are linked through a five-bedroomed terraced house - in London's
Belgravia, one of the wealthiest districts in the world and just a
stone's throw from Buckingham Palace.
connection is made through a complex web of offshore companies and
trusts, established to obscure the beneficial ownership of the
documents from the files of notorious Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca
show the exclusive address is owned by Zarek Investments Limited. It
is the company of Diana Battaglia - the daughter of former Kazakhstan
Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin.
Kazakhstan Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Photo: Youtube
/ Andrey Petrov
Kazhegeldin appears on the electoral roll as resident at the same
was registered in the British Virgin Islands, a known tax haven, by
Mossack Fonseca. In turn, it's administered by a New Zealand company
- owned by Geoffrey Cone's Auckland law firm Cone Marshall.
extent of this country's involvement in the global money-go-round and
intricate asset management and protection industry is showcased by
more than 61,000 documents in the leak of papers from the Panamanian
known as the Panama Papers.
exclusive London home held in the name of Zarek Investments
Limited. Photo: Supplied
layers of international companies are typical of complex structures
used by the real owners who want to stay anonymous.
who has British and Venezuelan passports, doesn't live behind the
glossy black-painted door. It's home to her father, his wife Natalaya
and son Magzhan.
been in exile for almost two decades, sentenced in his absence to 10
years in prison on corruption charges.
2003, Battaglia paid more than $6.5 million (£3m) for the 19th
century property. The title deeds were immediately transferred to
Zarek Investments Limited. At the time, Zarek was administered
through a trust and a wealth management company, based in Jersey.
a 'politically exposed person'
years pass, and the family apparently decide to change the
complicated arrangements to include another entity: the Sintash
Foundation. The primary beneficiary - the individual first in line to
receive any benefits - is Battaglia's mother, Natalaya.
this shake-up alarms Mossack Fonseca. Emails fly between their
compliance department and the Jersey firm.
Panama, they have realised that Kazhegeldin is a "politically
exposed person." Their research revealed his role in a
corruption scandal in the central Asia country. After three years as
Prime Minister, Kazhegeldin had resigned in 1997 and fled his home
country. He was then accused of tax evasion and using stolen funds to
buy property in Belgium.
years later, in his absence, he was convicted of abuse of office by a
Kazakh court - including charges that he took bribes from a mining
company and received a Mercedes and Toyota car.
Diana Battaglia's UK passport, as it appears in the Panama Papers. Photo: Supplied
among the Kazakh political elite is rampant, but for most of the last
twenty years Kazhegeldin has been fighting the claims from his new
home in the West. He says they are politically motivated and stem
from a feud with long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.
the face of Kazhegeldin's past history, the Jersey company moved to
reassure Mossack Fonseca about their mutual client, Battaglia. "We
are aware of the information in the public domain [he]…has no role
in any of the structures," one staffer writes. His only link is
as father of the beneficiaries.
a later email, they write: "All funds introduced to the existing
structures have come from Diana Battaglia and it is anticipated that
any future funds will also come from Diana Battaglia…[her] source
of wealth is from divorce settlement; No funds will be introduced
into the structure from Mr Akezhan [sic]."
Fonseca are not reassured. They are told money to buy the house came
from Battaglia's $7.1 million (£3.25m) divorce settlement. But
Battaglia paid $8.2 million (£3.75m). So, they ask, where did the
shortfall come from?
Graphic: James Sandy
Jersey agents write back: "Ms Battaglia received shares in
various publishing houses in Eastern Europe (the family business of
her ex-husband), which she has since sold. She has retained the
proceeds from the sale of these shares personally."
the Panama lawyers are not satisfied and their questions drag into
2010. They complain about a lack of official papers to identify
Battaglia and her brother.
emails (translated from Spanish), one staffer expresses surprise that
the family can't come up with a utility bill: "Even cable,
cellular etc? This would be very rare in the UK !!"
also writes: "And you know why they did not send us one single
bank reference? I think we should be very, very, very careful about
this and not be pressed…until we already feel comfortable with
everything about this new customer please."
colleague says that he's been researching the family and found: "Mr
Kazhegeldin is illicitly enriched by advantage of his position of
Prime Minister to control the oil and gas business in Kazakhstan."
