Apr 1, 2013
Move over Switzerland, British Virgin Islands is the new tax haven
Sugata Ghosh & M Padmakshan, ET Bureau
(Tax officials have come…)
MUMBAI: After chasing Swiss account holders, the Indian tax office has turned its glare on hidden offshore companies.Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
In the course of investigating undisclosed overseas bank accounts, the Income-TaxDepartment has stumbled upon several instances of resident individuals floating companies in the BritishVirgin Islands (BVI), a Caribbean tax haven that for years has been a successful hideaway.
Wednesday 3 April 2013 23.59 BST
Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore
Exclusive: Offshore financial industry leak exposes identities of 1,000s of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world
David Leigh |The Guardian,
The British Virgin Islands, the world's leading offshore haven used by an array of government officials and rich families to hide their wealth.
Millions of internal records have leaked from Britain's offshore financial industry, exposing for the first time the identities of thousands of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world, from presidents to plutocrats, the daughter of a notorious dictator and a British millionaire accused of concealing assets from his ex-wife.
The leak of 2m emails and other documents, mainly from the offshore haven of the British VirginIslands (BVI), has the potential to cause a seismic shock worldwide to the booming offshore trade, with a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
In France, Jean-Jacques Augier, President François Hollande's campaign co-treasurer and close friend, has been forced to publicly identify his Chinese business partner.
It emerges as Hollande is mired in financial scandal because his former budget minister concealed a Swiss bank account for 20 years and repeatedly lied about it.
In Mongolia, the country's former finance minister and deputy speaker of its parliament says he may have to resign from politics as a result of this investigation.
But the two can now be named for the first time because of their use of companies in offshore havens, particularly in the British Virgin Islands, where owners' identities normally remain secret.
The names have been unearthed in a novel project by theWashington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists [ICIJ], in collaboration with the Guardian and other international media, who are jointly publishing their research results this week.
The naming project may be extremely damaging for confidence among the world's wealthiest people, no longer certain that the size of their fortunes remains hidden from governments and from their neighbours.
BVI's clients include Scot Young, a millionaire associate of deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
Dundee-born Young is in jail for contempt of court for concealing assets from his ex-wife.
Young's lawyer, to whom he signed over power of attorney, appears to control interests in a BVI company that owns a potentially lucrative Moscow development with a value estimated at $100m.
Another is jailed fraudster Achilleas Kallakis. He used fake BVI companies to obtain a record-breaking £750m in property loans from reckless British and Irish banks.
As well as Britons hiding wealth offshore, an extraordinary array of government officials and rich families across the world are identified, from Canada, the US, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, China, Thailand and former communist states.
The data seen by the Guardian shows that their secret companies are based mainly in the British Virgin Islands.
Sample offshore owners named in the leaked files include:
- Jean-Jacques Augier, François Hollande's 2012 election campaign co-treasurer, launched a Caymans-based distributor in China with a 25% partner in a BVI company. Augier says his partner was Xi Shu, a Chinese businessman.
- Mongolia's former finance minister. Bayartsogt Sangajav set up "Legend Plus Capital Ltd" with a Swiss bank account, while he served as finance minister of the impoverished state from 2008 to 2012. He says it was "a mistake" not to declare it, and says "I probably should consider resigning from my position".Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
- The president of Azerbaijan and his family. A local construction magnate, Hassan Gozal, controls entities set up in the names of President Ilham Aliyev's two daughters.
- The wife of Russia's deputy prime minister. Olga Shuvalova's husband, businessman and politician Igor Shuvalov, has denied allegations of wrongdoing about her offshore interests.
- A senator's husband in Canada. Lawyer Tony Merchant deposited more than US$800,000 into an offshore trust.He paid fees in cash and ordered written communication to be "kept to a minimum".
- A dictator's child in the Philippines: Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, a provincial governor, is the eldest daughter of former President Ferdinand Marcos, notorious for corruption.
