When people get involved in offshore companies and trusts, they enter a shadowy world where financial and corporate records can be tightly guarded and it's often difficult to pierce the veils of secrecy. That doesn't mean they're necessarily doing anything wrong, though.
Plenty of fraudsters and money-launderers incorporate companies in tiny Caribbean islands. But so do people with little to hide: entrepreneurs embarking on joint business ventures, multinationals with foreign affiliates or snowbirds who own property in the Lesser Antilles.
The recent leak of offshore financial records includes the names of at least 550 Canadians. Ten of them with colourful pasts are presented here.
If you have more information on anyone presented here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: Secret files reveal more Canadians using offshore tax havens
Offshore entity: Braveheart Trust in the Cook Islands
Bio: Montreal-born Levine opened health clubs in Canada and California before moving to Asia, where he founded the California Fitness chain of gyms in Hong Kong and California Wow Xperience in Thailand. Money came in droves: The leaked offshore files trace millions of dollars in distributions to him as beneficiary of the Braveheart Trust. His luxurious lifestyle included a 65,000-square-foot beachfront mansion he built on the Andaman Sea, a Ferrari and model girlfriends. Lately, though, California Wow has been pursued in court by a creditor (Levine took the company public in 2005 and stepped down as chairman and CEO in 2011; he still owns 11 per cent of the stock, according to the latest securities filing). And just last week, media reports said Thailand's Anti-Money Laundering Office was investigating the company, alleging it funnelled $57 million out of the country over the last decade while falsely declaring losses on its balance sheet.
Hometown: Has addresses in Vancouver area, Budapest, U.S. and Mexico.
Offshore company: Elka Investments Ltd. in the BVI
Bio: Hargitai received a 25-year ban on trading stock or running a public company from the B.C. Securities Commission in 1992. He was found to have "fraudulently misappropriated" $221,500 while he was president of Rainforest Mushrooms Ltd., which had said it was trying to operate a mushroom business in B.C. and Hungary. Around the same time he founded CaliVita International, a company that sold vitamins in post-Communist Eastern Europe using network marketing. It now has branches in 36 countries. Hargitai's BVI company is the sole shareholder of a U.K. corporation called Elka Financial.
Quote: Did not return calls or emails.
Hometown: Toronto; current whereabouts unknown.
Offshore companies: Sabourin and Sun (BVI) Inc., Sabourin and Sun Group of Companies
Bio: Sabourin's company was a "master client," an intermediary that set up dozens of offshore corporations in the British Virgin Islands on behalf of investors in Canada. The Ontario Securities Commission ruled in 2009 that he "lied to and misled" some of those investors and "misappropriated investors' funds" using "sham investment schemes." It ordered him and his firms to pay back $29.2 million — the second-highest award ever meted out by the commission. A civil-court judge also found him liable for fraud in at least two cases and awarded more than $3 million in damages.
Quote: Could not be reached.
Offshore companies: International Financial Capital Ltd. and Future Growth Fund Ltd. in the BVI
Bio: A former bond trader, Leemhuis ran mutual-fund brokerage ASL Direct until it went into receivership in 2008, leaving clients on the hook for fee rebates they were owed. He was banned from securities trading in Quebec in 2008, and has been subject to temporary stock-trading bans in Ontario and Alberta. He was also fined $50,000 in 2011 and barred from running mutual funds for five years.
Quote: Did not return messages.
Offshore company: Sentinel Holdings and Kirscha Holdings in the Cook Islands
Bio: Cyr, a 40-year-old drywaller, incorporated Sentinel Holdings in 2002, then used it to quietly buy a $1.5-million house in Victoria. Leaked records from the Cook Islands show he did "not want his name revealed as the beneficial owner of the company." The next year, he disappeared after heading to a meeting in Vancouver with what police would tell his ex-wife were "underworld connections." A court later heard that in his youth, he sold drugs and associated with Hells Angels. He hasn't been heard from since and was legally declared dead in 2010.
Offshore company: Commonwealth Trust Ltd. in the BVI
Bio: Ward, a University of Toronto MBA, moved to the British Virgin Islands and in 1994 founded his company, known as CTL. It flourished as an offshore-service provider, incorporating and administering thousands of BVI companies for a global clientele wanting secrecy and low tax rates. Some of those companies were used by major scammers, such as the people behind the Magnitsky affair in Russia or Toronto con man Peter Sabourin. There's no evidence CTL engaged in fraud, however, and Ward has said that any problems were the result of the "law of large numbers."
Quote: "I regard myself as an ethical person. I don't think I intentionally did anything wrong. I certainly didn't aid and abet anybody doing anything illegal."
Hometown: Richmond, B.C.
Offshore company: Cooks International in the Cook Islands
Bio: The leaked records disclose that Xie tried but failed to set up a bank in the Cook Islands. His listed address in B.C. is also tied to a defunct Marshall Islands company called Dynamex Investment, for which an internet directory says the contact person is a "Mr. Richard." A man who also has the name Jing Feng Xie, and said to use the alias Richard, was arrested in India in 2008 as part of a major police bust of a meth lab, according to media reports. The Indian press called the arrested man a "drug mafia don" from Canada and said he was a player in an international narcotics ring. He escaped pre-trial custody in 2011. CBC has not been able to verify whether they are the same person.
Hometown: Vancouver; now lives in Thailand.
Offshore company: Marai Investment Ltd. in Samoa, Maris Investment (BVI) Ltd. in the BVI
Bio: The controversial B.C. stock promoter has been involved in several companies that have come under scrutiny. He was named in an RCMP warrant in 2004 as part of an investigation into an alleged pump-and-dump scheme involving Silver Star Energy Inc., but no charges were ever laid. And the Vancouver Sun reported in 2011 that he was involved in a company called Supatcha Resources, whose stock rocketed up from a penny to 93 cents two months later before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a temporary trading halt. The leaked tax-haven documents show Aiello transferring $50,000 from an offshore stock-trading account in the Caribbean to Thailand in 2007, where the files link him to a beachfront development called the Villa Toscana.
Age: 54 or 55
Hometown: Langley, B.C.
Offshore companies: Sentinel Holdings and Kirscha Holdings in the Cook Islands
Bio: Chernochan's name is in the leaked offshore records via two companies set up by Greg Cyr, a B.C. man who went missing a decade ago. The documents show Chernochan, who was a real estate agent at the time, was authorized to handle details for real-estate transactions in 2002 involving Cyr's firms. Last September, Chernochan was arrested in California at a truck inspection station while driving a tractor-trailer north to Canada. Highway patrol officers found 66 kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment. He was charged with three narcotics offences and is awaiting trial.
Hometown: Born in Winnipeg; lived in Vancouver and New York
Offshore company: Bond Energy Corp., Lothian Energy Corp. and Lider Group SA in the BVI
Bio: Ransom joined his father's Winnipeg stock brokerage in the 1980s and managed its thriving corporate finance division until he ran afoul of industry rules. He had his trading licence suspended for five years in 1994 and faced further allegations after investors in some of his ventures lost large chunks of their money. In a 1998 settlement with the Manitoba Securities Commission, he acknowledged he had falsified documents and failed to follow know-your-client rules. His suspension was extended until 2004. A later project, a New York-based petroleum company called Lothian Oil, filed for bankruptcy in 2007, triggering years of court battles in the U.S.
Quote: Ransom could not be reached, but his father, Colin Ransom, said of his son, "At no time did he put any money into any offshore companies."