Global tax dodgers exposed — Salon.com

Shared post from Salon.com can be seen here.

Global tax dodgers exposed

UPDATED: Tax havens of oligarchs, politicians and the wealthy unveiled by largest file leak ever

BY 

Updated, 12:15 p.m.: ICIJ pointed out that many of the world’s major banks – including UBS, Clariden and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways:

Documents obtained by ICIJ show how two top Swiss banks, UBS and Clariden, worked with TrustNet to provide their customers with secrecy-shielded companies in the BVI and other offshore centers.

Clariden, owned by Credit Suisse, sought such high levels of confidentiality for some clients, the records show, that a TrustNet official described the bank’s request as “the Holy Grail” of offshore entities — a company so anonymous that police and regulators would be “met with a blank wall” if they tried to discover the owners’ identities.

Clariden declined to answer questions about its relationship with TrustNet.

“Because of Swiss banking secrecy laws, we are not allowed to provide any information about existing or supposed accountholders,” the bank said. “As a general rule, Credit Suisse and its related companies respect all the laws and regulations in the countries in which they are involved.”

A spokesperson for UBS said the bank applies “the highest international standards” to fight money laundering, and that TrustNet “is one of over 800 service providers globally which UBS clients choose to work with to provide for their wealth and succession planning needs. These service providers are also used by clients of other banks.”

Updated, 11: 40 a.m.: And here are some more notable individuals found by theGuardian/ICIJ investigation to be hiding funds in offshore accounts:

  • Jean-Jacques Augier, France’s François Hollande’s 2012 election campaign co-treasurer, launched a Caymans-based distributor in China with a 25 percent partner in a BVI company. Augier says his partner was Xi Shu, a Chinese businessman.
  • Mongolia’s former finance minister. Bayartsogt Sangajav set up “Legend Plus Capital Ltd” with a Swiss bank account, while he served as finance minister of the impoverished state from 2008 to 2012. He says it was “a mistake” not to declare it, and says “I probably should consider resigning from my position”.
  • The president of Azerbaijan and his family. A local construction magnate, Hassan Gozal, controls entities set up in the names of President Ilham Aliyev’s two daughters.
  • A senator’s husband in Canada. Lawyer Tony Merchant deposited more than US$800,000 into an offshore trust.
  • Spain’s wealthiest art collector, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, a former beauty queen and widow of a Thyssen steel billionaire, who uses offshore entities to buy art.

Updated, 11: 20 a.m.: Nominee directors, military and intelligence links: As was original highlighted by the Guardian/ICIJ last year, a number of so-called nominee directors of companies registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) have connections to military or intelligence activities.

Notably Gamma Group — the firm that develops surveillance software that (as noted here) has been used by oppressive regimes against activists including in Bahrain — was found to have offshore funds in the BVI:

Louthean Nelson owns the Gamma Group, a controversial computer surveillance firmemploying ex-military personnel. It sells bugging technology to Middle East and south-east Asian governments.

Nelson owns a BVI offshore arm, Gamma Group International Ltd.

Martin Muench, who has a 15 per cent share in the company’s German subsidiary, said he was the group’s sole press spokesman, and told us: “Louthean Nelson is not associated with any company by the name of Gamma Group International Ltd. If by chance you are referring to any other Gamma company, then the explanation is the same for each and every one of them.”

After he was confronted with evidence obtained by the ICIJ/Guardian investigation, Muench changed his position. He told us: “You are absolutely right, apparently there is a Gamma Group International Ltd.”

The ICIJ also notes a “sham” director who is U.K.-based operative working to hide money for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line –  a firm the E.U., the U.N. and the U.S. have accused IRISL of aiding Iran’s nuclear-development program. Under the front name “Tamalaris Consolidated Limited,” the company registered in the BVI with the British-based operative named as director.

Updated, 10.50 a.m.: Sham directors: The Guardian, whose investigative journalists collaborated with ICIJ in the tax haven project, highlights a list of “sham directors” uncovered in the leaked files. These individuals “appear on official records as directors of companies while acting only on the instructions of its real owners, who stay invisible and off-the-books.”

