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ICIJ

www.icij.org


International Consortium of Investigative Journalists



Read the Paradise Papers documents
20 Nov 2017, 10:03 pm

ICIJ is releasing additional emails, contracts, company structures, trust declarations and more from its Paradise Papers project, a significant addition to the Offshore Leaks database and part of ICIJ’s larger goal to shed light on some of the world’s most secretive jurisdictions

These documents are often referred to as unstructured, because – unlike a spreadsheet or a database – they are not easily searchable by a computer. They have been reviewed and redacted where appropriate but are rich in information and were critical to ICIJ’s reporting.

They are just part of about 13.5 million documents obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ. Most of them are from Appleby, one of the offshore law firms at the center of the Paradise Papers.

Related articles

The news organizations don’t plan to release all documents since many haven’t yet been reviewed, include personal information on private individuals or do not involve matters of public concern.

One example of the unstructured documents are those relating to ICIJ’s story that exposed tax-avoidance practices of jet owners on the Isle of Man, ICIJ released a handful of documents from Appleby’s Isle of Man office.

One document shows how professionals working for Formula One racing champion Lewis Hamilton created a company on the island to import a private jet, allowing Hamilton to collect a $5.2 million refund of taxes paid on its purchase.

And this excerpt from a KPMG audit details a complex company structure – stretching from Ireland to Jersey – behind a fund that owned a catalog of music publishing rights, allowing the fund’s beneficiaries to avoid taxes on royalties generated, mostly in the United States, by these country, jazz and pop classics.

The following is a list of all original documents that ICIJ has published so far. This list will be updated as new ones are added.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his Russian business ties:

Kremlin-owned firms linked to investments in Facebook and Twitter:

Offshore services law firm, Appleby, and its history of compliance failures:

Mining giant Glencore and its operations in the Congo:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser’s offshore maneuvers:

The offshore gurus who help the rich avoid taxes on jets and yachts:

Leaked documents expose the secret tale of Apple’s island hop:

How Nike stays one step ahead of the regulators

Burkina Faso and the development dreams that stand still while money move offshore:

U.S. political donors playing the offshore game:

Go inside the secret world of offshore mega-trusts:

The rise of Mauritius as a tax haven

The role of offshore in forest destruction:

Thousands of classic American songs tucked away tax-free:

ICIJ’s Power Player’s interactive:

The post Read the Paradise Papers documents appeared first on ICIJ.

 




Back to School: Paradise Papers Help Students Learn About Offshore Finance
20 Nov 2017, 5:41 pm

How do tax havens work? Who benefits from using them? And who loses out?

ICIJ and its partners tackle these questions in our investigative reporting, and now the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is taking these questions into classrooms to help students understand the murky world of offshore finance.

The Pulitzer Center supported two features of ICIJ’s latest project, the Paradise Papers. The Influencers interactive revealed the close associates of United States President Donald Trump who use offshore finance, and the Snax Haven video explained how the tactics used by multinational companies to avoid tax.

These two features along with numerous ICIJ stories form the backbone of two lesson plans built by the Center and made available to school teachers.

The first lesson plan takes a step back to look at the broader issue of tax avoidance through offshore structures. It asks students what would they do if they could be completely anonymous, and why might wealthy businesspeople seek out this sort of anonymity?

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The lesson goes on to show some of the schemes multinational corporations use to slash their tax bills, and looks at who loses out when profits are funneled into tax havens. It also asks questions about some of the powerful individuals with links to offshore companies, and why it matters that important decision makers might have an interest in the offshore financial system.

The second lesson plan goes behind the scenes of the Paradise Papersinvestigation to focus on investigative journalism, and how reporters go about gathering information, building a story and, ultimately, how they tell that story to their audience.

Both lesson plans are available for free via the Pulitzer Center’s website, along with lesson plans from previous ICIJ investigations the Panama Papers and Fatal Extraction.

The post Back to School: Paradise Papers Help Students Learn About Offshore Finance appeared first on ICIJ.

 




More than 100 universities and colleges included in Offshore Leaks Database
17 Nov 2017, 3:06 pm

Hidden in the 25,000 offshore entities we added to the Offshore Leaks Database today are some of the world’s most prestigious universities and colleges.

ICIJ and its partners found more than 100 educational institutions in offshore law firm Appleby’s client database, which was part of the Paradise Papers leaks.

Some of these elite institutions hold tens of billions of dollars in their endowments, and in the eyes of the law, they are treated as charities: altruistic, mission-driven and tax-exempt.

