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Ear to the Ground

Exposed: A Global Offshore Money Matrix of Up to $32 Trillion

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Posted on Apr 4, 2013
© Ahmed Amir (CC BY 2.0)

A cache of 2.5 million secret files offers the chance to peek behind the curtain of the world’s offshore money market, detailing the involvement of more than 120,000 companies and trusts doing business with politicians, con men and scores of the mega-rich.

The records, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, “include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program,” the Center for Public Integrity reports.

The covert handling of huge amounts of money away from public accountability has fueled the global austerity crisis by shifting tax burdens onto average citizens to make up for revenues that vanish at home.

“The leaked files provide facts and figures—cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals—that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike,” the center repots. “The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.”

The disclosure represents the biggest pile of insider information about the offshore system yet obtained by the media. Measured in gigabytes, the stash is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department cables by WikiLeaks in 2010.

A study by James S. Henry, a former chief economist of the international trust McKinsey & Company, estimates that the ultra-rich have $21 trillion to $32 trillion in private financial wealth hidden in offshore havens. That amount is roughly the size of the U.S. and Japanese economies combined.

The cache should prove an invaluable resource for reporters pursuing money trails connected to financial crimes. Let’s hope there are enough interested journalists, editors and publishers available to make use of it.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Center for Public Integrity via The Huffington Post:

Among nearly 4,000 American names is Denise Rich, a Grammy-nominated songwriter whose ex-husband was at the center of an American pardon scandal that erupted as President Bill Clinton left office.

A Congressional investigation found that Rich, who raised millions of dollars for Democratic politicians, played a key role in the campaign that persuaded Clinton to pardon her ex-spouse, Marc Rich, an oil trader who had been wanted in the U.S. on tax evasion and racketeering charges.

… Another prominent American in the files who gave up his citizenship is a member of the Mellon dynasty, which started landmark companies such as Gulf Oil and Mellon Bank. James R. Mellon – an author of books about Abraham Lincoln and his family’s founding patriarch, Thomas Mellon – used four companies in the BVI and Lichtenstein to trade securities and transfer tens of millions of dollars among offshore bank accounts he controlled.

Like many offshore players, Mellon appears to have taken steps to distance himself from his offshore interests, the documents show. He often used third parties’ names as directors and shareholders of his companies rather than his own, a legal tool that owners of offshore entities often use to preserve anonymity.

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