Deception behind the Companies Registry paywall
5 March 2016
In the course of investigating problems at the HK Companies Registry, Webb-site has discovered a deceptive and potentially fraudulent pattern of behaviour involving a person who often goes by the name of "KEI, Tang Wing" but whose name is probably "William TANG Wing Kei" (Mr Tang), Tang being a common HK surname while Kei is not.
The paywall on the HK Companies Registry facilitates this kind of deception by making it impossible to check documents or directorships without payment of fees, and we're not paying to find out how far this mess extends in HK, but we can tell you about the UK and New Zealand. Ironically, today, 5-Mar-2016, is International Open Data Day!
What started our investigation was a UK company registered in HK on 14-Sep-2012 under the name "CIBC FINANCE LTD", HK number F0019373. The HK registry is out of date. Looking up that name in the UK registry, which is open and free, we found that it changed its name on 15-May-2015 to "BANGKO FIRST CREDIT LTD." and again on 23-Dec-2015 to "EURO EXIM BANGKO LIMITED". We have updated our record in Webb-site Who's Who accordingly. Between those two dates, the company filed an annual return in HK without updating its name.
The UK registry shows (without payment) that the director is "Tang Wing KEI", born 4-Sep-1957, and lists his 16 directorships. Now the pattern emerges. 5 of the companies' names were changed by the UK Company Names Tribunal, after applications from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and CIBC World Markets Plc, so their names are now their respective incorporation numbers followed by the word "Limited". You can see why:
|Past name||Current name|
|CIBC SAVING LTD||08149022 LTD|
|C.I.B. CORP LTD||08208819 LTD|
|CIB CREDIT LTD||08209545 LTD|
|CIB CREDIT AND SAVING LTD||08209637 LTD|
|CIBC AG LTD||08290830 LTD.|
|CIBC SAVINGS AND CREDIT CORP LTD||CI SAVINGS AND CREDIT LTD.|
|CIBC SAVINGS AND CREDIT LTD||COMMERCIAL & INDUSTRIAL BANGKO LIMITED|
|CIBC CREDIT N SAVING CORP LTD||CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANQUE LTD.|
|CIBC BANCORP LIMITED||CREDIT AND INVESTMENT BANGKO CORP LTD.|
|CIBC UK LTD||CREDIT BONDS LTD.|
|CREDIT BOSTON LTD|
|CREDIT SUISSE BANCORP LTD|
|CIBC FINANCE LTD||EURO EXIM BANGKO LIMITED|
|CIBC CREDIT CORP LTD||GRAND METRO INVESTMENT INC. LTD|
|CIBC CREDIT & FINANCE LTD||POINT CREDIT AND SAVING LTD|
|CIBC CREDIT LIMITED||SUISSE CREDIT CAPITAL UK LTD|
Mr Tang has also been active in New Zealand, where he registered two UK companies as overseas companies. Like the UK, the New Zealand registry is also free and open. The two companies' records are at these links: CIBC CREDIT LIMITED and BNP CREDIT & SAVING LIMITED. As shown in the table above, the first of these companies has changed its name (without telling New Zealand) to the equally misleading "SUISSE CREDIT CAPITAL UK LTD", a play on the brand of the real Swiss bank Credit Suisse, while the BNP knock-off (a play on real French bank BNP Paribas) is still under that name in the UK, although the director is named "Kei Wing TANG", so that makes 17 companies.
One of the above firms, CIBC Bancorp Ltd, was the subject of a warning of possible unauthorised activities by the UK Financial Conduct Authority on 22-Sep-2011.
Incidentally, there is also a HK company incorporated on 11-Jun-2013 called SUISSE CREDIT CAPITAL LIMITED which may or may not be related. We're not paying the registry to find out. A similar-named company, Credit & Investment Bancorp Corporation Ltd, was incorporated in HK on 3-Sep-2012. Another one, CIBC AG Finance Ltd, was incorporated in HK on the same day and changed its name to LC Services (Asia) Ltd (LCSA) on 19-Aug-2014. The "AG" is a nice touch, making it sound like a German subsidiary. There was also a HK firm called CIBC BANCORP ASIA LIMITED incorporated on 10-Nov-2011 and struck off on 14-Aug-2015.
For several of the UK knock-offs, the address of the company is in London's East End at "Office 3, 3rd Floor, 148 Cambridge Heath Road, London E1 5QJ". That address is shown on www.mailbox4u.co.uk, which says it was established in 1996 by Leonard Cosgrove. The domain is registered to "Len Mailing Address Service".
