April 5th, 2016
The murky world of high-heeled tax evaders who park their money in tax havens is in the news again, following revelations by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The latest revelations are based on 11.5 million leaked files from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm – headquartered in Panama. A total of 107 journalists from across 80 countries investigated the documents to map tax evasion patterns. Mossack Fornseca manages the wealth of the rich and the famous across the world and helps in the creation of companies in tax havens like Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, which have strict privacy laws.
Why is this important? The Panama Papers leak exposes how tax havens, 21 at last count, are exploited by the rich and famous. Some of the world’s biggest names have been caught in this net – including at least 12 heads-of-state, among 143 politicians from 50 countries, their families and close associates.
Here are some of the world leaders who find mention in the Panama Papers:
“A $2bn trail leads all the way to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s best friend – a cellist called Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort where in 2013 Putin’s daughter Katerina got married.”
Roldugin, who claims not to be a businessman “is listed as the owner of offshore companies that have obtained payments worth tens of millions of dollars,” The Indian Expressreports. The paper also states that Roldugin could be acting as mere “front for Putin loyalists or Putin himself”. The other Putin confidante, whose name cropped up in the leaked papers is Yury Kovalchuk, a banker whose relationship with Putin dates back to the time when the Russian President was a municipal officer. Interestingly, there is no trace of the President’s name in the files though his financial dealings are discussed extensively by his confidantes. They resort to using pseudonyms while doing so.
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3. Benazir Bhutto
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The former Pakistani Prime Minister also set up a firm in British Virgin Islands but her past records forced Mossack Fonseca to back out. In an earlier controversy, an United Nations committee found that Bhutto had bribed the Iraqi government under the UN’s oil for food programme. Her firm Petrofine FZC was under the scanner during the investigation – which eventually led to MF backing out from the British Virgin islands firm.
Image Courtesy: express.co.uk
The Argentine footballer and Barcelona star player is facing charges of tax fraud and would be facing trial from 31 May along with his father – who is also his manager. Messi has been accused of accumulating his image rights, which is associated with his brand endorsement earnings in an offshore network. The Barcelona star is planning to sue Spanish newspaper El Confidencial for defamation after he was linked to the ‘the Panama Papers’, reported The Mirror.
5.Michel Francois Platini
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The football administrator who is serving a six-year ban from football-related activity – in the wake of the FIFA scandal – also features on the list. Platini received an unaccounted for amount of $2 million from FIFA in 2011. Mossack Fonesca reportedly helped him create an offshore company named Balney Enterprises in Panama in 2007 – the year he became UEFA president. The Indian Expressreports that the firm is still an active business, as of March 2016.
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The South African President’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma is named in the leak. He has been linked to a company, Caprikat Limited, that is reportedly involved in a controversial oil deal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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The owner of Ukraine’s largest candy business, Roshen, had announced that he would sell his company after becoming the Prime Minister of Ukraine. But the leaked papers reveal that he moved his business to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), an offshore destination that helps evade taxes.
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9. Mauricio Macri
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10. Cousins of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, former Egypt President Hosni Mubarak’s son Alaa Mubarak and the king of Saudi Arabia also find mention on the list.