‘Petition Fund’: British Columbia lawyer shielded company offshore

Shelley Bagshaw, a lawyer, acted as trustee for a small Canadian company, Thorsten Supply Ltd. during a series of transactions through law firms in the Cayman Islands, London and Toronto, documents reveal.

The company operated for several years as a security for cash in Europe and North America, taking out insurance contracts that could be sold into the domestic insurance market, according to documents filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Documents obtained by CBC, The Globe and Mail and CBC News show that Mr. Bagshaw and Mr. Germain would deposit only $2,500 to $2,700 in “petition funds” in the summer of 2014. The money was drawn from many individual investors as part of the company’s insurance contracts.

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Ms. Bagshaw’s firm was appointed by the company to serve as trustee for certain items relating to insurance policies. It was also told to “monitise,” or sell, certain pieces of intangible insurance, such as stock in the company. The managers at the Toronto law firm selected for the job were Ms. Bagshaw and Jennifer Sockoo. She was later fired.

Monitise itself had reportedly moved to the Cayman Islands in 2012 and was pushing its investments to “leverage funds” to diversify, according to a May 7, 2015, corporate registration filing.

Mr. Germain told CBC that he had not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the company as his regular work as chief executive officer, managing partner at Encana Corp., CEO of a private energy fund and chairman of four companies diverted his attention.

Describing Thorsten Supply as a “real estate development project,” he said he had used “intermediaries” to launder investments of the company’s directors, including himself, so that they could earn a return.

Mr. Germain said Thorsten Supply failed after he was dismissed from Encana in late 2014 and the company was closed. He now works as a consultant for ERCP Energy Management Ltd., a private energy fund in Calgary.

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On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Ottawa announced that two firms working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are conducting an internal review into the activities of a large offshore account, including possible “criminal activity”.

RCMP say they have interviewed several witnesses who can corroborate allegations that $7-million in high-risk money was moved through a secret offshore account held in Canada.

In a statement, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike Finn said investigators are also focusing on “this [company] and another by-invitation only private offshore company, with our assistance.”

In an e-mail to CBC, Mr. Germain said he did not directly invest in the company.

“My father set up the firm and he advised me that I needed to be a full-time energy stock manager for ERCP and was paid for that,” he said.

Mr. Germain declined to say how much money he was paid for directing investments into a private offshore fund, though he noted that he owned more than 1.2 million shares in the fund.

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A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance, which is overseeing the government’s watch over offshore accounts, said it is examining foreign investments by companies that provide financial and legal services in Canada.

“This is part of an ongoing and systematic effort by the government to protect Canadians and their interests by ensuring that Canada’s financial system is efficient, fair and robust,” Susan Nyalum, an assistant deputy minister, wrote in an e-mail.

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