The Paradise Papers are a collection of documents leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that sheds light on offshore tax structures. These documents follow on the heels of the Panama Papers. The majority of the over 13 million documents leaked focuses on the Bermudan law firm Appleby, which helps clients reduce their tax burdens. A number of high-profile figures have been thrust into the limelight thanks to the documents leaked. Which are the most famous names the papers reveal? Let’s take a look.
The British Monarch’s private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, one of two royal duchies in England, was found to have invested millions of pounds in various offshore arrangements. An estimated £10 million in funds ($14 million dollars) from this private estate was paid directly into funds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands between 2004 and 2005. The Duchy’s spokesperson has since released a public statement saying that all investments were fully audited and completely legitimate.
The Prince of Wales
Queen Elizabeth isn’t the only British royal with potentially questionable offshore investments. Prince Charles has also attracted criticism. According to the Paradise Papers, the Duchy of Cornwall, the second royal duchy that is affiliated with Prince Charles, invested an estimated £58,000 ($113,000 dollars) in Sustainable Forestry Management (SFM), a Bermuda-registered entity. In exchange, the duchy received 50 shares. According to the BBC and the Guardian, Prince Charles then lobbied for alterations to two climate changes deals – changes that are alleged to have directly benefited the business. However, a spokesperson for the Prince denies that his motives were for financial gain when he lobbied for the changes.
The frontman of the famous Irish band U2 reportedly used a Malta-based company – a notoriously low-tax jurisdiction – in order to order to finance his share of a Lithuania-based shopping center. Bono maintains that the company was fully tax compliant and denies any wrongdoing.
Donald Trump’s commerce secretary has also found himself caught up in the drama of the Paradise Papers. The papers showed that Ross, a billionaire industrialist, had retained an interest in Navigator Holdings in spite of the fact that he had denied this when disclosing his financial affairs to a Senate committee in 2017. Navigator, a global shipping firm, has a close business relationship with energy firm Sibur, which is controlled by individuals close to Vladimir Putin (the company is co-owned by Kirill Shamalov, who is the husband of Putin’s daughter).
Tech giant Apple is accused of moving its holdings overseas to Jersey from Ireland following changes to Irish tax law. Apple insists that this did not reduce its tax payments in any country.
The bottom line is that high-profile companies and individuals alike are increasingly facing pressure around tax avoidance. As we see more of these kinds of leaks in the future, it will become increasingly difficult for the rich and famous to run from their tax obligations.