Andrew Baker Accused
Andrew Baker, a UK solicitor residing in Liechtenstein attempted to steal clients’ assets entrusted to him through an elaborate offshore scheme, according to the documents filed in courts in Miami and New York.
Baker is sued by Fisher Island Investments, Inc., a holding company of Fisher Island, world renowned residential community for "rich and famous", home to Oprah Winfrey, Andre Agassi and many others.
According to court filings, in early 2006, Baker approached Fisher Island management and offered his services as a lawyer and "cross-border tax and financial planning consultant."
Sources suggest that Baker was recommended by Hypo Investment Bank (Liechtenstein) AG. Late last year Hypo was purchased by Valartis Bank.
Claiming to be an expert on minimizing taxes and improving management efficiency of international companies, Baker assured Fisher Island management that he can help in its international expansion. Baker recommended a so-called "global financial planning structure," whereas Fisher Island should place all its assets into offshore trusts, with Baker as trustee. Baker assured Fisher Island management that his role of a "trustee" would be strictly nominal and solely for the tax and financial planning purposes. He even provided an undated resignation letter, so that Fisher Island could remove him at any time. Based upon Baker's sleek presentation and posture, Fisher Island hired Baker as its international financial and tax planning consultant, and permitted Baker to effect his "global structure", court papers allege.
However, in the latter part of 2007, Fisher Island management began to question the expertise and veracity of Baker, court documents reflect. Fisher Island retained prominent tax and legal experts to conduct inquiry, and Baker’s current and prior business practices were called into question. After analyzing Baker’s offshore structure one expert issued a damning report referring to Baker’s structure as "sham" that is "clearly reminiscent of a classic money laundering scheme, indeed rustic at that." Expert report explained that "these structures had been utilized a lot in the 90s and international financial institutions and law enforcement authorities are well familiar with them" noting that "today’s money-laundering schemes are far more sophisticated and less obvious". Report concludes: "I strongly recommend that you fire this fellow at your earliest opportunity and make sure that he returns all assets to their original positions".
But when Fisher Island advised Baker's of its decision to discontinue his services Baker declined to step down and declared that he and his Liechtenstein entity Miselva will continue to be in control of Fisher Island and its assets. Miselva known as "establishment" or "Anshtald", is a corporate form that is unique to Liechtenstein and enjoys extraordinary secrecy under Liechtenstein law. In 2000, Liechtenstein was placed on the "black list" of countries promoting money laundering. According to Liechtenstein official registry Miselva belongs to Baker and his wife Christine Maria Baker, a citizen of Liechtenstein. Click here to see the Complaint against Baker and his accomplices online.
The Gudavadze Connection
During his pre-trial court-ordered questioning by plaintiffs’ lawyers, Baker admitted that he essentially switched sides and now considers Inna Gudavadze the new "beneficiary" of his trust and its assets, including the Fisher Island. Gudavadze, former estranged wife of the late Russian billionaire-investor, Badri Patarkatsishvili, has been engaged in bitter court battles in several countries for control of Fisher Island and other assets, which she claims to be her inheritance of Badri.
A lawsuit against Gudavadze, and Boris Berezovsky, former partner of Patarkatsishvili is also pending in New York State Supreme Court. The complaint alleges that "significant evidence shows that the decedent’s death was caused by intentional unlawful acts of defendant Inna Gudavadze, Badri’s widow, in conspiracy with defendant Boris Berezovsky, a notorious Russian "oligarch" wanted by Interpol on international arrest warrants." Complaint also alleges that "defendants have devised and carried out a nefarious plan of intentionally or grossly negligently causing the death of Mr. Patarkatsishvili, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, in order to usurp control over his vast assets." Gudavadze’s motive for murdering Patarkatsishvili, in addition to money, was jealousy of Patarkatsishvili’s relationship with his second wife Olga Safonova, with whom the decedent had son David, according to the complaint. See: Gudavadze, Berezovsky, Implicated in Death of Badri Patarkatsishvili, Lawsuit Alleges
Baker is not a novice to being sued by his clients. In March 2006, Global Yachting, a New York company, filed a lawsuit against Baker in New York Supreme Court alleging that Baker engaged in fraud, misrepresentations, breach of contract, unlawfully trading on the name and reputation of his clients and divulging confidential information entrusted to him. Baker quickly settled the suit on the terms that are not known.
Baker is represented by Joseph Rebak of Miami law firm Tew Cardenas. Rebak and Tew Cardenas in the past represented Fisher Island Investments, Inc. and its chairman Joseph Kay. Fisher Island argues that Rebak may not defend Baker because of the conflict of interest and even filed complaint with the Florida Bar, alleging that Rebak was acting unethically.
Rebak depicted Fisher Island's complaint against Baker as "meritless" and vehemently denied engaging in unethical behavior.
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Fisher Island will request investigation of the Baker's practices by the US and Liechtenstein authorities.
Baker denies that he has ever engaged in fraud against his former clients, or in money laundering activity.