- Spain's wealthiest art collector, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, a former beauty queen and widow of a Thyssen steel billionaire, who uses offshore entities to buy pictures.
- US: Offshore clients include Denise Rich, ex-wife of notorious oil trader Marc Rich, who was controversially pardoned by President Clinton on tax evasion charges. She put $144m into the Dry Trust, set up in the Cook Islands.It is estimated that more than $20tn acquired by wealthy individuals could lie in offshore accounts. The UK-controlled BVI has been the most successful among the mushrooming secrecy havens that cater for them.
The Caribbean micro-state has incorporated more than a million such offshore entities since it began marketing itself worldwide in the 1980s. Owners' true identities are never revealed.
Even the island's official financial regulators normally have no idea who is behind them.
The British Foreign Office depends on the BVI's company licensing revenue to subsidise this residual outpost of empire, while lawyers and accountants in the City of London benefit from a lucrative trade as intermediaries.
They claim the tax-free offshore companies provide legitimate privacy. Neil Smith, the financial secretary of the autonomous local administration in the BVI's capital Tortola, told the Guardian it was very inaccurate to claim the island "harbours the ethically challenged".
He said: "Our legislation provides a more hostile environment for illegality than most jurisdictions".
Smith added that in "rare instances …where the BVI was implicated in illegal activity by association or otherwise, we responded swiftly and decisively".
The Guardian and ICIJ's Offshore Secrets series last year exposed how UK property empires have been built up by, among others, Russian oligarchs, fraudsters and tax avoiders, using BVI companies behind a screen of sham directors.
Such so-called "nominees", Britons giving far-flung addresses on Nevis in the Caribbean, Dubai or the Seychelles, are simply renting out their names for the real owners to hide behind.
The whistleblowing group WikiLeaks caused a storm of controversy in 2010 when it was able to download almost two gigabytes of leaked US military and diplomatic files.
The new BVI data, by contrast, contains more than 200 gigabytes, covering more than a decade of financial information about the global transactions of BVI private incorporation agencies.
Thursday 4 April 2013 13.36 BSTIt also includes data on their offshoots in Singapore, Hong Kong and the Cook Islands in the Pacific.
The prime minister of Georgia heads a list of fresh names that emerged on Thursday as owners of secret offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands.Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
A senior Lib Dem politician said the secret haven of the BVI "stains the face of Britain", while anti-corruption campaigners called for action from the British prime minister, David Cameron.The latest cluster of names to emerge from the huge leak of BVI financial data include Bidzina Ivanishvili, the prime minister of the Caucasus nation since last year, and prominent figures in Pakistan, India, Thailand and Indonesia. They also include a Briton, Neil Gaitely, nominally a director of a company reported to be a front for the Iranian regime.
Lord Oakeshott, the Lib Dem peer and a former Treasury spokesman, said: "How can David Cameron keep a straight face calling for the G8 to make big business pay tax when we let the BVI use British law and British protection to suck in billions in dirty money?"
The names of thousands of owners of secret offshore companies are currently being revealed by the washington-based ICIJ, a journalists' group, in collaboration with the Guardian and other international media. This follows the leak to ICIJ of a hard drive containing 200GB of internal files of offshore incorporation agencies in the BVI, Singapore and the Cook Islands.
Robert Palmer of the campaign group Global Witness repeated the call for Cameron to take action. He said: "The time to deal with this issue is now. Given that he has pledged to tackle these secretive shell companies at this year's G8 summit in Northern Ireland, he and his fellow leaders must commit to publishing information on the people who ultimately control and own companies."
