Paradise Papers: Massive New Leak Exposes Tax-Haven Secrets, Links Wilbur Ross To Russia
Source: Zero Hedge
November 5, 2017
Update: A Commerce spokesman told Fox News that Ross was not involved with Navigator’s decision to engage in business with Sibur, a publicly traded company, which was not under sanction at the time and is not currently. The spokesman also said Ross, the Trump administration’s point man on trade and manufacturing policy, !never met” Shamalov, and generally has supported the Trump administration’s sanctions against Russia, while recusing himself from matters focused on transoceanic shipping vessels.
Still, as Fox News notes, “the published reports by news agencies including NBC and the BBC likely will raise more questions about whether those associated with Trump are connected to Russia, amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether both sides colluded to influence the 2016 White House race. It wasn’t immediately clear how many partners Ross might have or what the profit-sharing agreement might be. The reports also indicated there was no sign Ross broke any disclosure rules.
* * *
One year after the Panama Papers revealed billions in assets are held in offshore “tax haven” accounts by some of the world’s most powerful and wealthy individuals, on Sunday a huge new leak of financial documents disclosed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – a global network that won the Pulitzer Prize this year for its work on the Panama Papers – and its 94 media partners has revealed how the powerful and ultra-wealthy, including the Queen’s private estate, secretly invest vast amounts of cash in offshore tax havens. Of particular interest for the US media will be the discovery that Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, is shown to have a stake in a firm dealing with Russians sanctioned by the US, including Vladimir Putin’s immediate family, which Ross failed to clearly disclose prior to his confirmation.
The leak, dubbed the Paradise Papers, contains 13.4 million documents, mostly from the Bermuda-based offshore finance law firm, Appleby, has been investigated by 95 media groups, with the findings released today. The records expand on the revelations from the leak of offshore documents that spawned the 2016 Panama Papers investigation. The new files shine a light on a different cast of underexplored island havens, including some with cleaner reputations and higher price tags, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
The year-long investigation exposes offshore interest and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders. That includes ties between Russia and U.S President Donald Trump’s billionaire commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. It also highlights the offshore activities of another 12 Trump allies.
The Paradise Papers’ key findings summarized:
• Reveals offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II, and 13 advisers, major donors and members of U.S. President Donald J. Trump
• Exposes the tax engineering of more than 100 multinational corporations, including Apple, Nike and Botox-maker Allergan
• Reveals tax haven shopping sprees by multinational companies in Africa and Asia that use shell companies in Mauritius and Singapore to reduce taxes
• Shines a light on secretive deals and hidden companies connected to Glencore, the world’s largest commodity trader, and provides detailed accounts of the company’s negotiations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for valuable mineral resources
• Provides details of how owners of jets and yachts, including royalty and sports stars, used Isle of Man tax-avoidance structures
That said, as the BBC admits, “the vast majority of the transactions involve no legal wrongdoing.”
The BBC reports that as with last year’s Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. Sunday’s revelations form only a small part of a week of disclosures that will expose the tax and financial affairs of some of the hundreds of people and companies named in the data.
The most detailed revelations emerge in decades of corporate records from the white-shoe offshore law firm Appleby and corporate services provider Estera, two businesses that operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016. At least 31,000 of the individual and corporate clients included in Appleby’s records are U.S. citizens or have U.S. addresses, more than from any other country. Appleby also counted clients from the United Kingdom, China and Canada among its biggest sources of business.
Nearly 7 million records from Appleby and affiliates cover the period from 1950 to 2016 and include emails, billion-dollar loan agreements and bank statements involving at least 25,000 entities connected to people in 180 countries. Appleby is a member of the “Offshore Magic Circle,” an informal clique of the planet’s leading offshore law practices. The firm was founded Bermuda and has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and other offshore centers. Appleby has a well-guarded 100-year reputation and has avoided public scrapes through a mixture of discretion and expensive client monitoring.
Appleby, for example, is one link in a chain of offshore actors who helped sports stars, Russian oligarchs and government officials to purchase jets, yachts and other luxury items. The offshore experts helped Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two Russian billionaires and childhood friends of President Putin, buy jets worth more than $20 million in 2013. U.S authorities blacklisted the Rotenbergs in 2014 for their support of “Putin’s pet projects” and for having banked “high price contracts” through the Russian government. Appleby cut its ties with the brothers but, in one case, received approval from the Isle of Man government nearly two years after sanctions were imposed to disburse fees to keep one of the brothers’ companies on the business register. The Rotenbergs did not reply to Süddeutsche Zeitung’s requests for comment. Clients prize Appleby for its expertise, efficiency and global network of professionals. Its peers repeatedly crown it Offshore Law Firm of the Year.
But decades of private documents also show that even one of the offshore industry’s brightest stars has hidden shortcomings: accepting questionable clients and failing to monitor multimillion-dollar money flows.
The leaked files also include documents from government business registries in some of the world’s most secretive corporate havens in the Caribbean, the Pacific and Europe, such as Antigua and Barbuda, the Cook Islands and Malta. One-fifth of the world’s busiest secrecy jurisdictions are represented in these databases.
Please go to Zero Hedge to read the entire article.
Ever wonder how the world’s wealthy become wealthy?