
ICIJ was largely based on illegally obtained information that contains
“In many cases the stories published do
not represent all the facts or context of a situation. This has led to grossly
misleading inferences and conclusions about Asiaciti Trust,” the response said.
It said the Trust was bound by
confidentiality laws that restrict the company from commenting on specific
Cook Islands News also reached out
yesterday to Marie Francis, chief executive officer of Cook Islands Financial
Services Development Authority for comment.
But Francis asked for more details and
did not respond by the time this story went to print.
The Cook Islands Financial Services
Development Authority provides companies with offshore banking and asset