Former premier Najib Abdul Razak’s brother Mohamed Nizam is among those named as the owner of an offshore company in the newly leaked documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The documents sighted by Malaysiakini showed that Nizam is the beneficial owner (BO) of the British Virgin Islands-based company Everbright Universal Holdings Limited, using financial services provider Credit Suisse Trust Ltd (Singapore) as an intermediary.
However, this does not imply any wrongdoing on his part.
According to the leaked records, Nizam claimed in September 2016 that Everbright is a property investment holding company that operates mainly in the US and is funded through loans.
However, no details on the firm’s assets and liabilities were provided.
In March 2017, Nizam was flagged by Mossack Fonseca as a politically exposed person (PEP) by virtue of being Najib’s brother.
“There were found [sic] some results regarding the BO of the company Everbright Universal Holdings Ltd […] Suggestion: Add to log of PEP,” said an internal email to Mossack Fonseca’s compliance department, using the acronym for the term “beneficial owner”.
The PEP designation is used in the financial services industry to describe people who are in a prominent public office as well as their family members and associates. Financial regulations in most countries typically require PEP’s activities to be subject to additional scrutiny.
It is unclear when Nizam engaged Credit Suisse Trust’s services or took control of Everbright.
However, the timing of Nizam’s 2016 declaration and his subsequent designation as a PEP coincided with when Mossack Fonseca was scrambling to contain the fallout from the publication of the Panama Papers investigation in April 2016.
This effort includes Mossack Fonseca attempting to identify its own clients after the first leak was reported.
The second leak included an internal audit which found that as of May 2016, the law firm did not know who were its clients in 72 percent of the BVI firms it had helped set up, as well as 75 percent of its Panama-based firms.
Everbright is listed in the audit as among the companies that Mossack Fonseca did not have information about its “ultimate beneficial owner”.
Malaysiakini has contacted Nizam and his intermediaries for comment and has yet to receive a response.
Largely low-profile, Nizam, 60, presently holds several senior positions in listed companies like Mamee Double-Decker (M) Bhd, Delloyd Ventures Bhd, Nilai Resources Group Bhd and Petra Energy Bhd.
The Oxford graduate is also the chancellor of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, an institution named after his father, the country’s second prime minister.
This is not the first time a relative of Najib’s has been named for setting up offshore companies.
In the previous Panama Papers leak in 2016, Najib’s son from his first marriage, Mohd Nazifuddin, was revealed to have held directorships in two BVI-based firms.
Same people as directors, shareholders
Mossack Fonseca’s records showed that it had incorporated Everbright in 2010 for use as a shelf company – meaning a company with no prior business activities that a client could “buy off the shelf” after being allowed to age for some time.
On paper, Everbright was incorporated on July 20, 2010. Beginning on Jan 14, 2011, the Bahamas-based companies Serangoon Ltd and Seletar Ltd became shareholders of the company, whereas the BVI-based companies Bukit Merah Ltd and Tanah Merah Ltd became its directors.
This remained the case by the time Mossack Fonseca flagged Nizam as a PEP.
However, a leaked letter from Credit Suisse Trust to the Singapore-based Asiavest Corporate Services Pte Ltd on Oct 18 said the companies Serangoon, Seletar, Bukit Merah, Tanah Merah, and two others are under its control.
“The companies are incorporated solely for the purposes of acting as nominee directors, nominee shareholders, and authorised signatory for such other companies as may be administered by Credit Suisse Trust Ltd.
“The companies are wholly owned by Credit Suisse Trust Ltd, either directly or through their nominees […]
“We hereby authorize Asiavest Corporate Services Pte Ltd to use this letter as ‘master copy’ for all BVI companies administered by Credit Suisse Trust Ltd. We trust that the above information is sufficient for your compliance purposes,” the letter said.
It added that the three persons acting as directors of the six companies are also employees of the Singapore subsidiary of the Swiss bank.
Malaysiakini observed that numerous other companies involved in the first and second leak at Mossack Fonseca shared the same corporate structure as Everbright, using the companies Serangoon and Seletar as nominee shareholders, and Bukit Merah, Tanah Merah as nominee directors.
Questioned on its modus operandi, and its dealings with Nizam, Credit Suisse stated that it does not comment on “whether it maintains a client relationship with any person”.
“Credit Suisse is committed to operating its businesses in a compliant manner and conducts its banking business in compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations in the markets in which it operates,” it told Malaysiakini through email correspondence.
As for Asiavest – incorporated on June 2, 2016 – the company appears to be one of many successors to Mossack Fonseca worldwide and even shared the same office address as Mossack Fonseca Singapore and the same client code.
Following the publication of the Panama Papers investigation in 2016, the company had changed its business name in some countries and transferred clients to another company in other countries.