By Stelios Orphanides
A new major leak of documents, dubbed the ‘Paradise Papers’, show how politicians, including heads of governments and states and their family members, entrepreneurs, companies and celebrities set up offshore companies in various jurisdictions including Cyprus in an attempt to evade taxes or even conceal questionable transactions and wealth and launder funds.
The data, comprised of 13.4 million documents and leaked from the Bermuda-based Appleby law firm, was obtained by Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung. They include references to advisors of US President Donald Trump, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and former heads of government.
Not all persons whose names appear in the reports are necessarily involved in criminal activity.
The new revelations shed light on the business ties of US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the former vice-chairman of Bank of Cyprus, with a shipping company which has a business relationship with a company owned by people in Russian president Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, according to reports published in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reveal.
The new reports also show that Marina Sechina, former wife of Putin’s close aide Igor Sechin, invested dozens of millions of euros in schemes involving offshore companies even after neither she nor her former husband had declared sufficient income or significant assets justifying the investment.
They also show how Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko appears to be involved in questionable transactions in a probable violation of his country’s capital controls with the use of offshore firms, including one in Cyprus.
According to the leak, Queen Elizabeth of England has reportedly invested in a Cayman Islands-based fund controlling a company selling household goods to UK consumers with questionable practices.