12 May 2016

NZ man linked to fugitive: 'I've never heard of him'

10:57 am on 12 May 2016

Panama Papers NZ - A New Zealander named in Parliament today in connection with a US fugitive, who once hid assets in NZ, says he hasn't done anything wrong.

Calvin Ayre

Nicolaas Francken has been linked to Calvin Ayre (pictured) through one of his company's shareholdings Photo: Facebook

The Panama Papers have revealed internet gambling tycoon Calvin Edward Ayre used a web of offshore companies - including a trust in New Zealand called the Adaman Trust - to move his money around.

Nicolaas Francken has companies registered in Dunedin and has been linked to Calvin Ayre through one of his company's shareholdings in Elegant Step Group Limited.

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark named Mr Francken in connection with the case of Calvin Ayre in Parliament.

NZ First MP, Ron Mark.

NZ First MP, Ron Mark. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"Is Dunedin based Incom Trustees Limited and its sole New Zealand director, Nicolaas Francken, preserving our reputation by helping to hide the assets of indicted gambling billionaire, Calvin Ayre."

Speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister John Key, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English told Parliament he had no idea.

"But with respect to New Zealand's international reputation there is no evidence for the assertions of the opposition that for tax policy and transparency in question."

The documents in Mossack Fonseca's database don't show any wrongdoing by Mr Ayre - as it is not necessarily illegal to have offshore companies - but do show how he moved money between tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and the British Virgin Islands.

The documents show a company, Elegant Step Group Limited, was set up by Mr Ayre - under the name Calvin Wilson - and his sister Anita Rose Ayre.

Eventually all shares in that were shifted to Incom Trustees Limited (with a Dunedin address) which itself was a trustee of a New Zealand trust called Adaman Trust.

Mr Francken, a director of Incom Trustees, now lives in Singapore.

He said he was surprised his name had come in the New Zealand Parliament, and that he had never knowingly done business with anyone conducting questionable business.

Mr Francken said his current business, I.N. Fiduciary Services Group, was a private trustee company, providing fiduciary services to clients worldwide.

"Before we agree to act we investigate our clients and obtain full information on their source of funds, background etc.

"Sometimes we rely on information obtained by colleagues provided they are fully regulated and must adhere to the same high standards of business as we do."

He said his company never disclosed information about their clients except with their prior approval in writing or with a court order.

"However, I can say that I have never heard of Mr. Calvin Ayer."

He said he had had no dealings with Mossack Fonseca, and the shareholding in Elegant Step Group was arranged by a reputable company in Geneva.

But he said he did intend to go and ask more detailed questions of the Swiss company, about the Elegant Step Group shareholding.

RNZ repeatedly tried to contact Mr Ayre. On his Facebook page, he has attempted to explain the link, by saying the article is mostly fiction.

He said it's all based on one company that his sister set up for him to hold a house in Thailand.

Calvin Edward Ayre has a web of offshore companies - including a trust in New Zealand.

Calvin Edward Ayre has a web of offshore companies - including a trust in New Zealand. Photo: Facebook

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