Loosely speaking, "Offshore leaks" can be
defined as the leakage of sensitive information about offshore companies and
On 4 April, the leading media companies of a variety of countries almost simultaneously issued a sensational news story claiming that an organization called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ or CPI) has a rich database on offshore companies and their clients.
The overall volume of files at ICIJ's disposal exceeds 260 gigabytes… That is 160 times more information than the embassy reports made public by Wikileaks in 2010...
The ICIJ files consist of more than 2.5 million documents:
The documents have a variety of dates, the very earliest of which came into existence 30 years ago.
The names of 130,000 people from 170 countries
are also mentioned in the documents.
However, the first sections of this "explosive
information" could already lead to a revolutionary upheaval of the current
There is the official goal referred to by the ICIJ, of course. This is the battle with offshore companies that have become a "black hole" in the economy, an insurmountable obstacle to social and economic development. It is difficult to dispute the fact that the process of the "offshorization" of the global economy has gone too far.
The most recent valuations of the assets hidden in the shadows of offshore companies are between 21 and 32 trillion dollars (almost double the global GDP).
Measured on a global scale, annual losses to state budgets alone as a result of offshore company clients avoiding taxes amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. As of 2011, losses to the US budget from the non-payment of taxes are estimated at 345 billion dollars, including 100 billion dollars as a result of tax evaders using offshore companies.
In the European Union, losses are reaching 1 trillion Euros through the use of tax optimization schemes and a flagrant refusal to pay taxes.
It is not known how much of this can be put down to
the use of offshore companies, however. On the basis of America's percentage
ratio, we get 290 billion Euros, or at least 350 billion dollars.
Altogether, annual tax losses to the EU and the US as a result of offshore
"loopholes" amount to nearly 450 billion dollars.
An overview of the world's media shows that in many of the reports, the main targets are not the offshore companies as such, but individual oligarchs, politicians and government officials. Individual countries are also cited as "targets".
World-renowned banks, transnational corporations
and financial groups are also sometimes cited.
Note that almost all of the documents in the DOC relate to an offshore territory called the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Owing to a high level of confidentiality regarding information on company owners, this area is one of the most reliable and popular offshore territories.
Since 1984, when the British overseas territory declared itself a "tax haven", the islands have sold more than one million companies, the true owners of which have never been revealed. As well as the BVI, other offshore territories are mentioned in the ICIJ press release, including,
However, it should be emphasized that they are
mentioned only insofar as they serve as "offshoots" of the British Virgin
Moreover, the operation "Offshore
Leaks" is not
regarded as self-contained, but as part of a much larger, global plan. In
which case, operation "Offshore Leaks" is a logical continuation of the
operation to undermine the banking system of the offshore island of Cyprus.
The most important organization involved in the project, ICIJ, itself raises a number of questions. There is little information about it. All that is known is that it was established in 1997, its headquarters are situated in Washington and it includes nearly 160 journalists from 60 countries (88 journalists from 46 countries were involved in operation "Offshore Leaks").
ICIJ was created as a project of the large non-profit organization Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and George Soros all act as sponsors of CPI.
All of this inclines one to think that the
operation really does have global aims.
They are able to appear in the documents under a variety of titles: beneficiary, shareholder, proprietor, owner, recipient of "trust services", director, owner, co-owner, principal etc. They are all nevertheless united by the fact that they are "tax evaders".
The list includes the names of politicians and government officials, businessmen and speculators, members of wealthy families and bankers from a variety of countries:
The Guardian points out that according to the documentation, the largest number of offshore company owners are located in,
The list also includes the names of 4,000 US
The media also mentioned,
As well as offshore companies and individuals, the documents also mentioned various intermediaries who act like a kind of "pilot" for individuals and companies who find themselves in the intricate maze of tax havens.
The different intermediaries include legal firms, trust funds, banks, "construction" companies and so on. The intermediaries sometimes act as beneficiaries, but only interim ones. These interim beneficiaries sometimes form complex chains in order to safely keep the real owner, the ultimate beneficiary, a secret.
As for the role of banks in offshore schemes,
...are the most active, according to ICIJ.
The internal revenue services and law-enforcement agencies in,
...have declared that they will be looking into the issue of checking the published facts that relate to their own citizens.
Luxembourg's finance minister, meanwhile, has declared that he is ready to cooperate with other EU countries regarding the exchange of information on banks' clients who are avoiding paying taxes.
This means that the main country for offshore banking in continental Europe has made it clear it is ready, on the heels of Switzerland, to begin dismantling its institution of banking secrecy.
The Austrian government is the only one that has decided to go against the flow. It has appeased the clients of Austrian banks by announcing that it does not intend to hand them over to the tax authorities of other countries.
Map - Key Tax Haven Clients
In the World