Friday, 30 October 2015

British taxpayers fork out £45m in foreign aid to paradise islands that charge NO TAX

Nations such as Belize, Marshall Islands, Seychelles and Vanautu - which are all included on a European Commission 'blacklist' of international tax havens - have all received cash handouts from the UK Government.
Under a controversial new law introduced by the Prime Minister, Britain is legally obliged to spend 0.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on foreign aid spending.
However, critics of the foreign aid commitment reacted with fury after it was revealed millions are being handed over to countries that set minimal or even zero tax rates.

An investigation by the Independent found that, for example, more than £1.8million of UK cash was given to the paradise Caribbean island of Anguilla in 2013.
This is despite the nation - which has an estimated population of less than 15,000 -  charging no income, capital gains or any other form of direct taxes on residents or companies, with it described as a "zero-tax jurisdiction".
In total, 13 countries included on the tax haven blacklist received £45million from the Department for International Development (DfID) in 2013, the most recent year for which aid spending figures are available.
These nations are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Liberia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Montserrat, Panama, Seychelles, St. Vincent & Grenadines and Vanuatu.
Earlier this month, Chancellor George Osborne repeated a promise to crackdown on international tax havens, which lose Britain billions in lost tax revenue each year.
John Christensen, director of the Tax Justice Network, blasted Britain's foreign aid spending in tax havens as "incoherent".
He told the newspaper: “Donor countries need to pay far more attention to whether aid-recipient countries are making sufficient effort to tax their wealthy citizens and tackle corporate tax avoidance.
"Tackling tax dodging is an important step towards reducing reliance on aid and external debt.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "We spend too much taxpayers' money on overseas aid and have taken the ludicrous decision to ringfence it too so bigger spending reductions have to be made elsewhere.
"We need to rethink our entire approach to aid and ensure it is going to the world's poorest and making their lives demonstrably better."
A spokesperson for the Department for International Development said countries where its aid was directed tended to be very poor.
She also said the UK has an international obligation to assist economic development in British Overseas Territories, which include Montserrat.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

John Denis refutes Baseless And False Allegations Against Him

Apre tou sa ki mwan John Denis monn fer pour esey amenn en sanzman Sesel, ozordi mon vwar mwan pe ganny ensilte par bann dimoun kin dan sa menm lalit ki mwan. An Septanm 2015 monn kit Sesel pour mwan al a letranze pou fer detrwa keksoz personel ek mon fanmiy. Mon ti fer tou dimoun otour mwan konenn ki mon pou absante pou enpe letan. Ozordi deryer mon ledo zot komans fer rimer lo mon lavi. Zot pe dir ki James Michel in pey mwan en kantite milyon pou mwan kit pei. Eksa kwa ki pli fermal , sa I sorti dan labous bann dimoun dan lopozisyon. Bann menm dimoun ki ler mwan mon tipe ekspoz bann voler dan gouvernman, zot zot tipe maske sa bann voler e protez zot. Mon pros pou bez nonm zot non sa bann karya…. Mon leker I desire ler mon tann tousala akoz mwan zanmen mon deza ganny en sou ek personn. Le 25 out 2014, mon ti ganny aprose par en state security agent kit i dir mwan prezidan I oule war mwan, e dapre li I pou fer mwan vin ris. Mon ti dir li ki mon pa oule larzan prezidan mwan, mon oule sanzman Sesel – plito mon mor en zonm mizer me avek mon dignite. Mon ti dir li ki mon pa pou zanmen vann mon nanm pour larzan. I dir mwan ki enn mon dalon in pran e I ris ozordi, mon ti reponn li; ‘’mon zonm pa tou fanm ki fanm devi, I annan ki vann e I annan ki annan dignite” - e ti konpran mwan.