Over 22,000 companies use this network of 0nly 28 sham directors — some with over 700 companies to their names with offshore account holdings. See here for a full table of these sham directors.

Original post: A trove of leaked documents 160 times the size of Wikileaks’ cache reveals the vast global web of tax havens in which the world’s wealthiest hide their fortunes. A 15-month investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which involved dozens of reporters sifting through thousands of leaked files from offshore companies and trusts, highlights the dirty dealings between politicians and the mega-rich involved in tax evasion.

“The leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike,” noted ICIJ on the investigation’s publication.

The trove of data — believed to be the largest leak in history — exposes some 120,000 letterbox entities, offshore accounts and other nefarious deals in more than 170 countries, alongside the names of 140,000 individuals alleged to have placed their money in known tax havens.

The investigation found high profile individuals from around the world — from oligarchs to the family members of dictators, to wealthy American financiers and professionals — engaged in efforts to dodge fiscal authorities. Individuals and groups found to be part of the tax evasion web include (via ICIJ):

  • Individuals and companies linked to Russia’s Magnitsky Affair, a tax fraud scandal that has strained U.S.-Russia relations and led to a ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans.
  • A Venezuelan deal maker accused of using offshore entities to bankroll a U.S.-based Ponzi scheme and funneling millions of dollars in bribes to a Venezuelan government official.
  • A corporate mogul who won billions of dollars in contracts amid Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s massive construction boom even as he served as a director of secrecy-shrouded offshore companies owned by the president’s daughters.
  • Indonesian billionaires with ties to the late dictator Suharto, who enriched a circle of elites during his decades in power.
  • The eldest daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, found to be a beneficiary of a British Virgin Islands (BVI) trust. (Philippine officials said they were eager to find out whether any assets in the trust are part of the estimated $5 billion her father amassed through corruption.)
  • The wife of Russia’s deputy prime minister, Igor Shuvalov, and two top executives with Gazprom, the Russian government-owned corporate behemoth that is the world’s largest extractor of natural gas, identified in offshore data.
  • Among nearly 4,000 American names is Denise Rich, a Grammy-nominated songwriter whose ex-husband was at the center of an American pardon scandal that erupted as President Bill Clinton left office.

We will continue to update this post once more details from the extensive tax evasion leaks emerge.

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

STORM OF THE CENTURY!!

I don’t have a television, so I can’t watch the local news. It’s unfortunate. I miss out, I’m sure. I have little doubt that today I’m missing out on the STORM OF THE CENTURY!! There are pitiful snowflakes mixed with rain coming down in Portland. It’s barely at freezing and there isn’t enough precipitation to create any snow of any substance, but I’ll bet anything the local news stations have camped out at the highest elevations, looking for that razor thin layer of snow to indicate it’s sticking and a tiny flurry of flakes in order to justify standing outside in their perfectly matched snow bunny outfits to warn us all about the STORM OF THE CENTURY!! They probably also found some moron who drove too fast on a curve and whacked into a tree to warn us just how “dangerous it is out there, Bob, and back to you.” And back at the station, “Yes, be very careful. This storm will cause very dangerous conditions.  Very dangerous.  The world is full of danger. Watch out.  Don’t go out.” It must be thrilling for the local newscasters to live in a state where snow is a major news item. They’d poop their drawers if anything ever really did happen.  I guess they would be prepared.

Watch Out for the Big, Bad Pig

So a week ago I published a blurb about the swine flu thinking everyone was freaking out for nothing.  For a few days after, I wondered if maybe I got it wrong.  Now however, I’m back to my original premise.  I was also right about the foolish overreacting that would take place.  Some ountries have banned travel to Mexico.  Others have killed off a bunch of pigs.  Everyone is still all freaked out.  Yet the numbers of deaths have remained quite small and very contained even though the flu itself has shown up in many places.  Craziness.

