What do the “Paradise Papers” reveal?
The concealing of the wealth of billionaires, politicians and at least one head of state in offshore accounts comes as a major embarrassment to the individuals included in the documents.
The material could also end up being used as evidence in investigations looking into links between members of the Trump administration and entities affiliated with the Russian government.
In Britain, the revelations could support accusations that the ruling Conservative Party indirectly benefited from some of the offshore tax haven funds it has publicly condemned, which could add to the mounting pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May who has struggled to deal with multiple scandals recently.
Among the individuals or groups who are named in the 13.4 million documents is Queen Elizabeth II, whose private estate invested over $12m offshore, according to the reports. Other documents in the leak refer to Trump administration officials, an aide of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a major donor of Britain’s Conservative party and a Russian oligarch.
Last year, the Panama Papers — revealed by the same consortium of journalists — exposed a number of companies, top officials, oligarchs and politicians that benefited from tax evasion. At the time, the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca was being portrayed by law firm industry representatives as an outlier. The companies where most of the new leak’s documents originated from are generally considered to be industry leaders, however, which exposes the extent to which questionable practices may still be the norm rather than the exception.
Where do the documents come from?
The 1,400 gigabytes of data were first leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared the documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The consortium collaborates with hundreds of media partners around the world, who were subsequently involved in the research, including The New York Times and Britain’s TheGuardian.
About half of the leak’s documents are believed to have come from the Bermuda-based Appleby law firm, and corporate services provider Estera which recently became its own entity after having operated as a part of Appleby for years.
Appleby assists corporations or individuals with setting up companies offshore and is considered the world’s most important player in the field. Some of the documents date back to 1950, whereas others were modified as recently as last year.