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Paradise Papers leak reveals secrets of the world elite’s hidden wealth

Paradise Papers leak exposes the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.

world Updated: Nov 06, 2017 10:00 IST
Paradise Papers leak reveals names of world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens.
Paradise Papers leak reveals names of world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens.

The world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens are being revealed this week in a major new investigation into Britain’s offshore empires.

The details come from a leak of 13.4m files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.

The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times .

The project has been called the Paradise Papers. It reveals:

The disclosures will put pressure on world leaders, including Trump and the British prime minister, Theresa May, who have both pledged to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes.

The publication of this investigation, for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years, comes at a time of growing global income inequality.

Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore – €600bn in the last year alone – the leading economist Gabriel Zucman will reveal in a study to be published later this week.

“Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”

At the centre of the leak is Appleby, a law firm with outposts in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. In contrast to Mossack Fonseca , the discredited firm at the centre of last year’s Panama Papers investigation , Appleby prides itself on being a leading member of the “magic circle” of top-ranking offshore service providers.

It acted for the establishment offshore, providing the structures that helped to legally reduce their tax bills.

Appleby says it has investigated all the allegations, and found “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients”, adding: “We are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business. We do not tolerate illegal behaviour.”