By Alex Tarrant
The Reserve Bank has warned about yet another dodgy financial services company falsely claiming to be registered for banking activities under the Reserve Bank's supervision, and which 'operates' out of a virtual office in Auckland.
The company appears to have been set up as a pyramid scheme, encouraging its customers to broker for it in return for financial returns. Pyramid schemes are illegal in New Zealand.
It also claims operational alliances with ANZ and ASB, with both telling interest.co.nz the claim is bogus.
The company, First International Bancorp Limited, claims to be registered under the 'New Zealand Commonwealth Offshore Banking Act of 1993,' according to its website. That legislation does not exist, the Reserve Bank says.
"This entity is not licensed or prudentially supervised by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand or any other New Zealand authority. It is not registered under the New Zealand Commonwealth Offshore Banking Act of 1993 as no such Act exists in New Zealand. Use of the name First International Bancorp is not permitted by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand," the Reserve Bank said on its website.
Also see the Reserve Bank's Notice: Inappropriate use of names that include the word ‘Bancorp’
On its website, - with a '.net.nz' domain name - First International Bancorp says its address is 'Aukland (sic) Savings Bank Centre 135 Albert Street, Level 20 Auckland 1010, which is a serviced, or 'virtual' office. A phone number on the website passes through to a recorded message.
First International Bancorp is the latest in a long line of entities abusing New Zealand's company registration rules, which are overseen by the Ministry of Economic Development and regarded as the easiest in the world by the World Bank, and this country's good international reputation to engage in questionable, or blatantly illegal activities overseas.
The Financial Markets Authority is currently "engaging with" City Savings "Bank" following interest.co.nz's revelations that the entity, operating out of a small Auckland office and seeking to raise money from British investors, was using the word "bank" in its name when it's not permitted to, and claiming to be authorised by the New Zealand government when it isn't. The government doesn't plan to tighten company registration rules but says it has a "programme of work" designed to crack down on such entities.
Meanwhile, the Companies Office website lists a company, with the current name of 2188498 LIMITED, as formerly being called First International Bancorp Limited. The company's shareholding is listed as being in the British Virgin Islands, and its sole director, Victor Vilches, is registered as living in Florida.
The address of 2188498 LIMITED is listed as 69 Ridge Road, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand. That is the address of 'Express Biz,' a company which registers and incorporates New Zealand companies for NZ$320.
A Companies Office Search identifies 2,067 companies that either use, or have used, the 69 Ridge Road, Albany address. Nineteen have it as their current address.
'Invest in us'
First International Bancorp claims to offer retirement accounts, with interest rates up to 12%, 'Regional Development Bonds', 'Certificates of Deposit', and International loans.
The only manager of the company, according to its website, is "Mr. William W. Martin – a banker with extensive knowledge and experience in international business, economics, industrial management, municipal infrastructure development and financial analysis is the Chief Executive Officer of First International Bancorp Ltd. as of 2009."
"First International Bancorp Ltd. is a group of professionals and affiliated companies that provide investors with global expertise in asset allocation strategies, investment advisory services, trust administration and International private banking," it says on First International Bancorp's website.
"With proficient investments in Agribusiness, Clean Energy Technology, Healthcare, Telecommunications, Real Estate, and Commodities trade, FIB Founders have built an asset base worth over one billion Pounds Sterling," it says.
"FIB believes in small communities with growing local markets. Our investment operations across the globe help companies and individuals to create prosperity in their localities. The basic principles of hard work, vision, and focus on each client’s needs are manifest in every aspect of our business. They form the code of conduct that guides our actions in serving our clients."
"First International Bancorp Ltd. is a privately owned international financial institution, registered under the New Zealand Commonwealth Offshore Banking Act of 1993. As chartered, FIB operates outside of any obligations to local governments, and without their interference. FIB operates under the scrutiny of only the Laws of the Commonwealth of New Zealand," it says on the website.
"The Reserve Bank advises that caution should be exercised by anyone considering doing any form of business with entities that promote themselves as "New Zealand offshore finance companies", or use similar descriptions, and that offer financial services either on-line or from locations outside of New Zealand," the Reserve Bank says.
"No such category of entity is recognised under New Zealand law. The entities involved are usually just registered in New Zealand as companies or limited partnerships, and they have no special status. These entities are not licensed or supervised as financial service providers by any New Zealand authority," it says.
"They are required to register a New Zealand address, but this is usually that of a compliance agent, with the entities having no real physical presence in New Zealand. These entities are often directed or owned by persons who are not resident in New Zealand. Details about the directors and ownership of these entities can be obtained by searching the on-line database of the New Zealand Companies Office."
First International Bancorp appears to be operating a pyramid scheme, encouraging its customers to broker for them for financial return. A customer is told they will be paid for every new client they sign up to First International. Pyramid schemes are illegal in New Zealand.
"You can help your friends save, build their assets, and live more secure lives by protecting their assets. You can get a paycheck while they prosper, using First International Bancorp Ltd. and the World’s de-regulated financial market," First International says on its website.
"We have developed a more efficient approach to international banking. Rather than spend millions on overhead costs, such as advertising and physical plant infrastructure, we compensate our Marketing Team Members for telling their friends, family, and others about us and enlisting them as Certified Clients," it says.
"This one-to-one network marketing model is the most powerful and efficient way to reach people. Everyone is capable of building an excellent income stream that leads to financial security. Knowledge is power only when put into action, as winners demonstrate.
"People around the World are waking up to the idea of switching from their “bricks-and-mortar”, high-overhead cost and over-regulated local banks. They want to save, earn a fair return, secure their assets from confiscation, and be able to transfer their assets to the people they love. Now is the time to take advantage of the FIB opportunity," First International says.
'We're just different to the others'
"A key element in any career search is in-depth knowledge of the organisation that you choose to join. From our people’s leadership capabilities, to our unique commitments to support them, First International Bancorp Ltd. (FIB) is just different than all the others, and we value our differences," First International says on its website.
"The FIB Financial Group offers a prosperous legacy and an exceptional atmosphere in which to do business. Our commitment begins and ends with our people, the men and women who continually go beyond Clients’ expectations, building lasting relationships for the century ahead," it says.
"At FIB we believe that our Master Brokers, Team Managers and Agents are the primary resources that create value for our Clients. We make every effort to work within our fundamental ideals, and we proudly wear our Heritage Shield as a symbol of that commitment."
Team Heritage Shield Commitment
"Our men and women are distinguished for their courage, culture, hard work, entrepreneurship, and high standards, representing integrity, confidentiality, loyalty, and financial strength to our clients," First International says on its website.
"This Shield is proudly worn by every First International Bancorp Ltd. Team Member."
(Updates with ANZ response, as well as ASB on bogus alliance)
This article was first published in our email for paid subscribers this morning. See here for more details and to subscribe.