Today's release of names includes:
GeorgiaName: Bidzina IvanishviliOffshore company: Bosherston Overseas CorpDetails: Ivanishvili, a billionaire businessman, became prime minister of Georgia in 2012. Listed from 2006-9 as director of the BVI company, administered via an agent in Panama, incorporated in 2006 and still active.Comment: Spokesman says he has done everything according to law: "For the reporting period of 2011-12, Prime Minister Ivanishvili had no interest in the company … and therefore there was no obligation to report it in his [financial] declaration"
IndiaName: Gaddam VivekanandOffshore company: Belrose Universal LtdDetails: A ruling Congress party MP, Vivekanand is also vice-chairman of Visaka Industries, which produces about one quarter of India's asbestos supplies. He and his wife Saroja are listed as directors and shareholders of Belrose, which was incorporated in the BVI September 2008.Comment: Vivekanand said: "I do not remember being involved with such a company and have no connection with it.''
IndonesiaName: Stephen RiadyOffshore Companies: J&S Company, Eastlink Industrial Investments and othersDetails: The Riady family, one of many wealthy Indonesian families and owners of the conglomerate Lippo Group, had at least 11 offshore entities. The agents, TrustNet refer to them as "Client A", noting "client does not want to be seen dealing offshore". Their agent, Gary Phair, instructed TrustNet staff to "delete any reference to 'C/- [care of] Lippo Group'"Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
Comment: A spokeswoman for Stephen Riady said there was "nothing illegal or improper in protecting the privacy of one's own information".
IranName: Iran's shipping fleetOffshore Company: Tamalaris Consolidated LtdDetails: The company was set up in 2006 in the BVI via a Russian incorporation agency. An anonymous Panama entity, Palmarris Group SA, is listed as shareholder, while a Briton, 39-year-old "general builder" Neil Gaitely, from Abbey Wood, south London, whose name appears as a nominee on a variety of offshore and UK companies, is listed as a director. In 2011 it was publicly blacklisted by the US and UK governments as a front for the state-controlled Iranian shipping line, designed to dodge anti-nuclear proliferation sanctions.
ThailandName: Nalinee "Joy" TaveesinOffshore Company: Hall Kingston InternationalDetails: Taveesin is currently Thailand's international trade representative, and previously a government minister and adviser to Thailand's commerce minister. The offshore company naming her and her brother Anuraj Mishra was set up 2008, according to TrustNet records. In the same year, the US treasury department blacklisted her and her assets as a "crony" of the Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe, accusing her of "secretly supporting the kleptocratic practices of one of Africa's most corrupt regimes" through gem trafficking and other deals.Comment: Taveesin's secretary said: "She [Taveesin] strongly affirmed that she had neither known nor heard about this so-called Hall Kingston. The information about her being [a company] shareholder is incorrect."
Thursday 4 April 2013 20.45 BSTPakistanName: Moonis ElahiOffshore company: Olive Grove Assets LtdDetails: Elahi is a politician from a prominent Punjab dynasty. He is the son of Pakistan's former deputy prime minister Chaudry Pervez Elahi, and runs a family textile business. The company was incorporated in the BVI 2006, and the address listed in BVI records is the Chaudry family residence in Lahore. Elahi was acquitted in a Pakistan court in 2011 of receiving payments in a corruption scandal.Comment: Elahi said "I do not own" nor control the BVI company. He did not state whether he had previously owned the firm.• This article was amended on 4 April 2013 to correct Robert Palmer's name, which was originally wrongly given as David Palmer. | HERE
HERE | Politicians around the world use firms based in the British Virgin Islands, above, to hide funds.
The prime minister has come under pressure to act against Britain's secretive offshore industry at June's G8 summit, as leaked evidence continued to mount that politicians and tycoons from all over the world have used the British Virgin Islands to hide funds.
The premier of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, was the latest to be named, along with prominent Pakistani, Indian, Thai and Indonesian figures – while there was fresh evidence of Britons acting as front directors for companies based in offshore havens such as the BVI.
A senior Liberal Democrat figure said the leaks showed the secret haven of the BVI "stains the face of Britain", as anti-corruption campaigners called for action.
Lord Oakeshott, the Lib Dem peer and a former Treasury spokesman, said: "How can David Cameron keep a straight face calling for the G8 to make big business pay tax when we let the BVI use British law and British protection to suck in billions in dirty money?"