I annan 17 an depi monn demann gouvernman aste en morso later leta e zanmen monn gannyen akoz mon afilyasyon politik. Monn ganny victimize dan diferan form dan sa pei e dernyenman mon lavi tipe menm ganny menase. Ozordi mon viktimizasyon I sorti dan mon prop kan. Mon kestyon mon demann mon lekor; ki ou kapab fer ek sa Seselwa nou nasyon? Eski sa I lafasyon pou remersye mwan pou mon zefor ki monn mete tou sa bann letan? Monn ganny beze dan sa lopozisyon, kaso mwan menm, toultan monn devan. Ozordi bann kapon kin toultan reste deryer pe akiz mwan pou en keksoz malonnet. Les mwan dir zot ki John Denis pa pou zanmen vann son nanm – larzan sorti kot James Michel se larzan DISAN. Tou sa kin pran sa bann kalite larzan, zot in amenn Karma lo zot lavi. Mwan lo mon lekor ek mon fanmiy mon pa pou zanmen amenn sa kalite malediksyon – plito nou reste mizer. Lopozisyon I devret pe konsantre lo sa eleksyon kip e vini e tir sa malfeter o pouvwar – ouver zot lizye get bann dimoun dan lopozisyon kip e pran larzan ek James Michel. Byento ki nou pou konnen lekel ki pe vreman pe vreman larzan. Bann kip e al fer PPB pou Parti lepep. Mwan mon konsyans I kler e mon ankor en zonm mizer parey monn toultan ete – sa ki mon annan I mon lasyer. Mwan de zour pase monn offer Ahmed Afif ek Ton Pat pou fer en PPB pour zot pour sa eleksyon. Mon pan fer PPB pou Parti lepep mwan – tasyon ler nou vwar bann kin fer nou bez en latak. Alexia Amsbury antraver Alexander Pierre in demann mwan si mon kapab ed zot pandan bann letan kanpany e monn aksepte. Mon pa travay pou demon parey James Michel mwan – mon travay pour lopozisyon menm si zot menm ki ensilte mwan. Mon pardonn zot avek akoz mon leker I ankor toultan ek zot. Ozordi mon pe demann tou dimoun ki annan levidans ki monn ganny larzan ek James Michel pou vin devan e montre lemonn – akoz mwan larzan DISAN mon repete mon pa oule dan mon lavi.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Trouble in paradise as election gets dirty

Opposition parties in the island paradise of the Seychelles have cried foul after the lead challenger to the president in coming elections was arrested over what they say are trumped up charges of molesting a Sri Lankan “houseboy”.

Patrick Pillay, a former High Commissioner to Britain who welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the islands for their honeymoon four years ago, was questioned by police last week and is now waiting to hear whether the Attorney General will charge him.
A former minister, in April he announced the birth of a breakaway party from the Parti Lepep, the all-powerful ruling group which has in various incarnations run the country for 36 years.

He is accused of bringing a 30-year-old Sri Lankan, Gihan Fernando, to the principal island of Mahe against his will, forcing him to work as a virtual slave between December last year and February this year, and making sexual advances towards him.

The “revelations” came just a month before Seychellois were due to go to the polls to either elect a new president or return to office James Michel, the incumbent and protege of France Rene, the islands’ former dictator. Mr Michel has himself been at the helm for 11 years.

Mr Pillay insists the charges hanging over him are a sign of the government’s “panic” over the first serious political challenge to its hegemony for decades.
He questioned how his accuser found the money to return to the Indian Ocean archipelago from the Sri Lankan village where he lives in penury, claiming he had been put up in a five-star hotel and given police protection during his visit.

The government has turned on Mr Pillay after he broke away from the ruling party and announced his decision to stand for the new Lalyans Seselwa (Seychellois Alliance) party. Mr Michel has publicly called him a "traitor".

The affair of the Sri Lankan houseboy took another twist after Mr Pillay claimed that the night after he was questioned his house on the normally crime-free slopes of Morne Blanc mountain was broken into and his pet puppy Goldie fatally stabbed.

Other opposition parties have rallied round Mr Pillay and hinted that they may now form a coalition to try to bring down the government if the “acts of intimidation, threats and accusations” continued.
In a meeting with the electoral commission, Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party denounced the Fernando case as one of “government abusing State resources” and said the accusations against Mr Pillay were an attempt to “denigrate, humiliate and destroy him”.

