The Bastille Trust Case

OPAQUE TRUST STRUCTURES IN LIECHTENSTEIN – Lady Monika Bacardi and her daughter Maria Luisa Bacardi fighting against Liechtenstein professional trustees

Lady Monika Bacardi and her daughter Maria Luisa Bacardi are victims of opaque trust structures in Liechtenstein. For more than a decade they have been trapped in a network of lies, legal tricks and self-vested interests of those, who they trusted!

They decided to step up their efforts and to untie their family heritage from Liechtenstein, a country that Lady Monika Bacardi’s late husband visited only a few times in his life and always only to defend himself against deception and conspiracy but that is home to a considerable amount of his wealth, despite his will. Their efforts seem to have caused resistance by many who have much to lose, in this quest.

They firmly believe that what is well hidden behind paragraphs and legal arguments, is in reality an absurd and shameless attempt to take advantage of their situation, their family and their legacy. The legal cases are extremely complex, but in essence – it is simple to spot the dealings they are exposed to. We decided to go public with this information, so everyone can judge by themselves.

People near and dear to Lady Monika and Maria Luisa Bacardi

Over 17 years ago, against the expressed will of the late husband of Lady Monika Bacardi, a trust was founded in Liechtenstein. His lawyers took advantage of his constantly deteriorating state of health. Considerable parts of his assets and inheritance were transferred to the trust. Through fraud and treachery assets and inheritance were removed from the family’s control. Since then the family has been fighting against a network of Liechtenstein professional trustees, lies and legal trickery, and every time the family believes the horror is over, they are fooled again by Liechtenstein professional trustees! Years of ramified lawsuits, attempts to split the family, defamation, knowingly incorrect legal advice, are only a small part of the whole story.

Their story illustrates the intolerable conditions in the Principality of Liechtenstein.

How it all began

The late husband of Lady Monika Bacardi – Lord Luis Bacardi – became seriously ill. To provide for the financial future of his wife and his only child, he instructed his lawyers E.W. and L.M. to make arrangements. In a handwritten letter dated September 12, 2002 to his then lawyer E.W., who was even Foreign Minister of the Principality of Liechtenstein in the early 2000s, Lord Luis Bacardi wrote:

“I want a legal way, if possible, not a trust; I want to take care of Monika (Lady) and our daughter so that I can have “peace of mind” and die that way”.

At that time Lord Luis Bacardi already had a trust called Lugocamba Trust which was established in the jurisdiction of Guernsey.

Misused trust

Instead of taking his wishes seriously, the lawyers established a trust – the BASTILLE TRUST – anyways by taking advantage of his state of health and deceived Lord Luis Bacardi about their true motives. A considerable part of his assets – including the Bacardi LTD. shares – were just transferred from Lugocamba Trust to the BASTILLE TRUST.

As noted the Lugocamba Trust was constituted under Guernsey law, where as in all jurisdictions in the world, (with the only exception of Liechtenstein), both settlor and beneficiaries of the trust are amply protected, whereas the BASTILLE TRUST was constituted under Liechtenstein law where the beneficiaries have non legal rights vis a vis the trust and the trustees and cannot have the status of “civil party” in criminal proceedings against the trustees. If there is a dispute with the trustees, the grievances of the beneficiaries cannot be heard in legal proceedings – even if they have reasonable grounds to challenge a trustee’s actions. Under the laws of the Principality, legal rights are held by the trustees. And so if there is a dispute with the trustees, the beneficiaries can be left with no access to their own assets.

Due to the advanced illness of Lord Luis Bacardi, the two lawyers thought he would be easy to control. E.W. and L.M. joined Lord Luis Bacardi as members of the Board of Trustees. A memory protocol of Lord Luis Bacardi’s doctor, that was only recently provided, reaffirms the evidence that the then professional trustees shamelessly took advantage of the deteriorating state of health of Lord Luis Bacardi.