Max Vision Finance
All 17 companies were incorporated with only one shareholder, Max Vision Finance Limited (MVF), incorporated in HK on 4-Jun-2008. The shareholder and Mr Tang's address is given as "Room 905, Tung Ming Commercial Bildg, 40-42 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong". Allowing for typos, that is "Tung Ming Building".
Also at that address or the adjacent unit 906, each with a director called "William Tang" in the Trade Development Council directory, are:
- Kent Star Trading Ltd, incorporated in HK on 7-Sep-2005, and in the TDC directory
- East Light Industries (HK) Ltd, incorporated in HK on 10-Jan-2006, and in the TDC directory
- British Dubai Incorporation Ltd, incorporated in HK on 16-Dec-2006, and in the TTDC directory
- BDI (HK) Ltd, incorporated in HK on 27-Jun-2008, and in the TTDC directory
- MSB Trading International Ltd (MSB Trading), incorporated in HK on 9-Sep-2011 and in the TDC directory
There is a web site for LCSA at 68bank.wix.com/msbtrading which gives an e-mail address at cibc-bancorp.com (matching the old name of LCSA), and includes a "message from the Chairman", William Tang.
Is William Tang the same person as TANG, Wing Kei? What makes this almost certain is the discovery of an 18th UK company, SUISSE CAPITALS (UK) LTD, at the same London address, the director and only shareholder of which is "William Tang", with the same date of birth as Kei Tang Wing, and the 2014 accounts were signed by "Wing Kei Tang". This company has a web site at suisse-capitals.com, a domain registered to "Max Vision Finance". The web site appears to promote letters of credit from an address in London but with a building name and street address that belongs to an office block in Coventry that was demolished in 2014.
Ms Chung, tear down this paywall
If the UK and New Zealand registries still charged to find directors and documents, we would never have uncovered this deception. HK is the odd one out. The Companies Registry, led since 2007 by Ada Chung Lai Ling, in the year to 31-Mar-2015 booked a profit of HK$263m on turnover of HK$548m. That is an obscene, monopolistic profit margin. Of the turnover, search and copying fees were HK$73m, so it would still be hugely profitable without search fees. So Ms Chung, in the words of Ronald Reagan in Berlin, "open this gate...tear down this wall". Open the data to public scrutiny as the UK and New Zealand have done.
Government should be run for-people, not for-profit. As the Financial Secretary said in his budget last month:
"Unless justified on policy ground, all fees and charges for government services have been set in accordance with the "cost-recovery" and "user pays" principles."
Given that the most efficient way to store company records is digitally, the Companies Registry would store all the data on servers even if the register were not open to searching, so adding the online search facility is only a marginal expense, certainly far less than HK spends on things like public parks and free wi-fi. Given the public interest and the economic benefits of transparency in terms of reduced fraud and corruption and ease of business, the search fees should be abolished and the filing fees cut until the registry operates at break-even. The HK public should not have to pay the Government in order to check whether they are dealing with the "real" CIBC, Credit Suisse or BNP.
© Webb-site.com, 2016
Organisations in this story
- 08149022 LTD
- 08208819 LTD
- 08209545 LTD
- 08209637 LTD
- 08290830 LTD.
- BDI (HK) LIMITED
- BRITISH DUBAI INCORPORATION LIMITED
- CI SAVINGS AND CREDIT LTD.
- CIBC BANCORP ASIA LIMITED
- COMMERCIAL & INDUSTRIAL BANGKO LIMITED
- Credit & Investment Bancorp Corporation Limited
- CREDIT & INVESTMENT BANQUE LTD.
- CREDIT AND INVESTMENT BANGKO CORP LTD.
- CREDIT BONDS LTD.
- CREDIT BOSTON LTD
- CREDIT SUISSE BANCORP LTD
- EURO EXIM BANGKO LIMITED
- FORTURN LAND INVESTMENT AND TRADING LIMITED
- GRAND METRO INVESTMENT INC. LTD
- HKSAR Companies Registry
- KENT STAR TRADING LIMITED
- MAX VISION FINANCE LIMITED
- MSB TRADING INTERNATIONAL LIMITED
- NEW CASTLE TECHNOLOGY LIMITED
- POINT CREDIT AND SAVING LTD
- SUISSE CAPITALS (UK) LTD
- SUISSE CREDIT CAPITAL UK LTD