In Multipolarity

News compilation by New Cold War.org, Nov 7, 2017  (with updates on Nov 17, 2017)

The ‘Paradise Papers’ is a global investigation into the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies. The papers were leaked to the German newspaper  Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. From there, investigations were conducted by journalists in 67 countries.


Huge offshore data leak reveals financial secrets of global elite — from the Queen of England to former prime ministers

Report on CBC News, Nov 5, 2017

[Note by New Cold War.org: Although a small number of wealthy Russians are named in the ‘Paradise Papers’ reports, corporate media in the West, including the CBC, are devoting outsized play to ‘Russia’ themes in its reporting. This is a classic case of ‘changing the channel’ of a major news story; in this case, deflecting attention from the corruption and anti-social conduct of the owners, paymasters or beholden interests of the corporate media. This also reflects the new media landscape of the new McCarthyism by Western governments and corporate elites. Media servants are directed as follows: ‘If it’s’ bad news, find us a ‘Russia link’ and play that up. It doesn’t matter if it is true; we have the money and power to make it true.’]

 

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An enormous new leak of tax-haven financial records – rivalling the Panama Papers in size and scope – is laying bare some of the financial secrets of the world’s elite, from the Queen of England to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser to U.S. President Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, along with more than 120 politicians across the globe.

The 13.4 million records in what is being dubbed the Paradise Papers come largely from Appleby, one of the biggest offshore law firms on the planet, which was founded in Bermuda and has branches in tax havens around the world. The records expose the assets and sometimes murky dealings of a host of characters, as well as the ways corporate giants like Apple, Nike and Uber avoid taxes legally through increasingly creative bookkeeping.

The leak was obtained by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries…

Read the full article at the original weblink above.


Massive leak pulls back the curtain on offshore tax havens — again

By Alex Boutilier, Ottawa bureau reporter; Marco Chown Oved, foreign affairs reporter; and Robert Cribb, investigative reporter; Toronto Star, Nov 5, 2017

The Paradise Papers is even bigger than last year’s Panama Papers leak, and exposes the offshore activity of some of the world’s biggest corporations and wealthiest people.

We have entered the age of the big leak. A year-and-a-half after the largest ever leak of information to journalists — the Panama Papers — a new leak containing even more documents is being made public today.

Dubbed the ‘Paradise Papers’, the cache of 13.4 million records — almost two million more documents than the Panama Papers — includes files from two major offshore law firms and 19 corporate registries from traditional tax havens.

Update: Thousands more names and companies revealed from Paradise Papers, CBC News, Nov 17, 2017

The public will get a glimpse at the tens of thousands of names — including those of more than 3,000 Canadians and Canadian companies — in the Paradise Papers starting today. Key information from the huge leak of tax-haven financial records, including the names of offshore companies and the people behind them, is being made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Washington-based group that co-ordinated global reporting on the documents…

The leak was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a network of 382 journalists in 67 countries, including the Toronto Star and CBC/Radio-Canada. The files expose a worldwide shadow economy worth trillions of dollars that owes its existence to the secrecy provided by tax havens. Among the revelations:

  • Hidden details about how two generations of Trudeau fundraisers, Leo Kolber and Stephen Bronfman, are linked together in a Cayman Islands trust fund that kept $60 million (U.S.) beyond the reach of tax authorities in three countries. Through a lawyer, Kolber and Bronfman said they always acted “properly and ethically, including fully complying with all applicable laws.”
  • Financial ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin’s family and one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s closest advisers, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Ross has a stake in a shipping company that received more than $68 million (U.S.) from a Russian energy company co-owned by Putin’s son-in-law. Ross’s spokesperson did not contest this relationship.
  • Queen Elizabeth’s indirect investment in a scandalized rent-to-own furniture and appliances company in Britain charging up to 99.9 per cent interest. A representative of the Queen said she was not aware of the investment.
  • Hollywood royalty Keira Knightley’s investment in an Jersey-based real estate firm, pop superstar Madonna’s shares in a medical supply company and Bono’s investment in a Lithuanian shopping mall. Knightley’s lawyer said she paid all taxes due. Madonna did not respond to requests for comment. A representative of Bono confirmed the singer was a “passive, minority investor.”
  • Corporate behemoths — including Apple, Nike, Uber and Tesla — that use complex offshore strategies to reduce their tax bills by billions of dollars. Apple said “we follow the laws.” Nike said it “fully complies with tax regulations.” Uber declined to comment. Telsa said: “We are fully compliant with the law.”

