A vast new trove of 13.4 million leaked documents dubbed the Paradise Papers have been published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) exposing the offshore banking activities of more than 120 politicians around the world.
The Paradise Papers expose how big business, leading politicians, and sport and rock stars shelter their wealth in secretive tax havens.
Included in the leak are documents connecting U.S. Commerce Secretary and billionaire financier Wilbur Ross to a shipping company that does business with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law.
The leak is the latest to draw back the curtain on the shadowy world of offshore banking where shell companies allow the wealthy, kleptocrats, or anyone else with something to hide to conduct business largely in secret in known tax havens.
This trove, which comes largely from Bermuda-based Appleby law firm, reveals offshore ties of a dozen Trump Cabinet members, advisors, and donors. It also shows the connections between a major investor in Twitter and Facebook with Russian state-owned businesses.
Like the “Panama Papers,” the new trove of documents will provide source material for investigations that may last for months.
It comes at an awkward time for the Trump administration as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is issuing indictments and Facebook and Twitter are facing questions of how they were used as tools by Russian interests to influence the 2016 election.
Here are the big takeaways:
Wilbur Ross’ Connection To Putin “Cronies”
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, a long-time business partner of President Donald Trump, still has investments in a shipping firm with significant ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law and a Russian oligarch under American economic sanctions — “cronies of Putin,” in one analyst’s words to The Guardian
Ross divested himself of many of his investments upon entering the Trump administration where he has been a strong supporter of the president’s “America First” agenda. But the leaked documents reveal that Ross kept a multi-million dollar investment in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company that makes millions every year moving gas for Russian energy company Sibur. The owners of Sibur include Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov and Gennady Timchenko, the Russian president’s close friend and Judo partner.
Ross’ holdings in Navigator were disclosed at the time of his confirmation hearings in front of this Senate earlier this year but the holdings did not receive additional scrutiny. Ross’ spokesman claimed the deal had been signed in February 2012 before Ross joined on March 31 of that year. But a press release to the Securities and Exchange Commision on March 2 stated that Ross was already on the board, according to reporting by The Guardian.
Appleby responds to vast leak of its data
Appleby, the firm at the centre of the leak, says it has found no evidence of wrongdoing either by itself or its clients. It says the allegations raised by media agencies are unfounded and display a lack of understanding about the legitimate uses of offshore structures.
Part of the statement reads
”We take any allegation of wrongdoing, implicit or otherwise, extremely seriously. Appleby operates in highly regulated jurisdictions and like all professional organisations in our regions, we are subject to frequent regulatory checks and we are committed to achieving the high standards set by our regulators. We are also committed to the highest standards of client service and confidentiality. It is what we stand for. This commitment is unequivocal.”
Facebook, Twitter Were Partly Funded With Russian Money
The Paradise Papers link the Russian government to investments in Facebook and Twitter through the firm of Russian-American billionaire and Silicon Valley impresario Yuri Milner.
Records indicate that two Kremlin-controlled entities — VTB Bank and the energy conglomerate Gazprom — partnered with Milner’s investment fund DST Global to acquire sizable chunks of Facebook and Twitter. VTB bank paid $191 million for a stake in Twitter in 2011, and a Gazprom subsidiary financed a company that worked with DST Global on the Facebook deal.
Over 700 Indians Identified
Bermuda and Singapore based firms has named and identified the secret offshore dealings of over 700 Indians, including politicians Jayant Sinha (MoS, civil aviation ministry) and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ravindra Kishore Sinha, Bollywood personalities Amitabh Bachchan and Dilnashin Dutt (Sanjay Dutt’s wife) and industrialists such as Vijay Mallya.
Indonesia to Probe Subianto, Suhartos Over Paradise Papers
Indonesian authorities are investigating if former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and the children of ex-dictator Suharto, named in documents leaked from a Bermuda law firm, are in breach of the country’s tax laws.
The tax office will scrutinize financial disclosures made by Subianto in the past to check against information contained in the massive leak of confidential information from offshore law firm Appleby Global Group Services Ltd., Hestu Yoga Saksama, a spokesman for the Directorate General of Taxes, said in a text message on Monday.