Back in 2004, when Lord Luis Bacardi discovered provisions in the trust deed that were against his will and interests, Lord Luis Bacardi tried to prevent the worst – the de facto theft of the assets. He resigned as a family member of the Board of Trustees to declare the trust null and void. In an obscure legal maneuver, the Liechtenstein professional trustees instead appointed F. B. – CEO of Bacardi LTD and Lord Luis Bacardi’s opponent – as a member of the Board of Trustees (family trustee) and also attempted to steal the Bacardi LTD shares held at the Pictet Bank in Geneva safe. Only the bank’s prior refusal and then Lord Luis Bacardi’s appeal to the Geneva Court averted the theft of the Bacardi LTD shares.

Lord Luis Bacardi records his horror in a letter (s.below): “I must state that I am absolutely dumbfounded that 3 attorneys (!) should league themselves against a dying old man to act in total disregard of his wishes, but I realize that there are such large amounts of money and possibly power at stake that, perhaps, all other considerations including the protection of the principal beneficiaries of the trust may become of secondary importance”

In a letter dated August 2004, L.M. wrote to the new consultant of Lord Luis Bacardi that the BASTILLE TRUST has always belonged to the fam

During the subsequent legal proceedings, Lord Luis Bacardi died and his widow Lady Monika Bacardi had to continue the lawsuit. Inexperienced in litigation, she had to rely completely on Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, the new lawyer of her late husband. However, Lord Luis Bacardi appointed his wife Lady Monika in his last will as testamentary executor. A clear sign that he trusted only her to fulfill his last will and wishes.

Instead of taking legal action to have the BASTILLE TRUST lifted, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz sought only to remove the trustees. Several years later it turned out that he chose this path not out of legal necessity but out of economic self-interest (major client worth millions for a small law firm). (see lower section). After four years of legal proceedings F.B. and the other trustees were removed from the trust by order of the Supreme Court (see Supreme Court of Liechtenstein as Constitutional Court; StGH 2007/137 of 9 December 2008). The first two judgments, both of which had already ordered the removal of FB and the other trustees, were appealed by the latter with the object of keeping the trust and their positions in the trust alive.

27.07.2009 the Princely Court of Liechtenstein upon application and request of Dr. Bernhard Lorenz filed on behalf of Lady Monika Bacardi who at the time trusted on Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S appointed Lady Monika Bacardi together with her lawyer Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S (who had acted until that time as supervisory trustees appointed by the Princely Court since December 2004 within the legal proceedings aimed to remove F.B., E.W. and L.M.) as members of the Board of trustees of the BASTILLE TRUST. The Court emphasizes the special role of Lady Monika Bacardi as family representative for the protection of her daughter’s interests. Furthermore, it mentions explicitly the dislike of Maria Luisa Bacardi displayed by F.B. and the rest of the Bacardi family.

An endless nightmare

After almost 10 years of apparent peace, dark clouds were once again gathering over the life of the daughter Maria Luisa and the widow Lady Monika Bacardi. All this peaceful years, Lady Monika Bacardi was kept in the dark by her lawyer Dr. Bernhard Lorenz about the nullity of the Trust and other opaque maneuvers within it.

Due to the amount of Maria Luisa Bacardi’s heritage and her being underage, the Monaco Juvenile Court controlled regularly the development of Maria Luisa’s assets. From 2015 to 2019, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz and Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher, with the help and support of two Monaco law firms, misled and obstructed the investigation by the Monaco Juvenile Judge. As it turned out the part of the inheritance, which were in the BASTILLE TRUST, were not mentioned and included in the reports to the Juvenile Court at the time by the trustees.

In the reports and communications to the Monaco Juvenile Court, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz and Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher argued that the Monaco Juvenile Court was not competent to investigate the BASTILLE TRUST and its trustees because the estate was managed by a trust and trustees under the control of a foreign court, namely the Liechtenstein Court.

This argument was clearly inaccurate and misleading because no Liechtenstein Court exercised control over the trusts and its professional trustees. Until a few months ago, this control was the responsibility of the Chamber of Trustees and then, following the numerous scandals involving the trustees of the Principality, of the FMA (Financial Market Authority).

Furthermore, shortly before Maria Luisa’s 18th birthday, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz (in his dual role as Lady Monika Bacardi lawyer and leading trustee of the BASTILLE TRUST) approached Lady Monika Bacardi and her daughter Maria Luisa, claiming that the first distribution of the accumulated dividends could not take place when the daughter came of age (as actually intended in the trust deed) due to alleged tax law concerns. At no time, were the tax arguments based neither on a serious legal basis nor on actual facts.

