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Paradise Papers: Raising questions of legality, morality and equality

  • Global
  • Fraud and financial crime


Sunday was the first day of what is to be a week of disclosures resulting from a large data leak dubbed the “Paradise Papers”. The leak reveals the identities of the multinationals, politicians, celebrities and high net worth individuals transferring their wealth into tax havens.

The disclosures include, amongst others:

  • Tax avoidance by corporate organisations, such as Apple and Nike;
  • Evidence of ties between Russia and Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilber Ross;
  • A £10 million offshore investment, in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, by the Queen’s private estate;
  • Questions arising over who is in control of Everton FC; and
  • Questions relating to the actions of Stephen Bronfman, the chief fundraiser for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

The leak came from Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German Newspaper that obtained the Panama Papers last year. The German Newspaper shared the information with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who will lead the investigation, alongside nearly 100 media organisations over 67 countries. The source has not been revealed.

Paradise Papers is the world’s second biggest data leak, with 13.4 million documents covering the period from 1950 to 2016. Of these, 6.8 million documents came from Bermuda-based law firm, Appleby. Documents have also been leaked from the corporate registries of 19 tax jurisdictions.

The Paradise Papers expose the countless methods by which individuals and companies avoid paying tax using sophisticated and artificial structures, set up in tax havens, that are often difficult or impossible to trace back to the beneficial owner. Although the vast majority of transactions are lawful, the secrecy of such structures attracts money launderers, drug traffickers and others. Furthermore, such transactions raise questions of morality and wealth inequality.

Media partners have stressed the importance of data leaks, stating that they expose the wrongdoing of those using offshore territories and result in hundreds of investigations being carried out worldwide in response. In addition, the information in the Paradise Papers will put pressure on governments to curb tax avoidance.