The Paradise Papers are a set of more than 13.4 million electronic documents that sheds light on the offshore financial dealings of some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. Portions of the documents, dating back to 1950, were leaked to the public on November 5, 2017. They include emails, corporate transactions sheets, payment ledgers, bank statements and more. As a whole, the documents reveal the trillions of dollars that move through offshore tax havens and the individuals who have protected their wealth by utilizing them.
Similar to the Panama Papers (link to article on website), the Paradise Papers were leaked through the same German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and were then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (I.C.I.J). The I.C.I.J partners that are working on the investigation include the Guardian, BBC and the New York Times. Working with nearly 380 journalists in various parts of the world, I.C.I.J sorted through the documents and obtained other records which include court documents and financial disclosures. Individuals mentioned in the records include Queen Elizabeth, Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
At the center of the global investigation, is Bermudan law firm Appleby that specifically caters to the elite–extremely wealthy individuals and major corporations. Appleby has strategically placed offices in places throughout the world including the British Virgin Islands, Mauritius and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, Hong Kong and Shanghai. It is alleged that Appleby assisted clients in reducing their tax burdens by obscuring their ownership of assets such as companies, aircraft, real estate and yachts. The company also assisted its clients in setting up offshore trusts that in some cases contain billions of dollars.
In a public statement, Appleby stated, “We have thoroughly and vigorously investigated the allegations and we are satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients. We are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business. We do not tolerate illegal behaviour.”
Establishing companies or bank accounts offshore is legal and generally not related to evading taxes or other illegal activities. Utilizing an offshore bank account makes it easier for companies and individuals to facilitate international transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions. Politicians and celebrities often will invest in an international company or open their own company abroad due to privacy concerns. To prevent any criminal implication in connection to offshore assets, it is imperative that you meet the filing requirements issued by the IRS. These requirements essentially instruct all US persons to report their worldwide income.
Media partners have stated that the investigation is in the interest of the public because other international data leaks have exposed wrongdoing. Although this leak is not the largest batch of data to be leaked, it is projected to be one of the most impactful as it has information regarding such an elite group of individuals.