[In which we meet the Botnar family, discover an unpaid £250mm UK tax bill, and find that hating bacon doesn't pay the bills. Now available: Part 3, where we take a look at the accounts of the Camelia Botnar entities. ]
I came across Octav Botnar, Marcela's husband, while trying to identify an associate of John Bloom [...] Botnar was the brains behind Nissan UK, which expanded rapidly then lost its import monopoly and was eventually found to have systematically cheated the taxman for a decade or more.So I did a bit more digging to try to ascertain the source and intent behind the sudden £70 million donation to the Marcela Trust in 2010 and what the connection to CASH was.
The Octav Botnar story
Octav Botnar died in 1998 in Switzerland, owing the UK Inland Revenue about £250 million in unpaid tax. It seems that the Inland Revenue were bringing a court case against him, but dropped it when it became clear he was terminally ill. Former Nissan MD Michael Hunt wasn't so lucky, getting 8 years in chokey for his part in the frauds while financial director and company secretary Frank Shannon got 3 years.
The prosecution said the fraud started in 1976 and lasted 16 years. Bogus invoices and 'sham' shipping agents in the Netherlands and Norway were used to inflate the costs of shipping Nissan vehicles from Japan to Britain by as much as 50 per cent, to conceal an extra profit averaging pounds 115 on each car and van.
The money was laundered through a Bermudan company and secret Swiss bank accounts. The cash then disappeared into a black hole - the term used by tax investigators who have failed to trace a single penny.
Keen readers of my original post will remember the company "Camelia Botnar Limited" and the charity "Camelia Botnar Foundation" which are both interests of Marcela Trust trustees, including Dawn Pamela Rose whose company OMC Limited contributed the £70 million at issue. It seems that Camelia Botnar was Octav and Marcela's daughter, and was killed in a 1979 road accident, hence the foundation of the charity. Marcela Botnar seems to be still in Switzerland, working for the Fondation Botnar in Basel (Elisabethenstrasse 15).
This made me wonder more about the source of the money and whether there might have been any connection to Octav's original fortune. OMC Investments Limited was founded in 1970 but wasn't called OMC Investments Limited then: they were originally Datsun UK Limited, changing name to Nissan UK Limited in January 1984 and OMC Investments Limited in 2007. OMC Investments Limited now has £69 million of share capital, nearly all of which is owned by The Marcela Trust since it was gifted to them in 2010.
It looks to me as if all the value in Octav Botnar's original Datsun/Nissan UK company, headquartered in 14 Buckingham Street, Westminster, was transferred to charity The Marcela Trust, also headquartered in 14 Buckingham Street, Westminster and sharing at least one trustee/director (the aforementioned Dawn Pamela Rose).
The Trust itself donated £800K to charities in 2010 - 500K to The Nuffield hospital which seems to have a link to the late Camelia, 200K to bacon-hating CASH and 100K to "Open Eyes" in Lausanne, Switzerland (which seems to be the interest of trustee Dr. Martin Lenz). I suspect that it's not a coincidence that Octav Botner lived most of his life in Switzerland - perhaps he had eye problems, perhaps Dr. Lenz was a family friend. But why would The Marcela Trust donate all that money to CASH? What's the connection?
CASH - kept afloat by OMC funds
CASH staff are all in the field of nutrition and cardiovascular health. The 2010 CASH annual report makes it clear that it is primarily a lobbying organisation, organising the 11th National Salt Awareness Week (I must have missed the first 10 of them, how guilty do I feel) and bugging various national and international agencies about salt. It is a registered UK charity with no trustees common to the Marcela Trust network, and in FY 2011 it raised 283K from all sources and spent 113K on Salt Awareness Week and various surveys.. Interestingly the accounts note:
The funding from OMC Investments Ltd (the Marcella[sic] Trust) which comprises a significant component of the income will cease in 2011-2012 leaving a considerable gap in the charity's resources.With very little money coming from actual people (262K of the 283K came from OMC and the British Heart Foundation), and appearing to be pretty much an anti-salt lobbying arm of The Marcela Trust, CASH is clearly deserving of a their Fake Charities label - and with luck their £800K in the bank will run out soon; they estimated 3-4 years with the current reserves.
Who's behind OMC and what are they doing now?
Mrs. Dawn Pamela Rose, director of OMC Investments Ltd. and trustee of the Marcela Trust, seems to be also known by her (maiden?) name Dawn Pamela Lawson in her role as a director of Camelia Botnar Ltd. The manager "D Lawson" to whom The Marcela Trust paid £240K seems to be she. I suspect that administrator "N Malby" (£24K) is Natasha Sarah Lara Malby (age 36) who is similarly a Marcela Trust trustee and director of Camelia Botnar Ltd. Natasha seems to be a bit young to have any involvement in Nissan before things went "foom"; I wonder how she got involved with the Trust?
Dawn is a director of company QHH Limited (registed number 07637088) which appears to be a newly formed (as of May 2011) company with as yet unknown purposes and cashflow since no accounts have yet been filed. Brian Arthur Groves of OMC and the Marcela Trust is a co-director, so this isn't just a sole venture by Ms. Rose. I note in passing that Brian is nearly 80, whereas Dawn is a sprightly 56 years of age. Brian's directorship history includes Nissan Plant and Industrial Machinery Ltd., Debretts says that he used to be a motoring journalist before becoming advertising, PR and marketing director for Nissan UK Limited until 1988 (that must have fun when the Inland Revenue came a-calling for his colleague Octav Botnar) and his given business address is... 14 Buckingham Street, Westminster. Shocker.
QHH Ltd. registered address is currently COMEWELL HOUSE, NORTH STREET, HORSHAM, WEST SUSSEX RH12 1RD. Oh look! As well as OMC Investments Limited, Spofforths Private Client Services LLP is at that address - Spofforths are the accountants who signed off on the Marcela Trust accounts for 2010, so seem to be favoured by Ms. Rose/Lawson for her business arrangements. Presumably they are holding the company details and managing correspondence until an actual office is opened.
I wonder whether QHH Limited are is going to start engaging with OMC Investments Ltd, Camelia Botnar Ltd, the Marcela Trust or the Camelia Botnar foundation? If so, how and why?
The Marcela Trust is populated with people who have been and are involved with a variety of Botnar family enterprises. CASH is kept afloat by OMC money, but now that's gone to the Marcela Trust they have to live off their reserves. There's no indication where this £70 million in the Marcela Trust is going to go, but it seems that being a trustee can be a very lucrative quarter-of-a-million-quid-a-year gig, as Dawn Pamela Rose/Lawson could tell you.
The Marcela Trust donated virtually nothing to anyone in FYE July 2011. I am going to be watching with interest to see what the accounts for FYE July 2012 reveal, when they finally get published. What are they planning to do with the £69 million-odd of investments they are holding? If CASH isn't expecting anything, who is? To which charities are they going to be donating - and whom will they be paying fat salaries? What's going on at 14 Buckingham Street, Westminster - is anyone around to ask questions of Mr. Brian Arthur Groves or his representative there?