Got a bodyguard yet?

Last week I went to a private exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler gallery. I started a conversation with a Dutch lawyer Reinier who expressed an interest in my book ‘When you are Super Rich who do you Trust?’ In Reinier’s opinion ‘The Dutch trust no-one; they are paranoid about privacy. None have profiles on Facebook and they do everything they can to keep away from publicity’.

This paranoia stems, so he told me, from Willem Holleeder known to the Dutch as the ‘Nose’ who faced trial in May this year in Amsterdam, for a number of gangland killings after years of ruling the Dutch underworld. He is the most famous gangster in the Netherlands; best known for his role in the kidnapping of the beer tycoon Freddy Heineken in 1983.

Freddy Heineken’s daughter, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, was so disturbed by it that now aged 63, she is a reclusive figure; her alleged net worth is said to be around $10 billion.

Holleeder’s crime was years ago but he still lives on in the minds of the wealthy Dutch. It all started on 9th November 1983, when Freddy Heineken and his chauffeur were kidnapped in broad daylight. They were eventually released on payment of a large ransom; 35 million Dutch guilders (US 21.73 million) which was buried in woods near the town of Zeist.

It is not so much the kidnap which has instilled terror into the hearts and minds of the Dutch because Freddy and his chauffeur were released unharmed, it is knowing what Holleeder was capable of. He is accused of six murders and four attempted murders. His long-time friend and fellow conspirator Hout was shot dead in 2003 and another friend Willem Endstra, whose real estate business was allegedly being used for money laundering, was seen on a bench in front of Endstra’s office with Holleeder, only hours before he was killed. Endstra, was said to be worth 350 million euros.

In 2015 a film was made of Holleeder and Hout ‘The Kidnapping of Freddy Heineken’, which Holleeder tried to prevent being distributed because he was apparently unhappy with the way he was portrayed. His nickname is "The Nose", because of his prominent proboscis, but in the film he was played by the handsome Australian actor Sam Worthington. British actor Jim Sturgess starred as Van Hout. Holleeder is not intimidated by the publicity, he is feared, that is all he needs to know. The publicity only increases his reputation as ruthless, and the fear of him amongst the rich and famous.

The attitude of the Dutch is not unique. In 2008, a total of 4,820 people held close protection licenses in Britain. Now there are 14,073. Before this surge of business, the only people who wanted close protection were those who needed it - due to their political profile or public opinion, and those who wanted to be seen to need it – pop stars, celebrities and other people who seek attention.

Now, however, there is a third type; the ordinary, rich, anxious. The type of bodyguard they are looking for is covert surveillance; bodyguards who blend into the background, who are trained to have peripheral vision – who can see tension building or who know when something is out of the ordinary. They are there to avoid trouble, to pull you out of danger, once suspected. They are there to protect wives on shopping trips, kids to and from school and teens on a night out.

Where I live there has been a sharp increase in bodyguards – I see them sitting in halls, walking up and down the street and riding in escort vehicles, some have tell-tale earpieces, but others are just ordinary folk, ‘hanging around’.

The private client industry should be keen to serve this growing concern of their clients. They need protection not just against physical attack, but from information getting into the wrong hands. Our clients are being villainised as ‘fat cats’.

Tax authorities around the globe have combined forces to eradicate offshore structures. Regardless of their legality, governments now have the means and power to investigate and impose heavy fines on anyone with a trust structure. Trusts are seen as a vehicle to avoid tax and should therefore be eradicated. This puts the responsibility on us to protect our clients and their freedom - as well as our industry.

Governments, the press and the public think it is ok that the privacy of the rich is compromised – whether financial or personal. It is not ok, for the personal safety of anyone – whether rich or poor, to be compromised without good reason!

At GFOS we view CRS as an opportunity to plan, think of new ideas and find solutions to protect our clients. It is however, essential that our clients are tax compliant, with this as our benchmark, we then do what we can to protect their privacy, in an honest, law abiding manner.

Please watch the Press Releases for our books below:

'When you are Super-Rich who can you trust'

'Uncovering Secrets: Winning business from Private Clients' 

Feel free to contact us if you have similar concerns or would like to discuss matters surrounding privacy and control of our wealth ownership structure or any other relevant matter.

Contact :

                        020 3740 7423

The hand that feeds you

Arayan lives in the UK, but was born in India and grew up in UAE. He came to see me a few days ago with some questions.