He asked: "How much British aid paid to corrupt countries like Pakistan ends up behind a BVI brass plate?"
Despite mounting evidence that British sham directors are selling their names as fronts for offshore secrecy, the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) signalled that politicians are reluctant to move against them.
A report on the sham directors scandal has already been sent to ministers by the BIS deputy head of corporate governance, Jo Shanmugalingam. This followed a Guardian-BBC investigation last year into the leaked data which revealed that two dozen Britons, giving obscure offshore addresses, were purporting to control thousands of companies.
The latest example, which emerged on Thursday, is of a "general builder", Kevin Gaitely. He gives an address in south London and is registered as the director of Tamalaris Consolidated, a company blacklisted by the UK and US as a front for Iran. He is recorded as a director of a variety of other UK and BVI companies.
Ministers insist they are not ready to act. The BIS issued a statement on Thursday night saying: "The vast majority of companies and directors do comply with the law and they should not be unfairly burdened, so we will focus our attention on those who deliberately seek to break the law."
It is not illegal as such for Britons to rent out their names on behalf of offshore companies, so the BIS statement appears to be a recipe for inaction.
Meanwhile MPs criticised tax avoidance in Pakistan in a report issued on Thursday by the UK Commons committee on overseas aid. It said: "We cannot expect people in the UK to pay taxes to improve education and health in Pakistan if the Pakistani elite does not pay meaningful amounts of income tax."
Robert Palmer of the campaign group Global Witness repeated the call for Cameron to act, saying: "The massive cache of leaked documents demonstrates how hidden ownership of shell companies facilitates corruption, tax dodging and other crimes." He said: "The time to deal with this issue is now. Given that he has pledged to tackle these secretive shell companies at this year's G8 summit in Northern Ireland, he and his fellow leaders must commit to publishing information on the people who ultimately control and own companies."
The names of thousands of owners of secret offshore companies are currently being published by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in collaboration with the Guardian and other international media.
This follows the leak to ICIJ of a hard drive containing 200GB of internal files of offshore incorporation agencies in the BVI, Singapore and the Cook Islands.
A spokesman for the Georgian prime minister, who had set up a BVI company called Bosherston Overseas Corp, said he had done everything in accordance with the law: "For the reporting period of 2011-12, prime minister Ivanishvili had no interest in the company … and therefore there was no obligation to report it in his [financial] declaration."
In India, an MP from the ruling Congress party, Gaddam Vivekanand, said after an offshore company, Belrose Universal, was revealed to have been listed in his name: "I do not remember being involved with such a company and have no connection with it.''
A spokeswoman for Stephen Riady, who heads one of Indonesia's richest families, said there was "nothing illegal or improper in protecting the privacy of one's own information" after the leaked files revealed that his family's Lippo Group conglomerate controlled a number of offshore entities.
The incorporation firm, TrustNet, refers to them as "Client A", noting "client does not want to be seen dealing offshore". Their agent, Gary Phair, instructed TrustNet staff to "delete any reference to 'C/- [Care of] Lippo".
Thai MP Nalinee Taveesin, currently an official trade representative and previously blacklisted by the US for allegedly helping Robert Mugabe avoid sanctions, denied knowing about the offshore company Hall Kingston International, listed in her name.
Her secretary said: "The information about her being [a company] shareholder is incorrect."
In Pakistan, Moonis Elahi, a politician from a prominent Punjab dynasty who was acquitted in a Pakistan court in 2011 of receiving payments in a corruption scandal, said he did not own offshore company Olive Grove Assets, listed to his name at the family residence in Lahore. He did not state whether he had previously owned the firm.Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
April 4, 2013 3:57 PM GMT
British Virgin Islands Offshore Funds Scandal Catches President Hollande
Presidential campaign treasurer Jean-Jacques Augier named in International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposé | By UMBERTO BACCHI
France's President Francois Hollande is facing growing criticism in relation to two financial scandals (Reuters)
French president Francois Hollande has been caught up in an international investigation into the offshore financial industry after his campaign treasurer was implicated.
