Iceland’s Prime Minister under investigation after investigators discover fraudster hid in British Virgin Islands

Written by Priscilla Fagio for CNN

It all started with an email from the company’s CEO.

The sender had just been appointed CFO of a Canadian maritime company — one of the many obscure outfits that connect offshore lenders with offshore borrowers around the world. He asked to be “kept abreast of financial matters,” and for the CEO to apply for letters of credit.

What could have just been a request for basic paperwork appeared to be ominous, though.

“The purpose of our needs is to conceal the true ownership of a large body of assets and will allow the controlling share holders to avoid tax and regulatory issues,” the email read.

It was sent from a Caribbean entity called Nevadan Global Limited. A man known only as the “Mr. I” attached his letter of acceptance of the company’s request. The mailing address was a Montreal address that had, within a short time, been suddenly padlocked and covered in padlocks. There was also a mysterious disclaimer on the corporate filing, stating that Mr. I — or someone working on his behalf — could delete or “remove” information from the company’s website.

Once returned to those computers, the “Mr. I” would be able to hide the truth of who he was.

The small beach town’s 14 condos in a regional condominium complex. Credit: Creative Commons, IcelandGnar

Iceland’s investigation

Investigators from The National Crime Agency, part of the UK’s National Crime Agency, were soon ready to publish their own conclusions.

A 12-month investigation concluded that Nevadan Global Limited was being run by Tom Welch, a businessman who had disappeared from the spotlight years earlier.

Reports of Welch’s disappearance were circulating in Canadian media in 2003, after the Canadian police and immigration authorities received an anonymous tip about fake business documentation he had listed on applications for his wife to stay in Canada.

The fraudster had traded hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds, often from Holocaust survivors in exchange for millions of dollars in cash. Investigators in the UK say they found emails with signatures that matched the ones Welch had listed as owners of the company.

It appears he had been working with some of the world’s most notorious fraudsters. He had used European bankers to run Nevadan Global Limited, until it had become too high-profile and had to relocate to the Cayman Islands, where other global criminals could hide.

The British Prime Minister’s press office offered additional details on Wednesday.

“Mark Buckley was interviewed in the UK on 3 January 2012,” a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “According to the police reports, he accepted that he was the recipient of fraudsulcation from others. He also agreed to provide information relevant to the foreign investigators in the case.”

The Canadian police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are currently also investigating Welch, and it is possible they may arrest him.

Welch’s lawyers have not responded to questions about the suspected fraud or allegations against him.

A wave of fraud

In Canada, Nevadan Global Limited was just one of the myriad of companies linked to a string of offshore frauds uncovered in 2007 and 2008.

That year, the RCMP launched an investigation into a series of “collectively known as the “corporate scams.” The frauds involved some of the most notorious crooks around, including Gordon Brown, the brother of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and his associate, Kevin Sheehan.

According to the RCMP, Sheehan was a leader in the schemes. The federal police said Sheehan, along with Brown, Sheehan’s business associate and brother-in-law, orchestrated a series of schemes that stole about $6 billion from thousands of individuals.

All involved tricking elderly people into buying and selling bonds from fake banks. The bonds were then sold for cash at interest rates that, for many victims, were astronomical. In one case, a woman was swindled out of $1.5 million.

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