Another presidential candidate, Alexia Amesbury, the first woman to run for office in the country, told the commission that eight of her dogs had also been killed, her family had been followed and threatened and her mobile phones were “being interfered with”.
“What kind of regime acts in this cowardly fashion?” she asked.

The electoral commission has responded by delaying the election to December. Meanwhile an official from the ruling party told The Telegraph that Seychellois opposition parties were just being vocal in their complaints.
“It’s strange how it’s always the opposition these things happen to,” the unnamed man, who described himself as a member of the party’s central executive committee said.
The party declined to comment further.

Political intrigue is nothing new in the island paradise, where everyone knows everyone in a population of just 90,000 and the same family names crop up regularly in the island’s real estate and tourism industries as well as in political and government circles.

A prominent exiled opponent of Mr RenĂ© was shot and killed on his London doorstep in November 1985, and in February 1992 another alleged coup attempt, purported to have the backing of the CIA and more foreign mercenaries, was put down – the last attempt to overthrow the government by force.

Alex Vines, Africa Director for the Chatham House think-tank, said the country’s traditional reputation for opacity made it a magnet for money launderers and those involved in the international drugs trade.
“At one point, there was the offer of residency and even a passport – advertised in the British Airways magazine at one point I believe – if you invested a large amount of money in property there,” he said.

Among foreigners who have sunk their money into the Seychelles is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the president of the United Arab emirates, who built a vast new palace with 360-degree views across the Indian Ocean on a former US Air Force base.
The project prompted riots after its sewage plant allowed diesel and raw effluent to seep into local water sources, prompting its 800 nearest residents to lodge claims against Sheikh Khalifa for potential repercussions.

“The ruling party is less confident this time than it would have been in previous years,” said one local analyst, who did not wish to be named. “There is a lot of effort going into the campaign and ministerial teams have been grounded from all foreign travel.”
The analyst said the allegations against Mr Pillay were no surprise. “The suggestion of homosexuality, a big taboo in many African countries, is the best way to smear people.”
Neither Mr Pillay, nor the Seychellois police spokesman Jean Toussaint, nor a spokesman for the ruling party could be reached for comment.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Sars seizes crystal meth worth over R16 million at OR Tambo International

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) on Thursday said its officials had seized crystal meth worth more than R16-million at OR Tambo International Airport this week.

Sars issued a statement following Wednesday’s seizure of a bag containing 20.6kg of the drug that “had come to South Africa from Abu Dhabi via the Seychelles”.
The discovery came after customs officials “stopped two baggage handlers for questioning and decided to search an unaccompanied bag that they had in their possession”.
“The officers became suspicious after detecting a strong smell of glue and sent the bag for a scan‚” Sars said.
“Customs’ new high-tech baggage scanner revealed an image of a concentrated substance and the bag was then physically searched.”
The crystal meth they uncovered was valued at R6.18-million. Sunday saw customs officials discovering more that R10-million worth of crystal meth in a passenger’s baggage after stopping him for a random inspection after he had arrived on a flight from Dar es Salaam.
“After the scanner revealed suspicious images‚ the bags were searched. The officer found plastic bags filled with a powdery substance‚ which turned out to be crystal meth‚” Sars said.


Sunday, 11 October 2015

A Billion-Dollar Shell Game in Seychelles

An Indian-born oligarch who purchased M.C. Hammer’s former mansion in California may have followed the previous owner into decadence and bankruptcy, but, unlike the bejeweled and balloon-panted rapper, this flamboyant figure appears to have benefited from the relaxed laws of an island nation to keep his assets out of the hands of his creditors.
 Once the owner of an estimated $3 billion business empire, largely founded on India’s telecom industry, Chinnakannan Sivasankaran, or Siva as his friends call him, filed for bankruptcy in August 2014 in Seychelles, following his loss, in British High Court, of a civil case brought against him by an erstwhile partner, a subsidiary of the Bahrain Telecommunications Company, or Batelco.
It was decided that Siva and his Bermuda-registered company Siva Limited should pay the Gulf-based company $212 million by June 26, 2014. 

