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Adventures in Paradise… A trip to Bermuda draws an odd call from the government

December 12, 2017 - Author: bdadmin

by Will Fitzgibbon | source

Will found taxi drivers were proud promoters of Bermuda’s offshore industry.

Will found taxi drivers were proud promoters of Bermuda’s offshore industry.

Having said cheerio a few days earlier to Bermuda and its sparkling pink beaches, immaculate streets, potent rum Swizzle cocktails, colorful shorts and dark kneesocks, I was back at my grey desk in Washington grinding through some incorporation records and bank statements when the phone rang.

Bermuda’s Department of Immigration calling.

“Someone” had handed over my business card, an agent said by way of explanation for the call.

What was the purpose of my recent trip to Bermuda? an agent asked, more or less out of nowhere. What had I done in there?

A bit of a swim, I replied. A little tourism. Some…research. In a flash, the call was over.

“Well, that felt like a warning,” I decided after hanging up.

The unexpected phone call was one of the odder moments in reporting on the Paradise Papers, an investigation into the offshore financial secrets of politicians, moguls, and some of the world’s most profitable companies.

A large chunk of the 13.4 million files that make up the Paradise Papers came from Appleby, a global offshore firm founded in Bermuda.

Understanding Appleby, one of the world’s most prestigious offshore legal advisors, would be key, I thought, to understanding the offshore sector, which has drawn increasing attention from governments, asset recovery lawyers, activists, and average Joes and Janes.

I had spent the previous 10 months at my desk in ICIJ’s Farragut Square offices reading spreadsheets, bank statements, emails and other documents.

In doing so, I had learned a lot about Appleby and where it fit into this global system of secrecy and tax avoidance: how much money it made (more than $100 million a year), how it fought off lawsuits (“hope that the plaintiffs could run out of gas,” lawyers discussed in one case), and how it interacted with government officials (a former BVI minister, while accusing the firm of hiring foreigners over BVI citizens, once told an Appleby lawyer to “Go home tonight and be a human!”).

But obviously there was a lot I didn’t know, and I thought a trip to Appleby’s office and one of the islands it calls home could help. Old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, we call it (or, in this case, perhaps “sandal-rubber reporting”). Anything could be valuable, from speaking to locals to seeing where the rich and the other half, including the (few) homeless, live.

Once on the ground in Bermuda, it didn’t take long to realize how small the island’s financial beating heart was.
Will Fitzgibbon

Visiting a place can be a reminder for journalists that what we are writing about is real, that the people are just not names and addresses on an invoice. It puts abstract matters into sharper focus.

For months, for example, I had been reading up on the Bermuda office of Glencore Plc, the Anglo-Swiss commodities trading giant. A major Appleby client, Glencore for years had used a small office space within the law firm’s premises. The “Glencore Room,” Appleby employees called it.

I knew from the Paradise Papers that Glencore’s Bermuda companies were behind some mind-bogglingly large transactions. Multi-billion dollar loans passed through the Bermuda room — at least on paper.
The profile of Major Appleby found in the local library.
Reginald Woodifield founded Appleby

In reality, I had learned from Appleby’s files that no full-time Glencore employee worked there and the room rarely housed more than a checkbook, a fax machine and a computer server that occasionally broke down. This was a purported nerve center one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies. I ached to see what the room actually looked like.

The trip was coordinated with reporting teams from Japan, Australia, Denmark and the U.S. and took weeks of planning over email, the secure messaging service Signal, and ICIJ’s collaboration space, known as Global I-Hub. All of us planned to converge on the island at the same time for extra digging and to meet Appleby if we could.

After a six-hour flight from Washington through New York, I arrived at the airport to meet the team from Vice News Tonight on HBO. Vice had been following ICIJ and the “making of” the Paradise Papers for months.

Once on the ground in Bermuda, it didn’t take long to realize how small the island’s financial beating heart was.

Appleby’s office, for example, is a few doors down from the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the regulator that had fined the firm’s subsidiary in a 2015 confidential settlement for failing compliance tests.

No organization thrills at the idea of an unplanned visit by 20 journalists. Especially not a law firm that sells discretion and confidentiality.

During the day, reporters scoured the island for interviews with locals, experts, politicians past and present in an effort to get a feel for the place. Australian reporters spoke with Jamaican restaurant cooks about Bermuda’s high cost of living. Japanese reporters zigzagged across main thoroughfares, stopping pedestrians to canvass Bermudians on their views, if any, on the offshore financial industry in their midst.

