Paradise Papers reveal tax evasion by wealthy

By Heidi Cho
Nation & World Editor

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists leaked more than 13.4 million files on Sunday, Nov. 5, according to The New York Times.

The documents, nicknamed the “Paradise Papers,” revealed hidden tax practices and financial investments of many influential figures like Queen Elizabeth II and the main financial sponsor of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to The Washington Post.

International companies like Apple and Nike were also dodging taxes by storing money in offshore funds, according to The Washington Post.

The leak also named U.S. universities, like Rutgers University and Princeton University, for having offshore accounts, according to NJ.com.

“This leak is important because it’s the high end of town,” said Gerard Ryle, the director of the ICIJ, according to BBC. “People may have dismissed the Mossack Fonseca leaks as they were rogue players who would take any client. Most of the offshore world is not like that at all. Here you have the gold-plated company.”

Most of the financial dealings detailed in the Paradise Papers are legal, albeit through loopholes, The New York Times reported.

The information in the Paradise Papers mentions several countries including the U.S. and Russia, according to BBC.

The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung first received the Paradise Papers, according to BBC.

Süddeutsche Zeitung called in the ICIJ, so that other media organizations part of the international nonprofit association could help go through and report all the stories the documents had to offer, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Almost 100 media groups are investigating the papers as of Friday, Nov. 10, BBC reported.

The ICIJ is watching over the investigation of the information spread over dozens of different formats including emails, text documents and PDFs, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Most of the documents came from the corporate services provider Estera and Appleby, an international law firm based in Bermuda that was hacked in October, The New York Times reported.

Appleby helps many companies and wealthy people make offshore bank accounts, according to BBC.

These companies and people could then avoid paying taxes in their home countries by keeping their money in tax paradises — countries with less regulation on tax for foreign companies — according to The New York Times.

Most of the locations mentioned in the data are tax paradises, hence the nickname, Paradise Papers, BBC reported.

Appleby concluded that “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients” after thorough and rigorous self investigation, according to The Guardian.

Ross invests in a Russian shipping company. (AP Photo)
Ross is invested in a Russian shipping company. (AP Photo)

The Paradise Papers showed that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has a financial stake in the shipping company, Navigator Holdings, according to NBC. The second largest client of Navigator is SIBUR, a Russian petrochemical company owned partially by Gennady Timchenko.

The U.S. Treasury Department considers Timchenko a member of the Russian leadership’s inner circle who is directly linked to Putin, according to NBC.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal felt utterly deceived by what the Paradise Papers revealed about Ross and other companies, NBC reported.

“Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies,” Blumenthal told NBC.