Expat investors face new fears over “illegal” fund Claims of Ponzi scheme by Australian press ■ ONE year after the calamitous fall of the LMIM property fund in Australia, dozens of Thailand-based expats are now anxiously waiting for assurances about the security of their investments in a litigation fund which is said to be illegal. The claims of fraud come from the respected financial website Offshore Alert and the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, which allege that Cayman Islands-registered Centaur Litigation, owned by British businessman Brendan Terrill, “appears to be a Ponzi scheme.” Terrill runs Centaur Litigation through another of his companies, Hong Kong-based Buttonwood Legal Capital. Litigation funding bankrolls law suits in return for a share of the proceeds of the dispute if it is successful. The website and newspaper have questioned the money used to fund legal cases, alleging that it comes through a web of tax haven funds that offer ‘’too-good-to-be-true’’ returns. According to several Bangkok investors spoken to by the BigChilli, these returns have been as high as 12 percent per annum. Buttonwood recently moved its headquarters from Hong Kong
to Sydney, Australia, and an internal audit of its financial records is underway. Two Australian directors have been added to its board. In Thailand, independent financial advisers (IFAs) have promoted Centaur Litigation and Buttonwood to expat investors with promises of consistently high returns. One IFA announced that the funds had proved so popular with investors, Argentum Capital had been encouraged to sign up and back additional legal cases. Last month, some Bangkok IFAs headed to Australia to clarify Buttonwood’s status. Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis has said the involvement of law firms with litigation funders caused “conflicts of interest and moral hazards”. In another development, the Channel Islands Securities Exchange recently suspended the listing of litigation fund Argentum Capital after OffshoreAlert exposed it as part of 90 million pound Ponzi scheme. • Victim of the LMIM scandal – how one expat lost his life savings, page 12.
Fees down, but UK passport applicants face new process ■ FEES for new UK passports are being reduced for overseas applicants – but the new application procedure has upset some UK citizens. From April 7, 2014, fees have come down by £45 for adults and £28.50 for children. The new fees are: Adult 32-page passport £83.00. Child 32-page passport £53.00. Jumbo 48-page passport £91.00 (Child and Adult). Overseas applicants have a financial advantage over their UK-based counterparts as they get only a £5 reduction on their passport fee. At the same time, British nationals in Thailand who apply for a new passport will now be required to submit their applications, in person by appointment only, to the new UK Visa Application Centre at the Trendy Office Building, Sukhumvit Soi 13. Previously, Brits were required to send their passport application by post to Hong Kong. The new procedure has angered UK citizens who live upcountry in Thailand as they will face a costly journey to submit the application and a second journey to collect the new passport. More information: www.gov.uk/overseas-passports www.gov.uk/ overseas-passports