The world's largest corporations, heads of state, as well as global figures in entertainment, sports, and politics who have managed to shelter their wealth in tax havens have just been revealed in the newest major investigation into Britain’s offshore empires.
The details came from a leak that exposed 13.4 million files on global environments where tax abuses have been made possible. The files show complex and artificial ways for the wealthiest businesses to legally protect their wealth.
The material, which can be traced back to company registries of more than a dozen tax havens and two offshore service providers, was obtained by Suddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper. It was then shared by ICIJ to BBC, New York Times, and The Guardian.
The leak called Paradise Papers revealed the following:
- A huge sum of money from the private estate of the Queen has been placed in a fund based in Cayman Islands. What's more, a part of the invested money got into the pockets of a retailer who was accused of exploiting vulnerable people and poor families.
- Justin Trudeau’s friend and advisor, Stephen Bronfman, who manages a tax-avoiding trust based in Cayman Islands.
- A previously unknown offshore trust, which sheltered Lord Ashcroft's wealth.
- Aggressive tax avoidance dealings made by multinational corporations such as Apple and Nike.
- Extensive offshore dealings of president Trump's advisers, donors, and cabinet members, including substantial payments made by a firm that was co-owned by the son-in-law of Vladimir Putin to Wilbur Ross's shipping group. Ross is the commerce secretary of the US.
- How Facebook and Twitter received huge investments by Russian financial institutions.
- How huge TV and film industry names protect their wealth using many offshore schemes.
- The billions worth of tax refunds made by Malta and Isle of Man to luxury yacht and private jet owners.
- The offshore webs that have been used by two billionaires when purchasing stakes in the Everton and Arsenal football clubs.
The disclosures are sure to put a lot of pressure on the backs of world leaders such as Trump and Theresa May, the prime minister of the UK.
The publication of the investigation comes at a point where there's a growing trend in global income inequality. More than 350 journalists spent a year just to comb through data stretching back to more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, in 2016 alone, multinational corporations shifted a huge amount of profits offshore amounting to €600 billion. According to Gabriel Zucman, a leading economist, tax havens are among the few reasons why there's global inequality. As the inequality continues to rise, it's likely for offshore tax evasion to become an elite sport.
Appleby, an offshore law firm, is right at the center of this leak. The law firm has outposts in Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey.