Business Irish

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Property developer and university lecturer named in new Panama Papers disclosures

Simon Rowe

A well-known Belfast-based property developer, a former university lecturer, and the industrial design firm behind Belfast's Titanic building and the new €10m Aer Lingus HQ at Dublin Airport are among those named in the latest disclosures from the Panama Papers - the leaked files of the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm, one of the largest providers of offshore services in the world.

Well-known Belfast-based property tycoon Robert Wilson appears in the latest leaked Panama Papers in relation to a British Virgin Islands company Makosi Consulting Services.

The Wilson Group boss is listed as a beneficiary of British Virgin Islands based company Makosi Consulting Services Ltd which is linked to Gibraltar-based company STM Fidecs Management Ltd. The company was incorporated in February 2006 and is still 'active', according to leaked files.

Whitehead Properties, a company within the Wilson Group, is also listed as a shareholder of Makosi Consulting Services Ltd.

A request for comment from Mr Wilson met with no response.

Late last year US vulture fund Cerberus, the firm at the centre of a cross-border probe into the Project Eagle loan book sale by Nama, appointed receivers to a number of properties associated with the Belfast-based group.

Receivers were appointed to a Wilson firm in the Republic of Ireland, Ballybay Estates. Ballybay Estates, registered in the Republic of Ireland, had Bank of Ireland loans of around €6.5m which had been transferred to Nama and then purchased by Cerberus.

A firm linked to the Wilson Group also owns a development site in Rathoe, Co Carlow.

There is nothing illegal about using offshore companies and there is no suggestion intended that the people named here were involved in any illegality.

Another Belfast-based company linked to the Panama Papers leaks is Belfast-based engineering firm EDM Spanwall. The industrial design firm built the façade at the Titanic Visitor Centre, as well as the Blanchardstown Centre and Aer Lingus' new HQ at Dublin Airport.

EDM Ceco, with an address at the firm's Carryduff headquarters in Belfast, is listed as a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands based firm Stallion Services. Stallion Services' agent is listed as Mossack Fonseca. The firm is also linked to STM Fidecs Management Limited.

Company accounts for Stallion Services, incorporated in 2004, state that the company is resident in the UK for tax purposes.

A former university lecturer, Dr Bernard Cullen, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Queens University, Belfast, and current chairman of Libraries NI, is a company director of a property development company - Torrian Estates Limited - listed in Panama Papers files.

Torrian Estates Limited is listed as a shareholder in Panache Development Services Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, and linked to Gibraltar-based STM Fidecs Trust Ltd.

Well-known Ulster-based accountant Rory Burns is also named in the offshore leaks.

Burns is a founding member of Belfast-based accountancy firm Hill Vellacott. He managed several companies and was the group financial director of a global ticketing business with a combined turnover in excess of £120m. He is listed as a shareholder in Seatem Group Holdings Limited, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 1995 and linked to Jersey-based Salamanca Group Trust. The company went into liquidation in 2010.

Mr Burns confirmed the details of the company structure but denied "there was anything smart about it". He said US shareholders in Seatem Group wanted to seal a business deal in the UK involving Wembley PLC

"They wanted complete confidentiality and it was recommended to them that Panama was the best place to do that," he said. The Panama Papers involved a giant leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records.

Sunday Indo Business

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