08 - 11
By Lisa Vives
The latest investigative bombshell by an international team of journalists reveals the kings and queens, presidents and CEOs who have hidden their wealth in foreign ports, far from the prying eye of the taxman. The new report is called the “Paradise Papers.”
Extracts from the report have already appeared in the Wall St. Journal, the New York Times and other national and international papers.
Over 300 reporters in 67 countries contributed to the report based on 13 million leaked documents from offshore law firms in Bermuda and Singapore. These firms create and register companies that can be legitimate vehicles for protecting wealth and tax planning, but also hideaways for tax dodgers, frauds and worse.
The report, a year after the Panama Papers – an earlier massive leak of confidential information – lists dozens of familiar corporate names who avoided billions of dollars in taxes. One investment scheme named in the Papers linked millions of dollars from an Anglo-Swiss mining company paid to an Israeli billionaire to secure mining rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The billionaire, Dan Gertler, was called “notorious” in the resource-rich country, after giving DRC President Joseph Kabila $20 million to equip his army against rebel groups in exchange for a monopoly on the country’s diamonds. A 2013 Africa Progress Panel report said a string of mining deals struck by companies linked to Gertler had deprived the country of more than $1.3 billion in potential revenue.
Lawyers for Gertler strongly dispute the claims that appeared in Paradise Papers. “He is a respectable businessman who contributes the vast majority of his wealth and time to the needy and to different communities, amounting to huge sums of money. He transacts business fairly and honestly, and strictly according to the law,” their statement said.
Other African millionaires mentioned in the report were Godwin Emefiele, governor of the central Bank of Nigeria, and Jim Ovia, chair of Zenith Bank. The two were said to have skipped tax payment of about 11 million British pounds while acquiring luxury jets.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., the activist alliance of faith communities, Jubilee USA, wrote: “Over $500 billion a year is lost by governments around the world because of the tax avoidance revealed in the Paradise Papers… We need stronger international laws to prevent this activity.”