from a trove of 2.5 million secret files, a group of international
journalists has exposed hidden dealings of politicians, con
artists and the mega-rich in more than 170 countries, including
Described as perhaps the largest cross-border journalism
collaboration in history, the International Consortium of
Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) claimed to have laid bare the
secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts and
nearly 130,000 individuals and agents.
Washington based ICIJ Wednesday said it worked with 86
investigative journalists from 46 countries, including India, to
produce "Secrecy For Sale: Inside The Global Offshore Money Maze",
the largest investigative reporting project in its 15-year
The report provides what ICIJ called "a transparent look into the
secret world of tax havens and the individuals and companies that
use and benefit from them."
However neither the ICIJ nor the Centre for Public Integrity, a
Washington DC-based non-profit that launched the project in 1997,
gave little details relating to specific countries barring a few.
The files identify the individuals behind the covert companies and
private trusts based in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook
Islands, Singapore and other offshore havens.
They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek
villagers as well as Russia corporate executives, Eastern European
and Indonesian billionaires, Wall Street fraudsters, international
arms dealers and families and associates of long-time dictators,
Among the key findings:
Government officials and their families and associates in
Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand,
Mongolia and other countries have embraced the use of covert
companies and bank accounts.
The mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions,
yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages
and anonymity not available to average people.
Many of the world's top's 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.
A well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other
operatives has helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and
business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money
laundering or other misconduct.
Ponzi schemers and other large-scale fraudsters routinely use
offshore havens to pull off their shell games and move their
ICIJ said the files illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has
spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy to
avoid taxes, fuelling corruption and economic woes in rich and
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)