The killing of the pigs really bugs me.  In spite of assertions by doctors and other scientists that this flu isn’t caught from eating pork, nor can it be transmitted from pigs to humans, Egypt killed over 300,000 pigs.  In response, the WHO came out with a statement that the name needs to be changed because killing pigs is unnecessary.

All the news organizations went nuts when a toddler died from the flu outside of Mexico, the first case outside that country.  EGADS!  It’s spreading!  Someone outside Mexico died!  We’re all going to get it!  It’s pandemic! We’re all dead!  Um, yeah.  Lost in the uproar was the fact the child was Mexican and had just been in Mexico.  It wasn’t like the flu came crawling across the border, snaking its way north in ever increasing tentacles.  Yet that is what the media worldwide seemed to want people to believe.

The actual truth is that most of the people who died had not gotten treatment when they should have.  For everyone else who has contracted the flu, their illnesses have been sh0rt-lived and they have recovered.  The trick was early detection and intervention.  It would be nice if the news media could find a nice balance between letting people know they should do something and acting like lunatics.  Unfortunately they usually lean towards lunacy.

The nasty right-winger radio hosts have used the swine flu as an opportunity to spread their hate mongering, lies, and racism.  They blatantly lie, claiming that we’re all going to get sick from Mexicans and we better close our borders further.  It’s disgusting.  Maybe any idiots who believe their bullshit will lock themselves in their homes with a gun and stop wandering the streets. If this happens, I guess in a twisted way the hate mongerers have performed a public service.

Enough Already

Every time I open up my blog or look at my web-based email or go anywhere I like to go on the web there is another article another analysis another something looking at Sarah Palin and John McCain and on and on and on.  I’m so tired of it.  She’s a disaster.  He’s a disaster.  This does not stop him from being about equal to Obama in the polls.  If ANYONE who would vote for McCain gave a shit we wouldn’t be in this mess. We’re all yammering on and on about it but it isn’t changing anything.  Guess what?  Those of us who get it get it.  Those of us who don’t never will.  What’s the point of pointing out the obvious to people who DON’T FUCKING CARE?  I just can’t see it.

I would love to be able to go back to the time before Sarah Palin, back when we pointed out the pitifulness of McCain’s positions on various things, back before every day brought a new low to the discourse.  I am normally not that sort of person, the one longing for the past.  I like change.  But this change, this is ridiculous, and frankly I’m tired of it all.  I wish we could stop being red and blue and fighting all the time.  I wish there wasn’t a cultural battle being waged.  I hate this.  It makes me want to go bury my head in the sand or run off to somewhere where none of this matters on an everyday level.  I’m not naive enough to believe what happens here won’t affect the rest of the world, because it does–unfortunately it does to a frightening degree.  But I would love to find a place where it wasn’t so corporeal, somewhere it wasn’t in my face every day.  Enough already.  Really, I’ve had just enough.

Lowering the Glass Ceiling

See this piece on Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lara-m-gardner/lowering-the-glass-ceilin_b_128346.html

I would like to take you on a journey of the imagination…

Imagine that Sarah Palin is not a woman, but a man.  We’ll call him Mr. Palin.  Mr. Palin has been mayor of a small town in Alaska, and governor of that state for less than two years, a state whose entire population is less than that of most US major metropolitan areas and in this position.  In this position, Mr. Palin is being investigated for questionable conduct.  Imagine that he obtained his passport within the last couple of years, and that he considers foreign policy experience living next door to another country.  Take it further and imagine he believes the earth was created in a few thousand years, that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans, and that creationism should be taught in public schools.  Suppose also that this man believes women should not have the right to choose, and that rape victims should pay for their own rape kits.  Imagine Mr. Palin hunted moose from a helicopter and sought removal of environmental protections for polar bears. Imagine he has no knowledge of financial markets, the cold war, weapons systems, or Middle Eastern history.  Imagine all of this and more.

If this were true, and Sarah Palin were a man, would he have even been on the longest list of potential US vice-presidential candidates for any political party?  It would be unthinkable.

