The leak of 13.4m documents shows the scale of the offshore empire and involves everyone from the Queen to Facebook
What are the Paradise Papers?
The name refers to a leak of 13.4m files. Most of the documents – 6.8m – relate to a law firm and corporate services provider that operated together in 10 jurisdictions under the name Appleby. Last year, the “fiduciary” arm of the business was the subject of a management buyout and it is now called Estera.
There are also details from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in secrecy jurisdictions – Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Labuan, Lebanon, Malta, the Marshall Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.
The papers cover the period from 1950 to 2016.
How many media organisations have been looking at the data?
The Guardian is one of 96 media partners in the project. A total of 381 journalists from 67 countries have been analysing the material.
Who got the documents – and how?
The leaks were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which also received the Panama Papers last year. Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the material with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a US-based organisation that coordinated the global collaboration. Süddeutsche Zeitung has not, and will not, discuss issues around sourcing.
Do the Paradise Papers focus on companies or individuals?
Both. They are united by one thing – money. Some of the world’s biggest multinationals feature in the leak, including Apple, Nike and Facebook, as well as some of the richest people in the world, from the Queen to Bono, and from the stars of British sitcoms to the stars who grace Hollywood Boulevard.
What do the documents show?
The files show the offshore empire is bigger and more complicated than most people thought. And even companies such as Appleby, which prides itself on being a standard bearer in the field, have fallen foul of the regulators that try to police the industry.
The files set out the myriad ways in which companies and individuals can avoid tax using artificial structures. These schemes are legal if run correctly. But many appear not to be. And politicians around the world are beginning to ask whether they should be banned. Are they fair? Are they moral?
A fundamental question posed by the Paradise Papers is: has tax avoidance in all its guises gone too far?
What does Appleby say?
The firm has denied any wrongdoing, either by itself or by any of its clients. But it has conceded that it is not infallible and has tried to learn from its mistakes. The company has agreed to take part in any formal inquiries that come out of the disclosures. Estera has declined to comment.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN