Paradise Papers Leak and extent of the issue.

Yet more information released on international tax evasion by wealthy individuals and corporations;

What are the Paradise Papers?
The name refers to a leak of 13.4m files. Most of the documents - 6.8m - relate to a law firm and corporate services provider that operated together in 10 jurisdictions under the name Appleby. Last year, the "fiduciary" arm of the business was the subject of a management buyout and it is now called Estera.

There are also details from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in secrecy jurisdictions - Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Labuan, Lebanon, Malta, the Marshall Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.

The papers cover the period from 1950 to 2016.

The transfer of wealth

The customers

(Graphic available in article)

Money flows into the offshore world from everywhere. It's often very hard to identify the people and companies behind it. Among the documents in the leak is a database of Appleby customers from 1993 to 2014. It contains the names of more than 120,000 people and companies. Not all are connected to a company registered offshore. It has been an impossible task to check whether the customer is just a contact or if they have used Appleby services over many years. But it gives a good indication of where demand for Appleby's services originated. Many clients come from the UK, China and Hong-Kong, but the largest number, more than 30,000, are from the US.

The companies

(Graphic available in article)

Companies registered offshore can be used to hold assets such as property, aircraft, yachts and investments in stocks and shares. The Appleby data records about 25,000 offshore companies. The most popular jurisdictions for incorporations were the British-ruled tax havens of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The British Virgin Islands, another UK overseas territory, and the Isle of Man, which is a British crown dependency, were also popular with Appleby clients.

How many media organisations have been looking at the data?
The Guardian is one of 96 media partners in the project. A total of 381 journalists from 67 countries have been analysing the material.

Who got the documents - and how?
The leaks were obtained by the German newspaper S?ddeutsche Zeitung, which also received the Panama Papers last year. S?ddeutsche Zeitung shared the material with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a US-based organisation that coordinated the global collaboration. S?ddeutsche Zeitung has not, and will not, discuss issues around sourcing.

Do the Paradise Papers focus on companies or individuals?
Both. They are united by one thing - money. Some of the world's biggest multinationals feature in the leak, including Apple, Nike and Facebook, as well as some of the richest people in the world, from the Queen to Bono, and from the stars of British sitcoms to the stars who grace Hollywood Boulevard.

What do the documents show?
The files show the offshore empire is bigger and more complicated than most people thought. And even companies such as Appleby, which prides itself on being a standard bearer in the field, have fallen foul of the regulators that try to police the industry.

The files set out the myriad ways in which companies and individuals can avoid tax using artificial structures. These schemes are legal if run correctly. But many appear not to be. And politicians around the world are beginning to ask whether they should be banned. Are they fair? Are they moral? A fundamental question posed by the Paradise Papers is: has tax avoidance in all its guises gone too far?

Key revelations include:

* Millions of pounds from the Queen's private estate has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund - and some of her money went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families and vulnerable people.

* Extensive offshore dealings by Donald Trump's cabinet members, advisers and donors, including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Vladimir Putin's son-in-law to the shipping group of the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross.

* Twitter and Facebook received hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions.

* The tax-avoiding Cayman Islands trust managed by the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau's chief moneyman.

* Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton avoided taxes on ?17m jet using Isle of Man scheme.

* A previously unknown $450m offshore trust that has sheltered the wealth of Lord Ashcroft.

* Apple secretly moved parts of empire to Jersey after row over tax affairs.

* How sportswear giant Nike stays one step ahead of the taxman.

* The billions in tax refunds by the Isle of Man and Malta to the owners of private jets and luxury yachts.

* The secret loan and alliance used by the London-listed multinational Glencore in its efforts to secure lucrative mining rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

* The complex offshore webs used by two Russian billionaires to buy stakes in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.

* Stars of BBC hit sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys used web of offshore companies to avoid tax.

What does Appleby say?
The firm has denied any wrongdoing, either by itself or by any of its clients. But it has conceded that it is not infallible and has tried to learn from its mistakes. The company has agreed to take part in any formal inquiries that come out of the disclosures. Estera has declined to comment.

(many many more links within)

What Bernie Sanders has to say on the matter;

Bernie Sanders has warned that the world is rapidly becoming an "international oligarchy" controlled by a tiny number of billionaires, highlighted by the revelations in the Paradise Papers.

In a statement to the Guardian in the wake of the massive leak of documents exposing the secrets of offshore investors, Sanders said that the enrichment of wealthy individuals and companies in tax havens was "the major issue of our time".

He said the Paradise Papers opened the door on a "major problem not just for the US but for governments throughout the world".

"The major issue of our time is the rapid movement toward international oligarchy in which a handful of billionaires own and control a significant part of the global economy. The Paradise Papers shows how these billionaires and multinational corporations get richer by hiding their wealth and profits and avoid paying their fair share of taxes," the US senator from Vermont said.

