Everyone is talking about the Paradise Papers – a series of documents leaked from a law firm that dealings in special “offshore” accounts often used to shield money from tax – but who is actually involved.
A database of some 13.4 million documents, including information on some of the biggest companies and wealthiest individuals and originally belonging to Bermuda-based law firm Appleby, has been leaked to the public.
Appleby is keen to stress there is “no evidence” of any wrongdoing on their part or the part of any of the celebrities or companies named in the leak. However, news that some of the world’s wealthiest folk are finding new ways to avoid paying tax has left some unhappy.
Offshore banking is perfectly legal, if frowned upon, but the list of those involved makes for fascinating, if slightly depressing, reading.
According to the leaked documents, Bono used a company based in Malta to pay for his share in the purchase of a Lithuania-based shopping centre. Malta is a low tax jurisdiction and Bono reportedly invested in a Maltese company called Nude Estates in order to then buy the shopping centre.
Brexit enthusiast and Conservative Party Donor Lord Ashcroft was also named in the Paradise Papers. Ashcroft ranks as the most prominent British political figure to feature on the list and is famous for donating millions to the Tories.
According to the leaked documents, around £10 million of the Queen’s private fund was paid into various funds found in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands between 2004 and 2005. A spokesperson for the Royal estate insists everything remains above board though. “All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate,” the said.
He may not be a household name, but Wilbur Ross holds a pretty important position within Donald Trump’s administration as US Commerce Secretary. The billionaire investor who is heavily involved in US trade policy is said to own 31 per cent of Navigator Holdings.
According to the New York Times, the company earns millions from transporting gas gor the petrochemical firm Sibur. Sibur’s stakeholders include Kirill Shamalov, who is Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law and Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko, a man apparently operating under US sanctions.
The Paradise Papers indicate Premier League rules may have been broken in the deal that saw Farhad Moshiri become the club’s owner.
Moshiri has always insisted the money he used to buy Everton was entirely his own, amid concerns over his links to Arsenal investor Alisher Usmanov. A BBC Panorama report took a closer look at the relationship. Both previously held a 30 per cent stake in the Gunners before Moshiri sold his shares to Usmanov and bought a 49.9 per cent stake in Everton.
The BBC show examined whether Moshiri used a financial gift from Usmanov to make his initially purchase of Everton. If proved true, it would suggest Usmanov essentially funded the Everton takeover.
Nike, Apple And Amazon
While the tax affairs of companies like Amazon are already well-documented, the Paradise Papers lifted the lid on over 100 multinationals known for similar practices. Apple and Nile are perhaps the most prominent new additions.
A Nike spokesman has already defended the company’s stance, saying: ‘Nike complies with tax regulations and we rigorously ensure our tax filings are aligned with how we run our business, the investments we make and the jobs we create.”
Facebook and Twitter
The Paradise papers suggest Russian Silicon Valley investor Yuri Milner obtained £146 million from the Kremlin-linked VTB Bank. That money was subsequently invested in Twitter.
A financial subsidiary of Russian energy firm Gazprom also funded a shell company. This company was used to invest in a Milner-linked firm that, prior to Facebook’s initial public offering, held 1 billion dollars’ worth of shares in the social media giant.
Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally have been solved