The only time university endowments pay taxes is when they invest in debt-financed financial firms such as private equity funds and hedge funds. These investments are considered a business activity unrelated to their tax-exempt missions.

Related articles

As ICIJ’s partners at The New York Times reported, large numbers of universities have adopted an offshore scheme that allows them to avoid even those taxes. The universities assign entities called “blocker funds” legal responsibility of otherwise taxable investments. These entities are incorporated in zero-tax jurisdictions such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Consequently, wealthy universities have settled en masse on a strategy for reaping Wall Street-sized investment gains tax free.

American universities whose endowments appear in the Paradise Papers using blocker funds include Columbia, Dartmouth and Johns Hopkins.

Dozens of other U.S. colleges, as well as flagship universities in the United Kingdom and Canada, appear connected to blocker funds, as well as offshore investments in the oil and gas industry or other companies and financial firms based in tax havens.

Is your university or alma mater using offshore investments?

Take a look at the list below and see if your university is included:

To share news tips with ICIJ and the Paradise Papers journalists you can reach ICIJ on a number of platforms including SecureDrop, Signal, WhatsApp, Wire and more.

The post More than 100 universities and colleges included in Offshore Leaks Database appeared first on ICIJ.

 




First Paradise Papers data to be added to ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks Database
15 Nov 2017, 5:58 pm

Information on about 25,000 new offshore entities will be added to ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks Database this Friday, as ICIJ begins to publish the structured data from the Paradise Papers leaks.

Related articles

The Friday release (morning EST / early afternoon GMT) will encompass the structured data from Appleby’s client records, and includes information on offshore companies and trusts registered in more than 30 jurisdictions. The data includes shareholders, officers, addresses, and more.

The Offshore Leaks Database already includes data from ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks, Panama Papers and Bahamas Leaks investigations. The addition of the structured Appleby data will take the overall number of searchable records to more than 520,000.

ICIJ will continue to release more structured data to the database in the coming weeks, including more than 100,000 records from multiple secrecy jurisdictions included in the Paradise Papers investigation. Please sign up to our email list to receive updates in your inbox.

The post First Paradise Papers data to be added to ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks Database appeared first on ICIJ.

 




HSBC to pay $352m to settle tax evasion charges in France
15 Nov 2017, 3:17 pm

HSBC Holding PLC agreed Tuesday to pay $352 million to settle charges that it helped wealthy clients of its private Swiss bank evade taxes in France.

The investigation that resulted in the settlement was based on data found by French authorities in 2009 when they searched the home of Herve Falciani, a former IT employee of the Swiss bank who fled to France from Geneva. Swiss prosecutors, concerned that he had information from thousands of bank files from 2006 and 2007, had requested the search.

The same data was later obtained by ICIJ via the French newspaper Le Monde and resulted in the Swiss Leaks investigation. The data, which covered accounts holding more than $100 billion, disclosed the bank’s dealings with clients, including those engaged in behavior that included tax evasion, bribery and arms dealing.

“HSBC has publicly acknowledged historical control weaknesses at the Swiss Private Bank on a number of occasions and has taken firm steps to address them,” the bank said in statement.

The investigation focused on whether HSBC’s Swiss bank had helped its clients to illegally avoid paying taxes worth $1.9 billion in the years covered by the data.

The settlement was the first under a French law introduced in 2016 and similar to deferred prosecution agreements in the United States, which allows companies to settle without an admission of guilt.

“The investigation regarding HSBC Holdings has been dismissed,” HSBC said in its statement. The bank also said it had already made provisions for payment of the settlement, so it won’t negatively impact its financial results.

The post HSBC to pay $352m to settle tax evasion charges in France appeared first on ICIJ.

 




Wealth inequality ‘crisis’ as richest 1 percent account for half the world’s wealth
14 Nov 2017, 11:30 pm

Global inequality has worsened since the millennium, with a new report finding the richest 1 percent account for half of the world’s wealth.

The world’s top 1 percent held 45.5 percent of all household wealth in 2000. Now, they hold 50.1 percent, according to Credit Suisse’s annual Global Wealth Report.

The report highlights that Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) – people who are worth more than $50 million – as being the driving force behind the gap. This group of wealth holders has grown five-fold since 2000.

“While the bottom half of adults collectively own less than 1 percent  of total wealth, the richest decile (top 10 percent of adults) owns 88 percent of global assets, and the top percentile alone accounts for half of total household wealth,” the report said.

