Unprecedented Leak Exposes Offshore Financial SecretsWorld | April 4, 2013, Thursday // 17:23| views
Britain's Guardian said the information came from a leak of two million documents and emails which mainly concern the British Virgin Islands, but also the Cayman Islands. File photo
An unprecedented leak of documents is revealing the closely guarded investment information of more than 100,000 people around the world, who sought utmost secrecy in offshore tax havens.
In what is believed to be one of the largest ever leaks of financial data, the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has received nearly 30 years of data entries, emails and other confidential details from 10 offshore havens around the world
Nearly forty media outlets in 35 other countries have also been involved, but not Bulgaria.
The files contain information on over 120,000 offshore entities — including shell corporations and legal structures known as trusts — involving people in over 170 countries.
The leak amounts to 260 gigabytes of data, or 162 times larger than the US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks in 2010.
"What we found as we started digging in the records is a pretty extensive collection of dodgy characters: Wall Street fraudsters, Ponzi schemers, figures connected to organized crime, to arms dealing, money launderers," said Michael Hudson, a senior editor at the ICIJ, as cited by CBC.
"We just found a lot of folks involved in questionable or outright illegal activities."
There was also plenty of information related to legal offshore dealings. Offshore investments aren't illicit as long as they are not used to evade taxes or launder money.
The leaked data also contains revelations about:
Elite Russian scammers who stole 0 million from the country's treasury in a deadly heist that sparked a diplomatic row with the U.S.The fraudster hit with the second-biggest fine in history from Ontario's stock-market regulator.Top German, French and Swiss banks that set up thousands of secretive companies in offshore havens for such clients as Thai and Pakistani politicians.
In many cases, the leaked documents expose insider details of how agents would incorporate companies in Caribbean and South Pacific micro-states on behalf of wealthy clients, then assign front people called "nominees" to serve, on paper, as directors and shareholders for the corporations — disguising the companies' true owners.
Often the companies were set up through intermediary law and accounting firms, as well, adding a further layer of anonymity for investors.
Sometimes these methods were used by figures with known links to organized crime, arms dealers and ex-mercenaries. In other instances, documents reveal tax dodgers funnelling money offshore, beyond the eyes and arms of their nation's treasury.
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