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A Tale of Murder and Widespread Corruption

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

By Eugene Costello, journalist

A couple of years ago, I was working on a newspaper investigation that brought me into contact with a detective agency. One of them rang me one day and said, "Eugene, we've been talking to a potential client but it is not within our sphere of expertise. Would you talk to him to see if it is one for the press?"

So I spoke to Jordan Durante, who had what sounded like an incredible story.

His grandfather, James William Durrant (the family subsequently tweaked their surname) was brutally murdered late at night back in 1988 in his home. He'd returned from a meeting and meal with his Freemason grand lodge in central London and taken a late train back to Surbiton.

He was bludgeoned so badly that he had to be identified by dental records. It was not a robbery police say even though his wallet was taken his safe had been opened and papers removed. I tracked down footage from Thames TV who did a news report on the untimely death.

Jordan was convinced that this was a financially motivated murder. His grandfather, a trained lawyer, worked at Brechers law firm. In the 1950s and 1960s, offshore jurisdictions such as Jersey and the Isle of Man became adept in creating trusts that on numerous occasions have been shown to be at best questionable mechanisms for the rich to avoid paying tax and at worst tools for money-laundering the proceeds of crime. Both featured prominently in the recent Panama Papers and Paradise Papers scandals.

His grandfather was complicit in this industry – some would say racket – although at a personal level he seemed to have been a public-spirited chap, with an exemplary war record in the RAF and his charitable work with the Freemasons. He started to invite his wealthy clients to open accounts with Barclays in Jersey.

We began to unravel the various strands. First, the killing. I contacted the Metropolitan police who told me that the case was still technically open, though it was not currently active.

I spoke to the well-known detective Peter Bleksley. Formerly with Scotland Yard and instrumental in setting up the undercover investigation unit SO10, readers might know him best for his role as The Commander on Channel 4's Hunted.

Bleksley was astounded first off that there is virtually no mention of the case on the internet, suggesting that it seems as though somebody has worked very hard to "scrub" the internet, that is, to remove mentions of the case online.

"It was prior to the internet, granted," said Bleksley, "but with any unsolved murder, you would expect to see many references to it over subsequent years. The fact that there is virtually nothing is troubling at the very least, to my mind, even uniquely rare."

So what happened?

Jordan tells me that in the first instance, the estate went to his widow, Margaret, and would subsequently go to his sons, Peter, Michael and the youngest, Jordan's father, Christopher.

A variety of questionable documents were produced when Jordan and I began to ask questions. The first questionable one was Margaret's will. A name that comes up time and time again was executor both to her late husband's will and now to Margaret's. He was tasked with getting their money back from Compendium in Jersey to the Isle of Man where she lived. He failed to do so. The will was completely contrary to her previous wills and the lawyers who witness it did not print their names nor addresses. Indeed, one is now in court on the Isle of Man for forging documents in other cases. The document was drawn up by a chap whose name would come up again and again in our investigation [but who cannot be named here since a date for trial in an Isle of Man court has been set for this March] and another lawyer. Suffice it to say, the "will" was not properly witnessed with names and addresses of witnesses missing, pages misnumbered and simply illegible signatures.

No funds were then passed to the heirs until we started to ask questions recently, and now the present owners of the trust wish to close it.

We were told that regular payments had been paid from this trust to "the Freemasons" as per James William Durrant's wishes. I contacted the United Grand Lodge of England whose lawyer responded to say that the Freemasons [sic] had never received a penny from this tsp.

So where did the missing millions go?

Much will be aired in court in a few weeks' time but it has shone a light on extraordinary practices on Jersey and the Isle of Man at a time when both jurisdictions claim that they are doing their utmost to prove that they are both clean and transparent.

This investigation brought me into contact with Tanya and Darrin Dick-Stock. They are suing John W Dick for cheating them out of a vast inheritance using the chicanery of tsps to do so. Tanya's father John W Dick had a mansion on Jersey recently put up for sale. On the estate, Tanya recalls that there was a room with antique typewriters, ink from different periods and paper also from distinct years.

One of Dick's trustees was an offshore services company called PanTrust. The company featured prominently in the Panama Papers, the massive leak of confidential documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca that revealed how hundreds of wealthy individuals and companies had parked their money offshore, in some cases illegally.

Banned from operating by the Panamanian regulator in February 2015, PanTrust was found to have set up a complex Ponzi scheme in which scores of fake accounts were paying fictitious rates of interest with the results that scores of trusts were fleeced of millions of pounds.

The Panamanian regulator also ruled that the firm had failed in its duty to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing. To this day it has the distinction of being the only company in Panama to ever lose its trust licence.

PanTrust was run by a Richard Wigley. I have seen a document in which he sets out precisely how to create forged backdated documents using antique typewriters, ink and paper.

John W Dick now says that he is distancing himself from Wigley and PanTrust. It was during court proceedings to have him removed as a trustee that Wigley’s lawyers made a bombshell admission. They acknowledged that he had created 24 fraudulent loans worth $30m involving a series of trusts set up for the Dick family.

It’s not the first time Dick has found himself up against a family member in a lengthy court case.

In the early 90s, while embroiled in divorce proceedings with his second wife, Elizabeth, he was reportedly held in a Jersey prison for 22 days until her alimony payments were resolved. However, in reality he ended up living under house arrest in his mansion for health reasons.

The divorce, which was notable for the fact that it took seven years to conclude – two years more than the marriage lasted – shone light on a secretive Jersey-based trust called Compendium which, it transpired, was the trustee of a John Dick trust.

Compendium, the US authorities discovered, had been used by a Miami-based lawyer, Lawrence Freeman, who was indicted for laundering money for the mafia and drug runners. At the time, the court heard suggestions that the Dick family fortune was worth an estimated $1.2bn, a figure Dick’s representatives now describe as “wildly inaccurate”.

Compendium was the subject of a World In Action documentary aired on January 11 1988 which probed links to money-laundering by South American drugs cartels, namely Pablo Escobar, and named two trustees of John W Dick that are connected to what Jordan Durante's claim is a huge conspiracy.

There is far more to this story but since it is sub judice, time will reveal all. At the least, it bodes ill for the claims that these jurisdictions are clean and fair. If Jordan Durante is correct, this is a case of huge fraud, corruption and even murder...

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