2:17pm , Tuesday 19th January 2021

Swiss "MASKA": Salem's External Investments

21 July 2011

Hussein Salem perfected the art of concealment.  While his real estate, tourism and petroleum properties were concentrated basically in Egypt, the management centers of his empire were located in the British and Swiss tax havens.  His accounts passed through a series of financing procedures that are obscured by a curtain of absolute secrecy, protected by offshore company regulations and free zone rules, which provide the right to refrain from revealing or disclosing assets.  European records obtained by Al-Masry Al-Youm, however, reveal one side of Salem’s obscure companies.

Salem relied on foreign management offices of offshore companies to manage his assets and investments.  Economists are familiar with companies, and know that they charge large percentages of profits in return for concealing all company records and ownerships.  Records provided by Zifex, a website specialized in financial statements of companies registered in Switzerland indicate that a famous law office in Geneva called Croisier and Gillioz, managed by a group of lawyers headed by a law professor called Andre Gillioz, who represented Salem in Mediterranean Gas Company, undertook with another lawyer named Pascal Erard and a third French person named Andre Natalezy, the management of Hussein Salem’s companies in Switzerland, managing his financial giant company Maska SA and its subsidiaries in particular. What do these papers say?

Salem owns Maska SA, and relies on it in owning and managing a number of his investments.  Hence, and according to Swiss laws, he is considered a “beneficiary owner”.  He owns, but does not manage or decide.  Over and above, he managed to keep his name away from the eyes of monitoring agencies, even in the worst of circumstances.

Money House, a Swiss financial statements company that provides to its clients the Swiss commercial archives against financial fees, indicates that Maska was established in 1975, in July to be specific, and performs its work as an investment company.  It was registered as an investment company on July 11 of the same year in Geneva.

The Company is headquartered in one of the best areas of the Swiss capital, in the heart of Rue De Rulle on property number 1204, from where it runs its business.  According to official Swiss statements, the company capital is 250,000 Swiss Francs, distributed over 250 shares.  There are no complete records of its investments and resources since it is registered as an offshore company, the regulations of which do not compel it to reveal its balance sheets.

The Company operations were concentrated during 2008 in commercial activities, consultancies and investments, in addition to brokerage and other activities.  According to the Company’s commercial record, it also operates in the field of commercial, financial and real estate activities outside Switzerland, and provides services and ownerships on behalf of others.

Ten official documents obtained by Al-Masry Al-Youm from the Swiss Commercial Records and Money House indicate that Hussein Salem and his son Khaled established the Company with others, and that the Company is under the management of Pascal Erard, a Norwegian citizen, and Andre Gillioz, both of whom have the right to sign on behalf of the Company and to deal with third parties.

Gillioz withdrew from managing the Company in 1995 and left it to the management and disposal of his Norwegian office mate, Pascal Erard, according to Swis Zifex Financial Records.  This is supported by Money House records as well, but in more detail.

Records show that members of the Company board of directors were four at the time of establishment; namely, Hussein Salem, his son Khaled, an Egyptian woman called Sofie Bourbeh, who managed Jollyville hotel chain, owned by Hussein Salem in Sharm Al-Sheikh, in addition to a man named Arianne Rinaldi, whose nationality is not mentioned.  They were all members of the board and have signatory rights.  There was a final change to the Company setup in 199, through which Salem was able to withdraw completely from the scene, delegating the management of all his wealth to others without involving his name in any documents, protecting himself from the possibility of demands in Egypt to freeze his assets in Switzerland.  He totally left the board of Directors of Maska, which is managed by Andre Natalezy and Pascal Erard until now.

What is surprising in all the above is that Hussein Salem intended to let go some of the board members, only to accept them back in again after a few years, reaching seven years in some cases.  He also let go the invisible man who manages his investments, Andre Gillioz, from the Company management papers, but practically keeping him through his Norwegian partner in the law office, Pascal Erard.

Maska was not a small company, despite its registered capital of 250,000 Swiss Francs (about 2 million Egyptian Pounds).  Statements and financial data published about Maska show that it enjoys a strong financial position according to an evaluation by Dunn and Bradstreet, a financial evaluation company.  The evaluation report mentions that the Company never stumbled in repaying any debts, and that its financial dealings are sound.  But it also pointed out that financial statements such as profit and loss and balance sheet were never revealed, and that the Company is not subject to disclosure conditions of its financial statements.

Maska’s visual properties were concentrated in papers in a small hotel company called “galaxy Hotels”, with a capital of 100,000 Swiss Francs (700,000 Egyptian Pounds) and its owner Hussein Salem.  It shares the same premises with Maska.