Although Arayan has a prestigious business track record - from property development to key roles on boards of large technology companies - he is also an exceptional human being to whom people are drawn as if by a magnet. His knowledge on a broad range of topics is extensive but they are always tempered by a deep love of people and his opinions are therefore always thought provoking, independent and intuitive.

Having known him and his family for many years, I was keen to ask after his wife and children – growing up all too quickly. But on this occasion his attention was on his mother Pari.

Arayan’s father had been very successful in the petrochemical, oil and gas industry when he was growing up. However, he died nearly twenty years ago and Pari had inherited the family fortune. She had taken advice and settled her husband’s estate on trust in Guernsey and made Arayan the Protector. After a few years of living as a widow in UAE, she returned to India to live just outside Mumbai in a substantial home where she spent much of her time indulging her grandchildren.

Pari is in good health but at 86, Arayan was concerned that she should be protected from any family dispute or tax investigation. Arayan, who is always mindful of his close family and friends has been following the OECD initiatives on the erosion of privacy on offshore financial information with concern and interest.

‘There is no doubt in my mind that the Indian Tax Authority will use the information exchanged from Guernsey about our family trusts to harass my mother now that she is living in India. The fact that she is unlikely to be taxed on the trust fund, since she has not received a benefit, will not deter it. The case Commissioner of Wealth Rajkot v Estate of HMM Vikramsinhji of Gondal, 2014, is very helpful, but once the Indian tax authority see the size of our trust fund it will want to see how else it can raise taxes. I do not want my mother to be involved in any form of investigation or family dispute which would be extremely distressing for her’.

He went on, ‘My mother made me Protector of her trusts and over the years has relied on me completely.  The trustees always look to me before making distributions to my siblings, two of whom are dependent on her trusts for their quality of life. They have also invested extensively into my projects – which has resulted in a quadrupling of the trust fund’.

‘I am concerned that the Indian Tax Authorities will argue that because of my close relationship with her trustees that it will argue the trust is a sham and tax her as if she continued to own the fund outright. Such a claim, which is of course ridiculous, could give rise to years of distressful and unnecessary correspondence with my mother’.

Arayan and I discussed the situation in some depth and I came up with a number of solutions for him to consider.

With regard to his siblings’ dependency on the trust fund he said ‘My brother and sister have never worked. They live in the UAE totally dependent on my mother’s trusts for their quality of life. It would suit them if the trusts were set aside, since in her Will all her assets are to be divided between her five children equally.’

Arayan looked to me for solutions - should she change her Will, and if her trusts were not to be put aside, what could he do to make his mother’s wishes more robust?

I had to agree with Arayan, I was not convinced that her Letter of Wishes would deter his siblings from mounting a claim. ‘I have seen so many Letters or Wishes and non-binding Family Constitutions torn up if the beneficiaries are not provided for as generously as they had hoped' I explained to him.

I put to Arayan a number of options based on my decades of experience – which we also discussed at some length.

Please watch the press releases for our books below:

'When you are Super-Rich who can you trust'

'Uncovering Secrets: Winning business from Private Clients' 

Feel free to contact us if you have similar concerns or would like to discuss matters surrounding CRS, privacy and control of our wealth ownership structure. 

Contact :

                        020 3740 7423

When you are Super-Rich, who can you trust?

What is it like to be Super Rich? By all accounts, it is better to be rich than poor! 

So if all is good, what keeps the Super Rich awake at night?

My book ‘When you are Super Rich who can you trust?’ gives food for thought – it is for everyone who is rich, will one day be rich, has ambitions to be rich and/or serves the UHNW community.

One of my clients, who I will call Francis, came to see me several years before he sold his company which was then worth, just north of, $200 million. He wanted to know whether he should set up a family office and if so what he needed to do.

I took him through the eight step plan which I outline in the book. As we talked about his aspirations, vision and concerns about being liquid rich, it soon became clear that he was not interested in setting up his own family office to manage his investments and non-liquid assets, he just wanted to make sure that, post liquidity, he had a lifestyle, such that he and his family could feel good about money, know they wanted to achieve and had the right people around them who they could trust to get them there.

Once we had worked through the eight step plan it took us a few months to implement it, which included how to pick his cabinet of advisers - his Ring of Confidence –and the structure needed to keep them in line. 

In my book, I discuss the pitfalls which many Super Rich fall into which is to choose their advisers on the recommendation of a friend. Why do you think Madoff did so well once he had got established? He had a good track record on the surface, but no credible reason for producing these returns year on year – the rest was personal recommendation.

