For over two years, journalists from more than 50 countries have worked together to shed light on this issue.
Andhere’s some of what they found:
Close relatives of China’s top leaders, including President Xi Jinping and former Premier Wen Jiabao, are revealed to have held secretive offshore accounts in tax havens that helped shroud the wealth of the Communist elite. They are among nearly 22,000 offshore clients from mainland China and Hong Kong whose names appear in the files obtained by ICIJ.
A former Macedonian economics minister is revealed as the man behind a network of offshore companies that ran one of Serbia’s largest manufacturers into ruin. The documents reveal the dark tale of how powerful insiders quietly cashed in on the transformation of Serbia’s formerly state-run economy following the fall of dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on June 14 released the Offshore Leaks interactive database that allows the public to search through more than 100,000 secret companies, trusts and funds created in offshore locales such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands and Singapore.
Thanks in part to the ICIJ “Offshore Leaks” investigation, tax evasion and offshore secrecy was a central theme of June’s meeting of G8 industrialized nations.The chair of that meeting, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, has gone on the record saying the time has come “to knock down the walls of company secrecy” that make the offshore system attractive to money launderers, fraudsters and other criminals.The Offshore Leaks Database helps remove a small part of this secrecy, opening up records that may help bring accountability to an industry that has long operated in the shadows.
‘Offshore Leaks’ records show the oldest son of South Korea’s former strongman president Chun Doo-hwan obtained a British Virgin Islands company in 2004 amid a tax evasion probe into his younger brother’s alleged involvement with their father’s bribery-fed slush fund. Prosecutors are aggressively seeking the ex-president’s hidden assets in the face of an approaching statute of limitations deadline for his unpaid fine of 167.2 billion won ($149.3 million).
One of Europe’s top bankers offered his resignation one day after news broke that he secretly owned secrecy-cloaked offshore companies in the Caribbean and Asia. Raiffeisen Bank International chief executive Herbert Stepic said he was stepping aside to save the Vienna-headquartered bank from fallout over the latest revelations in the “Offshore Leaks” probe. Stepic denies wrongdoing, but said at a quickly arranged news conference in Vienna that he wanted to spare the bank from media reports that “threatened to do massive harm to my company.”
Baron Elie de Rothschild, the late guardian of the French banking dynasty, built an elaborate offshore empire in the Cook Islands involving at least 20 trusts and 10 holding companies, while managing to keep all assets and beneficiaries secret. One of the entities was named, appropriately, Anon Trust.
Two members of India’s Parliament, the world’s largest producer of cut roses and other major business owners are among hundreds from the subcontinent revealed to have links to the offshore world, prompting a government investigation.
Fabio Ghioni, the former head of information security at Telecom Italia who was later convicted of hacking the data of 4,000 people, had an offshore company called Constant Surge Investments Limited. Internal documents reveal he was advised by the Singapore branch of Deutsche Bank to do business with Portcullis TrustNet. When interviewed by L’Espresso, he denied being the beneficial owner of CSIL: “I don’t know anything of this. I don’t even know where the Virgin Islands are located.”
Scandal-buffeted Pakistani politician Moonis Elahi, whose father Chaudhry Pervez Elahi has just stepped down as deputy prime minister, owned a secret company in the British Virgin Islands. The company’s existence wasn’t unearthed during a recent government probe into Moonis Elahi involving illegal payments in an alleged land scam.
Top Malaysian politicians and their families, including former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s son Mirzan and current cabinet minister Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin, are among prominent Malaysians with secretive offshore companies housed in Singapore and the British Virgin Islands.
“You’re certainly going to be using a nominee director if you’re doing anything bad,” says university professor Jason Sharman. The CIA, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the company which shipped arms to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, the former Kazakhstan banking head Mukhtar Ablyazov, and alleged spy Paul William Hampel are some of the clients who have used nominee directors and offshore entities to conceal their activities and identities.
We take an in-depth look at the offshore service provider Portcullis TrustNet. The firm is used by many of the world’s major banks, such as UBS, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse subsidiary Clariden, and by the world’s biggest auditing firms, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG, to provide secrecy for their wealthy clients — mostly from China, Taiwan, Singapore and other East and Southeast Asian nations — and was implicated in New Zealand’s “winebox affair” scandal of the decade.
François Hollande’s treasurer during the 2012 presidential campaign, businessman Jean-Jacques Augier, is revealed to have investments in the Cayman Islands.
Germany’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, helped its customers maintain more than 300 secretive offshore companies and trusts through its Singapore branch.
New light is shed ona half-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme in Venezuela that shuffled investor money among a maze of offshore companies, hedge funds and bank accounts stretching from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland and Panama, smoothing the way by funneling bribes to officials in Venezuela.
Commonwealth Trust Limited, a BVI-based firm, is revealed to have set up companies involved in the Magnitsky affair, a case that’s strained U.S.-Russian relations and blocked American adoptions of Russian orphans
One of Mongolia’s most senior politicians says he is considering resigning from office after being confronted with evidence that he has an offshore company and a secret Swiss bank account.
Newly uncovered documents link Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, the eldest child of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and now a senior political figure in her own right, to two secretive offshore trusts and an offshore company. The Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Good Governmentis eager to find out if the entities might contain some of the estimated $5 billion that her father allegedly amassed through corruption.
A prominent Canadian lawyer, husband to a Liberal senator, moved CA$1.7 million (US$1.1 million) to secretive financial havens while he was locked in battle with the Canada Revenue Agency over his taxes, according to documents in a massive leak of offshore financial data.
A corporate mogul whose business empire has won building contracts worth billions of dollars amid Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’smassive construction spree is tied to the president’s family through secretive offshore companies.
The prominent Thais listed in secret documents as owners of offshore holdings includes the former wife of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a sitting senator, a former high-ranking defense ministry official, Forbes-listed tycoons, and a former government minister whose assets in the United States are frozen because of her alleged links to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
Greek citizens who own or direct offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens rarely declare them to Greek tax officials, a review of more than 100 companies shows. Just four out of 107 offshore companies investigated by ICIJ are registered with tax authorities as the law usually requires, particularly when the firms hold assets or conduct business in Greece. Officials apparently have no record of the other 103 firms — or whether the owners declared any assets held by these entities or paid taxes on them.
A list containing examples of some of the most high-profile names uncovered in this investigation, along with records of their offshore companies. Those named come in the form of politicians, businessmen, army generals, tycoons, relatives of dictators, and are scattered across 29 different countries.
Finally, for those interested in how ICIJ managed to tackle records cache, the data manager of the project, Duncan Campbell, writes an in-depth explanation of how our journalists were able make sense of the 260 gigabytes of information obtained. Four large databases, half a million text, PDF, spreadsheet, image and web files were dissected to reveal over 130,000 records on the people and agents who run, own, benefit from or hide behind offshore companies.
We hope you enjoy these stories; there will be more to follow as our findings from China continue to emerge in the coming days.