These disclosures might allow Asset Tracing Investigators to paraphrase John Keats’ ‘Beauty is Truth, Truth beauty, that is all ye know, and all ye need to know’.
The records were obtained from an anonymous source by a German newspaper. That newspaper then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Are these implicated Individuals stating ‘we have done no wrong-doing’, probably because this sounds better that saying ‘we haven’t committed any crime’?
The occurrence of this Leak may be some type of auspice on the existence of a great Equaliser or Avenging Angel with a mandate for Natural Justice. It dwarfs previous earth-shattering disclosures of Swiss Banking and HSBC Files in 2015.
One-step Removed from mainland UK
Mossack Fonseca [MF] is a Panama-based law firm, with strong UK connections that runs a worldwide operation in incorporating limited companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, Switzerland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Its global network employs 600 staff and extends to 42 countries. The Papers consist of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, MF. Within these disclosed documents are references to 200,000 companies for which MF acted as registered agents. The British Virgin Islands held in excess of 100,000 such companies.The BVI., population numbers approximately 28000 residents. The contents of the 11.5 million documents, date from 1977 to December 2015, containing nearly 40-years of data.
Unsurprisingly there is great alarm in the UK., on the scale of the influence these offshore activities are having, on general economic matters. The information contained within the sensitive files revealed that 2,800 MF., companies are linked to the title deeds of 6,000 properties in the UK, worth £7bn. It is estimated that 90,000 homes in England and Wales are registered to overseas owners, the majority of which (75,000 in total) are thought to be owned by companies registered within tax havens. The 2.6 terabyte trove of data at the core of this investigation includes information about more than 210,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.
People Indirectly Impacted upon by such activities
Behind the email chains, invoices and documents that make up the Panama Papers are often unseen victims of wrongdoing enabled by the shadowy offshore industry. Firms such as MF., facilitate CIA operatives and other characters — consistent with the recent Gary Webb film ‘Kill the Messenger’— from the world of drug-dealing and espionage to set up offshore companies to obscure their true dealings from Asset Tracing Investigators.
The data shows that Mossack Fonseca worked with more than 14,000 banks, law firms, company incorporators and other middlemen to set up companies, foundations and trusts for customers. ICIJ used the country categorization contained in the leaked internal client database to describe how many intermediaries were in each country.
They provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illuminate a dark alternate universe where some people go to play by different rules.
“A dishonest husband is as much a fraudster as Bernard Madoff,” Martin Kenney, Asset Tracing Investigators in the British Virgin Islands who has worked on behalf of wives from Russia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the United States, told ICIJ. “These offshore companies and foundations . . . are instruments in a game of hide and concealment.” Offshore service providers that knowingly place a husband’s assets beyond a wife’s reach can be sued, Asset Tracing Investigators say.
“The closer in proximity to a divorce when these people take these kinds of steps, the more likely these assets will eventually be set aside for marital fraud,” said Sanford K. Ain, a Washington D.C.-based divorce attorney.
The Irish Times reported that according to the leaked Panama Papers, MF., became concerned in 2012 about the possible consequences for it from a legal battle in the Ukraine involving the State-owned IBRC., as its Asset Tracing Investigators sought control of a Ukrainian Shopping Centre once owned by Seán Quinn’s family .
The Unique Selling Proposition of such heavily marketed Tax Havens (to high net worth individuals) is secrecy from Asset Tracing Investigators. The Tax Haven authorities and their networks of Accountants, fellow Solicitors, Banks and Trust Companies tip-toe through paperwork based on the thesis ‘ask us no questions and we’ll tell you no lies’. Real owners of these designated offshore funds; typically hide behind nominees. Such nominees are residents of these Tax Havens with no actual control over company assets, but merely lend their signatures to the Company documentation. The information is hard to discover because real owners usually hide behind nominees, people with no real control and no assets in the company who simply lend their signature – providing a complex maze to Asset Tracing Investigators.
Disclosures to date are still only a snippet of the 1 Trillion US dollars in circulation in 2016 (according to investigative writer Jeffrey Robinson, author inter alia of the Laundrymen, 2008). Apparently only a certain proportion of people who use offshore structures are criminals.
In a speech in 2015 Mr Cameron said “the corrupt, criminals and money launderers” take advantage of anonymous company structures. The government is trying to do something about this. It wants to set up a central register that will reveal the true beneficial owners of offshore companies . From June 2016, UK companies will have to reveal their “significant” owners for the first time.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will release the full list of companies and people linked to them in early May. These additional disclosures will be eagerly awaited by Asset Tracing Investigators. If there is to be a meaningful and robust set of ongoing controls on such Global Law Firms, these must involve (i) conducting rigid client due diligence, (ii) mechanisms for confidential reporting of suspect transactions. Additionally – Template questionnaires and particularised declarations should now be drafted by the newly appraised Global Regulators for presentation to major players in the secretive offshore activities sector, e.g. Maples & Calder (Cayman), Appleby (Bermuda) and Cox Hallett Wilkinson (Bermuda) inter alia.