At first blush, recommendation sounds an excellent way to choose an adviser, but only if you do not leave your suspicions on the doorstep. I have seen some shocking choices of professionals in positions of key responsibility which on a little scrutiny would have been weeded out long ago.

The analogy I use in my book is, would any professional you engage survive a board room of experts following an annual report? If you had thrown Madoff into this ring – would he survive? If the answer is yes – you have the wrong ring!

Most of us imagine the thrill of having huge wealth but it can be daunting and expensive if you trust the wrong advisers.

Unlike what many advisers may say - there is no right or wrong. If you want to blow your money at the Casino – fine, but at least make sure it is in accordance with your plan so you are not led astray by others, who have a plan – but not in your best interest - theirs.

With a serious set of goals, you can then move onto the second step; planning. The aim of the book is that by the eighth step you will have developed a lifestyle to manage your wealth and your advisers so that you can sit back and enjoy it.

Contact :

                        020 3740 7423

Caroline's books 'When you are super rich who can you trust' and 'Winning Business from Private Clients' will be republished on 11th October at Waterstones Piccadilly. 


Now that everyone is returning to work after the long summer break, we begin to hear the cogs of business clanking back into action. But all is not as it was.

It is now September and families with trusts offshore are looking to see what they can do to maintain the confidentiality of their trust assets and their own details as participators ahead of the arrival of the automatic exchange of financial information, which in some cases starts now.

For these trusts it is already too late – reporting entities across the globe have collated information and exchange is now due. For any trust which switches trustees now, careful planning needs to be done in order to evaluate whether or not they have missed the boat.

Numerous professional trustees have seen an exodus of business to S Dakota, Alaska or Nevada, some before 2017, but many more this year.

Jules was one of the people who came to see me earlier in the year. He has many well-known businesses around the world and years ago decided on the Bahamas as the jurisdiction for setting up his trust. Antonio, an adviser in Jules' home country of Argentina, had approached him with the idea of migrating his trust to Nevada. Antonio, according to Jules, was very persuasive. 

Antonio knew the natural fear and paranoia which Jules has been experiencing over the last few years with respect to confidentiality. ‘The US is not a signatory of CRS, the Trustees will not need to report to the IRS, so your financial information is safe in the US!’  Antonio told him.

Jules was uncomfortable as he was not convinced it was as simple as Antonio was making it look. He had heard of me from a business colleague of his for who I did some structuring work so he approached GFOS for an independent opinion.

I pointed out to Jules that Argentina had entered into an ‘Agreement for the Exchange of Information relating to Taxes’, with the US, on the 23rd December 2016, for tax information arising as from 1st January 2018.  

Under this agreement the exchange of information from the US to Argentina would be either, ‘Upon Request’, ‘Automatic’, and/or ‘Spontaneous’. Jules was shocked; if there was such a treaty in place, why was the US such a safe haven? Why are advisers taking their clients willingly into the US trap?

The difference between the US and a CRS country, I told him, was that CRS countries are obliged to collate and report on all financial information on accounts held by foreigners, whereas the IRS will only report on financial information which comes its way.

Crucial to this special status is that the trust has a FATCA-sponsoring entity, which means an entity which will divulge all information about the assets and participants of the trust on demand.

If the trust does not have a sponsoring entity, or it loses its sponsoring entity status, the trustee must register the trust as a foreign US-based trust with the IRS and the trust will be issued a ‘Global Intermediary Identification Number’ (GIIN). Such a trust has ‘Chapter 4 FATCA status of a participating FFI’, which is indicated on its W-81MY or W-8BEN-E - forms it is obliged to fill out. This information will then automatically be exchanged with Argentina.

The million-dollar question is therefore how likely is it that information will be requested of the sponsoring entity? The answer is, quite high. First information may have been exchanged from the previous trustee if, like Jules his trust is in a jurisdiction which is within the CRS regime, second it could arise from the amnesty demands - most residents in Argentina have declared trust and non-trust assets. Third, if a distribution is made to a beneficiary then the beneficiary must declare that as a distribution from a trust, and fourth, if any one of the beneficiaries opens an account in the US, has assets in the US or in any other way becomes known to the IRS, information will be automatically exchanged.

Before Jules makes a decision, however, he needs to be aware of the consequences of any leaked information which to put it lightly will be catastrophic.

