The legal office of the State Secretary Gabriel Biriș, partner of Mossack Fonseca in Romania
Cătălin Prisacariu

The disclosures recently published worldwide  and known as the "Panama papers" made the company Mossack Fonseca famous all over the world. Mossack Fonseca is a Panamanian legal office founding offshore companies and providing associated services. Suspected that, in fact, it also facilitates criminal activities through its services, Mossack Fonseca cooperated in Romania with a legal office that supplied a current state secretary. We are talking about Biriș Goran Legal Office. One of the partners of this legal office, Gabriel Biriș, is a State Secretary at the Ministry of Finances and one of the few Romanian politicians declaring officially the possession of an offshore company.

Offshore companies from the British Virgin Islands part of a trial in Târgu Mureș

There is no public information that Biriș Goran, the legal house, has any connections with the suddenly famous Mossack Fonseca. An insolvency trial in Târgu Mureș however reveals a story apparently involving debts, an offshore company and lawyers, a story directly connecting Biriș Goran to Mossack Fonseca.

The trial (File no.68/1371/2012/a1) takes place at the Mureș Specialized County Court and deals with the insolvency of a commercial company in Târgu Mureș, Mark Prodholz SRL. So far, nothing out of the ordinary. The first interesting piece of information is that one of Mark Prodholz SRL’s creditors is an offshore company: Simber Industries LTD, based in Akara, BLDG, 24 De Castro Street, Road Town, Tortola British Virgin Islands. How could an offshore company sue a SRL (Limited Responsibility Company) in Târgu Mureș for a debt? The secret lies in the SRL’s shareholding and the representative of the company from the British Virgin Islands.

Simber Industries LTD claims 5.7 million Lei from Mark Prodholz SRL

What is the stake of the trial for Simber Industries LTD? Over a million euro, a debt that the offshore company claims it needs to cash from Mark Prodholz SRL, but which Adriana Tatiana Suciu, director of the SRL, denies. The statements below are excerpts from the “Insolvency Procedures Bulletin” (BPI), an official publication of the Trade Register National Office including published information about companies. According to BPI no. 20811 of 3 December 2015, “On the dockets, the ruling for the appeal issued by the creditor claimant  SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD, the debtor company Mark Prod Holz SRL to the preliminary table of debt issued by the former legal administrator,

C.I.I. Suciu Adriana Tatiana (...). (...) In fact, the claimant requested that debt in the amount of Lei5,728,688.04 is registered in the permanent debt table. In the reasoning of the action, the claimant showed that: < (...) As resulting from the registration certificate delivered to the legal administrator and after his examination, the company Simber Industries LTD was legally registered in 2000 in the British Virgin Islands, and the trial file includes documents regarding its main office. Moreover, we proved the fact that the company is authorized to assume legal responsibilities towards third parties and to sign the legal assistance agreement based on which conventional representation in the present case is provided, by filing the documents certifying the company’s additional office in Switzerland.

We would like to add that the Swiss office, located in Geneva, Crets de Champel no. 29, CH-1206, is a subsidiary of Simber Industries LTD, rigorously mentioned in our debt declaration, without it leading to the conclusion that the debt declaration was issued by the Swiss subsidiary. (...)

Considering the above, we request the admission of the present appeal, the establishment and retention of the undersigned’s debt as certain, liquid and eligible and the inclusion of SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD in the preliminary debt table with the amount of RON5,728,688.04.>"

Biriș Goran Legal Office works for Simber Industries LTD

The same issue of the “Insolvency Procedures Bulletin” also shows the point of view of Mark Prodholz SRL legal administrator: "In their defense, the debtor’s legal administrator, CABINET INDIVIDUAL SUCIU ADRIANA TATIANA (Individual Office Suciu Adriana Tatiana) filed written notes (ph. 9) requesting rejection of the appeal. In the reasoning of the action, the debtor’s legal administrator pointed out the following: <(...) As a result of the commencement of the insolvency procedure, creditors were notified according to the list provided by the debtor company. Considering that the company SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD included three specified addresses, the notification was sent to all specified addresses, i.e. company’s main office in the British Virgin Islands, to the office in Geneva – Switzerland, by means of which the request was issued and to the established office in Romania, i.e. at Biriş - Goran Legal Office. (...) Biriş-Goran Legal Office replied to our request, with documents no.  218 and 219/05 April 2012, delivering two translated documents pointing out that the company SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD was registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2000, with number 358767, and in 2005 this company was running its business under normal conditions, and company directors were Mrs. Yvette Rogers and Mrs. Darlene Bayne (Annex 3)."

