Bulgarians Part of Offshore Scandal, Unprecedented Leaks Show

Business | April 5, 2013, Friday // 08:01|  views

Jean-Jacques Augier, a close friend of the French President and treasurer for his presidential election campaign, has invested in offshore businesses in the Cayman Islands. Photo by www.europe1.fr

Bulgarians are among the more than 100 000 people around the world, who sought utmost secrecy in offshore tax havens.

The information was reported by the Bulgarian National Radio, but no names have been disclosed so far.

The list includes acting European politicians and dictators of impoverished countries.

One of them, it has emerged, is Jean-Jacques Augier, a close friend of French President Francois Hollande and treasurer for his presidential election campaign. Augier had invested in offshore businesses in the Cayman Islands.

The daughters of the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, also own offshore firms, controlled by one of Aliev's closest friends. Olga, the spouse of Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, has made the list as well.

The European Commission declined commenting on the scandalous information.

He told Le Monde that he did not have "either a personal bank account in the Caymans or any personal direct investment in that territory." He said he invested in the company through a holding that runs all his Chinese business interests. "The investment in International Bookstores appears in company records. Nothing is illegal."

It was reported Thursday that 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 in what is believed to be one of the largest ever leaks of financial data.

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.

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 funneling money offshore, beyond the eyes and arms of their nation's treasury.

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Tags: Jean-Jacques Augier, French President, francois hollande, Cayman Islands, Ilham Aliev, Igor Shuvalov, data, financial, leak, offshore, tax havens, Caribbean, South Pacific


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