The Liechtenstein trustees even tried to have their strange legal view covered by a legal opinion prepared by English law firm Macfarlanes. The correspondence suggests that the Dr. Bernhard Lorenz influenced the legal opinion in their favor by making misleading claims.

In an e-mail to the English law firm, Dr. Bernahrd Lorenz questioned the capacity of Maria Luisa Bacardi to take an independent decision.

With growing concern, Lady Monika Bacardi did her own research and discovered something outrageous. For years, the voting rights of the shares of Bacardi LTD. were exercised at the Shareholder Meeting of the company contrary to the will of her late husband. Also when was F.B. was under revocation legal proceedings from 2005 to 2008, the supervisory trustees, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S, supported and voted for his candidature and that of his governance members at the annual renewal of the Bacardi LTD. board of directors. From to 2009 to 2019 this support and vote was even systematically repeated and expressed by Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S without the compulsory consent and signature of Lady Monika Bacardi. In order to continue to support F.B. and his governance members at all costs in the shareholders meeting of Bacardi LTD. to be held on 18 June 2020, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S at the beginning of June 2020 revoked Lady Monika Bacardi from her office as co-director (despite she is testamentary executor of Lord Luis Bacardi) of the consolidated subsidiaries, Rantex and Arateo, which hold Bacardi LTD. shares. At the trustees meeting held at the office of Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, which resolved her revocation, Lady Monika Bacardi’s proxi-holders (her legal team) were again actively prevented from attending by three body guards.

In an attempt to appease Lady Monika Bacardi, the professional trustees suggested that she transfer the assets from the BASTILLE TRUST to a new trust. The lawyers quickly realized that they could not convince Lady Monika Bacardi of another opaque trust structure. Using legal sleight of hand, Lady Monika Bacardi has been summoned to the Regional Court of the Principality of Liechtenstein to be divested from the BASTILLE TRUST.

Below there is a hint for the real motive why the nullity of the BASTILLE TRUST was never claimed at that time, but only the dismissal of the first set of trustees. It was an income generating vehicle for years for Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S. The provisions they suggested in the new trust, was even more staggering. The professional trustees could have determined the amount of their fees themselves!

The professional trustees’ cold grip

The appointments of R.S and Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher as trustees of the BASTILLE TRUST were set to expire in December 2019. However, shortly before their mandates expired, they used another legal trickery and re-appointed themselves with the help of Dr. Bernhard Lorenz – against Lady Monika Bacardi’s will.

In order to stop Lady Monika from preventing their reappointment, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz scheduled a trustees meeting for 25 November 2019 for the renewal of the offices of Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S – against the explicit will of Lady Monika Bacardi and her daughter Maria Luisa Bacardi. Paradoxically the matter was scheduled to be resolved by 18 November 2019 and therefore before and outside the official meeting. Furthermore, the participation of Lady Monika Bacardi’s proxi-holders (her legal team) at the trustees meeting was unduly prevented.

These proceedings are a huge violation of trust rules and further proof of the low motives of the professional trustees!

It was claimed that a trustee in Liechtenstein cannot be represented in fiduciary matters. The record of the incident stands for itself:

Since the renewal of offices would not have been permitted by the trust deed without the consent of Lady Monika Bacardi, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, after the trustees meeting of 25 November 2019, filed an application with the Regional Court of the Principality of Liechtenstein, seeking to obtain the “re-establishment of Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S” and the “dismissal of Lady Monika Bacardi”.

The fact that the Court follows the request of Dr. Bernhard Lorenz by reappointing Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S without verifying the information provided and inaudita altera parte, shows that Liechtenstein judges manifestly lack basic knowledge of trust law.

Attempt to drive a wedge between mother and daughter

When Maria Luisa Bacardi (the daughter) began to get involved in the dispute, she was accused by the professional trustees of not communicating in her own name and in her own will.

With all means possible the professional trustees tried to drive a wedge between daughter and mother who are both beneficiaries of the BASTILLE TRUST. Absurd accusations and intimidations are mounted by the professional trustees, among those they accused Lady Monika Bacardi of forgery of Maria Luisa Bacardi’s signature.

