NZ shell firms' link to billion-dollar deals

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 05:00 02/12/2012

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A Russian woman and a Cypriot yoga teacher are at the centre of a complex shell-company operation involving billions of dollars moving through two Auckland-based internet foreign exchange companies.

Marina Nebyshenkova touts the benefits of alpari-forex.com, a web address registered in Newmarket, Auckland, and claiming to do monthly business worth $255 billion - nearly twice New Zealand's annual gross domestic product.

Befriended on Facebook and asked what she was doing, she declined to comment.

"All the information about our activities can be found on the website."

Cypriot Lana Zamba, who may not even exist, is the registered owner of the web address forextime.com which claims to operate a forex operation in Stanley St, Auckland.

Lawyer David Campbell, who produced documentation for the Companies Office for both sites, says they have no New Zealand customers.

Forextime and Alpari NZ registration documents feature names long associated with New Zealand shell companies that have been used in Eastern Europe for money laundering, terrorist financing, tax evasion and corruption.

Anybody in the world can register a company in New Zealand and a spokesman for the Financial Markets Authority said forex trading was unregulated here.

This past week the Guardian, BBC and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began a major year-long project to track shell companies.

They have identified dozens of "nominee directors and shareholders" who allow their names to be used in shell companies, giving protection to the real owner.

Neither of the New Zealand operations publish accounts but the ICIJ and Eastern European advocacy groups claim a major way of getting black money out of Russia involves forex trading and shell companies headed by nominees like Zamba, who was a director of 70 companies in New Zealand until she and the companies were struck off the register.

She is the registered owner of "forextime.com".

Until April 2012, Alpari NZ Ltd, of the same address, was "owned" by Sean Lee Hogan of Cyprus. ICIJ's research shows Hogan is director of at least 864 companies, including those in New Zealand.

Forextime provides a "registration number" on its website that proved to be the NZ Companies Office file for Forextime NZ Ltd.

It had an Auckland phone number. A recorded message said it was only open between 5am and 6pm GMT but it was not answered during that time.

Its sole shareholder is Yiangos Yiangou of Cyprus, its director is Barry-John Julian Sveistrup of Auckland. When the Sunday Star-Times called at Stanley St there was no reference to Forextime but the open-plan floor was occupied by men working an online directory, gopher.co.nz.

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Sveistrup initially denied knowing what Forextime was. He later texted to say Campbell would respond only to email questions. Campbell confirmed Forextime was leasing the address, and said Zamba had no connection with it. Asked about her ownership of the web address he said "we do not know her or anything about her".

Alpari's Newmarket address doubled as Campbell's law office.

A bill sponsored by Commerce Minister Craig Foss to tighten up company creation in New Zealand is languishing in Parliament but may be passed into law next year.

- This article has been corrected.

- Sunday Star Times

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