Countries rattled by tax-haven data leak
Politicians and companies worldwide face questions over offshore accounts
The massive leak of offshore financial records that came to light in early April pierced what was once an opaque domain. Politicians, business people and celebrities are seeing their dealings in tax havens laid bare. Here's a sampling of some of the global reaction.
Pressure has ratcheted up on Prime Minister David Cameron to overhaul the half-dozen tax havens under British dominion. Some of the world's biggest offshore locales — the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Bermuda — are either U.K. territories or Crown dependencies. The cascade of revelations about shady dealings in the BVI in particular has elicited calls for action.
- Read more: David Cameron urged to act over British Virgin Islands (The Guardian)
Liberal Senator Percy Downe said he wants his caucus colleague, Senator Pana Merchant, to explain herself following an exclusive CBC News report based on the leaked files. The report disclosed that Merchant was the beneficiary of an offshore trust set up in the Cook Islands by her husband, Regina class-action lawyer Tony Merchant. Conservative Senator Vern White later asked the Senate's ethics officer to look into the Merchant trust, saying there are "serious questions" to be dealt with.
One of Europe's top bankers resigned following reports that he owned secret offshore corporations in Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands. Herbert Stepic said he was stepping down as CEO of Vienna-based Raiffeisen Bank to avoid possible "massive harm to my company." The offshore corporations — which used "nominees" to serve on paper as directors and sharedholders, obscuring their real owner — were for investing in real estate in Singapore, Stepic said.
The government issued a statement defending billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili after he was listed as a past director of an offshore company created 2006 in the British Virgin Islands. Ivanishvili, who came to power in October, didn't report any ties to Bosherston Overseas Corp. on his official disclosures because he severed all links before he took office, the statement said.
- Read more: Who uses the offshore world (ICIJ)
Former president Alvaro Uribe went on the defensive after it was reported that his two sons incorporated a company in the British Virgin Islands while he was still in office. The company was formed as part of a handicrafts business that "they've been involved in since they were children," Uribe said. "They are not tax evaders."
- Read more (in Spanish): 'My sons don't even know the word front man' (Semana)
The government, under pressure from members of parliament, announced it will take steps to curtail offshore tax dodging. An assessment of 107 Greek-run or -owned offshore companies named in the leaked data found that only four were properly registered with Greece's authorities. It also found new details on how some Greeks use offshore companies to trade in bonds and avoid taxes on the profits.
- Read more: Taxmen have little clue of offshore companies owned by Greeks (ICIJ)
The country's deputy parliamentary Speaker, who served as finance minister until last summer, was dismissed following revelations about his secret offshore company and its Swiss bank account. Sangajav Bayartsogt acknowledged, "I should not have opened that account," and disclosed that it held $1 million at one point.
Two of the biggest Dutch banks, ING and ABN Amro, have had to face questions over their offshore dealings. The names and personal information of 21 current and former members of ING's board of directors were among the leaked offshore records, which show that both banks helped set up dozens of offshore companies for clients. ABN Amro said in a statement: "The companies are set up for international customers and always comply with local and international laws."
- Read more (in Dutch): ING en ABN Amro duiken op in database over belastingvlucht
A national commission charged with recouping the ill-gotten riches of the country's former dictator, the late Ferdinand Marcos, says it will investigate Marcos's daughter following divulgences about her offshore dealings. Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, known as Imee Marcos, is the governor of a northern Philippine province. She failed to report that she's the beneficiary of an offshore trust on her annual disclosure statements.
- Ferdinand Marcos's daughter tied to offshore trust in the Caribbean (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism)
- Philippines to probe 'secret' Marcos offshore trust (Agence France-Presse)