(WORLDWIDE) The Pandora Papers Report: A leak of almost 12 million documents that reveals hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering by some of the world’s rich and powerful #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Oct.05: More than 600 journalists in 117 countries have been trawling through the files from 14 sources for months, finding stories that are being published this week…..

#AceDailyNews says here is a simple guide to the Pandora Papers leak watch Panorama on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

There have been repeated calls for politicians to make it harder to avoid tax or hide assets, particularly following previous leaks such as these posts we published here in the Panama Papers.

By Pandora Papers reporting team
BBC Panorama

Graphic or key and documents

The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC, which has been working with more than 140 media organisations on its biggest ever global investigation: BBC Panorama and the Guardian have led the investigation in the UK.

What has been uncovered?

The Pandora Papers leak includes 6.4 million documents, almost three million images, more than a million emails and almost half-a-million spreadsheets.

Stories revealed so far include:

The files expose how some of the most powerful people in the world – including more than 330 politicians from 90 countries – use secret offshore companies to hide their wealth.

Lakshmi Kumar from US think-tank Global Financial Integrity explained that these people “are able to funnel and siphon money away and hide it,” often through the use of anonymous companies.

What do we mean by ‘offshore’?

The Pandora Papers reveal complex networks of companies that are set up across borders, often resulting in hidden ownership of money and assets.

For example, someone may have a property in the UK, but own it via a chain of companies based in other countries, or “offshore”.

These offshore countries or territories are where:

  • it’s easy to set up companies
  • there are laws that make it difficult to identify owners of companies
  • there is low or no corporation tax

The destinations are often called tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions. There is no definitive list of tax havens, but the most well known destinations include British Overseas Territories such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, as well as countries such as Switzerland and Singapore. 

Is it illegal to use a tax haven?

Loopholes in the law allow people to legally avoid paying some taxes by moving their money or setting up companies in tax havens, but it is often seen as unethical. The UK government says tax avoidance “involves operating within the letter, but not the spirit, of the law”.

There are also a number of legitimate reasons people may want to hold money and assets in different countries, such as protection from criminal attacks or guarding against unstable governments.

Although having secretive offshore assets is not illegal, using a complex network of secret companies to move around money and assets is the perfect way to hide the proceeds of criminality.

But Mr Ryle said the Pandora Papers show that “the people that could end the secrecy offshore… are themselves benefiting from it. So there’s no incentive for them to end it”.

How easy is it to hide money offshore?

All you need to do is set up a shell company in one of the countries or jurisdictions with high levels of secrecy. This is a company that exists in name only, with no staff or office.

It costs money though. Specialist firms are paid to set up and run shell companies on your behalf. These firms can provide an address and names of paid directors, therefore leaving no trail of who is ultimately behind the business.

How much money is hidden offshore?

It is impossible to say for sure, but estimates have ranged from $5.6 trillion to $32 trillion, according to the ICIJ. The International Monetary Fund has said the use of tax havens costs governments worldwide up to $600bn in lost taxes each year.

Ms Kumar said it is detrimental to the rest of society: “The ability to hide money has a direct impact on your life… it affects your child’s access to education, access to health, access to a home.”

What is the UK doing about it?

The UK has been criticised for allowing property to be owned by anonymous companies overseas. 

The government published draft legislation in 2018 that would require the ultimate owners of UK properties to be declared. But it is still waiting to be presented to MPs.

A 2019 parliamentary report said the UK system attracts people “such as money launderers, who may wish to use property to conceal illicit funds”.

It said criminal investigations are often “hindered” because police cannot see who ultimately owns properties.

The government recently raised the risk of money laundering through property from “medium” to “high”.

It says it’s cracking down on money laundering with tougher laws and enforcement, and that it will introduce a register of offshore companies owning UK property when parliamentary time allows.

The Pandora Papers is a leak of almost 12 million documents and files exposing the secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires. The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington DC and has led to one of the biggest ever global investigations. More than 600 journalists from 117 countries have looked at the hidden fortunes of some of the most powerful people on the planet. BBC Panorama and the Guardian have led the investigation in the UK.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Oct.05: 2021:

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(LONDON) ICIJ Panama Papers Report: On the fifth anniversary, experts say there’s been progress in the fight against dirty money — but much more is needed #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – May.01: Five years after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 media partners released the Panama Papers, the fight against offshore financial secrecy and chicanery goes on — with a mix of victories and failures and more battles to come.

ICIJ

The fight against offshore crime will be a long campaign: ‘In May 2016, weeks after hundreds of journalists released the Panama Papers’ massive exposé of the secret financial dealings and hideaways of politicians, fraudsters and celebrities, a group of world leaders — embarrassed, outraged or knowing a good media opportunity when they saw one — met in London to denounce the global flood of dirty money’

Will Fitzgibbon: April: 03, 2021

Cameron retired from politics, but only after resisting calls for his resignation and scraping through what The Guardian called “the worst week of his professional life” after the Panama Papers revelations forced him to admit that he benefited from an offshore trust created by his father. Buhari’s Nigeria still loses billions a year to corruption and tax evasion. Last year, the United Arab Emirates received a stinging report card from global experts who called it an attractive destination for criminals.