Sanders, who came in a close second to Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, pointed the finger of blame for the flourishing of offshore holdings on both Congress and the Trump administration. He told the Guardian that Republicans in Congress were responsible for providing "even more tax breaks to profitable corporations like Apple and Nike".

The same tax breaks, he said, were being seized upon by super-wealthy members of Trump's cabinet "who avoid billions in US taxes by shifting American jobs and profits to offshore tax havens. We need to close these loopholes and demand a fair and progressive tax system."

Sanders' intervention in the debate sparked by the Paradise Papers marks the most prominent political response to the leak in their opening 24 hours. The investigation stems from the leak of some 13m files obtained by S?ddeutsche Zeitung in Germany and shared with almost 100 news organisations around the world including the Guardian by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

One of the most pointed disclosures in the Paradise Papers was that Wilbur Ross, Trump's commerce secretary, has continued to do business with the son-in-law of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as well as a member of Putin's inner circle who is under US sanctions. Ross, himself a billionaire, has retained since joining the Trump administration his investment in a shipping company, Navigator, that has a partnership with the Russian gas giant Sibur.

In turn Sibur is part-owned by Kirill Shamalov, the husband of Putin's daughter.

The emergence of Ross's ongoing ties to business interests so close to the Russian president at a time of intense scrutiny of the relationship between the Trump administration and the Kremlin has incensed prominent Democrats involved in Ross's confirmation to office. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who sits on the US Senate commerce committee, accused Ross of deceiving the public as well as lawmakers who had allowed the confirmation to go through having heard Ross promise to divest himself of any interests that carried potential conflict.

"If he fails to present a clear and compelling explanation, he ought to resign," Blumenthal told MSNBC in an interview.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said: "In February, I opposed Mr. Ross' nomination because there were a number of unanswered questions about his ownership stake in the Bank of Cyprus and his connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as his refusal to divest from a $1 billion co-investment made with the state-owned Chinese Investment Corporation.

"Despite assurances from the Commerce Department and the White House on the eve of his nomination, these questions remain unanswered over eight months later. These unanswered questions and recent revelations certainly warrant a Commerce Committee hearing and I think an Inspector General investigation is in order. We should get to the bottom of this."

On Monday, Ross denied that he had done anything wrong in his handling of his investment in Navigator. In the course of a visit to London, he told UK media that "there is nothing wrong with it. The fact that it happens to be called a Russian company doesn't mean there is any evil in it."

Further responses to the Paradise Papers came from the Democratic leader in the US Senate Chuck Schumer, and the ranking Democratic member of the Senate finance committee, Ron Wyden. In a joint statement they accused Republicans in Congress leading the push towards a reform of the tax code of failing to close egregious loopholes revealed by the leaks.

As a result Republicans were rewarding, the duo said, "wealthy billionaires like secretary Wilbur Ross for dodging taxes, while punishing many in the middle class with new tax hikes. If you deduct medical expenses or student loan interest from your taxable income, the Republican plan comes after your wallet. But if you stash your billions in secret bank accounts overseas, their plan gives you the green light to keep doing what you've been doing."

They added that the Paradise Papers were "proof positive that the Republican tax plan favours the wealthy and betrays the middle class in this country, who are the ones left carrying the financial burden of massive corporate tax avoidance".

I may be one of the tiniest minority that cares about this on here, but thought it would be worth sharing anyhow, especially as the last leak was so effortlessly sweeped under the rug and forgotten about.

Of course it was swept under the rug. The Paradise Papers outlined what is in essence the largest criminal institutions on the planet.

And more over, this isn't simply a case of hiding money. It's also about money laundering for other criminal syndicates that otherwise would be detected. It's also a way for all manner of warlords and terrorist organizations to launder money and buy up arms, or for specific countries to quietly bankroll them. Swiss banks have long since been the refuge of gun runners and dictators...

It's always been a problem, but it's one no politician on this planet either has the resources, power or the will to stop.

8% of the world's wealth is estimated to be stashed in offshore accounts or shell companies, we are chronically fucked if this trend persists unabated.

Basically offshore accounts and shell companies are the one issue I imagine would get both the; "Dem terrorists!"-crowd on side with basically anybody that wants to see greater financial accountability of the world's megarich. Which is precisely why people barring politicians like Sanders have a vested interest in not pushing or pursuing the matter.

Putting it plainly, politicians are in the pockets of these bankers. That's always been the case. They can continue safeguarding their golden geese by never tabling anything related to the 'peasants' wanting to shut it down. To attack these institutions and the criminals that take part in them, is simultaneously taking on the world's most powerful organizations and people. That's nothing short of revolution sticking so many wealthy in jails.

And when was the last time you saw investment bankers in handcuffs being lead away by the police?

