Cook Islands – International Trust

Tamatoa Jonassen Tamatoa Jonassen

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  • Non-recognition and non-enforcement of foreign judgments. In order for someone to attack the assets protected in a trust, they would need to take legal action in the Cook Islands court while court judgments from other countries would not be enforced. The cost itself in mounting a legal attack on this seemingly small remote group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean can itself be a barrier to would-be attackers. Furthermore, court proceedings relating to international trusts are heard on camera and are not published in order to preserve the confidential nature of a Cook Islands international trust.
  • A two year statute of limitations in which someone may commence legal action alleging fraudulent transfer against a trust. Court proceedings must be commenced within a two year time period from the transfer.This very short time limit is often the greatest hurdle for would-be attackers to overcome, and has become a hallmark of asset protection now adopted by many jurisdictions seeking to emulate the Cook Islands.
  • A higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof. In order to prove that a transfer into a Cook Islands trust was not done legitimately, a would-be attacker would need to meet a higher standard of proof than that in a typical civil case.

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Given its ideal location it is a prime jurisdiction for incorporating holding companies for clients whose businesses operate from both the USA and Asia.

The Cook Islands is no stranger to wealth.  Its financial services industry has been tailoring itself to global demand for over 30 years, and its chief exports include precious black pearls and a major fishing industry. Just this past August the opening of exploratory licenses was announced to exploit the Cook Islands’ trove of sea bed minerals and rare earth elements, which has an estimated 25% of the world’s supply of cobalt.

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The Cook Islands is ranked very highly for its regulations and oversight of the financial industry. It maintains compliance and is in good standing with international standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).Its close ties with New Zealand allow it to access high caliber New Zealand judges to preside in its court proceedings. It has a stable parliamentary system of democratic government which just celebrated its 50th year anniversary of self-government (five days before Singapore’s Independence Day). The supportive government and proactive industry allow the Cook Islands to maintain its sophisticated legal and financial services with an outstanding level of service.

Tamatoa is the CEO of the Cook Islands Financial Services Development Authority. He has also worked in the financial industry, managing complex international corporate and trust transactions for high net worth clients.  He holds a Juris Doctor degree in Law, and a law certificate in Pacific and Asian Legal Studies.





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