By Alex Dickson
Following the release of the Panama Papers last year, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper responsible for leading that investigation, has yet again managed to obtain a treasure trove of investigative journalism. In coordination with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Paradise Papers, similarly to the Panama Papers’ focus, reveal further evidence of how some of the world’s largest multinational companies, richest individuals as well as public officials have invested money in offshore tax havens.
Over the past week, we have been drip-fed stories about a number of public figures and financial institutions who have used the services of law firms such as Appleby, from where most of the data leak came, to manage their finances offshore.
The ‘revelation’ that many wealthy celebrities and large corporations keep their assets offshore is perhaps unsurprising.
However the involvement of the royal family has raised a few eyebrows as to how royal finances are being managed. The Queen’s private estate was found to have invested millions of pounds into a Cayman Islands fund. Whilst investing offshore is not strictly illegal, many have understandably questioned whether the head of state’s money should be sitting in tax havens. Prince Charles’ private estate was also shown to have had a stake in a Bermuda-registered business run by one of his late best friends. Although this business addressed environmental sustainability, one of Charles’ lifetime passion projects, the fact that this investment was kept so secret hints at a financial conflict of interest given Charles’ public platform. As the taxpayer essentially funds the royal household, these findings have led to calls for more transparency and scrutiny into the management of royal finances.
Across the pond, the names of Trump’s inner circle have emerged in the papers. Trump himself tweeted last week that he planned to “bring back trillions of dollars from offshore”. It seems that he had best start with his cabinet members, such as Rex Tillerson and Steve Mnuchin, who had previously kept their company profits out of reach in tax havens. To add to the mounting evidence of Russian involvement in the Trump administration, the papers also show another tenuous financial link between Wilbur Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, and a Russian gas business partly owned by Putin’s son-in-law.
The revelations this week have not been met by nearly as much public protest as with the release of the Panama Papers last year. Wealthy individuals are likely embarrassed by their associations with such a public investigation but it is unclear whether the U.K. and U.S. governments will be pressurised into clamping down on offshore holdings.
Photograph: Michael Gwyther-Jones via Flickr