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NEW DELHI: 18 months after the Panama Papers exposed secret and illegal offshore investments by corporates and individuals across the globe, another set of files, called the ‘Paradise Papers’, have surfaced, shedding light on the trillions of dollars that move through offshore tax havens.
The latest haul contains 13.4 million documents mainly from Appleby, a Bermuda-based law firm which helped prominent clients, including Indians, evade taxes and obscure ownership of assets. The firm also created huge offshore trusts that in some cases held billions of dollars.
Much of the new trove of files includes bank statements, emails and loan agreements from Appleby.
Paradise Papers, just like the Panama files, were first obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and partner media outlets.
In addition to its Bermudan headquarters, Appleby has offices in tax havens around the world, including the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean; the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey off Britain; Mauritius and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean; and Hong Kong and Shanghai.
The firm has reportedly told the ICIJ that there is “no evidence” that it has done anything wrong.
UK Queen’s private estate invested in offshore funds
The latest leak has revealed that millions of pounds from the private estate of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II have been invested in offshore tax haven funds.
Around £10 million ($13 million, EUR11.3 million) of the Queen’s private money was placed in funds held in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda,
According to reports, the funds reinvested the money in an array of businesses, including controversial rent-to-buy retailer, BrightHouse, which has been accused of exploiting the poor, and a chain of alcohol stores which later went bankrupt.
The investments, which were entirely legal, were made through the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the monarch with an income and handles investments of her vast estate and remain current, the media outlets said.
There is no suggestion that the Queen’s private estate acted illegally or failed to pay any taxes due.
But the leaks may raise questions over whether it is appropriate for the British head of state to invest in offshore tax havens.
Leaks show US commerce chief’s ties to Putin-linked businesses
The documents also show that US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has a stake in a shipping company that does business with a gas producer partly owned by the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the records, Ross is an investor in Navigator Holdings, a shipping giant that counts Russian gas and petrochemical producer Sibur among its major customers. Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov once owned more than 20 per cent of the company, but now holds a much smaller stake.
Commerce Department spokesman James Rockas said Ross “never met” Shamalov and has generally supported the Trump administration’s sanctions against Russia, according to the ICIJ report. Rockas added that Ross has withdrawn from matters related to transoceanic shipping vessels and has met the “highest ethical standards.”
Sunday’s revelations follow last year’s release of records from a Panama-based firm involved in setting up offshore accounts. That disclosure triggered investigations in several countries which led to the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and ouster of Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif.
The Panama Papers had revealed that close associates of Russia’s leader Putin had been using the dummy accounts abroad to store their wealth, including a close Putin friend who had $2 billion of offshore assets.