While the Panama Papers has sent criminals to jail and made other would-be felons think twice about where to hide ill-gotten gains, a hodgepodge of loophole-riddled legislation, profit-oriented tax havens and savvy enablers still permit financial crime to thrive.

5

Five Years On

The Panama Papers

Support ICIJ today and help us find new global investigations that shake the worldJoin ICIJ Insiders

“As far as amplifying the seriousness of the problem, we are on the right track,” said Attiya Waris, a professor of fiscal law and policy at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. “The problem for so long was that all this was happening in very dark spaces — people weren’t even aware of it.”

But, Waris warns, the global financial system remains unbalanced. “There have been improvements in transparency, but those have largely been for the benefit of richer countries,” Waris said.

The offshore system is so big and so entrenched that dismantling it — or even reforming it — isn’t something that can be done in a span of a few years.

“You have to keep pushing,” said Lakshmi Kumar, policy director at Global Financial Integrity, a research and advocacy group. “Policymaking isn’t an overnight process.”

Before Panama Papers, she said, the debate over how to crack down on dirty money took place among government officials, bankers and other corporate enablers of the offshore system. Civil society groups “were just fringe players. We weren’t even in the room.”

But the Panama Papers energized anti-corruption activists and provided them real-world examples they’ve used to push their way in and make the case for tougher global standards and tougher national laws, Kumar said.

Over the long haul, she said, continuing financial scandals aren’t a sign of failure in the fight. They’re instructive data points showing the way toward real reform — “telling us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong” in terms of policies and how they’re enforced.

Reaching for transparency

Despite the ballooning number of laws that abolish anonymous companies, multiple analyses show that no country achieves the level of transparency necessary to stop financial crime in its tracks.

Berlin-based nonprofit Transparency International found that while many countries promised to launch ownership registries, concrete action has “generally lagged.” Of the few public registers that exist, most are confined to Europe. In Africa, Tax Justice Network reported, only three countries have praiseworthy ownership registration. Other countries create loopholes for trusts or don’t require the information to be made public, TJN found.

In the years since the Panama Papers, ICIJ investigations have highlighted similar limitations. Last year’s FinCEN Files investigation,  an ICIJ partnership with BuzzFeed News and more than 100 other media partners, revealed how hundreds of companies created in the U.K. helped obscure billions of dollars in suspicious payments.

Despite a law that requires most U.K. companies to disclose owners who control more than 25%, some companies don’t provide the information or declare their owners to be shell companies registered in far-flung tax havens like the Seychelles.

Kumar said there’s much work to be done to make sure that corporate ownership disclosures in the U.K. and elsewhere are accurate and useful. But as the world tries to undo the secrecy that cloaked the system for decades, she said, “even bad information is better than no information. Because bad information gives you an opening to ask questions and hold someone accountable.”

‘Tax evasion lobby’

In the wake of the Panama Papers, key tax havens saw their business model crash. In late 2016, months after the Panama Papers investigation, the BVI reported a 30% drop in the number of new companies created compared to the same period one year earlier.

Other nations, large and small, have emerged to fill the void. The United States, led by secrecy havens such as Delaware and South Dakota, aggressively court foreign money. The United States refuses to join the so-called Common Reporting Standard, a global agreement under which more than 100 countries and territories automatically provide each other with financial information relating to non-citizens.

My sense is that the ‘tax evasion lobby’ is stronger than one might think. — Gary Kalman, Transparency International

“I think the move by Western and advanced economies to clean up will make it harder (although not impossible) to move money around, even to other jurisdictions,” Gary Kalman, head of Transparency International in the U.S., told ICIJ.

“That said, there are still many things we need to do to close gaps in our own laws,” Kalman added, pointing to loopholes for investment advisors, cryptocurrencies and the real estate market. “My sense is that the ‘tax evasion lobby’ is stronger than one might think.”

The United Arab Emirates, 118 times smaller than the United States, is another tax haven. Last year, the global anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, criticized the UAE for its poor recordcurbing financial crime. The Emirates’ short list of prosecutions despite well-known risks was “particularly concerning,” FATF said. The country has since announced crackdowns on a handful of banks and law firms.

ICIJ keeps fighting

Since the Panama Papers, ICIJ and its partners have worked together on six more investigations of dirty money and financial secrecy — Paradise PapersWest Africa LeaksBribery DivisionMauritius LeaksLuanda Leaks and FinCEN Files.

ICIJ’s 2020 Luanda Leaks project, which catalogued the insider deals and rise of Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos and the complicity of her advisers and lawyers, revealed that a Dubai company controlled by a close friend received $38 million hours after dos Santos was fired from her job as the head of the state-owned oil company.

While some fraudsters and politicians will choose new homes for their shell companies, others are eyeing products and services whose value for money laundering is harder for investigators to see.