However, even before the trial began, the oligarch used his Seychellois citizenship, to arrange a swift legal split from his wife, to whom he then transferred at least $95 million in assets—39 plots of land, one island and numerous corporate holdings registered in Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands, including those that owned even more real estate—as part of the divorce settlement. (That transfer, in fact, took place on May 14, 2014, a day before Siva testified in court on the Batelco case.)
Not that bankruptcy would have necessarily hurt Batelco’s chances of recovering their money under Seychelles’ prior law on insolvency. But about a year after Siva lost his case in Britain, the island nation “reformed” its bankruptcy statute, first introduced by Seychelles Finance Minister Jean Paul Adam, thereby shortening the timespan of official bankruptcy from three years to one and also making it more difficult for creditors to collect from the new owners of transferred assets.
That change occurred mere weeks before Siva became the first person in the history of Seychelles to file for bankruptcy. To date, he is also the only person to have done so, before or after the law changed. He hasn’t paid Batelco a cent and his actual financial relationship with his former wife remains a mystery. 

The whole story, uncovered by The Daily Beast, highlights the role of questionable offshore tax shelters, of which Seychelles is a small but hyper-caffeinated example, in allowing an international elite to transcend borders and sovereign jurisdictions in order to safeguard their assets.
The 59-year-old Siva first rose to prominence in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu in the mid-1980s after he acquired Sterling Computers and sold cut-rate PCs in a burgeoning subcontinental tech industry, transforming the company into one of India’s top three in its field.  Frequently adorned with gold Rolexes and known for his obsession with health food and personal fitness, Siva formerly lived and worked out of presidential suites at the Ritz Carlton and Pan Pacific hotels in Singapore. He spent in excess of $80 million to buy himself three personal jets because, as he put it, “Every week, I have at least three flights to catch.”
 As a “back-up plan,” in 2008 Siva also became the first member of Dragon Blaze, a “luxury lifestyle” concern run out of Malaysia, which grants its members access to fleet of even more comfortable aerial and aquatic conveyances. (The annual membership is $1 million.)

Over the past four decades, he's had a hand in all sorts of things: engineering, shipping, commodities trading and alternative energy. According to NGO Grain, an international non-profit that supports small farmers, his Siva Group gobbled up about “a million hectares of land in the Americas, Africa and Asia, primarily for oil palm plantations,” making him “one of the world’s largest farmland holders.” 
Siva aimed to set up a new U.S. operation by relocating to Fremont, California, in 1996, buying M.C. Hammer’s mansion following the latter’s own loss of fortune, but by the mid-2000s, he opted to move to Seychelles and became a full citizen. This decision was followed almost immediately by his nomination as ambassador-at-large. 
In a 2008 U.S. State Department cable published by WikiLeaks, U.S. diplomats relayed statements by Ralph Vocere, “editor of a local paper and member of an opposition party,” alleging that Siva was part of a Seychellois “business mafia” that was buying land from the Seychelles government at the expense of a battered and hopelessly corrupt national economy — this, as the nation was seeking bailouts from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

