Daily Press Dot Com, April 4, 2013
An international association of journalists registered in the U.S. reveals secret offshore accounts of 120,000 companies and nearly 130,000 people, exposing hidden affairs of politicians, artists and rich people from over 170 countries.
A number of 86 journalists from 46 countries participated in the investigation coordinated by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the largest cross-border journalistic collaboration ever, the association said in a statement. The information was obtained by ICIJ from 2.5 million digital files.
The report by ICIJ, part of the Center for Public Integrity based in Washington, DC, and its partner networks around the world is first in a series of reports to be revealed by April 15, with other information to be made public during the year, as the investigation progresses.
Files identify those behind companies and private trusts registered in the British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Singapore and other tax havens.
Among these people are doctors and dentists in the U.S., Greek middle class, corporate executives from Russia, Eastern Europe and billionaires in Indonesia, Wall Street traders, international arms dealers and families or associates of dictators.
Documents show the facts and data, transfers of money and connections between companies and individuals, and the worldwide expansion of offshore financial secrecy that allowed the rich and well connected to circumvent the tax authorities, fueling corruption in developed and poor countries.
However, it is the most confidential information ever obtained by a media organization. The total size of files measured in gigabytes, is over 160 times greater than the data leaked from the State Department obtained by Wikileaks in 2010.
In analyzing documents, ICIJ reporters collaborated with The Guardian and the BBC, Le Monde, Norddeutscher Rundfunk Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Washington Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and 31 other media partners worldwide.
During the research hundreds of experts were interviewed, government officials, lawyers, offshore clients and other sources around the world.
Among those mentioned in the report are Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov’s wife and two directors of Gazprom, which according to the documents have interests in companies in the British Virgin Islands. All three declined to comment.
Documents show how mega-rich are using complex offshore structures to hold property, artwork and other goods, while enjoying tax benefits that are not within the reach of ordinary people.
Spanish Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza uses a Cook Islands company to acquire works of art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions. Among the 4,000 Americans is Denise Rich, a Grammy-nominated songwriter whose ex-husband was in the center of a pardon scandal, just before the end of President Bill Clinton’s term in office. Another prominent name in the U.S. is James R. Mellon, whose family founded the company known as Gulf Oil and Mellon Bank. He used four companies in the British Virgin Islands and Liechtenstein for trading financial instruments and the transfer of tens of millions of dollars between offshore accounts.
The main conclusions of the investigation are that government officials, their families and associates of Azerbaijan, Russia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Canada, Mongolia and other countries use companies and hidden bank accounts. Super-rich resort to complex offshore structures to hold properties, yachts, artwork and other assets for tax advantages.
Many of the world’s largest banks, including UBS, Deutsche Bank and Clariden have worked aggressively to provide customers hidden businesses in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens.
An entire industry of accountants, brokers and other well-paid employees was developed to conceal assets and business interests, covering money laundering and other illegal activities.
Also, pyramid and other major fraud schemes commonly use tax havens for registration and transfer of illegal gains.
The list of countries includes, in alphabetical order, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland , Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Malarezia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland , Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Venezuela.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is an international network of reporters who collaborate on investigative articles. It was founded in 1997 by the Center for Public Integrity in the United States to focus on issues that transcend national borders. With 160 members in over 60 countries, ICIJ focuses on cross-border crime and corruption.