A huge new leak of financial documents has revealed how the powerful and ultra-wealthy, including the Queen of England’s, Elizabeth II private estate, secretly invest vast amounts of cash in offshore tax havens.
Donald Trump’s commerce secretary is shown to have a stake in a firm dealing with Russians sanctioned by the US.
The leak, dubbed the Paradise Papers, contains 13.4m documents, mostly from one leading firm in offshore finance.
BBC Panorama is part of nearly 100 media groups investigating the papers.
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As with last year’s Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. The Guardian is also among the organisations investigating the documents.
Sunday’s revelations form only a small part of a week of disclosures that will expose the tax and financial affairs of some of the hundreds of people and companies named in the data, some with strong UK connections.
Many of the stories focus on how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures of trusts, foundations and shell companies to protect their cash from tax officials or hide their dealings behind a veil of secrecy.
Where does the leak come from?
Most of the data comes from a company called Appleby, a Bermuda-based legal services provider at the top end of the offshore industry, helping clients set up in overseas jurisdictions with low or zero tax rates.
Its documents, and others mainly from corporate registries in Caribbean jurisdictions, were obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung. It has not revealed the source.
The media partners say the investigation is in the public interest because data leaks from the world of offshore have repeatedly exposed wrongdoing.
In response to the leaks, Appleby said it was “satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients”, adding: “We do not tolerate illegal behaviour.”
How is the Queen involved?
The Paradise Papers show that about £10m ($13m) of the Queen’s private money was invested offshore.
It was put into funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda by the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the Queen with an income and handles investments for her £500m private estate.
There is nothing illegal in the investments and no suggestion that the Queen is avoiding tax, but questions may be asked about whether the monarch should be investing offshore.
There were small investments in the rent-to-buy retailer BrightHouse, which has been accused of exploiting the poor, and the Threshers chain of off-licences, which later went bust owing £17.5m in tax and costing almost 6,000 people their jobs.
Source: bbc.com/news http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41876942