He goes on: "I have strong doubts about the legitimacy of the
stand guard outside the Mossack Fonseca law firm offices in Panama
City earlier this year.Photo: AFP
the Jersey agents are ready with an answer. They claim she's not able
to provide a utility bill because "all bills are paid either via
a management company or by her partner and that all bank statements
are sent to a PO Box address because she travels extensively."
dozens of exchanges, Mossack Fonseca can't get satisfactory answers
and decide to "close the case".
the family remain on their books. And the following year, Cone
Marshall are introduced into the complex structure.
business and flamingoes in Uruguay
administration of Zarek Investments is transferred to the central
Auckland law firm. It becomes a shareholder and nominee office
holder. The firms principals Cone and Karen Marshall become its
directors. A senior associate asked for "up-to-date"
information, including passports and proof of address.
Mossack Fonseca don't appear to pass on their earlier concerns about
also gets a new director: Antonio Danelon who is based in Lugano
Switzerland. Three years later, he's replaced by Essex-based
Soobaschand Seebaluck. Cone Marshall handle the paperwork.
Marshall were among
several firms who
lobbied the Government in 2014 over fears the trust industry would be
shut down by Inland Revenue. It followed a troubling report in which
IRD warned the Government that the industry was criticised around the
world "along the lines that we are a tax haven."
weeks ago the leaked computer archives of Mossack Fonseca shone the
spotlight on how prominent politicians, business leaders and
celebrities were using the firm to run offshore entities to keep
their finances secret.
Panama Papers revealed Mossack Fonseca and Cone Marshall had an
active business relationship, dating back to 2009. Legal news website
Law Fuel has described Geoffrey Cone as "[the
quintessential offshore lawyer."
Uruguayan home featured
recently in a lifestyle magazine -
with a picture of Cone reclining on the lawn, shirt unbuttoned. At
Casa Marron, Cone and his wife lead a "laid back lifestyle"
with pink flamingos on the lawn and "wild and legendary
the glossy spread, Cone's New York-based wife is quoted as saying:
"We have developed rather eccentric habits. Whenever I've
completely trashed a ball gown, I 'retire it to Uruguay', so I wear
old ball dresses around."
declined an interview, citing client confidentiality. In a written
statement he wrote: "The information we hold, and our
understanding of the background and additional information we have
obtained from London overnight, differ from that apparently held by
Nicky Hager, RNZ and TVNZ. Given we are not allowed to review the
information they hold, we regret we cannot comment further to clarify
later added: "Mr Kazhegeldin has no legal interest in the
secrecy and security
London, the family were also unwilling to talk about their
arrangements. At the home, we were told they didn't live there. But
hours after our visit an intermediary called and asked to meet.
family were anxious about their safety, which is why they were
secretive, he explained.
when we put a series of detailed questions to him, the family refused
any more contact. We were "manifestly wrong," they said.
were unwilling to explain why the family appear on the public
electoral role at that address - and the lack of security precautions
at the home, which opens up onto a street in one of London's busiest
based anti-corruption agency Global
found London's high-end property market is a go-to destination to
give questionable funds from the oil-rich nation a veneer of
respectability - including large tracts of the capital's famous Baker
Zealand's loose disclosure rules means foreigners behind trusts and
companies can stay secret, because they don't have to be declared.
But Global Witness campaigner Eleanor Nichol says it's a risk to the
the wake of the Panama Papers leak, the government ordered a review
of foreign trust rules and promised greater disclosure. Nichol says
the "devil will be in the detail."
need to see this being out into action, otherwise New Zealand does
risk becoming known as a hub for this kind of activity."
investigation into New Zealand links in the Panama Papers is a
journalistic collaboration by reporters from RNZ, One News and
investigative journalist Nicky Hager, and with the assistance of the
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German
newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.