In Zug, where coal is taboo
Adrià Budry Carbó, 19. June 2023
Contacted by Public Eye, Hans-Rudolf Wild confirmed the change of legal entity, but refused to provide details about why the transaction was made, its timing or the sale price. «Further information in this context constitutes business secrets and we see no reason to disclose more. After IMR Holding AG has relinquished its shareholding in PT Borneo Prima, it is no long IMR Holding AG’s business to answer your questions.», writes the prolific lawyer, who is administrator, chair or director of 45 companies (at the latest count in early June). No more clarity was provided in Singapore, where we did not find anyone to respond to the questions sent to the company’s email address ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
Surprisingly, IMR Metallurgical is registered at two locations in Zug: its official address is Dammstrasse 19, where the company still has a letterbox at Hans-Rudolf Wild’s law firm, and it is also registered at Zugerstrasse 74, although there is no one to respond to the intercom there. The only common feature is that the administrators of IMR took the time to put a sticker on their letterboxes indicating that they relinquish publicity.
Although he refuses to respond to a long list of questions on the environmental impact of the coal mine and about his personal activities as a commercial lawyer, Mr Wild insists that the IMR group, founded in 2004, is not a shell company. This is because, in the company’s words, it has over 4,000 employees at different sites around the world, including the business’s headquarters in Zug. «You know as well as we do that other, much larger commodities companies, which also mine commodities themselves around the world, have their headquarters in Switzerland, including in Zug», states Hans-Rudolf Wild from the Schweiger law firm. He is also former chair of the Liberal Party (PLR or FDP) in the city of Zug.
It would be an understatement to say that the Schweiger law firm specialises in complex structures. No fewer than 284 companies are registered to its address, sometimes directly under the name of Mr Wild. Schweiger Law was founded in 1976 by a PLR veteran, Rolf Schweiger, who sat on the Council of States from 1998 to 2011. The daily news outlet Neue Zürcher Zeitung, reputed to be close to business circles, even called Schweiger, a longstanding member of the board of corporate union Economiesuisse, a «staunch liberal».
In Switzerland, lawyers, notaries, accountants and trustees as well as service providers who work for trusts and companies are not subjected to the Swiss anti-money laundering law (AMLA) when providing advice on setting up and managing companies. At times, these white-collar workers find themselves playing the role of corporate engineer, offering clients a range of services from setting up complex structures destined to conceal money flows and preserve the anonymity of their beneficial owners, to opening bank accounts and managing assets. Some lawyers even end up defending companies that they themselves have set up and managed in the courts.
As partner at the Zug-based Schweiger law firm, Hans-Rudolf Wild is extremely well-connected in the city, where he has various mandates from local authorities, and offers corporate services for companies in the real estate and commodities business. On his company’s website, he describes himself as pragmatic, appreciated by his clients for his «strong ability to identify problems» and to advise in a «solution-oriented manner».
A galaxy not so far away
What problem does the ‘solution’ of transferring shares in the coal mine to IMR Asia Holding resolve? The man authorised to sign on behalf of the company will not tell us more. In Zug, IMR Holding – registered at Dammstrasse 19,– brings together some 25 subsidiaries orbiting in the galaxy of this multinational company active in Indonesia, but also in India, Mexico or Colombia. With its subsidiaries, IMR Holding controls a good part of the value chain, including mining extraction, transformation and trading. The company is also represented, via legal entities, in a series of financial hubs in Dubai or Beijing, in addition to the above-mentioned Zug and Singapore.
Hans-Rudolf Wild manages the companies of the IMR group on behalf of this 50-year-old, a former employee of the Indian Tata Steel group, British passport holder and now resident of Ireland. Anirudh Misra has not held back from doing business with his former employer Tata Steel. In a 2018 communique on the sale of of an asset, the Indian giant made no effort to hide the links between the different IMR entities: «IMF Asia Holding Pte Ltd is a company of the group IMR Metallurgical Resources AG (“IMR”), a global mining and metallurgy company that is headquartered in Switzerland».
An influential Instagrammer
In Borneo, IMR Holding associated itself with a local company called Pacific Samudra Perkasa, which holds the other half of the coal mine (the remaining 1% is in the hands of a local lawyer). Some changes among its shareholders are also intriguing. After the death of the patriarch Hery Gianto last June, his shares were unequally distributed between his son Hendrick (<99%) and his oldest son Williem Hartono, who owns a single share.
Hendrick Hartono, who is now the director of Pacific Samudra Perkasa, defines himself professionally as a ‘travel influencer’. His Instagram profile was public until we sent our first questions to PT Borneo Prima. The young thirty-year-old carefully curates his online image, posing, slickly powdered, in front of the Eiffel Tower or at large palaces, to the great enjoyment of his approximately 172,000 followers. The company owned by the influencer, for its part, does not have a website.