The financial secrets of the world’s elite have been revealed in a huge leak of documents.
The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, BBC and the New York Times.
The so-called “Paradise Papers” show that many global figures including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth have invested private money in offshore funds in Caribbean tax havens.
A spokesperson for the Duchy of Lancaster which provides the Queen with an income said: “We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate.”
“The Queen voluntarily pays tax on any income she receives from the Duchy.”
The leaked documents also show substantial payments made from a firm co-owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of the US commerce secretary Wilber Ross.
Some of the biggest names in the world of entertainment and sport are also shown to be protecting their wealth with an array of offshore schemes.
The fact that its not illegal isn’t the point according to investigative journalist Bastian Obermayer, for Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper
“Just because something is legal doesn`t make it legitimate, or morally correct. We`re taking a look at it. We see the disappearance of billions that actually should be going to taxes.”
The details come from a leak of more than 13.4 million files going back 70 years which expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive.
At the centre of the leak is the law firm Appleby which has out posts in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
The firm says it advises its clients on legitimate and lawful ways to reduce their tax bills, denies any wrongdoing and says it does not tolerate illegal behaviour.