Biriș Goran, Mossack Fonseca’s Romanian partners

Next, legal administrator Adriana Tatiana Suciu presents the court direct evidence that the lawyers of Biriș Goran in Romania were cooperating as directly as possible with Mossack Fonseca. Here is the relevant excerpt from Adriana Tatiana Suciu’s argumentation: “An important fact is that the two documents were issued by the company MOSSACK FONSECA & CO (BVI) LTD, a company which, according to the information included on its website, deals with the foundation of commercial companies in the British Virgin Islands (Annex 4). Therefore, they were not issued by the Trade Register or a financial authority responsible for providing such information about economic agents running their business in this field of activity. (...)"

The cooperation between Biriș Goran and Mossack Fonseca went on, according to legal administrator Adriana Tatiana Suciu. She requested more documents from Simber Industries SRL, claiming that there is no company at the Geneva office mentioned by Biriș Goran. Biriș Goran replied again as follows, according to documents published in BPI: “At the hearing of 25 April 2012, the authorized attorney of this company (Biriș Goran Legal Office – editor’s note) filed a new confirmation certificate issued on 13 April 2012 by the same company, i.e. MOSSACK FONSECA & CO (BVI) LTD, an authorized agent of SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD, pointing out that, at that time, the company was represented by two directors, that is Mrs. Jaqueline Alexander, appointed on 27 February2009, and Mrs. Carmen Wong, appointed on 04 April 2012. According to the information included on its website, the company MOSSACK FONSECA & CO (BYT) LTD deals with the foundation of commercial companies in the British Virgin islands, therefore the two documents had not been issued by the Trade Register, the Chamber of Commerce or the financial authority in the British Virgin Islands, authorized to provide certain information on economic agents running their business in this field of activity. These documents were not certified and do not include the Apostille of the above-mentioned institutions, as they are not certified copies, and for this reason we find necessary their delivery as original documents issued by authorized institutions, that is the Trade Register, the Chamber of Commerce and the financial authority, signed, certified and bearing an Apostille.”

Simber Industries LTD, at the same address as Mossack Fonseca

Obviously, the documents submitted by Biriș Goran point out the fact that Simber Industries LTD from the British Virgin Islands is a company founded by Mossack Fonseca and apparently run by lawyers of Mossack Fonseca. And these lawyers were closely and directly cooperating with lawyers from Biriș Goran Legal Office in Romania. In other words, at least in the case of Simber Industries LTD, Biriș Goran Legal Office was the Romanian partner of Mossack Fonseca Legal Office, a necessary partnership in  order for the real owners of the offshore company to remain unknown. In fact, the address of Simber Industries LTD (Akara, BLDG, 24 De Castro Street, Road Town, Tortola British Virgin Islands) is also the address of Mossack Fonseca’s subsidiary address in the British Virgin Islands.

The fact that Simber Industries LTD is a client of the company whose partner was the current State Secretary Gabriel Biriș until recently is also included on the website of Biriș Goran Legal Office.