In search of more information on Major Reginald Appleby, the law firm’s founder, I made my way to Bermuda’s National Archives and dug through 60-year old newspaper clippings and parliamentary debates.

Eventually, a helpful librarian at Bermuda’s National Library tracked down a colorful profile and photo portrait of the major. Another reminder that in journalism, as in many things, librarians can be your best friend.

Locals were uniformly among some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. Taxi drivers were eloquent and proud promoters of the island’s offshore industry. That said, the fares cost a small fortune.

One evening, all the journalists who weren’t filming Bermudian sunsets for their Paradise Papers documentaries gathered in my hotel room to plan the next day.

The main topic: how to approach Appleby in the most professional manner possible and with the greatest chance of being granted an interview.

No organization thrills at the idea of an unplanned visit by 20 journalists. Especially not a law firm that sells discretion and confidentiality. But our job as journalists is to seek answers and to offer as many chances as possible for a response.

The Appleby receptionist, a true Bermudian, was polite and helpful. “Take a seat,” she said. I think the day we arrived was her birthday. Balloons bobbed by her desk.

We saw the visit as an opportunity for Appleby and ICIJ to have a conversation. It had been nearly two weeks since ICIJ sent our first list of questions to the company. We knew that our questions had been received but had received no word on whether the company would grant an on-camera interview. As we waited, we wondered what was happening in the offices above our heads.

After 30 minutes or so on the couch, Appleby dispatched an employee from the facilities department. Blood-orange red Bermuda shorts and all.

He wouldn’t give his name, answer questions or accept a letter with some questions for Appleby’s attention.

He did, however, thank me for my business card.

No Comments - Categories: Bermuda Business, Bermuda Crime, Bermuda Employment, Bermuda EU, Bermuda Government, Bermuda News, Bermuda Politics, Bermuda Travel

Dr Ewart Brown press release – Bermuda Police Investigation

June 30, 2016 - Author: bdadmin
Former Premier of Bermuda, Dr Ewart Brown.
Ewart Brown, Former Premier of Bermuda

Dr Ewart Brown, Former Premier of Bermuda

Bermuda’s Former Premier Dr Ewart Brown has Made a Statement Regarding the Police Investigation Into His Company Bermuda Healthcare Services

This story showed up in a newspaper in West Virginia and we found it yesterday…

Information contained on this page is provided by an independent third-party content provider and it is a copy of Dr Ewart Brown‘s Press Release. BermudaSeek.com makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. If you are affiliated with this page and would like it removed please contact us here.

SOURCE Bermuda Healthcare Services

HAMILTON, Bermuda, June 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ —

On 16 June 2016, I made a statement to the people of Bermuda, following the unjust and unwarranted arrest of Dr Mahesh Reddy, Chief Medical Officer at my healthcare company Bermuda Healthcare Services.

This good and honourable man, who has provided many years of devoted service to the Bermudian people, has been unfairly dragged into a five year investigation by the Police aimed at discrediting me. This investigation has cost millions of dollars of Bermudian taxpayers’ money. This is disgraceful behaviour on the part of the Police.

Dr Reddy’s lawyers are challenging both the unlawful arrest and the raid on his home by the Police and are seeking monetary compensation and an apology.

Dr Ewart Brown’s Press Release

The Police now concede that this long investigation, based on nothing more than an unchallenged court statement in 2011 from the convicted Mr. David Bolden, has uncovered nothing.

Dr Reddy has told me that he has suffered attempts by law enforcement directly and openly to intimidate him into implicating me criminally by detaining him and saying that he would be released if he “gives me up”.

It is only reasonable that after five years, the Governor or the Police should be able to say whether Mr. Bolden’s statements were ever substantiated or if they will lead to any charges against me. Why has the Minister allegedly involved not been named or charged?

Now they have sought to prolong this investigation by making false allegations against my medical practice and harassing my associates.

I call upon the Governor and the Bermudian prosecutors to tell me on what grounds this desperate investigation can be allowed to continue after so many years of fruitless inaction and when the Police have tried to illegally harass a colleague in order to get to me.

It is time for them to stop this damaging and unwarranted campaign of harassment.

©2016 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.

source:  wearewvproud.com

No Comments - Categories: Bermuda Crime, Bermuda News, Bermuda Politics, Dr Ewart Brown, PLP