Jean-Jacques Augier, 59, a long-time friend of Hollande and a co-treasurer of the president's 2012 electoral campaign, is on the initial list of holders of hidden offshore accounts published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The revelation about Augier adds pressure on the socialist president, who is already facing a financial scandal triggered by the resignation of his budget minister Jerome Cahuzac.
Cahuzac, who has long been a vocal crusader against the use of overseas tax havens, finally admitted this week that he had hidden hundreds of thousands of euros from the taxman for decades in Switzerland.
According to Le Monde, a partner in the ICIJ investigation, Augier held stakes in two offshore companies headquartered in the Cayman Islands through his financial holding, Eurane.
In 2005, Augier founded a Cayman-based distribution company, International Bookstores, in partnership with another Frenchman, Jacques Rougeaux, and a Chinese businessman, Xi Shu, who owned a chain of bookshops.
Augier told Le Monde that it was Xi, a British Virgin Islands resident, who pushed for the company to be registered in the Caymans.
Rougeaux said that the partnership proved to be a mistake, as the bookshop chain turn out to be debt-ridden. He resigned without even selling his shares in 2006.
Augier's second Cayman-based investment company was launched in 2008 with a group of international partners.
"[I don't have] any personal bank account or direct investment at the Caymans," Augier told Le Monde.
"I've invested in this company [International Bookstores] through Eurane's subsidiary in China Capital Concorde Limited, a holding that manages all my affairs in China.
"The investment in International Bookstores figures in the balance sheet of this subsidiary. There is nothing illegal."
French former Minister for Budget Jerome Cahuzac resigned earlier in March (Reuters)
While not unlawful, his offshore businesses represent a political risk for Hollande after Cahuzac, a former plastic surgeon, admitted on his blog that he had told investigating judges that he had had a Swiss bank account for 20 years, reversing frequent denials.
Hollande, who came to power on a promise of "irreproachability", is now faced with the unwelcome knowledge that the man he named as his chief tax collector was a tax-dodger who did not tell the truth.
The revelations have jeopardised the reputation of many government ministers who took to the airwaves to swear to Cahuzac's probity after website Mediapart first reported on the Swiss bank account in December.
Hollande described Cahuzac's actions as "unpardonable", an "outrage to the Republic" and "the failure of one man."
Nevertheless his cabinet are facing accusations of intentional cover-up.
Friday 5 April 2013 18.00 BST | James Ball"I find it hard to believe that they only learned the truth 48 hours ago. Or else I guess we're being led by a big simpleton," opposition UMP party vice-president Thierry Mariani said.
'The British Virgin Islands are perhaps rivalled only by Switzerland as a global capital for the offshore industry'.
It's a tumultuous time for the offshore industry. For decades, there's been an uneasy equilibrium: opprobrium from campaigners, torpor from regulators, apathy from the wider public, and delight for the wealthy benefiting from the arrangements to cut their tax bill or avoid regulatory scrutiny.
Recently, though, the rhetoric and action have changed. In tougher economic times – for which the financial sector has copped a huge amount of the blame – the public is more aggrieved by tax avoidance arrangements than ever, while recent proposed offshore crackdowns have been cautiously welcomed by campaigners as having the potential to actually be effective.
The leaking of more than 2m offshore files to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and through them to the Guardian for our Offshore Secrets stories is just the latest in a series of unwelcome developments.
Amid this backdrop, and with ministers from George Osborne to Vince Cable willing to speak out strongly against offshoring and tax avoidance, it's easy to imagine the villains of the piece to be irresponsible foreign nations – happy to shelter the mega-rich in offshore secrecy, unconcerned about the tax avoided in other, larger countries.
If only the British government can prevail in these overseas battles, things will get better, it seems.
But such a stance ignores that one nation in particular has ties to offshore havens everywhere. It's a veritable nexus of offshore influence, related to havens in the Caribbean, and much closer to home. That nation is, of course, the United Kingdom.
