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Paradise papers reveal new offshore leaks

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The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has obtained a new cache of leaked files from offshore law firms and other sources containing information on the offshore activities and structures of prominent individuals and companies from all over the world. Like the Panama papers before it, the Paradise papers were first obtained by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with ICIJ.

The financial secretary to the Treasury confirmed in a statement to the House of Commons on 6 November that HMRC has submitted a request to the ICIJ, The Guardian and the BBC to share this data. The request was made on 25 October and a response is awaited.

HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson told the public accounts committee on 6 November that HMRC had made the request. Unlike the Panama papers, which were made available to the public immediately, these latest leaked papers remain with the ICIJ and other receiving organisations, he said. Asked whether HMRC had learned anything new from what had been released so far, Thompson replied: ‘Potentially in one case.’ Thompson also admitted to Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), that HMRC had paid to receive information from the Panama papers, although he would have to take legal advice before revealing how much and to whom that payment was made. ‘We are allowed to make payment to obtain data in certain circumstances,’ he said.

The latest investigation involves more than 13m files leaked from law firms, as well as certain countries’ company registries, with much media attention given to investments by the Duchy of Lancaster, which forms part of the Queen’s estate, and members of the current US administration.

A large proportion of the information comes from Appleby, an established international law firm with its origins in Bermuda. The ICIJ and other media organisations, including The Guardian and the BBC, have published stories on areas including:

  • strategies used by multinational corporations to shift profits to low-tax jurisdictions, including technology company Apple in Jersey;
  • private jets and yachts registered by wealthy owners in offshore tax havens, such as the Isle of Man;
  • offshore trust funds held by rich and powerful people;
  • the use of offshore financial structures by prominent political donors in the US; and
  • tax haven shopping by multinational companies in Africa and Asia using shell companies in Mauritius.

The ICIJ will release structured data connected to the Paradise papers investigation on its offshore leaks database in the coming weeks. See

Addressing the CBI conference in London, OECD secretary general Ángel Gurría was optimistic that automatic exchange of information under the common reporting standard (CRS) and BEPS actions will put an end to the practices exposed by the Panama papers and Paradise papers. ‘This could not be repeated any more,’ he said. ‘We are talking about a legacy that is fast disappearing. When we talk about the double Irish or the double Dutch, we’re talking about structures which are no longer there.’

‘Privacy is no longer what it used to be,’ commented Miles Dean, managing partner at Milestone International Tax. ‘Recent developments have made a significant impact on the use of tax havens, namely the CRS and FATCA.’