By the News Staff of Georgia Weekly Post.
The Paradise Papers released over the weekend offers a trove of data on the offshore financial activity of some of the world's richest individuals and companies, raising a host of questions about investment ties and tax avoidance.
The documents are also prompting fresh attacks on the House tax reform proposal, with critics saying that new loopholes that would be created under the bill would encourage more corporations to shift their profits outside the U.S. Several people within the Trump administration have offshore ties -- such as investments in companies and funds set up in tax havens -- including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, according to a review of the documents from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The documents follow up on the disclosures revealed last year in the Panama Papers, a leak that linked politicians, actors and billionaires to a web of offshore holdings. While offshore accounts aren't in themselves illegal, they can help big corporations and the rich hide assets and avoid taxes, an issue that's increasingly in the spotlight amid widening income inequality.
The Paradise Papers represent corporate records spanning decades from a global offshore law firm
called Appleby and corporate services provider Estera, which split from Appleby in 2016. More than a century old, Appleby helps its clients by setting up offshore entities such as shell companies and trusts, according to the ICIJ.
In a statement, Appleby said its firm hasn't done anything illegal.
"There is no wrongdoing. It is a patchwork quilt of unrelated allegations with a clear political agenda and movement against offshore," the company said. It added that the leak was "a serious criminal act" and it is investigating an illegal computer hack.
American individuals and corporations represent the largest share of addresses in Appleby's records, according to the ICIJ. Its clients also come from the U.K., China and Canada.
Most notably outside the U.S., Queen Elizabeth II was linked to offshore investments in medical and consumer loan companies, as well as the rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse, which has been criticized as preying on low-income customers. U2 singer Bono was also linked to an offshore account, with The Guardian reporting he had used a Malta-based company to invest in a shopping center.
Corporations including Apple, Nike and global mining giant Glencore appear in the leaked papers, the ICIJ said. Apple asked Appleby whether moving an Irish subsidiary to an offshore tax haven would allow it to conduct business "without being subject to taxation in those jurisdictions."
Nike, for its part, created an offshore shell company to hold its "Swoosh" logo, the ICIJ said. Commodities trader
Glencore, meanwhile, had its own room at Appleby's Bermuda office and used offshore havens to conduct business.
Below are some of the notable figures named by the ICIJ as having offshore ties:
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker
Gen. Wesley Clark
Former Canada Prime Minister Paul Martin
Former Canada Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
Former Canada Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Queen Elizabeth II, Bono, Robert Mercer, CEO of Renaissance Technologies.