The clue is quite often in the name. The British Virgin Islands are perhaps rivalled only by Switzerland as a global capital for the offshore industry, with more than 1m offshore companies registered on the Caribbean island (population 31,900). Plaques for registration agents, solicitors and more line almost every wall of the islands' tiny capital.
The islands are a British Overseas Territory: legally under the jurisdiction of the UK (and with a British governor), but in practice self-governed. Other havens with this UK imprimatur include the Cayman islands, Gibraltar, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Closer to home, the UK wields even more control over the crown dependencies: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, whose role in legal tax avoidance techniques has been documented time and again for decades.
Even within the UK itself, little is done against tricks of the offshore trade that have been known for decades. In 1999, Sark islander Philip Croshaw was struck off as a UK director for acting as a "nominee" – a sham director who hides a company's real controllers – for thousands of companies in the UK.
At the time, then-trade minister Kim Howells said: "The government today struck a fatal blow against the practice of so-called 'nominee directorships' … The trade in providing 'nominee director' services from the island of Sark has been a scandal … The courts have now effectively outlawed this abuse."
And yet today – 14 years later – more than 175,000 UK companies have had directors based in offshore havens, and the Guardian has identified 28 sham directors with tens of thousands of companies between them.
In short, a huge string of the world's foremost offshore havens have, at minimum, a strong and long-lasting symbolic relationship with the UK, and in practice are susceptible to significant influence and pressure from the UK government.
Even at home, offshore practices known and deplored by governments for more than a decade are still going strong. The temptation for campaigners and government alike is to look overseas for the villains in the offshore trade. The reality is more complex, and the trouble closer to home. The upside of this is it means that if Britain really wants to tackle global offshore secrecy, there's a lot it can do.
But so far, everywhere – on its home turf, in its dependencies, and in its overseas territories – the UK brand is on both sides of the fight. For Britain, the battle against offshore – if it wants to fight it – begins at home.
April 05, 2013
Moonis among owners of secret firms in UK’s Virgin Islands | The Nation Monitoring
Moonis Elahi was named as the owner of an offshore company, Olive Grove Assets Ltd. The company was incorporated in the BVI 2006, and the address listed in BVI records is the Chaudry family’s residence in Lahore. Moonis was acquitted in a Pakistan court in 2011 of receiving payments in a corruption scandal.
Refuting the claims, Moonis said, “I do not own” nor control the BVI company.The latest cluster of names to emerge from the huge leak of BVI financial data include Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and prominent figures of India, Thailand and Indonesia. They also include a Briton, Neil Gaitely, nominally a director of a company reported to be a front for the Iranian regime.Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
It could be the biggest bank heist in history with $32tn (£21tn) at stake. The electronic vaults of the Caribbean offshore financial system have been raided and 2.5 million secret files belonging to the global political and business elite have been downloaded. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) - working with The Guardian, Le Monde, Washington Post and over 30 other media outlets - has accessed a huge data dump exposing the financial machinations of the super-rich in “the largest cross-border journalism collaboration in history.”
The investigative epic is called “Secrecy For Sale: Inside The Global Offshore Money Maze.” As reported by IBTimes US, the findings explore the concealed world of tax havens, cracking open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts and almost 130,000 individuals in over 170 nations. The big names in international banking, including Clariden, UBS and Deutsche Bank, face a potential new scandal.
Exposed are individuals associated with covert business dealings in the Cook Islands, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Singapore, Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and many other places. US doctors, Greek villagers, Russian executives, shady Wall Streeters, billionaires from Eastern Europe and Indonesia, dealers of international arms and family members of dictators have been able to employ intricate offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art and other assets while gaining tax advantages and anonymity “not available to average people,” the ICIJ points out.
The key findings of the investigation include:
- A former US Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, is said to have “a lot of money in the Cayman Islands.”
