With the evolution of the digital age, offshore assets have become difficult to keep secret. Five months after the Panama Papers, the biggest-ever leak of offshore entities registered by Panama-headquartered law firm Mossack Fonseca, comes the Bahama Leaks, which reveals incorporation (formation) details of more than 175,000 companies, trusts and foundations registered in the Bahamas, the Caribbean tax haven.
ICIJ again does the job
The new revelation has been published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and other news organisations from Europe, South America, Asia and Africa.
Besides detailed reporting, the ICIJ, Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners are making details from the Bahamas corporate registry available to the public. This creates, for the first time, a free, online and publicly-searchable database of offshore companies set up in the island nation that has sometimes been called “The Switzerland of the West.”
The new cache of documents relates to companies registered between 1990 and early 2016. The data has brought to light details of the financial interests of politicians, entrepreneurs, financiers – and fraudsters.
Those whose names and offshore links are being revealed for the first time include Neelie Kroes, a former European Union commissioner for competition policy. Kroes confirmed her former directorship of the Bahamian company, Mint Holdings Limited, but said she did not declare her role because the company never became operational.
The new report suggests David Cameron’s father used the Bahamas as a base from which his Blairmore investment fund avoided tax for three decades. It was also the offshore address of a Mongolian gold-mining company whose directors included Sukhbaatar Batbold, an entrepreneur who would go on to become Mongolia’s prime minister.
According to the reports of The Indian Express, the Bahamas Leaks has 475 India-related files linked to corporate personalities across sectors such as mines and metals, electronics, real estate, media and entertainment. Some of the names figured in the Panama Papers have surfaced in Bahama Leaks, too.
Unlike the Panama Papers that contained 11.5 million often-detailed emails, contracts, audio recordings and other documents from law firm, Mossack Fonseca, the information listed in the new Bahama documents provide only bare facts such as the company’s name, its date of creation, directors and the physical and mailing addresses.
Some of the reasons for choosing the Bahamas include absence of taxes on company profits, capital gains, income and inheritance. Besides, anonymity is also maintained. The Bahamas claims to be a transparent jurisdiction with a public register of companies, but the information shared from the seat of government in Nassau is limited.
Combining the data of Panama Papers and Bahama Leaks, the Offshore Leaks Database now contains information on close to 500,000 entities linked to 200 countries and territories.