About the Mauritius Leaks Investigation

Mauritius Leaks is a cross-border investigation that reveals how one law firm on a small island off Africa’s east coast helped companies leach tax revenue from poor African, Arab and Asian nations.

Mauritius Leaks is a cross-border investigation into how one law firm on a small island off Africa’s east coast helped companies leach tax revenue from poor African, Arab and Asian nations.

Led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the investigation is a collaboration by 54 journalists in 18 countries.

More than 200,000 documents from the Mauritius office of a prestigious offshore law firm, Conyers Dill & Pearman, are at the heart of the investigation. ICIJ corroborated company information from the leaked documents with data in the Mauritius corporate registry and the Financial Services Commission’s register of licensees.

The documents offer a rare window into corporate tax avoidance in countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The documents include emails, contracts and business plans provided by some of the world’s biggest players in finance and law, including KPMG and the London-based multinational law firm Clifford Chance.

Together, they reveal attempts by corporations and individuals to exploit tax rules that allow them to avoid taxes of such countries as Egypt, Mozambique and Thailand.

“Mauritius is a bit like the Luxembourg of Africa,” said Tove Ryding, policy and advocacy manager for tax justice at the European Network on Debt and Development. Mauritius has “specialized as a gateway to Africa so we see a lot of corporations that come and set themselves up in Mauritius because it allows them to transfer money in and out Africa without incurring much tax.”

Conyers sold its Mauritius business to three former employees in 2017.

Conyers told ICIJ that it “strictly adheres to the laws of all the jurisdictions in which we operate and is routinely reviewed by regulatory authorities and external auditors.”

Mauritius Leaks exposes how anti-poverty crusader Bob Geldof’s investment fund and household-name corporate titans such as Wal-Mart and Whirlpool discussed taxes and trusts as part of operations in Africa and Asia.

Known as the “Mauritian miracle,” the island’s economic success has been built on offering investors tax advantages through a Mauritian “double-whammy.”

Offshore firms such as Conyers sell the former French colony, population 1.265 million, as the go-to-destination for multinational corporations seeking to create shell companies easily.

Many of those creations are what is known as “shell” or “brass plate companies,” with no employees or offices and whose only tangible link to Mauritius is a postal address shared by dozens or even hundreds of similar firms.

Mauritius allows multinationals to route investments through “resident” shell companies, which pay an effective corporate income tax rate of 3% or less, to avoid paying substantially higher taxes in other countries.

The second part of the “double whammy” is an array of what are known as double tax treaties with countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Such treaties are intended to ensure that multinational corporations are not taxed on the same income twice. But every year, the world’s poorest countries lose billions of dollars as those firms use treaties and other loopholes to route money through shell companies in tax havens.

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Mauritius rejects criticism of its role as a tax revenue haven, but it has responded to increased pressure and introduced stricter rules to prevent tax abuse.

At the same time, the country is pursuing more than a dozen new tax treaties, involving some of the world’s poorest countries, and it is resisting pleas from countries such as Uganda to overhaul their tax treaties.

The team behind the international investigation included the Quartz AI Studio, which helped mine the documents through the use of machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence.

ICIJ team

Director: Gerard Ryle

Project Manager: Fergus Shiel

Reporter: Will Fitzgibbon

Data Editor: Emilia Diaz-Struck

Senior Editor: Dean Starkman

Consulting Editor: Tom Stites

Associate Editor and Fact Checker: Richard H.P. Sia

Researcher: Delphine Reuter

Data Developer: Miguel Fiandor Gutiérrez

Data Fact Checker: Karrie Kehoe

Copy Editor: Joe Hillhouse

Video Journalist: Scilla Alecci

Online Editor: Hamish Boland-Rudder

Engagement Editor: Amy Wilson-Chapman

Social Media Specialist: Mandie Garcia

Web Developer: Antonio Cucho

Editorial Intern: Zshekinah Collier

Illustrator: Marwen Ben Mustapha – inkyfada

Reporters

South Africa
Financial Mail

  • Warren Thompson

Nigeria
Premium Times

Namibia
The Namibian

Thailand

India
The Indian Express

Tanzania

  • Simon Mkina

United Kingdom
Finance Uncovered

  • Diarmid O’Sullivan
  • Ted Jeory
  • Margot Gibbs
  • Nick Mathiason

La Réunion
Le Tangue

  • Loic Chaux

Uganda
Daily Monitor

  • Frederic Musisi
  • Tabu Butagira

France
Le Monde

  • Joan Tilouine

Botswana
INK

United States
Quartz

  • John Keefe
  • Jeremy Merrill
  • Max de Haldevang
  • Justin Rohrlich
  • Pete Gelling

Kenya

Standard

  • Moses Michira

Quartz

  • Yinka Adegoke
  • Abdi Latif Dahir

Mauritius
L’Express

  • Axcel Chenney

The Netherlands
Trouw

Germany
Süddeutsche Zeitung

  • Mauritius Much

Indonesia
Tempo

Mauritius Leaks
IMPACT

Zambia becomes second nation to tear up Mauritius tax deal

Jul 06, 2020
Mauritius Flag
TAX HAVENS

Senegal nixes ‘unbalanced’ tax treaty with Mauritius

May 26, 2020
OFFSHORE SECRECY

Crumbling economies must tackle tax evasion to meet coronavirus crisis, experts warn

Apr 07, 2020
OFFSHORE SECRECY

What is a tax haven? Offshore finance, explained

Apr 06, 2020
TAX TRAVEL

Five Companies That Went Thousands of Miles to Use Mauritius

Aug 06, 2019
Ntibinyane INK Botswana
MEET THE INVESTIGATORS

Reporting on corruption in Africa’s ‘shining light of democracy’

Aug 04, 2019
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