Under US tax law the assets of a grantor trust are treated as the assets of the grantor. It is a small and simple step for the tax authorities of Argentina to declare that the assets of a grantor trust are to be treated for all tax and reporting requirements as belonging to the Grantor.

This is much simpler than arguing that the trust is a sham meaning they don't even need to bother with sham arguments or years of investigation. If the Argentine tax authorities, with the information in their possession, argue this point there is no plan B and almost no wriggle room – Jules would be a sitting duck to be shot at by the Argentinian tax authorities who would not waste a minute to make an example out of him.

Provided some modifications were put in place to his trust and assets in the Bahamas he could not only keep the trust assets and its participators confidential but of even more importance, should there be any leakage, the consequences need not be disastrous!

Jules didn't want to play Russian Roulette and provided we carried out a health- check on his structure, he will keep his trust in the Bahamas. 

If you would like an Independent Trust Review please get in touch with us direct.

Contact :

                        020 3740 7423

Caroline's books 'When you are super rich who can you trust' and 'Winning Business from Private Clients' will be republished on 11th October at Waterstones Piccadilly. 

Interview with the Financial Times

Last week Matthew Vincent, the leading journalist on the private client industry for the Financial Times, called to ask a few questions about the ‘value added’ services that Family Offices can provide.

I am close to a number of CEOs of Single/Multi Family Offices and decided to pick up this issue with them. For many of them I was part of the team that created the family office structure they are running so they felt comfortable to speak openly to me.

First all the CEO’s I spoke to said there was a real distinction between a Single Family Office, where the family or in some cases families have formed a Family Office to look after their financial interests, and the Family Offices which have been formed by investment managers. These investment managers could have come from a range of backgrounds; private banks, hedge funds or fund managers to form a boutique that acts for UHNW families. The attitudes, philosophy and goals of the two are very distinct.

A multi-family office – which is the term I will use for the investment manager led office, has as its primary goal to win new business; increase AUM, and will use many of the methods applied by the institutions they have come from; networking with intermediaries, hosting conferences and an active profile on LinkedIn.

The most pressing challenges faced by single family offices are to reduce costs and drive up returns on investments. Top priorities in reducing costs are to minimise the fees paid to banks and intermediaries, tax and any form of dispute.

For those family offices which either alone or combined with other families, can boast institutional wealth, a reduction of costs is easy if they can secure the same privileges and rates as institutions. They will then invest in these funds available only to institutions; pensions and insurance companies, which are blessed with the best deals, the best professional opinions and the best financial analysts.

The value added for these families in the future is their eagerness to buy the fiduciary arms being shed by global institutions, which could then be built into the private banks of tomorrow.

The families who do not have institutional wealth have different value add objectives. They are looking to private equity to increase returns but recognise that it is a risky proposition.

To minimise the risk, SFOs are first looking for deals which have been pre-qualified by one or more investment analysts. Then they need access to a team of advisers – which we call the inner Ring of Confidence, to monitor the development of the private equity investment, make the most of tax breaks and diffuse disputes before they escalate into a costly problem.

These investors are also looking for a secondary market so that as and when an equity investment succeeds, they can take profits, by selling part to other SFOs.

Notwithstanding the risk, there are some interesting added advantages to private equity investment; first with a good spread, one or two investments will come good, which will be taxed as capital gains against which any losses can be set off, second there are numerous tax breaks for investing in private equity, not least business property relief for inheritance tax and third families like to co-invest – or at least talk about it – sharing is caring!

There have been a variety of initiatives keen to use digital technology to meet the needs of these Single Family Offices. If any-one succeeds which is likely, much needed finance for small to mid-cap private equity will be available and more jobs for professionals eager to work with and for SFOs will be forthcoming.

On tax and Brexit, all Family Offices, large or small based in London, are disappointed that the UK has not followed the Singapore model, which encourages wealthy families to live in their country. As the UK haemorrhages its lead by diluting its tax breaks for non doms, other European countries have taken the initiative and UHNW families are considering seriously emigrating to their shores for the tax breaks; Italy, Portugal, France are keen to attract wealthy families, to name but a few.

All SFOs, whether onshore or offshore, large or small are affected by the speed of change to their world. A few however are excited that the change has thrown up opportunities. If you are one of these few please feel free to comment.

If you have other questions on setting up a Family Office, managing your FO or have other questions please get in touch with us direct:

Contact :

                        020 3740 7423

Caroline's books 'When you are super rich who can you trust' and 'Winning Business from Private Clients' will be republished on 11th October at Waterstones Piccadilly.