Why are the standards for this woman running for vice-president so much lower than they would be for a man?  Shouldn’t the standards be the same?  To determine whether someone did not get a job because of something other than merit, simply slip whatever that person is not into the position in your mind and ask yourself whether the same standards would apply.  If there are disparities in the standards required between two people seeking the same position, it is quite likely that discrimination is occurring in some form, even if it is allowing someone to be worse at something in an effort to pretend there is no -ism taking place.

Here, we have a woman running for vice-president who is grossly underqualified.  Those who support her claim that her position as a vice-presidential candidate is evidence of women shattering the glass ceiling.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Allowing her to take a position for which she is not qualified and giving her extra points for being a woman is the ultimate in sexism:  it is using gender as a qualifier rather than merit.  Beyond the obvious arguments against her abilities, her position as a vice-presidential candidate assumes on some level that a qualified woman could not perform the job.  Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican ticket does not shatter the glass ceiling, it lowers it.

More Mindless Rambling

Wow.  So I check out of reality for a few days and when I check back in the hottest story out there is a transgendered man having a baby and Obama’s bowling ability.  I think maybe it’s time to check back out again.  I normally avoid the news but there are some headlines that are unavoidable.  Plus I listen to NPR and get bits and pieces there, although I extended my news fast to All Things Considered several years ago and have not felt the worse for wear as a result.  Gotta protect that old sanity, ya know?

So I pulled into WordPress this morning to discover many changes. I’m sure there are lots of us out here commenting on it, what we like, what we don’t.  I think once I get used to it, I will like it.  I’m already liking the place to type better than previously.  And I’ve noticed that there is a spell-checker.  Yes, I think I’m going to like it.  I’m not so keen yet on the dashboard, but I think with time and familiarity, it will all be good.

Okay, so right now Piper is spinning around and having a coniption fit because I’m typing and not paying one hundred percent attention to him, and Molly is standing over him, hovering like a bee over a flower.  I’m not sure of the influence she is attempting to exert, but Piper is oblivious.  Oh, and now she just got a good sniff of his butt.  Yum.  How was that for you, Molly?  Dogs.  They are unabashedly willing to partake of their senses, even if it involves a good solid butt sniffing.

I realized today that I am in some regards paralyzed by the sheer number of things I need to do.  Many of them are small things.  I just need to chip away at those things.  Others are huge, like packing, for instance.  I just need to dive in and begin.  It’s funny, just last week I was discussing hoarding with my counselor.  You know, why people hoard, how it gets started, all that.  I know a few hoarders and their lives are completely stuck.  One of the reasons we discussed is how something happens and the person lets things go, then things get out of hand, then they are paralyzed by the mess and magnitude.  Then I discovered this morning that my paralysis is similar; I have not been doing anything because there is so much to do.

Earlier this week, I had dinner at the new house of some very good friends.  They were lamenting all the work they need to do to make the house a home.  I advised them to take it one space at a time.  Break it down into smaller pieces.  I’m taking my own advice.  I’m going to make a list, then I’m going to sort the list into manageable pieces, then attack each piece.  Some of the stuff I need to do could all be done in one day if I just did it.  Like filing a tax extension.  The taxes are done, I just don’t have the money to pay them yet.  So I’m going to file this extension.  I doubt it will take long, but I haven’t done it.  And this CLE reporting thing lawyers have to do.  It’s a pain.  I started it, then stopped for some reason (probably to go do something really important like bang drums or play the bass) and never picked it up again.  Now it’s sitting here on my desk.  Both these things, tax extensions and CLE reports, have a deadline.  It’s a good thing or I could see them sitting there even longer.

What is this, this procrastination?  I’ve not been much of a procastinator before.  Yet here I am.  And this week when Milla has been gone, it has been oh so easy to play.  South Park video?  Much more appealing than tax extensions.  I have a friend who texts me, Want to go watch a late movie? Yes.  Not Uh sure, or okay, but YES.  Emphatically, yes.  Oh, and go here and watch this video.  It’s called Mathmaticious and parodies Fergilicious.  It’s better than Fergie’s.  More entertaining.  His sexy dancing in front of the window kills me.  Very clever.  Pretty soon he’ll be passed all around and end up in a South Park episode getting killed by Chocolate Rain guy.  Good times.