Not the most polite and legal manners

In May 2019, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz and Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher wrote two e-mails to Lady Monika Bacardi that Bank Vontobel (one of the custodian banks of the accumulated dividends not paid to Maria Luisa Bacardi on her coming of age) had requested that the BASTILLE TRUST be qualified as a financial entity for the purposes of the AEOI, FATCA and CRS tax information exchange. This was later denied in writing by Bank Vontobel itself, stating that the qualification as a Financial Entity was an autonomous choice of the professional trustees.

Obviously, this self-qualification entailed the implementation at the expense of the BASTILLE TRUST of a complex and risky reporting system and excluded the professional intermediation of the banks in the exchange of tax information (who knows why?!?!).

It should be noted that the qualification of a trust as a financial entity, which exists only in the Principality of Liechtenstein, has been repealed for legal entities that have joined the Principality of Liechtenstein with effect from the beginning of 2022, following several complaints by Lextray and Dr. Bruno Capone (leader of the team assisting Lady Monika Bacardi).

Motive? Money and Bacardi LTD. Governance

A glance at the fees charged by the professional trustees to the BASTILLE TRUST reveals the economic self-interest that guides them.

Over a period of 6 months (01.July – 31.December.2019) Dr. Bernhard Lorenz charged – in addition to his annual lump sum of CHF 100,000 – an amount of CHF 97,348.46 – with the vague description “time spend”.

It surprises in a similar manner, that the legal fees for the litigation of Dr. Bernhard Lorenz with Lady Monika and Maria Luisa Bacardi is covered by BASTILLE TRUST of which they are a beneficiaries, while mother and daughter have to cover their own legal expenses.

Furthermore, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz and the professional trustees want to continue their support of F.B. and his governance of Bacardi LTD., which never stopped, not even after at the end of the legal proceedings removing F.B. as additional Trustee of the BASTILLE TRUST.

The fight just started

In order to defend her rights and interests of those of her daughter, Lady Monika Bacardi hired a new team of lawyers and is once again taking up the fight against a broken legal system. It is not the first time, that this happens and it will not be over soon.

In the meantime, on December 2019, on the appeal and on the sole allegations of Lady Monika Bacardi’s former lawyer, Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, and without even hearing Lady Monika Bacardi (inaudita altera parte), the Regional Court of the Principality of Liechtenstein reappointed Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S to the office of trustee for an indefinite period of time and opened the procedure for the revocation of Lady Monika Bacardi’s family trusteeship, which is in progress.

Despite in January 2020 Lady Monika Bacardi and her daughter Maria Luisa Bacardi applied before the Liechtenstein Chamber of Trustees upon the art. 18 of the Rules of Conduct of the Trustees and on June 2020 an Arbitration Committee was appointed, as of today no disciplinary measures have been taken against Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S and no replacement has been resolved.

Despite in February 2020, Lady Monika Bacardi and her daughter Maria Luisa applied before the Liechtenstein Chamber of Lawyers against Dr. Bernhard Lorenz conduct, attitude and conflict of interest in his dual role as Lady Monika Bacardi lawyer from 2004 to 2019 and leading trustee of the BASTILLE TRUST 2009 (duly appointed by the Court on request of Lady Monika Bacardi), no disciplinary proceedings has been initiated.

Lady Monika Bacardi and her daughter Maria Luisa Bacardi, as consequence of some interviews released to some news-papers concerning the BASTILLE TRUST and their abuse suffered in Liechtenstein (interviews released as well by Dr. Bernhard Lorenz, Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S), were subject of restraining order issued on September 2020 by the Regional Court of the Principality of Liechtenstein on the simple application and allegations of Dr. Bernhard Lorenz Dr. Friedrich Wohlmacher and R.S and without even having the possibility to reply (inaudita altera parte).

In an open letter, the government of the Principality of Liechtenstein was requested to have the BASTILLE TRUST declared null and void, non-existing and contrary to the public order and to return its assets to the testamentary executors of Lord Luis Bacardi duly appointed in last will edited and published under the law of Monaco, the place of his last residence. With this notification, Maria Luisa and Lady Monika Bacardi demand the return of all assets of the BASTILLE TRUST and further compensation in connection with the legal and other costs arising from the current proceedings. The total value of all claims amounts to approximately 2.7 billion Swiss francs.

