Paradise Papers: What You Need to Know

November 6, 2017

The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance.

A number of stories are appearing in a week-long expose of how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures to protect their cash from higher taxes.

As with last year’s Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. BBC Panorama and the Guardian are among the nearly 100 media groups investigating the papers.

The Paradise Papers name was chosen because of the idyllic profiles of many of the offshore jurisdictions whose workings are unveiled, including Bermuda, the HQ of the main company involved, Appleby. It also dovetails nicely with the French term for a tax haven – paradis fiscal. Then again, the Isle of Man plays a big part.

Who is being exposed?

The offshore financial affairs of hundreds of politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals, some of them household names, have been revealed. The papers also throw light on the legal firms, financial institutions and accountants working in the sector and on the jurisdictions that adopt offshore tax rules to attract money. The top stories so far include:

The Queen’s private estate invested about £10m offshore including a small amount in the company behind BrightHouse, a chain accused of irresponsible lending

One of President Donald Trump’s top administration officials kept a financial stake in a firm whose major partners include a Russian company part-owned by President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law

How three stars of the hit BBC sitcom, Mrs Brown’s Boys, diverted more than £2m into an offshore tax-avoidance scheme

A key aide of Canada’s PM has been linked to offshore schemes that may have cost the nation millions of dollars in taxes, threatening to embarrass Justin Trudeau, who has campaigned to shut tax havens•Lord Ashcroft, a former Conservative party deputy chairman and a significant donor, may have broken the rules around how his offshore investments were managed. Other papers suggest he retained his non-dom tax status while in the House of Lords, despite claiming to have become resident in the UK

How questions were raised about who is controlling Everton FC

An oligarch with close links to the Kremlin may have secretly taken ownership of a company responsible for anti-money laundering checks on Russian cash

This is by no means everything – far more will be coming out over the next few days, much of it with strong UK links.

You can find our stories on the revelations here.

Where do the Paradise Papers come from?

There are more than 1,400GB of data, containing about 13.4 million documents. Some 6.8 million come from the offshore legal service provider Appleby and corporate services provider Estera. The two operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016. Another six million documents come from corporate registries in some 19 jurisdictions, mostly in the Caribbean. A smaller amount comes from the Singapore-based international trust and corporate services provider, Asiaciti Trust. The leaked data covers seven decades, from 1950 to 2016.

What is Appleby?

A law firm that helps corporations, financial institutions and high-net-worth individuals set up and register companies in offshore jurisdictions.

Founded in Bermuda and with a history dating back to the 1890s, it has become one of the largest and best known of about 10 major companies involved in the specialist arena. The leak shows the US dominates Appleby’s client register, with more than 31,000 US addresses for clients. There were more than 14,000 UK addresses and 12,000 in Bermuda.

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