Bloomberg also found that through Hitoro, Gu made millions selling a luxury apartment that Hong Kong property records show was purchased last year for HK$88 million (roughly $11.4 million US dollars). Hitoro had bought the property for just $1.2 million in 1992. (Hong Kong property records can be searched on IRIS, a database maintained by the Land Registry.)
Earlier, The Wall Street Journal had found that Gu Kailai herself had also registered a company in the UK—but under a different name.
Unlike in the US, where information on private companies is scant, the UK’s Companies House makes it relatively easy to find information on both public and private companies. One can type in a company name in the Companies House website and download PDFs of the company’s filings for ₤1 each.
Companies House only allows searches by company name or registration number, but the website duedil.com enables searches by director name. There was, however, no director listing for Gu Kailai. That’s because, according to the Journal, she registered a company under an assumed name, Horus Kai, which she also used when she was lawyering for Chinese companies in the US in the 1990s.
A search of Horus Kai yielded a company named Adad Ltd. The Companies House online database contains a PDF of Adad’s Form 363, the annual return UK companies are required to file. That form lists not just director’s names but also dates of birth and occupation—Horus Kai’s information, including her signature, matched that of Gu Kailai’s.
While corporate records clinched these stories, they would not have gotten off the ground without human sources, who provided the names that made document searches possible. The Wall Street Journal’s vigilant reporting on Bo Xilai since last year put them ahead of the game. The paper’s reporters—Jeremy Page, Brian Spegele, and Steve Eder—found a Denver lawyer with whom Gu Kailai had worked when she was hired to represent Chinese companies involved in lawsuits in the US 15 years ago.
It was this lawyer who revealed that Gu used a different name then; he also provided colorful details on Gu, who, he said seemed like “the Jackie Kennedy of China.” On April 7, the Journal came out with an excellent profile of Gu based on public records and interviews that offered revealing and previously unpublished information.
But despite all these revelations, one thing’s for sure: what’s come to light since February is likely just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming weeks, as reporters dig deeper, there’s bound to be more.
Editor’s Note: The article above contains several links useful for international, in-depth journalism, and here are some more:
Corporate Registers Worldwide
The Investigative Dashboard’s Worldwide Company Data is probably the most comprehensive listing of websites and databases where information on companies in more than 150 jurisdictions can be found. The Dashboard is a project of the nonprofit Overseas Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, based in Sarajevo, the International Center for Journalists, in the US, and the Forum for African Investigative Reporters.
Open Corporates calls itself “The Open Database of the Corporate World.” It contains information scraped from online corporate registers in more than 50 jurisdictions, including offshore havens like Panama and Bermuda. The site allows searches by company name, country, director name, and other keywords. So far it has records of more than 400 million companies worldwide.
The UK Companies House has a useful links page. At the bottom of that page is a list of links to selected registers worldwide.
The Corporate Intelligence Project has links to corporate registries in 50 states of the US and 65 countries around the world. It also enables searches for US government watch lists and regulatory agencies.
Integrated Companies Registry Information System (ICRIS): this for-pay database kept by the Hong Kong Internal Revenue Department allows searches by company or director name. Annual returns list board members, their addresses and passport or ID numbers. Searches can be done in English or Chinese.
Hong Kong Exchange posts interim and annual reports of listed companies as well as required disclosures (e.g. acquisition of more than 15 percent of shares of a company, change of senior executives).