Galaxy hotels, owned by Hussein Salem, was established on February 9, 1989, according to the British Lexis-Nexis website, specialized in company records around the world.  It was registered in Switzerland on October 13, 1993, and is managed through Andre Gillioz office as well.  His partner Pascal Erard is considered responsible for management, and has signatory rights on company documents.

Information available on Hussein Salem’s holdings in European records lead the researcher to the treasure map.  However, the trail of the millionaire on the run disappears suddenly when the information leads you to the British Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean between the two Americas, which allows the establishment of companies away from tax regulations in free economic zones; a system known in commercial circles as “offshore” companies.

Money and investment pundits in Egypt agree that recovering Hussein Salem’s wealth, as well as other people’s, is difficult, especially that he injected it into this type of companies.  Mohsen Adel, an expert in the money market, who is also an executive of a financial securities company, says that offshore is a system followed by businessmen in establishing companies for the purpose of concealing their names and ownership in them.  The owner thus owns these companies but does not manage them, and documents do not show him at all in the ownership structure.  The company is managed by a law office or a consulting firm which fully supervises management, against a large percentage of profits.

The financial expert points out that many Egyptian businessmen and former officials during the ousted president Hosni Mubarak hide their property and assets in these companies outside Egypt in order not to reveal their financial information, and to protect them from legal procedures.

Mohammad Abdulrahim, a financial analyst in the stock exchange agrees with him, saying that British Indian Islands, or the “Virgin Islands” are not under tax surveillance, and these companies are not required to present balance sheets to the country where the headquarters of their company is, or to their original governments.

Hussein Salem managed to hide his wealth brilliantly, surrounding it with secrecy, which makes it difficult for Egypt and its judicial and monitoring systems to reach it and recover it, and therefore try Salem for charges of wasting public funds in gas export deals to Israel, and exploiting authority and influence in obtaining public land illegally.  Will the Egyptian side succeed in retrieving Salem and his wealth?  The future alone will answer such a question.

Hussein Salem’s Accomplices in Brief:
1.    Sofie Borbier
–    Quality Assurance manager at the Jolly Ville resort owned by Hussein Salem in Sharm Al-Sheikh.
–    Owner of “TABAC” health center in South Sinai, specialized in natural and laser treatment.
–    Assistant to the Executive Manager in Jolly Ville hotels, where she has worked for 13 years.
–    Has experience in managing Swiss financial companies, and in public relations.

2.    The law office responsible for managing Hussein Salem’s wealth in Geneva: Croisier & Gillioz
–    Established in 1966, the office is located in one of the commercial neighborhood’s streets in Geneva.
–    A team of about 12 partners working under the supervision of 4 partners.  On the Internet, the introduction mentions that it has a team of more than 50 layers, mong whom are prominent lawyers in tax laws, intellectual property (trademarks, patents, licensing) and financial products and systems for more than 20 years.
–    The Gillioz office entered into a partnership with an international law office (Meyer Lustenberger) in Zurich.

3.    Andre Gillioz
–    Born in San Moritz in Switzerland in 1937, and a member in the Bar Association in Geneva in 1967.

Education:

–    Master’s Degree in Economics
–    MCJ New York University in Law, 1965
–    Member in Bar Association, Law Association in Geneva, Swiss Bar Association, Swiss Federation of Lawyers, Business Law, Geneva League, International Financial League (EVA).

Practice:
–    Works as a lawyer since 1961.  Legal advisor for a number of companies in New York and Geneva.
–    Interested in cases and operations of mergers and acquisitions, as well as the default and non-liquidity, international arbitration.

4.    Pascal Erard
–    Born in Neoshattel in Switzerland, 1961.
–    Member in the Geneva Bar Association 1991.

Education:
–    Higher College of Trade, Neoshattel, 1982.
–    Neoshattel University, Master’s in Law 1988

Practice:
–    1991 – 1994 Cantonale Banque Du Geneve
–    1994 – 1998 Credit Agricole
–    1998 – 2000 EuroBank, USA
–    2000 -2004 Credit Agricole Bank
–    2004 till present Partner in Andre Gillioz law office

Main cases addressed:
–    International Trade
–    Litigation in commercial and financial issues
–    Legal assistance

Journalists Miranda Patrick and Paul Rado from the Anti Corruption Project – Investigations Center in Sarajevo, Bosnia assisted in completing this investigation.  The Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) assisted in networking.


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