Over 13 million files have been leaked detailing the lengths to which the wealthiest people in the world will go to ensure their money isn’t taxed by any government.
The Paradise Papers, as they have come to be called, were leaked by the same people who leaked the Panama Papers. The Paradise Papers reveal the elaborate, intricate schemes the world’s wealthiest concoct to find tax loopholes to make sure they stay the world’s wealthiest.
Many of the world’s wealthiest individuals use these tax loopholes to protect their money from taxation—among those named by the Paradise Papers are members of Donald Trump’s cabinet, British royalty, international corporations like Nike and Apple, and even investors in Twitter and Facebook. Also, Bono.
Perhaps the most interesting relevation thus far is that hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in Twitter and Facebook from Russian institutions with close ties to Vladimir Putin himself. These institutions used offshore accounts to mask their involvement, so that the social networks likely did not know the money was coming from Russia. One man, Yuri Milner, was directly involved in these investments. His family also donated nearly a million dollars to a tech startup co-founded by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s advisor and son-in-law.
Hundreds of journalists have been going through the files in the Paradise Papers, which largely do not contain any evidence of illegal activity. But they certainly do demonstrate some hypocrisy by politicians: The United States and the United Kingdom are two countries with politicians that frequently promise to crack down on offshore tax loopholes, Donald Trump and Theresa May included. How interesting, then, to see members of Trump’s cabinet and the British aristocracy using these accounts.
At the center of it all is a law firm called Appleby, which maintains offices in several offshore locations. Appleby appears to specialize in making sure the wealthy stay wealthy, and it prides itself on providing the structure that hides billions of dollars from taxation. The firm has stated that it sees no evidence of any illegal wrongdoing on their part.
These revelations come at a time when global inequality is on the rise, as the obscenely wealthy grow more and more obscene. The Guardian quotes Gabriel Zucman: “Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”
There will likely be more stories to emerge from the Paradise Papers. Keep an eye out. In the meantime, The Guardian has a more complete list of the Papers’ revelations here.