Bahamas gives green light to controversial investment vehicles

A controversial Bahamian draft bill is likely to lead to the introduction of investment foundations, the vehicles sometimes associated with fraudsters such as Robert Maxwell.
For years Liechtenstein has borne the brunt of international concerns over these foundations, which many believe are not audited properly and not transparent because they do not have to disclose the identities of beneficiaries. However, the Bahamas, which wants to replace existing investment trusts with foundations, says its versions will meet international standards.
Sources at prominent Bahamian law firm Lennox Paton told The Lawyer that the Bahamian government consulted the City as well as local law firms before drawing up the draft bill.
The existing investment trusts have been the source of difficulties for local bankers. Bankers have effectively been taking on the wider responsibilities of trustees, such as ensuring that investments are in the interests of all beneficiaries of trusts and checking due diligence is done. The main advantage of foundations is that they limit liability if the investments fail.
But the plans are still raising eyebrows. One lawyer said that foundations are perceived as being “very secretive and used for things that are not acceptable”.
Liechtenstein was Maxwell’s financial haven of choice, and some of the millions he raided from his private companies and their pension funds went through foundations in the tiny jurisdiction.
Foundations have also been associated with Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of stealing $10bn (£6.4bn) from the Philippines before he was overthrown in 1986. Last year, former KPMG attorney Marie-Gabrielle Koller alleged that in 1986 lawyers for the accountancy giant moved $400m (£256m) to a Liechtenstein trust which dispersed the money through a foundation. It is unclear what happened to it from there.