See what I mean?  It’s so easy.  Just start typing your blog or doing something else.  After a bit, feel like a break.  Casually open a new tab.  Type in YouTube.  Then surf a little.  Find something that looks interesting, like Mathmaticious.  Watch it.  Laugh.  Then watch what it’s parodying, or click on something else on the side where all the videos are in a row.  Discover a lot of time has passed.  Shake your head in dismay at your ability to waste a lot of time.  There is facility in time-wasting like no other, especially when computers are involved.  Millions of others conspire to help you.  Yikes.

I have wasted enough time this morning, er, afternoon.  I must do something productive, if only for a moment.  So I’m going to get up and go brush my teeth.  That’s a step in the right direction.  My drum store neighbor is bringing over the drum set this afternoon.  I’m thrilled.  I CANNOT wait.  I keep looking out the window, waiting for him to pull up.  Come on little drummies, come into my house.  I want you.  Banging drums has to be better than watching YouTube, right?  I’m having one of those moments I’ve written about before where I can’t come up with a coherent ending to my post, so it continues to ramble on and on about nothing at all.  Come here little drummies?  Seriously?  Did I say that?  Okay, I’m really going now.  I have to go to the bathroom.  Oh there’s a story there that I can’t tell on the internet, but it’s so awful and funny, maybe I’ll put it on my secret blog, my anonymous blog.  It needs to be written about because it’s that hilarious.

I’ve decided since typing this that I REALLY like the new WordPress. It’s much more user friendly.  It saves my posts for me, eliminating the likelihood of blog loss because of my fucked up computer.  It’s great.  I love it.  I’m going to have to figure out tags and all that, but it will all be good.  I’ll get it done.

Would You Like Fries With Your News?

I do not read or watch the news.  I know there are those out there who would consider this irresponsible, and perhaps for them this is true.  But I know most of it is designed to keep my heart rate elevated and probably also to make me shop, two things I have no desire to experience on a regular basis, so for over a decade I have engaged in a “news fast.”

Ironically enough, this has not kept me from being aware of what is going on in the world around me, although I did not know who Laci Peterson was, the pregnant lady who was murdered, until her husband was on trial (and in fact I had to google Lacy and pregnant to get her name for this, such is my lack of knowledge on the subject).  I like to peruse the Living section in the paper and get the little entertainment blurbs.  I also like the Metro section and when I’m at Starbucks or see it somewhere, I’ll read a lot of it.  This is the section on Portland and surrounding areas, so often the information is useful.  I will occasionally glance at the opinions section, and I like to check out the obituaries to see if anyone young died.  Weird, I know.  All of this is only when I’m at Starbucks or another coffee place that has papers and I’m sitting alone and forgot to bring a book or desire something a little more fluffy than whatever I happen to be reading at the moment.

I never watch television news.  Ever.  I absolutely hate it.  When I last watched news, the stories were less like music videos than they are now.  When I catch a glimpse of the news at someone else’s house or in a store where its blaring, it blows my mind how far it seems from anything desiring to impart information.  It’s constant noise and visual effects and seriously, it looks like music videos.  I hate it.

I am on a few political listserves, MoveOn and People United for Change.  I get emails from them and I read through them.  I unsubscribed from most of them because when I was getting too much, I never read any of it.  At least by limiting the number I can absorb some of the information, but I limit what I take in because there is just so much to get angry about, and I do not want to spend my life pissed off.  I know someone once said that if you aren’t mad, you aren’t paying attention, but I can’t spend every minute of every day being angry.  I can make choices that hopefully contribute to change, but being angry all the time isn’t going to help anything and will likely make me sick, so my choice is to limit the sheer volume of information, especially about the current administration.  Yes, they are power hungry.  Yes, they are liars.  Yes, they’ve created multiple disasters that will take years to sort out.  Okay.  I get it, but I’m not spending my time on this planet pissed off every minute of every day.

