A cooordinated effort by investigative journalists in 46 countries reveal the well-kept secrets of the rich. I mean “well-kept” until recently. Then now, the identities of 1,000 holders of anonymous wealth hidden in offshore- and tax-paradises have been exposed. And this seems to be only the start of a broader investigative journalism action: then millions of internal records from Britain’s offshore financial industry, the British Virgin Islands, have been leaked.
The 260 gigabytes of data made available to the journalists is said to include around 2.5 milllion documents. Among the 130,000 alleged tax cheats from 170 countries listed in the documents are the names of publicly known figures such as oligarchs and weapons traders.
The names have been unearthed in a project by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists [ICIJ] in cooperation with many journalists from other countries,, because it was impossible for ICIJ to deal with this huge amount of data. British Guardian and BBC, French Le Monde, US Washington Post, German Süddeutsche Zeitung and regional public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk are among the media outlets that took part in the project.
Guardian- Exclusive: Offshore financial industry leak exposes identities of 1,000s of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world
Millions of internal records have leaked from Britain’s offshore financial industry, exposing for the first time the identities of thousands of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world, from presidents to plutocrats, the daughter of a notorious dictator and a British millionaire accused of concealing assets from his ex-wife.
The leak of 2m emails and other documents, mainly from the offshore haven of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), has the potential to cause a seismic shock worldwide to the booming offshore trade, with a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.
• In France, Jean-Jacques Augier, President François Hollande’s 2012 election campaign co-treasurer, launched a Caymans-based distributor in China with a 25% partner in a BVI company. Augier says his partner was Xi Shu, a Chinese businessman.
• BVI’s clients include Scot Young, a millionaire associate of deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Dundee-born Young is in jail for contempt of court for concealing assets from his ex-wife.
As well as Britons hiding wealth offshore, an extraordinary array of government officials and rich families across the world are identified, from Canada, the US, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, China, Thailand, Mongolia, Ajerbaidjan, Switzerland, Germany.
The naming project may be extremely damaging for confidence among the world’s wealthiest people, no longer certain that the size of their fortunes remains hidden from governments and from their neighbours. (full story the Guardian)
It isn’t clear how much money is hidden in the world’s tax havens, but a 2012 report by the British non-governmental agency Tax Justice Network estimated the figure at between $21 and $32 billion (16 billion – 25 billion euros).
Playboy in tax heaven
The most prominent name mentioned so far is the late German-born industrialist , playboy and former husband of Brigitte Bardot, Gunther Sachs. According to the Süddeutsche report, Sachs, who committed suicide in 2011, had millions hidden in offshore firms in the Cook Islands, Panama, the British Virgin Islands and Luxembourg.”
Of course, no offshore list would be compeleted without a Greek: Achilleas Kallakis. He used fake BVI companies to obtain a record-breaking £750m in property loans from reckless British and Irish banks. In January 2013 he was found guilty by a UK court to have tricked the Bank of Scotland and the Allied Irish Bank into advancing millions in loans. He currently resides in a UK-prison.
A total of 107 companies have reportedly Greek owners. Only four of these companies have been registered also to Greek tax offices. The Finance Ministry will investigate the cases now.
The leak comes at a time when many governments, particularly in the 17 countries that make up the crisis-hit eurozone, are battling to reduce the amount of debt they hold and pledge cooperation in cracking down tax evasion.
The publishing of Offshore-Leaks will continue.