Elvis impersonator's shell company kingdom

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 10:03 30/07/2012

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A bankrupt Tauranga couple who dabble in "energy therapies" run a business that mass- produces offshore financial company shells, several of which have drawn the attention of international authorities.

Darryl Jensen is a twice- bankrupted former taxi driver known locally as an Elvis Presley 'tribute artist'. Both he and his homemaker wife, Joan Hansford- Jensen, were bankrupted on May 14, 2010, over more than $200,000 owed to the Inland Revenue Department.

The couple advertise their 'energy therapies' online as being able to 'remove energy blocks to healing,' but they are better- known by the Companies Office for turning their Parkvale home into a financial hub.

A total of 37 companies - including many with registration as New Zealand Financial Services Providers - have the Jensens' home listed as their address for service, and the couple have been involved in filing formation papers for many more.

This address was the registered office of a company a Peru-based American used to run a US$25 million forex Ponzi scheme. Another company registered by the Jensens, chaired by a colourful Australian, promised a small Nelson mining company $100 million in finance in return for a [Euro]4m upfront fee.

Jensen was unwilling to talk to the Sunday Star-Times last week about his booming company registration business.

'No comment, I'm not interested in speaking about it,' he said.

The Official Assignee said while the terms of the Jensens' bankruptcy prevents them from being directors, their acting as company formation agents for offshore financial outfits 'does not breach insolvency law'.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Development said while there was no breach of legislation, they were aware of the Jensen's activities.

'The Companies Office's corporate risk profiling team closely monitors the activities of all company formation agents as part of their ongoing compliance work,' the spokesman said.

The activities of the Jensens are perfectly legal under current New Zealand law - and they are not responsible for the actions of the companies once they transfer them to others - but the Companies and Limited Partnerships Bill, which had its first reading in Parliament last week, will require changes to their business.

The bill will require New Zealand registered companies to have a local director or agent, who will be responsible for the company's actions.

Many Jensen-formed companies now have single directors based in offshore jurisdictions such as Panama and Cyprus.

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The Jensen's Parkvale address was used as the registered office, through their company Auckland Banshares, of the New Zealand-registered First Capital Savings & Loan (FCS&L)

American man Jeffrey Lowrance used FCS&L to run what United States authorities described as a forex Ponzi scheme. Lowrance used the company to accept investors' funds into its Dutch bank accounts.

According to documents filed with the United States courts, Lowrance was extradited from Peru in 2011 and earlier this month pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges. He is expected to be sentenced in September to at least 10 years in prison.

Investment Suisse, another Jensen-formed company, was last year touting its services to businesses offering large-scale financing. The company is chaired by the colourful, and self-styled Australian knight Sir Robert Cowley.

Robert Cottle, the chief executive of small Nelson mining firm Infratech Minerals, was referred to Investment Suisse by his American-based broker and visited Cowley in London last year. Cottle said the New Zealand-registered firm gave the impression of being an impressive operation.

'Their storyline is very convincing, and they claimed to have billions of dollars in credit lines and trading instruments,' he said.

Cottle said he was offered $100m in financing, a deal "that looked too good to be true', but he walked away from Investment Suisse after being told it would cost [Euro]4m to progress his loan application.

'Giving away [Euro]4m for no guaranteed return is never a great idea,' Cottle said.

In 1990 London newspaper The Times reported the UK fraud squad were seeking to interview Cowley in relation to his company Investment Management Suisse over complaints large 'arrangement fees' were accepted for venture capital funding that never arrived.

In 2009 Swiss financial regulators included Investment Suisse in a list of suspect financial entities.

'An entry in the list does not necessarily imply that an activity is illegal. However, the investors shall become aware that the listed institutions are not licensed,' Swiss authorities said of Investment Suisse.

And in a late twist, the New Zealand company Investment Suisse was taken over earlier this year by English businessman Sundareswaran Mohanan, who renamed the outfit Chartered Savings and Loan.

Mohanan, who previously had worked for Investment Suisse as relationship manager, said he no longer had any ties to Cowley and was not advertising his services to New Zealanders.

He said his company had yet to transact any business, but was keen on using the entity as a foothold into Asia.

'I was interested that your prime minister was promoting New Zealand as a financial hub in Asia. That's what caught me,' he said.

Mohanan was reconsidering Chartered's future after hearing the Companies and Limited Partnerships Bill would require him to enlist a local director or agent.

'It is seeming like more trouble than it's worth,' he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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