‘Paradise Papers’ Show How Wealthy Stash Riches, Dodge Taxes

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Above Photo: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, one of the figures “the Paradise Papers” focuses on, speaking with President Trump in the Oval Office in October. (Evan Vucci / AP)

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A trove of recently leaked files pertaining to offshore finance, dubbed “the Paradise Papers,” offers insight into how the wealthiest corporations and individuals protect their riches. The documents also show financial ties to Russia of a member of President Trump’s Cabinet.

The 13.4 million files were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and subsequently shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has been investigating offshore finance for several years.

According to a New York Times report, Appleby, an offshore firm at the center of the documents, said it has “thoroughly and vigorously investigated the allegations and we are satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients.”

The ICIJ said Sunday in a post announcing the release of the papers that they “reveal offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders.” The papers include data on U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, major donors to the Trump campaign and a business associate of the president’s son-in law, Jared Kushner. The papers also reveal financial activity and investments by Queen Elizabeth II, Bono, Apple, Nike and Facebook. The New York Times lists other notable revelations from the documents:

Behind one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors, Yuri Milner, was hundreds of millions of dollars in Kremlin funding. The documents show that Mr. Milner’s investment in Twitter relied on money from VTB, [a] bank controlled by the Russian state. One of his most significant investors in Facebook relied on funding from Gazprom Investholding, another government-controlled institution. Mr. Milner is also an investor in Cadre, a New York-based real estate technology company founded by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and White [House] adviser.

Apple has come under scrutiny by Congress for shifting much of its earnings to Irish subsidiaries, avoiding income taxes. Documents from the leak show that after its chief executive, Tim Cook, said that the company didn’t just “stash money on a Caribbean island,” it found a new tax haven—an island in the English Channel. The use of complex offshore structures have helped keep much of Apple’s more than $128 billion in profit abroad free from taxation. …

Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, invested in a shipping company whose top clients include a Russian firm controlled by an oligarch facing sanctions and President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law. The ethics agreement Mr. Ross filed when taking office said he intended to retain several investment partnerships, but did not specify that they were used to hold his stake in the shipper, Navigator Holdings.

The revelations about Ross prompted Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, to call for an investigation into the investments. The New York Times reports that “much” of Ross’ wealth is tied up in secretive offshore dealings.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in a statement to The Guardian, said that the papers demonstrate that the world has turned into an “international oligarchy” controlled by a minute number of billionaires. “The major issue of our time is the rapid movement toward international oligarchy, in which a handful of billionaires own and control a significant part of the global economy,” he said. “The Paradise Papers shows how these billionaires and multinational corporations get richer by hiding their wealth and profits and avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

The Guardian continues:

Sanders … pointed the finger of blame for the flourishing of offshore holdings on both Congress and the Trump administration. He told the Guardian that Republicans in Congress were responsible for providing “even more tax breaks to profitable corporations like Apple and Nike”.

The same tax breaks, he said, were being seized upon by super-wealthy members of Trump’s cabinet “who avoid billions in US taxes by shifting American jobs and profits to offshore tax havens. We need to close these loopholes and demand a fair and progressive tax system”.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Finance Committee member Ron Wyden also spoke about the significance of the papers’ revelations and blamed the Republican Congress for failing to close loopholes revealed by the leaks:

As a result Republicans were rewarding, the duo said, “wealthy billionaires like secretary Wilbur Ross for dodging taxes, while punishing many in the middle class with new tax hikes. If you deduct medical expenses or student loan interest from your taxable income, the Republican plan comes after your wallet. But if you stash your billions in secret bank accounts overseas, their plan gives you the green light to keep doing what you’ve been doing.”

They added that the Paradise Papers were “proof positive that the Republican tax plan favors the wealthy and betrays the middle class in this country, who are the ones left carrying the financial burden of massive corporate tax avoidance”.

The Paradise Papers release has been compared with the Panama Papers, which, in 2016, exposed celebrities and business executives who moved large amounts of money into offshore accounts. Setting up offshore companies is generally legal, and to do so is often attractive to corporations handling mergers and acquisitions.

 

  • Jed Grover

    Why is Bernie Sanders one of the few that ever challenges these atrocious injustices? Where did all of the public servants go? We continue to fund a corporate system that seems to have the sovereignty. Democracy for Corporations and MAFIA Socialism for the wealthy at other’s expense. Inverted Totalitarianism describes it best. Extorted tax dollars and with the recent lawsuit in Ohio against Energy Transfer Partners self compliance or self regulation seems to be a right wing “Capitalist” myth.

    Regarding this new revelation in the Paradise & Panama Papers there’s a the nifty new company called Braeburn Capital out in Casino haven ……. Reno Nevada …… which may be the “World’s Favorite New Tax Haven.” Switzerland …. we’re putting you out of business … “Rothschild style.”

    There should be a limit in wealth accumulation. Limitless capitalism should not be legal.

  • AlanMacDonald

    Two Words —- “Wealth Reform”!

    But going after the asset-class of Wealth/Capital, akin to “Land Reform”, but breaking-up expropriated, often looted, hoarded, monopolized, and taken-out-of productive use — of the asset-class of Land and Wealth.

    “Land Reform” was very effectively employed in 18th & 19th century Europe and 19th/20th century South America, to break-up, free-up, and re-balance the asset class of massively hoarded Land.

