Posts Tagged ‘tom ward’

April 2013

Canadian’s firm used in huge Russian tax scandal

CBC News

It’s a tale with the cloak-and-dagger intrigue of a Hollywood thriller: a $230-million heist, corrupt Russian police and government officials, prison beatings, a dead lawyer, Kafkaesque trials and a diplomatic spat between international superpowers.

And now, for the first time, secret files reveal how a Canadian-run offshore company in the Caribbean enabled the transfer of some of that money into a labyrinth of shell corporations around the world in a scandal known as the Magnitsky affair.

The company, Commonwealth Trust Limited or CTL, operated out of the British Virgin Islands, one of the most secretive jurisdictions in the shadowy world of offshore finance. Founded by Toronto millionaire Tom Ward, CTL’s business was registering and administering new BVI corporations for a global clientele.

While there’s no evidence CTL or Ward actively participated in schemes to rob the Russian treasury, documents found amid a massive leak of financial records indicate that the company often failed to check who its real clients were and what they were up to — a practice that allowed the colossal fraud at the heart of the Magnitsky case to unfurl.

“In a sense, CTL became a really good tool in the toolkit of organized criminals,” said Jamison Firestone, a lawyer who represented the company victimized in the Russian heist.

“Organized criminals figure out, ‘Who can we contact to help us move money? Who can we contact to set up offshore companies and help us open bank accounts abroad?’ It’s because firms like CTL exist that this stuff can go on.”

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