Low-cost shell companies still allow a bribe maker or a bribe taker to quickly move tainted cash money around the world. But more complicated schemes have caught the attention of law enforcement.

Last year, a leaked report by the FBI highlighted the nearly $10 trillion private equity industry as a money laundering tool. Criminals integrate dirty money into investments offered by hedge funds and other vehicles, the report said.

Money launderers are also appropriating the legitimate veneer of international trade to move dirty money around the world, experts say.

As part of the FinCEN Files investigation, ICIJ reported that the United Arab Emirates and the United States failed to prosecute the Kaloti Jewellery Group despite a U.S.-led taskforce determining that the trader and refiner bought gold from sellers suspected of laundering money for drug traffickers and other criminals.

Recognizing that increasingly sophisticated schemes are not the brainchild of criminals alone, countries and global organizations have turned the spotlight on lawyers, accountants, investment managers and other advisers. In February, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development released its first study of so-called “professional enablers” of criminal activity.

These enablers “undermine not only the rule of law, but their own profession,” the OECD said, citing ICIJ investigations for bringing public attention to their role and calling on countries to disrupt the enablers’ activities.

Following the Luanda Leaks investigation, Portugal’s securities regulator recommended criminal prosecutions against auditing companies that worked for dos Santos. The regulator discovered auditors who had not stopped possible money laundering and did not flag suspicious transactions to authorities when faced with “sufficient reasons” to suspect that transactions “could be related to funds from criminal activities.”

More than a year after that investigation, no charges have been announced.

#AceNewsDesk report ……..Published: May.01: 2021:

Editor says #AceNewsDesk reports by https://t.me/acenewsdaily and all our posts, also links can be found at here for Twitter and Live Feeds https://acenewsroom.wordpress.com/ and thanks for following as always appreciate every like, reblog or retweet and free help and guidance tips on your PC software or need help & guidance from our experts AcePCHelp.WordPress.Com

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(NEW YORK) Federal Court Report: Panama Papers Case: Third person has pleaded guilty secretly to financial crimes as part of the investigation according to newly released documents show #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Mar.11: The unexpected guilty plea by Joachim Alexander von der Goltz was revealed by a federal court order in the Southern District of New York on Thursday:

Secret guilty plea revealed in US Panama Papers criminal probe: ‘Joachim Alexander von der Goltz repaid the U.S. government more than $230,000 after admitting to financial crimes revealed by the ICIJ investigation’

A third person has pleaded guilty to financial crimes as part of a probe sparked by the Panama Papers investigation, newly released court documents show.

March 5, 2021

Von der Goltz is the son of Harald Joachim von der Goltz, the 83-year old former U.S. resident who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and fraud in 2020 and was sentenced to four years in prison.

For 16 years, Joachim Alexander von der Goltz and others attempted to evade paying U.S. taxes, according to prosecutors. In 2003, von der Goltz sent an email with identification information from Guatemala “in an effort to conceal the United States residence of the beneficial owner” of an offshore shell company, prosecutors said.

In 2016, when questioned by U.S. officials after the release of the Panama Papers investigation, von der Goltz falsely claimed that he was unaware of the requirement to report a foreign bank account.

Von der Goltz pleaded guilty in December 2019 to conspiracy to commit tax evasion, fraud and submitting false documents. He has already repaid the government more than $230,000.

Von der Goltz’s guilty plea is the third since U.S. officials launched an investigation on the heels of the 2016 Panama papers investigation, which was led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Süddeutsche Zeitung. In December 2018, prosecutors announced charges against Harald Joachim von der Goltz, his accountant Dick Gaffey, and former attorneys with the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, Dirk Brauer and Ramses Owens. The attorneys remain wanted.

Files from the Panama Papers show that Joachim Alexander von der Goltz was the director of the Panama company, Brecknock Corporation. He wrote to Mossack Fonseca with an address at the Massachusetts company, Boston Capital Ventures. The law firm referred to him internally as “Baron,” according to emails.

Von der Goltz had a unique level of knowledge about his father’s offshore affairs, according to leaked documents. No other beneficiary of the $50 million Revack Holdings Foundation was allowed to know of its existence, according to a “due diligence memorandum” prepared by Mossack Fonseca lawyers.

Von der Goltz was also a beneficiary of a trust that owned an apartment in Miami, a house in Massachusetts and investments in Boston Capital Ventures, according to the memorandum. He was entitled to assets in Germany and Guatemala and to assets from a trust in the Bahamas.

Attorneys for von der Goltz did not reply to ICIJ’s request for comment.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Mar.11: 2021:

Editor says #AceNewsDesk reports by https://t.me/acenewsdaily and all our posts, also links can be found at here for Twitter and Live Feeds https://acenewsroom.wordpress.com/ and thanks for following as always appreciate every like, reblog or retweet and free help and guidance tips on your PC software or need help & guidance from our experts AcePCHelp.WordPress.Com

#crimes, #financial, #new-york, #panama-papers