Pull at enough of the threads and see how much unravels in the process...

Yet more updates,

The former Treasury minister James Sassoon is a beneficiary of a Bahamas trust fund that has sheltered a family fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars from tax since 1957.

The Conservative peer, who has used debates in the House of Lords to defend tax avoidance, has emerged as one of many high-profile clients of Appleby, the law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers.

Established by his grandmother, Doris Herschorn, the trust has invested and distributed money to the peer, who is a relative of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon, his father and half a dozen family members for more than half a century. It controlled a Bahamas investment vehicle called Orchard Ltd, which in 2008 held funds worth almost $250m.

In 1989, Sassoon is recorded as having received a $2.4m distribution from the trust to a London bank account. The peer says he has received no benefits from the fund for more than 25 years.

There is no suggestion any laws were broken, and the beneficiaries in some cases paid large amounts of tax when receiving payments in the UK.

The revelation raises questions about why peers are specifically entitled by the Lords code of conduct to keep family trusts secret, when they have to declare most other significant financial interests on the official register.

Tamasin Cave of the campaign group Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said: "This is why we have disclosure rules: to ensure that MPs and peers act in the public interest and not for private gain.

"The exclusion of family trusts from these rules is an anomaly that needs to be addressed. As with any other outside interest, the public should have a right to know if an MP or peer financially benefits from or manages a trust. The financial affairs of legislators are a matter of public interest."

Baron Sassoon has never declared the existence of the Herschorn trust to parliament. Lords are exempt from listing trusts in the official registers of their financial interests. Point 66 of the guidance to the House of Lords code of conduct states clearly that holdings in a collective investment vehicle "are not generally registrable" and "members who are beneficiaries of trusts should treat them in the same way".

Sassoon will shortly be asked, along with the rest of the Lords, to approve the latest finance bill. Appleby's records suggest the trust, officially called The Mrs DCR Herschorn Settlement, was using a technique known as "washing out". The term refers to ways of paying certain beneficiaries that can legally reduce tax on money accumulated by the trust. In its current draft, the finance bill sets out to clamp down on washing out.

Sassoon said he has "at all times" disclosed his interests during Lords debates as required. Since leaving government, he says he has not spoken in debates concerning tax matters. "If I were to speak in future debates on tax issues, I would disclose any relevant interest," the peer said.

Accounts filed with Appleby show that the funds held by Orchard ballooned rapidly. In the four years to 2008, they appear to have grown by 40%.

Sassoon worked at the Treasury for 11 years. Most recently, he was a minister under David Cameron, holding the post of commercial secretary to the Treasury before leaving for a job in finance in 2013. While answering questions on behalf of the government in a 2010 debate about tackling avoidance, he told the Lords: "Minimising tax payments is perfectly reasonable."

While politicians including Nick Clegg were at the time describing tax avoidance as legal but morally unacceptable, Sassoon argued: "There is a big difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance. After all, everyone with an ISA is involved in tax avoidance."

The files suggest that in September 2006, when management of the Herschorn trust was transferred to Appleby from another company, Sassoon and members of his family met officers from the firm's Cayman Islands office for lunch at a plush hotel in Victoria, central London.

"Lunch at the Goring is always a pleasurable experience and interesting conversation was exchanged on a variety of topics throughout," an Appleby officer recorded in minutes of the meeting. It was decided the Sassoons would visit the Cayman Islands, where the trust was administered, for a couple of days later that year. The officer speculated that "the main business discussions would no doubt take place at that time due to the non-private nature of an open restaurant".

Secrecy surrounds the trusts held by British taxpayers. They can be established anywhere in the world, and unlike companies, many do not have to be recorded on any central register. The only papers proving they exist are held by the beneficiaries, their trustees and their advisers.

Last month, the government voted down Labour amendments to the finance bill, which would have forced the UK beneficiaries of overseas trusts to declare their sources of property and income on a public register.

Sassoon said he was "not going to be drawn" on whether the trust itself has ever paid British taxes on its assets. He said the trust was fully disclosed to HMRC. Many overseas trusts are not liable for tax, even if some of their beneficiaries live in Britain. They are able to avoid the 40% death duties paid by most British citizens, and the 10-yearly charge paid in lieu of inheritance tax by many trusts.

The peer said the arrangements did not involve moving assets offshore. His grandmother had a London address - but Sassoon said she was not tax-domiciled in Britain, and the trust was set up to manage non-UK assets for a family originating outside the country. The potential beneficiaries were not necessarily tax resident in the UK.

Sassoon said he has at all times complied with the House of Lords register of interests and disclosure rules. During his period as a minister all his financial interests were placed in a blind trust, he explained, in accordance with cabinet office rules. Lords rules do not require the registration of assets held in blind trusts.

