The publication of the so-called Paradise Papers has sparked huge controversy over multinationals and wealthy individuals revealed to be using tax havens to avoid paying big tax bills.
The 12.4 million documents come from a variety of sources, with 6.8 million coming from the offices of the offshore law firm Appleby and corporate services provider Estera, which operated together under the Appleby name until 2016. Appleby is one of the world’s largest offshore law firms that helps clients set up companies in jurisdictions overseas that have low or zero tax rates. Another 6 million records have come from 19 corporate registries in tax jurisdictions, that are looked after by governments in places where the wealthy typically go for privacy, while a smaller amount have come from Asiaciti Trust, an offshore specialist in Singapore. Copies of the data were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 94 media partners,
The US leads Appleby’s client register, according to the BBC, with over 31,000 US addresses registered for clients, while the UK had over 14,000 addresses.
While the information is controversial, tax avoidance is not illegal, and is a well-known method for companies and people to find legal ways to bring down their tax bill.
While the exact definition of a tax haven can be hard to define, it is, in a nutshell, a financial jurisdiction – countries or regions – where personal and business taxes are likely to be low, or even non-existent and are outside the regulations of a company’s or an individual’s home country.
Because of this, these often secretive regimes attract high-net-worth individuals and companies who want to pay less tax than they would in their home country, while some businesses move their headquarters there and individuals will live there for part of the year, to qualify for the lower tax regime.
The Tax Justice Network defines “secrecy jurisdictions” as countries which “use secrecy to attract illicit and illegitimate or abusive financial flows”.
So which companies have been named in the Paradise Papers?
FTSE 100 multinational, Glencore, is revealed to have had 107 offshore companies registered with Appleby’s and was so prolific a client that it had it’s own room at the law firm called ‘The Glencore Room.’ The data in the Paradise Papers revealed that the world’s largest commodity trader diverted millions of dollars through Bermuda and other tax havens.
The mammoth conglomerate was revealed to have made a secret $45 million (£34 million) loan to a company owned by Israeli billionaire and diamond dealer, Dan Gertler, who had links to powerful people in the Democtratic Republic of the Congo.
The loan was made to Gertler while he helped secure a deal with the DRC to get favourable mining licenses for Katanga Mining, a company Glencore was in the process of taking over. The leaked files provide the most detailed evidence yet of the behind-the-scenes lobbying and the money flows that helped Katanga acquire mining licenses. The files also raise questions about how Katanga, which was later taken over by Glencore, managed to pay a price that critics have viewed as less than the licenses’ real value, according to the ICIJ.
Apple is alleged to have secretly moved the parts of its business that hold most of its untaxed overseas cash to tax-haven Jersey, which does not charge tax on corporate profits (for most companies) after Ireland tightened its rules on tax after a crackdown over its controversial tax practises. Doing this allowed the company to accumulate a $252 billion offshore, even though Apple CEO, Tim Cook, told a Senate Committee in 2014 “We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar,” Cook declared. “We do not depend on tax gimmicks. . . . We do not stash money on some Caribbean island.” Jersey may not be a cariibean island, but it’s tax-haven status is very very similar.
Twitter and Facebook received investments in the millions that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions, including Kremlin-owned VTB Bank. The records show that the bank sent $191 million into the investment fund, DST Global, that used the money to buy a large stake in Twitter in 2011. A subsidiary of the Kremlin-controlled energy giant, Gazprom, heavily funded an offshore company that partnered with DST Global to make a large investment in Facebook. DST Global’s founder, Russian Yuri Milner, and other partners in the deals owned more than an 8% stake in Facebook and a5% stake in Twitter before selling its shares shortly after Facebook’s initial public offering in 2012 and Twitter’s in 2013, reaping huge rewards, according to the ICIJ.
Holidaybreak, the UK company that owns the PGL’s children’s holidays brand, avoided corporation tax by moving German profits to the Isle of Man
Nike shifted billions in trademark profits between subsidiaries to avoid high taxes in Europe, with profits on trademarks helping increase offshore profits to more than $12 billion untaxed in the US. The sportswear-maker moved billions of dollars in profits from Europe to Bermuda, through a Bermudan subsidiary, Nike International Ltd. Under the revised structure, the Swoosh and other trademarks were then transferred from the Bermuda subsidiary to a new Dutch subsidiary, Nike Innovate CV. Through it, the sportswear-brand held ownership of its Swoosh design, and other trademarks, for markets outside the United States. The Bermudan subsidiary was able to charge trademark royalty fees to Nike’s European headquarters, in the Dutch town of Hilversum. The royalty fees shifted billions in profits away from Europe, where they would otherwise have been taxed, in tax-free Bermuda, where, the leaked documents reveal, Nike has no staff or offices but just a few documents on file at the Bermudan corporate registry and at Appleby, a legal and corporate services firm.
The flow of trademark royalties had helped Nike build a $6.6 billion pile of offshore profits by June 2014. This sum had been taxed at just 3% outside the United States. And because it remained offshore, it had yielded no U.S. tax at all.
A top member of Donald Trump’s administration, Wilbur Ross, has a stake in Navigator Holdings, a firm whose major partners include a Russian energy company, Sibur. At least two of Sibur’s major shareholders are under US sanctions, while Russian President, Vladmiri, Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, is also a shareholder.
This page will be regularly updated – come back to find out which other companies have been named