One thing’s for sure — no one knows where all the world’s money is.
It can be tucked away in investment vehicles, funneled through holdings companies, sheltered in tax havens… we’ve heard the stories. It’s a huge problem for governments.
To better understand the gravity of this situation, journalists from The Guardian, Huffington Post, The BBC joined the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in sifting through thousands of documents about tax shelters, who owns them, and how they work. You can see the full result over at Huffington Post.
The investigators found staggering names and numbers. There are politicians, wanted fraudsters, royals, and heads of dynasties on the list.
They use companies like Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and BVI-based Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL) to help them set up offshore investment vehicles.
What it all drives home is that this is something that is done. James R. Mellon (of the Mellon banking dynasty) put it this way:
“I just heard of a presidential candidate who had a lot of money in the Cayman Islands,” Mellon, now a British national, said alluding to former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “Not everyone who owns off shores is a crook.”
There’s a thought.
Imee Marcos is the daughter of late dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, and is a provincial governor in the country.
According to the ICIJ she's the beneficiary of a $5 billion British Virgin Islands (BVI) trust amassed while her father was in power.
The ICIJ reports that Shuvalov's wife, Olga has BVI accounts in her name as do two executives at Russian state energy company, Gazprom.
That's significant because Shuvalov has come under fire for his dealings with Gazprom (and putting the cash from those dealings in Olga's name) before.
Here's what Bloomberg reported about Shuvalov a year ago:
....when the international media last week reported such dealings by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, one might have expected a public outcry.
In Russia, however, things are much more complicated. Plenty of commentators, including President-elect Vladimir Putin's spokesman, have defended Shuvalov, and it appears that he truly has not broken any Russian laws, such as they are.
The facts, denied by no one, are as follows. In 2004, a Bahamas company called Sevenkey Ltd. entered into two stock market trades. It invested $17.7 million in the Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom with the help of billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, and another $49.5 million in European steelmaker Corus via another billionaire, Alisher Usmanov. In 2007 and 2008, Sevenkey exited the trades with a profit of almost $200 million. Shuvalov's wife, Olga, is listed as Sevenkey's beneficiary. Both deals were consummated when Shuvalov was an economic aide to Putin.
The Baroness is an art dealer and socialite from Spain. She became a royal when she married Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1985.
ICIJ found that she used a company on Cook Island to purchase art from Sotheby's and Christie's, including Van Gogh's Water Mill at Gennep.
You may recall that Marc Rich was pardoned by President Bill Clinton after being charged with tax evasion and illegal dealings with Iran.
According to ICIJ, Denise had $144 million tucked away on Cook Island in 2006, including a yacht called Lady Joy.
Of the Mellon banking dynasty. Need we say more?
According to the ICIJ Mellon uses companies in Lichtenstein and BVI to make millions trading securities. When asked about it, Mellon admitted to having many offshore investment vehicles and had set them up for a 'tax advantage.'
'That's the way these firms are set up... But I have never broken the law,' he also said.
Ablyazazov is on the run right now. He stands accused of embezzling $6 billion from Kazakstan's largest bank, BTA, when he was running it. The bank brought charges against him in the UK and as of February he has few legal options.
Documents uncovered by ICIJ show that CTL set up 31 companies for Ablyazazov from 2006-2007.
Taveesin is a super divisive figure on the world stage. Last year the U.S. declared her a crony of Robert Mugabe, the dictator of Zimbabwe, and froze her assets.
She says their relationship is 'strictly social.'
ICIJ's findings showed that Taveesin was keeping a secret BVI company.
The U.S. also consider Reutenbach a crony of the Mugabe regime and he is blacklisted by the Treasury. Reutenbach denies any wrongdoing.
According to ICIJ, he had a secret BVI company set up in 2006 when he was on the run from the South African government. They accused him of fraud. Charges against Reutenbach were later dropped, but the company they were associated with (which he controlled) pleaded guilty and paid a $4 million fine.