The 1.4 terabytes of detailed corporate records, including emails, memos, spreadsheets, correspondence and meeting minutes come from the hard drives of the some of the most prestigious firms in the secretive offshore world: Singapore-based Asiaciti Trust, Appleby, a law firm founded in Bermuda, and corporate services provider Estera, which operated as part of Appleby until last year…

Read the full article at the original weblink above.


The missing billions: Canada Revenue Agency fought to keep tax-gap data secret

By Alex Boutilier, Ottawa bureau reporter, and Robert Cribb, investigative reporter; Toronto Star, Nov 6, 2017

Over the past six years, three different parliamentary budget officers — mandated to report to parliament on matters of fiscal importance — have requested federal data to calculate the difference between taxes due and those actually collected. The records required to find the figure — called the tax gap — never came.

Dozens of pages of correspondence between the parliamentary budget officers and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officials, obtained by a Toronto Star/CBC investigation, detail a five-year battle for data that has now concluded in a stalemate — and no information shared. “It is disappointing,” says Jean-Denis Fréchette, Canada’s current parliamentary budget officer, sitting with a large stack of paper and folders in his Ottawa office, evidence of the five-year tug-of-war with the CRA. “It can go on and on and there’s no way out at one point, if you don’t have a full team of lawyers negotiating something with CRA.”

Eventually, the PBO “had to walk away” Fréchette said. “We had legal counsel, they had legal counsel. One said we should have access and the other said no . . . At some point you say, ‘Do we keep negotiating?’ ”

For more than 50 years, the U.S. has measured and publicly reported the country’s tax gap. The UK began doing the same in 2009, annually detailing the amount of taxes — from both domestic and offshore sources — that never make it into the country’s tax coffers.

… The best guesses from credible sources place Canada’s tax losses to offshore havens at between $6 billion and $7.8 billion each year….

Read the full article at the original weblink above.

Related:
Why, after years of ignoring tax havens, are governments paying attention?, by Thomas Walkom, columnist, Toronto Star, Nov 7, 2017

As the Paradise Papers show, tax havens have become an embarrassment. Besides, there are more efficient ways to favour the rich.

CRA to ‘review’ Canadians linked to Paradise Papers leak, by Alex Boutilier, Ottawa bureau reporter; Marco Chown Oved, foreign affairs reporter; and Robert Cribb, investigative reporter; Toronto Star, Nov 6, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fends off opposition questions about Liberal’s chief fundraiser ties to a multimillion-dollar offshore account.


*  Wikileaks contains an extensive dossier on The Paradise Papers. Here are several excerpts:

The Paradise Papers is a set of 13.4 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investment that were leaked to a German newspaper and released on November 5, 2017 into the public domain. The documents originate from the offshore law firm Appleby, the corporate services providers Estera and Asiaciti Trust, and business registries in 19 tax jurisdictions. They contain the names of more than 120,000 people and companies. Among those whose financial affairs are mentioned are Queen Elizabeth II, the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the amount of money involved is around $10 trillion…

Background:

On October 20, 2017, an anonymous Reddit user hinted at the existence of the Paradise Papers. Later that month, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) approached the offshore law firm Appleby with allegations of wrongdoing. Appleby said that some of its data had been stolen in a cyberattack the previous year, and denied ICIJ’s allegations. After the documents were published, the company stated that there was “no evidence of wrongdoing”, they “…are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business”, and “We do not tolerate illegal behaviour”.

The documents were acquired by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which had also obtained the Panama Papers in 2016. The name “Paradise Papers” reflects the so-called tax havens, or “tax paradises” involved. The data comprises some 13.4 million documents—totaling about 1.4 terabytes—from two offshore service providers, Appleby and Asiaciti Trust, and from the company registers of 19 tax havens. In contrast to the Panama Papers, which involved only a single country, many countries were involved in this data leak. Süddeutsche Zeitung journalists contacted the ICIJ, which has been investigating the documents with 100 media partners. The consortium made the data available to said partners on a platform created specifically for the project, allowing journalists across the globe to do collaborative investigative work. The documents were released by the consortium on November 5, 2017…


*  Website feature by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

The Paradise Papers is a global investigation into the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies. The website feature of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is here.


About the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (see full weblinks at original weblink)

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of more than 200 investigative journalists in 70 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories. Founded in 1997 by the respected American journalist Chuck Lewis, ICIJ was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity, focusing on issues that do not stop at national frontiers: cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power.