    “Wealth/capital Reform” is the only fast-working solution in 21st century America (and globally) to break-up, free-up, and re-balance the asset-class of massively hoarded Wealth — which is provably, in the “Paradise Papers” being massively hoarded by the world’s 26,000 UHNWIs [Ultra High Net Worth Individuals] and stateless corporations.

    “Wealth Reform” is the only fast solution to a Disguised Global Capitalist EMPIRE that is serving the 26K 0.1% and smothering the world’s 6.5 Billion 99.9%

    And as Professor Robinson says about Empire in his fabulously revealing book:

    “The U.S. state is a key point of condensation for pressures from
    dominant groups around the world to resolve problems of global
    capitalism and to secure the legitimacy of the system overall. In this
    regard, “U.S.” imperialism refers to the use by transnational elites of
    the U.S. state apparatus to continue to attempt to expand, defend,
    and stabilize the global capitalist system.

    We are witness less to a “U.S.” imperialism per se than to a global
    capitalist imperialism. We face an EMPIRE OF GLOBAL CAPITAL,
    headquartered, for evident historical reasons, in Washington.”

    Robinson,William I. (2014-07-31). Global Capitalism and the Crisis of
    Humanity (p. 122). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

    [When Robinson writes, “make use of the U.S. state apparatus”, this means, “make use of the U.S. state apparatus (of; financial networks, laws, technology, and military) to continue to defend this EMPIRE of the elite.

  • DHFabian

    Yes, this has been quite an issue of public concern for decades. It comes up every now and then, and nothing changes.

    My issue of concern is in the line: “The documents also show financial ties to Russia of a member of President Trump’s Cabinet.” What was the intent of specifying Republicans and Russia? Obviously, solely to play into the anti-Russian ideology of current Democrats, and it’s an issue that demands clarification. The point should have included the Clintons’ “Russian ties,” and from there, go on to list the full range of countries with which politicians and corporations have “ties.”

    I would like the use this opportunity to clarifying some facts. US pols and businesses have had diplomatic and business ties with Russia for many years, especially since Nixon’s detente policies of the 1970s. Except for the dangerous and irrational Cold War era, Russia and the US have been allies. They fought together in both world wars, etc. The Cold War is over, the Soviet state is a thing of the past.

    When the Soviet state collapsed, so did the Russian economy. In the years since, Russia has been focused on rebuilding their social and economic structures. The US has not been at the center of their (or the world’s) attention. It’s time for Democrats and media to set aside their efforts to ignite a new Cold War.

  • DHFabian

    The catch: They are in power. We aren’t. The corporate state clearly owns and controls government — those we elect to office. We’ve made ourselves 100% dependent on the corporate state — the source of our jobs. Let’s be realistic: How many here could afford to risk losing their jobs by “rising up,” knowing there’s nothing to fall back on?

  • DHFabian

    The American people chose feudalism years ago. We have the ruling class (govt. and corporate powers), the bourgeoisie (middle class), and the serfs today (low wage workers, and those who are far worse off). The serfs are as dispensable today as they were back in the Middle Ages.

  • Jon

    Visualize the time when these billions can be liberated from their imprisonment in banks and used for the benefit of humanity! Think big!

  • Jon

    Exactly the point I keep making! Thank you! …”modernized version of “neofeudal” system in which the corporations have replaced the ancient feudal class.” And abandon the euphemism “neoliberal” in the process.

  • AlanMacDonald

    DHF, your short reply to distract attention (and any thoughtful analysis) from my comment only contains 3 trolling ‘red herrings:

    1. It’s not anything so bland, incorrect, dismissive, and unthreatening as a “corporate state” — it’s an EMPIRE, which is what I called it (and which you tried, unsuccessfully, to distract and divide from the only accurate description as EMPIRE).

    2. You downplay and lie by saying “We’ve made ourselves 100% dependent on the corporate state” — which combines the lying of the misnaming of EMPIRE, with the lie of total dependence on corporate ‘pay checks’, which is certainly not accurate for many of ‘we the American people’.

    3. You lie again by trying to deflate the ‘Resistance’, organizing, people’s movements (like “Occupy”, BLM, and hundreds of other anti-EMPIRE, anti-war, pro-democracy, and other multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-class, and America-wide Revolutionary popular progressive loud, public, continuing, ‘in the streets’ national movements, demonstrations, and peaceful protests — which are all GAINING knowledge, strength, and frequency, and which are getting so close to firing a; non-violent “Shout (not shot) heard round the world” to effectively ignite an essential Second American people’s patriotic peaceful “Political/economic and social Revolution Against EMPIRE” — that the EMPIRE is very very nervous and using thousands of troll-bots to try to ‘divide and conquer’ the fast growing mass of American people who are understanding, acting, and will overcome this EMPIRE.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity, DHF, to explain more clearly, completely, and effectively the extent of your your attempts to ‘divide’, ‘distract’, and keep covered-up the cancer of EMPIRE, which has ‘captured’, controls, and almost completely “Occupies” our former country as the EMPIRE’s nominal global HQ, by merely ‘posing’ as America.

  • AlanMacDonald

    “WEALTH REFORM Against This EMPIRE”

  • AlanMacDonald

    DHF, you are employing your specialty AGAIN:

    DECEPTION, DISTRACTION AND DIVISION AGAIN!!