Sassoon added: "Full disclosure of the trust has been made since inception to the Inland Revenue and HMRC, including sending them annual accounts on a voluntary basis. Distributions from the settlement have been disclosed and tax paid in the normal way. I have not received any benefit from the settlement for more than 25 years."

I would've thought people worried about their economy, the growing gap between the rich and poor and the class divide would be more interested in knowing this. I guess not.

This is the sort of thing that makes the whole "eat the rich" thing more and more appealing.

Not to sound Marxist, but this isn't far off from what Marx and Engles and other early socialist and communist thinkers were warning people about.

So 63 people on this Earth has as much capital as the poorest 3,5 billions combined and it turns out that pretty much everyone with a sizable fortune in Europe and America has been in on similar schemes by a few select banks to help them hide their money away so that they won't have to pay taxes. Can I say that the world is turning into a grotesque caricature of the Gilded Age, but with even less empathy and caring from the ultra rich 1% that currently possess somewhere in the realm of 2/3rds of the worlds total capital?

Yeah, this is seriously fucked. It is outrageous that such staggering amounts of capital can be squirreled away just so that people with millions of USD in their bank accounts don't have to pay taxes like normal people.

Oh boy, it gets even better...


This can't be handwaved like the last leaks. It's a rare window into problems that will have an affect on everybody and our future generations.

Problem with this is, everyone is using it to vindicate their own personal side rather than address the issue. The Guardian is slagging off the Queen, the Daily Mail is slagging off Bono and Corbyn, nobody is actually saying "let's fix this".

And it will just disappear. You squash one tax loophole, they'll jump to the next. Look at Apple - they almost certainly have a Plan C.

Catnip1024:
Problem with this is, everyone is using it to vindicate their own personal side rather than address the issue. The Guardian is slagging off the Queen, the Daily Mail is slagging off Bono and Corbyn, nobody is actually saying "let's fix this".

And it will just disappear. You squash one tax loophole, they'll jump to the next. Look at Apple - they almost certainly have a Plan C.

Laws can be changed. The real problem with how the current systems of international finance centres is that at the moment it's an easy way to launder money. Making criminal syndicates harder to detect. It makes freezing the assets of warlords or terrorists next to impossible, and it allows the black market arms trade to thrive.

People know this. Participants know full well the damages they indirectly cause. Before the mobsters used to run casinos and local businesses they pressured to launder money for them. Back thrn you could realistically argue that the real victims of money laundering and the attempts to halt it were innocent businesses under the thumb of crooked cops and local criminal interests.

But now, said criminal interests; those gun runners, warlords, dictators, mafiosi. They have fucking Swiss bankers waiting hand-and-foot, knowingly working with said interests because none want to kill the golden goose for those that also pump money into their campaign runs... or hell, half of Congress probably have offshore accounts or Jersey-based shell companies to act as slush funds and for tax 'avoidance'... yeah, let's call it that.

The ATO (Australian Taxation Office) put out a notice to suspects of tax evasion and said quite clearly; "We will let you keep your illicitly held assets and pardon you of involvement if you at least come clean..." Thousands of people took them up on that offer. Thousands upon thousands... Which is funny, because if I don't pay my taxes they fucking threaten me with an audit.

We're not talking a small amount of wealth here. We're talking the money that xould easily construct hospitals, schools, scientific research funding, new infrastructure programs... these illicit funds captures up to 10% of the world's total wealth. And inevitably acts as institutions that allow and promote gross criminality, themselves.

There are laws to combat this type of criminality. We no less employ them now. Only to all those that aren't the megarich... there are means of applying them to the worst offenders, just that they'll never do so.

To put it plainly, for every dollar they don't pay... governments inevitably look to others to cover their deficits. It's like why private healthcare is inevitably more expensive. The people who aren't sickly pay and pay for all the people that have cost their HC firms money on top of shareholder div yields and paying the ridiculous salaries of board members and corporate officers. Hence why they want to provide health coverage to young, fit people who don't have kids. If they could get away with it they'd 'cover' only those that won't cost them a dime... which the Republicans in the U.S. seemingly want to make a reality.

You end up in situations where it's tantamount to regressive taxation. Things like the GST which inflict on the poor far more than the wealthy. Only it becomes enshrined as necessary tax burdens on those with the least means of performing 'tax avoidance'. And for what? A system that actively benefits the worst scumbags on the planet?

None of us benefit barring a select handful of untouchables. These institutions don't merely hide wealth... they promote and enable organised violence with incalculable consequences for security, common justice and the lives of people worldwide.

Feels like a pretty fucking raw deal to me. And these problems will escalate the more money, the more secrecy, the more powers these people get.

If police want to get serious with organized crime, actually want to put a dent in it, you go after the money launderers.

Stuff like this simply justifies my position of lowering our taxes so that we can compete with the tax haven countries.

 

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