It was also the wealthy who benefited from the global fortunes following the 2008 global financial crisis with wealth inequality rising across all regions, except for China where median wealth declined.

The report offers a reminder that anti-poverty groups aren’t the only ones publishing eye-popping numbers on global inequality; the severe numbers are also being confirmed by the financial services firms that specialize in helping the rich grow their assets.

“It fits broadly along with the things we really noticed this year — that is, the massive increase of wealth in just one unit,” Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam International, said of today’s report.

The top 1 percent own half the world’s household wealth, according to Credit Suisse.

The report comes a little more than a week after ICIJ and more than 90 media partners around the world released the Paradise Papers, an investigation that seeks to shed light on the offshore financial services industry, a significant driver of greater shares of wealth accumulating at the top.

The investigation revealed ways in which the offshore world offers billionaires and the companies they own a means to reduce their taxes under a deep veil of financial privacy, allowing them to grow their assets in dazzling exponentials.

“You’ve got a direct link between tax havens and this explosion in the wealth of the super-rich which we see in the report today,” Lawson said.

“They’re using industrial levels of tax avoidance to make sure their fortunes are shielded from the tax man. They’d be less wealthy if they paid the tax they owe.”

The world’s wealth levels in 2017, according to the latest Credit Suisse report.

The Paradise Papers investigation, based on a trove of millions of leaked files from leading offshore law firm Appleby,  shed light on the use of these havens by some of the world’s wealthiest individuals.

The files revealed that James Simons, a hedge fund billionaire and top US political donor, used the low-tax jurisdiction of Bermuda to quietly grow one of the largest private trust funds ever discovered. It also showed how multinational corporations like Apple and Nike have avoided billions in taxes, often using mazes of offshore entities that shift earnings and assets overseas — away from public scrutiny and tax collectors.

“The offshore industry makes “the poor poorer” and is “deepening wealth inequality,” Brooke Harrington, a certified wealth manager and Copenhagen Business School professor, told ICIJ’sreporters for the Paradise Papers investigation.

“There is this small group of people who are not equally subject to the laws as the rest of us, and that’s on purpose,” Harrington said.

While the Paradise Papers provide a view into the elaborate mechanisms by which the wealthy move their assets away from public coffers, today’s Credit Suisse report shows how these maneuvers have manifested in broad terms, although the report does not name offshore services providers or tax avoidance as drivers of its findings.

This is clearly a crisis… and it is a crisis that is getting a lot worse.
Max Lawson

The report states that half the world’s population — 3.5 billion adults with wealth below $10,000 — account for just 2.7 percent of global wealth.

“In contrast…the 36 million millionaires comprise less than 1% of the adult population, but own 46% of household wealth,” the report said.

The growth of “financial assets,” commonly defined as stocks, bonds and other investments, has outpaced the growth of real assets, like homes and land — with the rich benefiting handsomely from this trend.

This has been most true, according to the report, in wealthier countries, where  millionaires and billionaires fare far better than those in poor countries.

“The United States continued its remarkable unbroken spell of gains after the financial crisis,” the report states, noting that many countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa saw growth of less than one percent – or even shrinking overall wealth. Credit Suisse attributed this to “adverse currency movements.”

“This is clearly a crisis,” said Oxfam’s Lawson. “And it is a crisis that is getting a lot worse.”

The post Wealth inequality ‘crisis’ as richest 1 percent account for half the world’s wealth appeared first on ICIJ.

 




Tax havens, legal letters and other sticky questions answered by ICIJ
13 Nov 2017, 7:30 pm

Receiving “threatening” legal letters is a “normal part of the investigative process,” according to ICIJ’s deputy director Marina Walker Guevara.

Walker Guevara was responding to a reader’s question about whether ICIJ and its partners had been threatened.

It was just one of many questions our team – which also included our director Gerard Ryle and reporter Will Fitzgibbon – answered on Facebook last week.

The team also answered questions such as as:

You can watch a replay of all their answers below:

The post Tax havens, legal letters and other sticky questions answered by ICIJ appeared first on ICIJ.

 




Meet the stars in Paradise
10 Nov 2017, 4:52 pm

They’re more accustomed to “beautiful days” and “bringing sexy back,” but this week a number of world-renowned celebrities are having the “whenever” and “wherever” of their offshore financial links revealed.

From film stars to famous manga artists, journalists working on the Paradise Papers investigation have followed the money to cities where the streets do have names – and where local authorities, in at least one case, were asking questions.

