175,000 com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in the Ba­hamas named in new ICIJ off­shore leak

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

New rev­e­la­tions pub­lished by In­ter­na­tional Con­sor­tium of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists, the Ger­man news­pa­per Süd­deutsche Zeitung and news or­ga­ni­za­tions from Europe, South Amer­ica, Asia and Africa re­veal fresh in­for­ma­tion about off­shore com­pa­nies in the Ba­hamas.

The leaked Ba­hamian files re­veal de­tails of the off­shore ac­tiv­i­ties of prime min­is­ters, min­is­ters, princes and con­victed felons.

Along­side de­tailed re­port­ing, ICIJ is mak­ing de­tails from the Ba­hamas cor­po­rate reg­istry avail­able to the pub­lic. This cre­ates, for the first time, a free, on­line and pub­licly-search­able database of off­shore com­pa­nies set up in the is­land na­tion that has some­times been called “The Switzer­land of the West.”

Among those named in the new leak is for­mer EU com­pe­ti­tion com­mis­sioner Neelie Kroes who, as the EU’s cor­po­rate en­forcer, told big cor­po­ra­tions they could not “run away from the EU’s rules.”

The newly leaked doc­u­ments show that Ms Kroes was listed as a di­rec­tor of an off­shore com­pany in the Ba­hamas from 2000 to 2009. The for­mer EU com­mis­sioner never dis­closed this in­for­ma­tion. EU rules state that com­mis­sion­ers must de­clare all their eco­nomic in­ter­ests in the pre­vi­ous 10 years.

For­mer Colom­bian en­ergy min­is­ter Car­los Ca­ballero Argáez is also named in the files, with his name ap­pear­ing as pres­i­dent and sec­re­tary of one Ba­hamian com­pany be­tween 1997 and 2008, and di­rec­tor of an­other be­tween 1990 and 2015.

Ba­hamian com­pa­nies, trusts and bank ac­counts have ap­peared in nu­mer­ous cases in­volv­ing the seizure of dic­ta­tors’ and politi­cians’ money. The son of for­mer Chilean dic­ta­tor Au­gusto Pinochet used a Ba­hamian com­pany, Mer­i­tor In­vest­ments Lim­ited, to move $1.3 mil­lion to his fa­ther. Pinochet’s son, Marco An­to­nio, dis­missed the al­le­ga­tions as “lies” and de­clared no wrong­do­ing through the Ba­hamas. Pinochet him­self owned an­other Ba­hamian com­pany, Ash­bur­ton Com­pany Lim­ited, set up in 1996.

Abba Abacha, the son of for­mer Nige­rian pres­i­dent, Sani Abacha, had $350 mil­lion frozen in Lux­em­bourg and the Ba­hamas as part of a global as­set hunt into the es­ti­mated $3 bil­lion stripped from Nige­ria dur­ing his fa­ther’s five-year rule.

Un­like the Panama Pa­pers, 11.5 mil­lion of­ten-de­tailed emails, con­tracts, au­dio record­ings and other doc­u­ments from one law firm, the in­for­ma­tion listed in the new Ba­hamian doc­u­ments is plainer — if still fun­da­men­tal — in con­tent. The new data does not make it clear, for ex­am­ple, whether di­rec­tors named in con­nec­tion with a Ba­hamian firm truly con­trol the com­pany or act as nom­i­nees, em­ploy­ees-for-hire who serve as the face of the com­pany but have no in­volve­ment in its op­er­a­tions.

When paired with the Panama Pa­pers, the Ba­hamas data pro­vide fresh in­sights into the off­shore deal­ings of politi­cians, crim­i­nals and ex­ec­u­tives as well as the bankers and lawyers who help move money.

The new leaked doc­u­ments in­clude the names of 539 reg­is­tered agents— cor­po­rate mid­dle­men who serve as in­ter­me­di­aries be­tween Ba­hamian author­i­ties and cus­tomers who wish to cre­ate an off­shore com­pany.

Among them is Mos­sack Fon­seca, the law firm whose leaked files formed the ba­sis of the Panama Pa­pers. The firm set up 15,915 en­ti­ties in the Ba­hamas, mak­ing it Mos­sack Fon­seca’s third busiest ju­ris­dic­tion. At one point, Ba­hamian com­pa­nies were among Mos­sack Fon­seca’s best­sellers.

The Panama Pa­pers show how Mos­sack Fon­seca helped clients use Ba­hamian se­crecy to keep their name out of pub­lic fil­ings and how the law firm un­der­mined the global push to­wards tax trans­parency.

Be­yond Mos­sack Fon­seca and the Panama Pa­pers, the leaked Ba­hamian files re­veal de­tails of the off­shore ac­tiv­i­ties of prime min­is­ters, cab­i­net min­is­ters, princes and con­victed felons. It is gen­er­ally not il­le­gal to own or di­rect an off­shore com­pany, and there are le­git­i­mate busi­ness rea­sons in many cases for set­ting up an off­shore struc­ture. But trans­parency ex­perts say it’s im­por­tant that pub­lic of­fi­cials dis­close their con­nec­tions to off­shore en­ti­ties.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent is a me­dia part­ner of the ICIJ.

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