- One British property speculator, Scott Young, recently jailed for refusing to pay his wife alimony - he claimed he was penniless - had business interests in the BVI. According to The Guardian, Young’s lawyer, to whom he signed over power of attorney, appears to control interests in a BVI company involved in a $100m Moscow development.
- The prime minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili was the latest name to emerge. “A well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other operatives has helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money laundering or other misconduct,” the ICIJ reports, adding that ponzi schemers and other mega-fraudsters are among the tricksters who’ve often used “offshore havens to pull off their shell games and move their ill-gotten gains.”The ICIJ warns that offshore financial secrecy was to blame for the recent Cyprus debacle and the tax raid on depositors.
Nearly 4,000 individuals from the US are mentioned in the report. One of them is Denise Rich, a Grammy-nominated songwriter whose ex-husband “was at the centre of an American pardon scandal that erupted as President Bill Clinton left office,” according to ICIJ.Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "
In April 2006 Rich had $144m in a Cook Islands trust, records obtained by the ICIJ show.
Meanwhile James R Mellon, a member of the Mellon dynasty that launched companies like Gulf Oil and Mellon Bank, and an author of books about Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Mellon “used four companies in the BVI and Lichtenstein to trade securities and transfer tens of millions of dollars among offshore bank accounts he controlled,” ICIJ reports.
Mellon told ICIJ he owned “a whole bunch” of offshore companies but has since disposed of them. He set up the firms for “tax advantage” and liability reasons. “But I have never broken the tax law,” he said.
Of the use of nominees, Mellon noted that “that’s the way these firms are set up,” and that it’s useful for someone who travels a lot to have someone else in charge of his businesses. “I just heard of a presidential candidate who had a lot of money in the Cayman Islands,” he said. Mellon was “alluding to former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney,” ICIJ notes.
The ICIJ, founded in 1997 as a project of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington DC-based non-profit, worked with 86 investigative journalists from 46 countries to crunch high-tech data and report the findings.
Apr 6, 2013
TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian government on Friday defended Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili after he was listed in an article in the Guardian as one of the people who own secret companies registered on the British Virgin Islands.
The reason he didn’t disclose it in his declaration of property for 2011-2012 is that the prime minister didn’t hold any shares in companies registered in the British Virgin Islands during that time, and thus, he wasn’t obliged to.
As for the current assets, he has described all of these in the most recent declaration of property, according to a statement issued by the government.
Georgia’s PM is a well-known billionaire, who earned most of his fortune in Russia. According to data from Forbes Magazine, he is now in 229th place with USD 5.3 billion in March 2013.
His fortune shrunk by USD 1.1 billion compared to 2012, when it was USD 6.4 billion, enough to land him in 153rd place on Forbes’ list.
The Guardian article says that members of the Liberal-Democratic party fear that ‘the secret haven of the BVI “stains the face of Britain”, while anti-corruption campaigners called for action from the British prime minister, David Cameron.’
Ivanishvili is on the list of names of people who have shares on the British Virgin Islands. Among the names are influential people from Pakistan, India, Thailand and Indonesia.
“How can David Cameron keep a straight face calling for the G8 to make big business pay tax when we let the BVI use British law and British protection to suck in billions in dirty money?” Guardian quotes Lord Oakeshott, who represents the Liberal Democratic Party.
The Guardian mentions Bosherston Overseas Corp of Bidzina Ivanishvili. It also carries a quote by a spokesperson for Ivanishvili who says that everything was done legally.
“For the reporting period of 2011-12, Prime Minister Ivanishvili had no interest in the company … and therefore there was no obligation to report it in his [financial] declaration.’
The day after the Guardian article was published, the government issued a statement which says that Ivanishvili didn’t hold any shares in the British Virgin Islands in 2011-2012 and secret companies registered there and thus he wasn’t obliged to write it in his property declaration.
“Bidzina Ivanishvili repeatedly stated that he will strictly follow the law in order to provide maximal transparency and will publish information about own finances,” the statement reads.
Notes : Non Profit Study " not for commercial use "