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More Response to ICIJ’s ‘Offshore Leaks’ Investigation

Germany’s top finance official says offshore reports could spur action.

Germany’s top finance official says offshore reports could spur action.

Listen to the press conference given by ICIJ director Gerard Ryle, deputy director Marina Walker Guevara, and senior editor Michael Hudson, about the investigation.

Government officials continue to react to a wave of media attention about ICIJ’s investigation of 2.5 million leaked offshore files.

In Germany, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he was “pleased about these reports,” saying they would help in the battle against offshore-enabled financial wrongdoing.

“I think that such things as have been made known will increase the pressure internationally, and we will be able to increase the cooperation with those who have been more reticent,” Schäuble told Deutschlandfunk radio, according to The New York Times.

The Times noted that Germany lobbied for years “to clearly define tax havens in an effort to pressure such jurisdictions to fight tax avoidance and comply with money-laundering statutes and other measures aimed at dirty money. But the efforts have been hampered by reluctance among some of its international partners, including some within the European Union, that do not share the German sense of outrage.”

The president of the Association of German Banks denied that his group’s members had helped customers engage in tax evasion. “First in line are the individuals and the organizations that invest their money in tax oases,” Andreas Schmitz said.

Photo: Bastian Brinkmann
Photo: Bastian Brinkmann

In Canada, a Liberal senator urged his caucus colleague, Senator Pana Merchant, to answer questions in the wake of CBC News and ICIJ reports that she has been listed as beneficiary of an offshore trust created by her husband, a well-known class-action attorney.

“We’re all innocent until proven guilty in this country, but I want to hear her explanation,” Senator Percy Downe told CBC News in an interview.

In the Philippines, two lawmakers dismissed a report by an ICIJ media partner, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), that they had offshore holdings.

Senator Manuel Villar said his offshore entity was a “1-dollar shell company” that he wasn’t required to report, because he hadn’t made any real investment in it. Villar said that he hadn’t conducted business with the British Virgin Islands company “because I decided to concentrate in the Philippines.”

“While having a BVI company may be abused by some, there is actually nothing sinister about owning one, especially this company that was never used and has a capital of only a single dollar,” Villar said. “This is being done by big companies worldwide.”

Congressman Joseph Victor ‘JV’ G. Ejercito suggested the story about him was politically motivated. “To the best of my knowledge, I have truthfully and accurately declared all my assets, liabilities, and net worth” on required disclosures forms for public officials, he said in a statement.

Other officials’ reaction to ICIJ’s reporting can be found here.

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