In addition, applications have been filed with the public prosecutor’s offices for various crimes related to this case, which has been ongoing for more than 17 years.

Merits of the claims

Invalidity of the trust because of:

  • the offenses committed against Lord Luis Bacardi and the exploitation of his state of health;
  • the fraudulent conduct of E.W. and L.M., their attempts to deprive the family of the shares of Bacardi LTD and the subsequent attempt to extort money for changing the contents of the trust deed;
  • Failure to meet the requirements for the lawful establishment of a trust;

Violation of international and domestic inheritance laws due to:

  • Disregard of the Liechtenstein IPRG and the Monegasque Law 214/1936 as well as the English Inheritance Act and the mandatory Monegasque Inheritance law provisions. (Lord Luis Bacardi was an English citizen and has placed his will under Monegasque law);
  • Therefore, the BASTILLE TRUST and the related allocation of assets are revoked on the basis of the last will and testament of Lord Luis Bacardi (see Monegasque Law 214/1936) and art. 785(3) of the Liechtenstein Civil Code;

Considerations by Lady Monika Bacardi’s legal team

In short, in the Principality of Liechtenstein, some local Professionals can freely and without any control of legitimacy set up and register by themselves a trust in the local Commercial Register, appoint themself as trustees, abuse the trust and the state of health of their client and transfer all the client’s assets to the trust.

Despite repeated attempts to revoke the Trust by the deceived client, the Trust remains in force even if a formal revocation is made by means of a will published by a Monaco notary public drawn up in accordance with the law applicable to the de-cuius’ succession.

In the Trust, after bitter and super expensive legal suits in the Principality of Liechtenstein, only the initial professional trustees who had established the Trust are replaced by other local new professional trustees (including the Lawyer of the heirs and of the testamentary executor of the de-cuius and the Supervisory Trustees appointed by the Court at the commencement of the legal proceedings aimed to revoke the Initial Professional Trustees).

In a mocking way, these new professional trustees are allowed to continue abuse the trust of the heirs and the testamentary executor of the de-cuius and continue to manage the Trust pursuing the same objectives as the initial professional trustees on the interest of the governance of a multination group.

When the heirs and testamentary executor of the de-cuius become aware of the further deception by the new professional trustees, appointed by them (and including their lawyer) and begin to investigate, they discover creepy facts perpetrated over the years.

At that point the testamentary executor withdraws his lawyer and opposed the renewal of the appointment of the other new professional trustees at the Board of the Trustees, which was instead granted (inaudita altera parte) by the Court of the Principality of Liechtenstein at the request and appeal of the former lawyer who had been revoked by the testamentary executor. In the same application the former lawyer of the heirs and of the testamentary executor asked the dismissal of the testamentary executor from the Board of the Trustees and a few months later resolved to revoke the testamentary executor from directorships of the consolidated subsidiaries or the Trust which holding the Trust assets.

In addition, when the heirs and testamentary executor of the de-cuius begin to respond in interviews with the press asking for details of the general situation concerning them, they are made the subject in the Principality of Liechtenstein of a Court Restraining Order, which condemns them (inaudita altera parte) to remain silent.

So far no results in the Principality of Liechtenstein despite all the complaints lodged with the local Chamber of Trustees, the local Chamber of Lawyers, the local Register of Companies (in which the Trust is still registered), the Banks which hold and manage the assets of the Trust, the FMA (Financial Market Authority) and the Attorney General’s Office of the Principality of Liechtenstein.

All of this can happen and go unpunished for almost 18 years in the Principality of Liechtenstein in violation of the requirements for the lawful establishment of a trust, of the international inheritance laws and inviolable human rights!

But perhaps this is hardly surprising given that it is the only jurisdiction in the world where an assets holder has no standing to object during his lifetime to the transfer of all his assets to a trust also if set up not by himself but by the trustees who control it and where the beneficiaries have non legal rights vis a vis the trust and the trustees and cannot have the status of “civil party” in criminal proceedings against the trustees.

Only the intervention of International Bodies and Courts will be able to change this distortion and also violation of inviolable rights, since in the Principality of Liechtenstein, especially after the death of the settlor, no one would be entitled to oppose and denounce the trustees.