Files from the Maltese corporate registry revealed pop star Bono, born Paul Hewson, was a shareholder of a Malta-based entity that bought a shopping centre in a small town in Lithuania. The company was later transferred to Guernsey, a jurisdiction that doesn’t charge tax on corporate profits. After Lithuanian authorities announced a probe on the company’s business, Bono said that he welcomes the audit and that he has “been assured by those running the company that it is fully tax-compliant,” according to the Guardian.

 

Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, better known as “Hips Don’t Lie” singer Shakira, might “make a man want to speak Spanish,” but files from the Paradise Papers show that the Colombian pop star was actually using the tiny island of Malta to transfer more than $30 million of music rights, according to Spanish paper El Confidencial.

Shakira was listed as the sole shareholder of the Maltese company which, her lawyers told reporters, “fulfils all legal requirements.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, pop singer Justin Timberlake and actress Nicole Kidman – recently named Australia’s richest celebrity – were both found in records from the corporate registry in the Bahamas, an island chain in the Caribbean. The Guardian reported that they are linked to companies registered to buy properties on the island.

Queen of pop and world-famous “material girl” Madonna, was listed as a shareholder of a medical-supplies company in Bermuda, now closed. She did not respond to questions from ICIJ and its partners, and the purpose of the company remains unclear.

The use of offshore entities to manage private wealth and conduct business is not illegal. However, experts say that the high level of secrecy provided to corporate owners by some offshore jurisdictions may allow criminals to conceal illicit funds and keep tax-evaders far from the authorities’ reach.

The leaked documents also provided details on the disputed fortune of late frontman of Australian band INXS. They show how the business manager of Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide in 1997, lawfully set up a Mauritius company to cash in on the singer’s estate. The manager used the offshore entity to exploit Hutchence’s unheard songs ahead of the 20th anniversary of his death this year – according to an ABC Four Corner report. It is not clear whether Hutchence’s daughter will benefit from her father’s rights and multi-million dollar inheritance.

In France LeMonde and RadioFrance reported that Jean-Jacques Annaud, the film director of 1997 film “Seven Years in Tibet,” hid about $1.5 million from French tax authorities using a trust in the Cayman Islands and two companies. His lawyers said that, after the revelations, Annaud asked them to regularize his fiscal affairs and the assets were declared in October.

From the files also emerge details on the offshore interests of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. The Indian Express reported that the actor became a shareholder of a Bermuda company before the government began to require Reserve Bank approval for all overseas investments made by resident Indians. It’s not clear if the shareholding was disclosed, the report says.

Japanese manga artist Akira Toriyama, better known for creating popular cartoons like “Dragon Ball” also figures in the Paradise Papers. In 2000 Toriyama was one of the investors in a U.S. real estate company whose accounting methods were later found to be noncompliant with federal regulations, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.Toriyama did not comment on the investment.

via GIPHY

The post Meet the stars in Paradise appeared first on ICIJ.

 




Arrest warrants, investigations and more as world responds to Paradise Papers
9 Nov 2017, 10:12 pm

Governments around the world are swinging into action in response to the Paradise Papers, launching investigations, audits and issuing the first arrest warrants stemming from the investigation’s findings.

A prosecutor in Argentina called for the arrest of four officials at a public university for their roles in an alleged money laundering scheme involving mining operations linked to commodities trader Glencore.

The warrant in Argentina was one of several government actions in Latin America, in addition to official responses in countries in Europe and Asia:

  • Argentina: A prosecutor in the Argentine province of Tucuman issued arrest warrants for four officials at the University of Tucuman, in connection to an alleged money laundering scheme connected to mining company La Alumbrera. La Alumbrera was linked to offshore companies belonging to Swiss commodities giant Glencore that were used to reduce taxes on mineral resources extracted from Argentina.
  • Chile: Two government agencies announced investigations into Paradise Papers revelations. Tax authorities have pledged to investigate Chilean companies that appear in the leaked files, and the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications said that it had contacted tax officials to contribute to an ongoing audit of Alsacia-Express, a major operator of public buses that had conducted business offshore in Bermuda.
  • Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos publicly released personal financial statements for years 2015 and 2016 after he was linked to two offshore companies in Barbados.
  • Bermuda: The former head of government, Michael Dunkley, predicted that Appleby would not survive after the Paradise Papers.  “Sadly because of how badly they handled the hack I suggest that they will not be a viable entity going forward,” Dunkley wrote in a Facebook post.  “This is also a reputation issue for Bermuda.”
  • Netherlands: The Dutch tax minister said the government would re-examine 4,000 advance tax rulings reached between the Netherlands and foreign companies. These agreements came under fire after the revelation that a tax ruling issued on behalf of the American consumer goods company Procter & Gamble failed to follow regulations.
  • Singapore: The central bank and financial regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said it would review the Paradise Papers and “take action against any financial institution or individual who breaches our regulations.”
  • Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “satisfied” by the assurances by his longtime friend and top Liberal Party fundraiser, Stephen Bronfman, that he had not broken any laws in his dealings with offshore trusts. Opposition leaders fired back that “Canadians are not satisfied” and called for further investigation.