There is a point to this.  I have a yahoo email account.  I use it for things like ebay or Craigslist ads, stuff I don’t want in my personal email.  When you login to yahoo, the front page is one liner news.  I have been following the Heath Ledger stuff.  I liked him as an actor.  A lot.  I thought he was brilliant in Brokeback Mountain, but he was a standout even in his early stuff like 10 Things I Hate About You.  And I loved A Knight’s Tale.  Plus lately it seems like I keep hearing about people dying from prescription drugs.  A friend of mine died last spring from the drugs she was taking for eczema.  In December, two friends of mine each had a friend who died in their sleep from taking prescription drugs, and I read it was a possibility Brad Renfro died from prescription drug interactions, possibly with illegal drugs or alcohol.  (See my post from 1-22-2008.  It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but I noticed all these people dying from prescription drugs.) So I have been following the Heath Ledger story out of interest from that angle as well.  I’ll be curious what the autopsy report shows.

Anyway, as I logged in to my yahoo account each day, I saw the stories on Heath and I actually clicked on them and read them.  Mostly the yahoo stories seemed to add a new paragraph to the top of the same story while the bottom paragraphs stayed the same.  Then the other morning, I went to Starbucks and decided to hang out for a while.  I went to the used paper bin and started pulling out the sections I like to read.  The front page had a story on Heath, so I grabbed it.  Back at my table, I started reading the story and maybe there are those out there who will not be surprised by this, but the story was one hundred percent, word-for-word identical to the stories on yahoo.

Okay.  I’m not naive.  I know that media is consolidated.  But really, do we get one story every time we read the news?  Does some person out there get to write it, then that is the story that is copied here, there, and everywhere?  For the next several days, whenever I went into a Starbucks, I pulled out the paper and there was the same Heath info straight off yahoo news.  It was the same whether the paper was the Oregonian or the NY Times.  How boring is that?

I KNOW how publicist’s work. I KNOW that if someone wants something to be the official story, get all the news orgs to pick it up and that will be what’s reported.  I KNOW the vagaries of the media conglomorate system.  But does that still mean we have to have one story written by one writer that’s put out into the system of what we get to read?  That is so boring!  And these stories don’t have a byline. They are just bland.

I find this disappointing.  Are we all so used to this now that I shouldn’t be surprised?  No wonder people often don’t believe what is in the news.  You get one story over and over, it’s easy to believe we’re being fed what someone wants us to believe.  Reporters are supposed to report what they observe, the truth as they see it.  And there are those who believe there is one truth, one thing that factually occurred.  But we all know that we each see things differently according to our own conditioning.  If we get five accounts of the same event, we can put those together and perhaps get a more flavorful account of something we were not there to experience.  When we get one sanitized, flavorless, boring version of what supposedly is, it’s hard not to wonder if there is more to the story.  I think we’re all less likely to trust what we’re given when it’s force fed, canned blandness.  Or perhaps we’re less likely to question.  Don’t question it and don’t believe it.  It’s like the television news with its music video visual bombardment, all hype and no substance.  There’s nothing there.  We’re not being told anything.  Here we have the internet and this theoretical access to the entire world, but we’re all being fed the same thing.  We have this opportunity for imagination and creativity to flourish, and instead the entire world gets the same thing. Assembly-line news.  News like Starbucks.  And Target.  And Walmart.  And Sears.  And on and on and on.  Even politicians have turned into mass market products to appeal to everyone and no one.  Yuck.  What a sad state of affairs we’ve gotten ourselves into.

We need a change.  I have been sitting here mulling over the sheer enormity of the bland mass marketing of every single thing.  I guess people will have to want it to change in order for it to happen.  The number of various levels on which change would have to happen to actually succeed is staggering.  As such, it’s easy to see why anyone would look at that magnitude, feel powerless, and so do nothing.  But that doesn’t work.  Each person has to change what they can if they want things to be different.  If each one of us does that, anything is possible.