 “[N]o one can deny that Siva has profited from his time in Seychelles,” the cable states.  “He now owns many business [sic], three islands in the Seychelles archipelago, and was nominated Ambassador-at-Large by President Michel after only being in Seychelles for about a year. Soon after awarding him the position, the Government of Seychelles [GOS] requested a U.S. diplomatic visa for Ambassador-at-Large Siva.  When Post requested information as to the plans and nature of the diplomatic trips planned by Siva, the GOS withdrew the application.”  
By 2008, Siva was one of Seychelles’ largest landowners.  He also donated an unspecified sum to the creation of Espace, a 6,500-square meter, $12 million performance-and-shopping centre in Victoria, Seychelles’ capital. It was the project of a youth organization called JJ Spirit Foundation, the patron of which is none other than Seychelles President James Michel. The opening ceremony for Espace occurred just days after the British High Court judgment against Siva.
Seychelles has been called the “world’s first socialist tax haven,” with a post-colonial history tethered closely to Italian mafia and South African apartheid, according to reports.  With a population of a mere 89,000 — smaller than that of Flint, Michigan — Seychelles has adopted an ask-no-questions economic policy catering to a jet-set, billionaire class of foreigner who travels there not to luxuriate in the tropical paradise where Kate and Wills honeymooned, but to set up companies for the purposes of moving GDP-sized amounts of money around the world.  
Much of Seychelles’ economy functions as a service industry for nominee directorships and hassle-free corporate filings. As such, according to the Independent Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Seychelles is “an offshore magnet for money launderers and tax dodgers,” a reputation owing, ICIJ finds, a great deal to the dubious company kept by its president and his coterie of advisors.
In the past two years alone, all sorts have passed through Seychelles including a mobbed-up Slovakian businessman accused of murder and the son-in-law of former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who lives there still, free from the threat of extradition on the pretext that he’d not receive a “free and fair” trial in post-revolutionary Tunis, where he has been sentenced to 16 years in jail on corruption chargesAt least four shell companies that launder stolen Russian taxpayer money, connected to the notorious Magnitsky affair, were established in the Seychelles. And the unscrupulousness is by no means confined to authoritarian regimes. In 2011, it was discovered that a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia moved millions in bribes through Seychellois companies. A year later, two Israelis pleaded guilty in the U.S. for running an unlawful online pharmacy through similar legal structures.
“We're seeing the abuse of companies that are either registered in Seychelles, or use nominee directors from there, to hide assets or conduct dubious activity,” says Tom Mayne, a specialist in offshore jurisdictions formerly affiliated with the transparency watchdog Global Witness.
With such precedents, then, fast-tracking a divorce seems a modest request. Documents obtained by The Daily Beast indicate that Siva filed a motion for his petition to divorce Jayalakshmi Sivasankaran to be processed as a matter of urgency, citing the former’s need to travel, and in camera, so as to not to interfere with Siva’s role as diplomat.  
The divorce was filed and temporarily granted within three days. A second petition was then filed to speed up the time for which it takes a Seychellois divorce to become absolute from six weeks to four.  The entire dissolution of marriage and transfer of close to $100 million in assets took about a month and concluded at the end of April, 2014.  Other documents obtained by The Daily Beast indicate, however,  that Jayalakshmi and Siva’s father both resided at the same address in India as of late August, 2014 — four months after she became the former Mrs. Siva. 
On June 12, 2014, the British High Court ordered Siva to pay $212 million to Batelco. Had he not got the time for the finalization of his divorce reduced to a month, there’s every chance that he’d have still been legally married to Jayalakshmi when the decision came down and that the $100 million in assets he granted her in the quicky settlement would therefore be susceptible to seizure to satisfy the judgment.
June was also the month that Seychelles’ National Assembly, where President Michel’s ruling party controls 31 of the 32 seats, discussed an insolvency amendment shrinking the time for an individual’s state of bankruptcy from three years to one and making it more difficult for receivers to try and recoup reassigned assets from the legally broke. The amendment passed soon thereafter.
And the timing was just right for Siva. On July 16, Britain’s High Court issued a Worldwide Freezing Injunction on all of Siva’s assets. It was a month later that he became the first Seychellois citizen to ever file for bankruptcy under the country’s newer, more favorable conditions for doing so.
Also interesting are the other assets he transferred that summer. One was a large Canadian property located in British Columbia —279 Anna's Drive, Salt Spring Island— which Siva Limited gave to Axcel Sunshine, British Virgin Island-registered company. According to Companies House, Britain’s corporate registry, the director and 25 percent-owner of Axcel Sunshine is a woman named Nithyavathi Venkatesan. As of 2004, her listed address was 44896 Vista Del Sol, Fremont, California — the M.C. Hammer mansion owned at that time by Siva. The sale documents were allegedly signed on July 11, 2014, five days before the High Court freezing order, but the transfer was not actually filed until July 22. 
“Notice how it works," said Ben Judah, author of a forthcoming book on London and an anti-corruption campaigner. “It shows that nation-states have become obsolete in the policing of the mega-rich.”
Siva did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on this story.