Two contracts between the offshore company and the SRL

However, how did an offshore company from the British Virgin Islands reach a situation where it makes financial claims against a SRL in Târgu Mureș dealing with carpentry and aluminum cases? The above-mentioned “Insolvency Procedure Bulletin” again provides the explanation. This is the relevant excerpt: “The issued request demanded the registration of the debt in the total amount of Lei5,728,688.04, the equivalent of Euro1,064,005.24. The amount of Lei1,041,666.50, the equivalent of Euro245,000 was justified with the Decision no. 1490/21 October 2011, issued by Mureş Specialized County Court in the File no. 1913/1371/2011. Considering that this amount is determined with an enforceable title, as per Art. 66, paragraph (2) the debt cannot be proven by the legal administrator. (...) The amount of Lei3,482,164.57, the equivalent of EUR819,005.24, requested to be included in the creditors’ table with the same debt inclusion request, the examination of the supporting documents enclosed to the request and the inspection of financial and accounting documents submitted by the debtor company concluded the following: The request for debt inclusion had two contracts enclosed, i.e. contract no. 425/04 July 2002, signed between SC MARK PROD HOLZ SRL sand SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD, founded in the British Virgin Islands, where Mark Prod Holz SRL acted as a manufacturer – seller, and Simber Industries LTD acted as a buyer, the contract no. 02.152 -SIM/01 August 2002, signed between SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD, founded in the British Virgin Islands, registration no.499323 and SC MARK PROD HOLZ SRL, where Simber Industries LTD acted as a general supplier for various machines, equipment and industrial buildings, and SC Mark Prod Holz SRL acted as Importer - Beneficiary.ând>

Both contracts were signed by Mr. Maticiuc Ion as a legal representative of the company SIMBER INDUSTRIES LTD.”

Ion Maticiuc, associate in the SRL and offshore representative

Therefore, two contracts were signed in 2002 between Mark Prodholz SRL in Târgu Mureș, Romania and Simber Industries LTD in the British Virgin Islands. In one of the contracts, Mark Prodholz SRL sold furniture to the offshore company, and in the other, Simber Industries LTD sold equipment to the SRL in Târgu Mureș. From the point of view of  Simber Industries LTD, the development of the two contracts resulted in an outstanding balance of over one million euro due by the SRL in Târgu Mureș. In the end, at the hearing on 6 June 2014, the court denied the request of the offshore company, considering that there were many unclear aspects in the documents submitted by the attorneys of Biriș Goran. 

But the most interesting part is the appearance of Ion Maticiuc in this story. As presented by the documents supplied for the trial, Maticiuc was the representative of Simber Industries LTD. On the other hand, at least since 2004 up to now, the same Ion Maticiuc is also a shareholder of Mark Prodholz SRL in Târgu Mureș. Basically, on the one hand Maticiuc is asking for money as a representative of Simber Industries SRL, and on the other hand he has to give money as a shareholder of Mark Prodholz SRL. We can wonder then if the contracts between Mark Prodholz SRL and Simber Industries LTD were fictitious or overpriced so that the money from Romania would end up in an offshore company and tax exempted. As a matter of fact, during the trial at Mureș Specialized County Court, legal administrator Adriana Tatiana Suciu showed that part of the equipment that Simber Industries LTD assumed to deliver never reached its beneficiary, i.e. Mark Prodholz LTD.

As often happening with companies in tax havens, it is very likely that Simber Industries LTD was only a pawn that helped money produced in Romania leave the country to an offshore territory for tax exemption.

The couple Ion Maticiuc & Florin Dima hits again

Ion Maticiuc is a businessman with a special interest in real estate and energy, but not exclusively. In the business of Simber Industries LTD, Maticiuc works as a partner of Florin Dima, a citizen born in Romania who now holds a Swiss citizenship and lives in Geneva. According to the documents provided by Biriș Goran on behalf of Simber Industries LTD, the address of the so-called offshore company office in Switzerland (i.e. Geneva, Crets de Champel no. 29) is exactly Florin Dima’s residence address, the person who may be running the Geneva office of Simber Industries LTD. The portal  "România curată" briefly scrutinizes both of them as a group: “The character Dima Florin appears in many affairs of certain groups including former DIE (External Intelligence Department) officers, related to the network working with Carlos the Jackal for the assaults at Europa Liberă, but also a business partner with the plunderers of Rafo Onești.
Florin Dima (...) was also Ion Maticiuc’s partner, a former MCE employee, reshaped into a questionable post-Revolutionary multimillionaire, connected to the people of the old intelligence structure and the current influential people in the political area. Ion Maticiuc is Codin Maticiuc’s father, (...), a.k.a. Poponeț (...) .Florin Dima and Ion Maticiuc also ran energy-related business  with Gheorghe Ștefan’s son, a.k.a. Pinalti."