They’re more accustomed to “beautiful days” and “bringing sexy back,” but this week a number of world-renowned celebrities are having the “whenever” and “wherever” of their offshore financial links revealed.
From film stars to famous manga artists, journalists working on the Paradise Papers investigation have followed the money to cities where the streets do have names – and where local authorities, in at least one case, were asking questions.
Files from the Maltese corporate registry revealed pop star Bono, born Paul Hewson, was a shareholder of a Malta-based entity that bought a shopping centre in a small town in Lithuania. The company was later transferred to Guernsey, a jurisdiction that doesn’t charge tax on corporate profits. After Lithuanian authorities announced a probe on the company’s business, Bono said that he welcomes the audit and that he has “been assured by those running the company that it is fully tax-compliant,” according to the Guardian.
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, better known as “Hips Don’t Lie” singer Shakira, might “make a man want to speak Spanish,” but files from the Paradise Papers show that the Colombian pop star was actually using the tiny island of Malta to transfer more than $30 million of music rights, according to Spanish paper El Confidencial.
Shakira was listed as the sole shareholder of the Maltese company which, her lawyers told reporters, “fulfils all legal requirements.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, pop singer Justin Timberlake and actress Nicole Kidman – recently named Australia’s richest celebrity – were both found in records from the corporate registry in the Bahamas, an island chain in the Caribbean. The Guardian reported that they are linked to companies registered to buy properties on the island.
Queen of pop and world-famous “material girl” Madonna, was listed as a shareholder of a medical-supplies company in Bermuda, now closed. She did not respond to questions from ICIJ and its partners, and the purpose of the company remains unclear.
The use of offshore entities to manage private wealth and conduct business is not illegal. However, experts say that the high level of secrecy provided to corporate owners by some offshore jurisdictions may allow criminals to conceal illicit funds and keep tax-evaders far from the authorities’ reach.
The leaked documents also provided details on the disputed fortune of late frontman of Australian band INXS. They show how the business manager of Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide in 1997, lawfully set up a Mauritius company to cash in on the singer’s estate. The manager used the offshore entity to exploit Hutchence’s unheard songs ahead of the 20th anniversary of his death this year – according to an ABC Four Corner report. It is not clear whether Hutchence’s daughter will benefit from her father’s rights and multi-million dollar inheritance.
In France LeMonde and RadioFrance reported that Jean-Jacques Annaud, the film director of 1997 film “Seven Years in Tibet,” hid about $1.5 million from French tax authorities using a trust in the Cayman Islands and two companies. His lawyers said that, after the revelations, Annaud asked them to regularize his fiscal affairs and the assets were declared in October.
From the files also emerge details on the offshore interests of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. The Indian Express reported that the actor became a shareholder of a Bermuda company before the government began to require Reserve Bank approval for all overseas investments made by resident Indians. It’s not clear if the shareholding was disclosed, the report says.
Japanese manga artist Akira Toriyama, better known for creating popular cartoons like “Dragon Ball” also figures in the Paradise Papers. In 2000 Toriyama was one of the investors in a U.S. real estate company whose accounting methods were later found to be noncompliant with federal regulations, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.Toriyama did not comment on the investment.