The post Arrest warrants, investigations and more as world responds to Paradise Papers appeared first on ICIJ.

 




Frequently Asked Questions about the Paradise Papers
8 Nov 2017, 4:28 pm

Why didn’t ICIJ publish all the Paradise Papers files?

We are an investigative journalism organization and, as such, we report stories that are in the public interest. The Paradise Papers expose significant failures and weaknesses inside the offshore industry. Those stories and others we are pursuing serve the public interest by bringing accountability to the offshore industry, its users and operators.

Other parts of the data are of a private nature and of no interest to the public.

ICIJ will not release personal data en masse but will continue to mine the full data with its media partners.

Will ICIJ at least publish a database of people and companies?

Throughout November and December, ICIJ will release the names of tens of thousands of offshore entities incorporated by Appleby, Asiaciti and corporate registries and the people connected to them (as beneficiaries, shareholders or directors).

The names – with links to 180 countries – will be added to the Offshore Leaks database (published in 2013), which already contains more than 340,000 companies that ICIJ obtained in previous leaks.

Sign up to our mailing list to be the first to know when ICIJ will release updates to its database.

Will ICIJ share documents from the Paradise Papers with governments?

The long-standing policy of ICIJ is not to turn over such material.

The ICIJ is not an arm of law enforcement and is not an agent of the government. We are an independent reporting organization, served by and serving our members, the global investigative journalism community and the public.

Should I assume that everyone that appears in the Paradise Papers is involved in tax avoidance or evasion?

No. There may be legitimate reasons to create a company in an offshore jurisdiction. Many people declare them to tax authorities when that is required.

How can I join the investigation?

ICIJ welcomes the opportunity to grow our collaborations with media partners, especially from countries where the Paradise Papers have not yet been explored.

This is not easy data to understand. It took great commitment from all of our current media partners to find stories of important public interest. ICIJ provides training to partners to ensure that everyone understood the intricacies of the information they were reporting on.

If you are a journalist and want to partner with us send us an email.

How does ICIJ pick its reporting partners?

ICIJ is an independent network of more than 200 investigative journalists in more than 65 countries who work together of issues of global significance. Sometimes we go to our members with an idea for a project and sometimes our members come to us with their ideas or data.

Related articles

For the Paradise Papers investigation, ICIJ members Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier from the German newspaper Süeddeutsche Zeitung shared the files they had obtained with ICIJ so we could organize a global investigation.

We are constantly working with journalists and media organizations that are not part of our network, for example in countries where we haven’t done work before.

What do we seek in our partners?

  • Journalists with a proven record in investigative reporting.
  • Media organizations that support “slow,” deep-dive investigations.
  • Journalists who are team players and are willing to share their work with other colleagues around the world.
  • Generally nice people (life is short!).

How do I get in touch with ICIJ if I want to share a tip or documents?

There are a number of ways to contact ICIJ, depending on the nature of your message or the material you would like to share.

ICIJ also uses PGP encryption: our public key can be found on the MIT PGP Public Key Server (fingerprint: 986A 572D 3B95 BD42 331E 839A B532 F18C 2A17 696B); our email address is contact@icij.org.

You can see all of the ways you can anonymously leak to ICIJ on our leak page.

Who funds ICIJ?

ICIJ is a non-profit organization. We rely on charitable foundations and on financial support from the public. Unlike other non-profit organizations, we do not take funding from governments. Without our readers’ support, we cannot exist.

Recent ICIJ funders include: Adessium Foundation, Open Society Foundations, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, The Ford Foundation, Fritt Ord Foundation and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. We also receive support from Australian philanthropist Graeme Wood.

We welcome individual donations in support of our work.

Still got a burning question? Email us and we’ll try and answer it!

The post Frequently Asked Questions about the Paradise Papers appeared first on ICIJ.

 


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