The enormous value of whistleblowers has once again been demonstrated with the release this of an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists into off-shore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories hiding trillions of dollars in income and assets.
Deutsche Bank was one of the banks the ICIJ report said has provided customers with "secrecy-cloaked companies" in offshore hideways.
An anonymous whistleblower sent to the ICIJ 2.5 million electronic files containing what the organization calls “the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization.”
The whistleblower who has now exposed a high-stakes, secretive world that fosters and hides large-scale fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, corruption and other wrongdoing.
The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways.
They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program.
Offshore patrons identified in the documents include:
- Individuals and companies linked to Russia’s Magnitsky Affair, a tax fraud scandal that has strained U.S.-Russia relations and led to a ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans.
- A Venezuelan deal maker accused of using offshore entities to bankroll a U.S.-based Ponzi scheme and funneling millions of dollars in bribes to a Venezuelan government official.
- A corporate mogul who won billions of dollars in contracts amid Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s massive construction boom even as he served as a director of secrecy-shrouded offshore companies owned by the president’s daughters.
- Indonesian billionaires with ties to the late dictator Suharto, who enriched a circle of elites during his decades in power.
- A Former U.S. Citizen Denise Rich , who had $144 million in April 2006 in a trust in the Cook Islands, a chain of coral atolls and volcanic outcroppings nearly 7,000 miles from her home at the time in Manhattan. The trust’s holdings included a yacht called the Lady Joy, where Rich often entertained celebrities and raised money for charity. Rich gave up her U.S. citizenship in 2011 and now maintains citizenship in Austria.
The documents also provide possible new clues to crimes and money trails that have gone cold.
The investigation looked into what it called “a well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other operatives” that has “helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money laundering or other misconduct.”
The leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.
The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.
The hoard of documents represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010.
Offshore’s defenders counter that most offshore patrons are engaged in legitimate transactions. Offshore centers, they say, allow companies and individuals to diversify their investments, forge commercial alliances across national borders and do business in entrepreneur-friendly zones that eschew the heavy rules and red tape of the onshore world.
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