In February 2017, ICIJ was spun off to become a fully independent news organization with the goal of extending our global reach and impact even farther. In July 2017, ICIJ was granted its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from U.S. tax authorities.

ICIJ is governed by three committees – a traditional board of directors with a fiduciary role; an Advisory Committee made of supporters and experienced investigative journalists; and an ICIJ Network Committee. ICIJ’s Board consists of Sheila Coronel (chair), Reginald Chua, Alex Papachristou, Rhona Murphy, Steven King and Gerard Ryle (non-executive director). The board will grow to at least seven people.

Our Advisory Committee consists of experienced investigative journalists Bill Kovach, Chuck Lewis, Rosental Calmon Alves, Gwen Lister, Goenawan Mohamad, and Brant Houston.

Our Network Committee is a working body of ICIJ members who represent the ICIJ members, setting principles and best practices, priorities and activities, liaising with the board and giving advice to the ICIJ Executive on adding or excusing members. The current Network Committee includes: Fredrik Laurin (Sweden), Mónica Almeida (Ecuador), Titus Plattner (Switzerland), Ritu Sarin (India), Minna Knus-Galán (Finland), Hisham Allam (Egypt), Bill Birnbauer (Australia), Wahyu Dhyatmika (Indonesia), Frédéric Zalac (Canada).

Why we exist

The need for such an organization has never been greater. Globalization and development have placed extraordinary pressures on human societies, posing unprecedented threats from polluting industries, transnational crime networks, rogue states, and the actions of powerful figures in business and government.

The news media, hobbled by short attention spans and lack of resources, are even less of a match for those who would harm the public interest. Broadcast networks and major newspapers have closed foreign bureaus, cut travel budgets, and disbanded investigative teams. We are losing our eyes and ears around the world precisely when we need them most.

Our aim is to bring journalists from different countries together in teams – eliminating rivalry and promoting collaboration. Together, we aim to be the world’s best cross-border investigative team.

What we do

ICIJ projects are typically staffed by teams of 100-plus reporters spread around the world. These journalists work with our staff in Washington D.C., Paris, Madrid, Costa Rica and Sydney to report, edit, and produce groundbreaking multimedia reports that adhere to the highest standards of fairness and accuracy.

Over the years, our teams have exposed smuggling by multinational tobacco companies and by organized crime syndicates; investigated private military cartels, asbestos companies, and climate change lobbyists; and broke new ground by publicizing details of Iraq and Afghanistan war contracts. Our investigations on the global offshore economy have sparked resignations, arrests and policy changes in dozens of countries.

Who we work with

To release its findings, ICIJ works with leading news organizations worldwide. Our media partners bring invaluable local expertise and reach to our stories, which have appeared in dozens of languages in outlets ranging from some of the world’s most renowned news brands like the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian and the Asahi Shimbun, through to small regional nonprofit investigative centers. We are always open to new collaborations. You can see a list of our recent media partners here [in the United States: Charlotte Observer, Colombia University, McClatchy News, The Miami Herald,
The New York Times, The Washington Post, Univisión; in Canada: Toronto Star, CBC-Radio Canada].

These unique collaborations have been honored repeatedly. Among ICIJ’s awards: the Pulitzer Prize, George Polk Award, Overseas Press Club Award, John Oakes Award, Editor and Publisher Award, Society of Professional Journalists, KC Kulish Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award.

Outreach

In addition to ICIJ’s in-depth reporting, the consortium plays a key role in bringing together investigative journalists from around the world. ICIJ reaches thousands of followers in dozens of countries with news on the latest reporting tools and techniques via:

  • Our website, icij.org
  • Our Global Muckraker blog
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Our YouTube channel

ICIJ staff and members regularly contribute to conferences and events around the world, sharing not just the findings of investigations but also the tools and lessons learnt along the way to help promote better understanding and best practices in collaborative journalism.

Our supporters

The ICIJ is a non-profit organization. We give our work away for free. Cross-border investigative journalism is among the most expensive and riskiest in the world. We rely heavily on charitable foundations and on financial support from the public. Without your help, we cannot exist. You can find out more about our major funders here. We welcome individual donations in support of our work. You can make a gift online here. Any help, no matter how small, is most welcome.

ICIJ is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

We want to hear from you

ICIJ encourages tip-offs from the public, story ideas, as well as outstanding investigative journalists interested in collaborating with us. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your ideas. If you want to be considered for ICIJ membership please send us your CV and clips.

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