Hundreds of journalists have begun publishing articles based on a massive document leak from companies that administer offshore accounts.
The files, dubbed the Paradise Papers, reveal a vast financial network—beyond the reach of most governments—maintained by the world’s wealthiest people. They include commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, Queen Elizabeth of the UK, and a close advisor to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. More big names are expected later this week.
Here is our guide to the major revelations thus far.
What are the Paradise Papers?
The 13.4 million documents come from Appleby, a law firm based in Bermuda that specializes in offshore accounts, and its spin-off company Estera. They were leaked to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which shared the files with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and news organizations around the world. The source of the Paradise Papers has not been revealed.
Appleby, the law firm at the center of the documents, bills itself as “one of the world’s largest providers of offshore legal services.” Offshore accounts aren’t usually illegal unto themselves, but they can be used to hide money from governments that would levy taxes on them.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ won a Pulitzer prize this year for their work on the Panama Papers, another stash of offshore files.
Kremlin connections to investments in Facebook and Twitter
Companies controlled by the Russian government quietly invested in several major Silicon Valley startups, including Facebook and Twitter, the Paradise Papers reveal.
The investments were funnelled through DST Global, the venture capital firm owned by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. VTB Bank, which is owned by Russia, put $191 million toward Milner’s 5% stake in Twitter in 2013. Gazprom, also controlled by the Kremlin, partnered with an offshore company to finance his 8% stake in Facebook in 2012. Milner has since sold those holdings.
Milner told the New York Times the investments by Russian state-owned companies were purely “a commercial arrangement” and had no political connections. “It was a different time,” he told ICIJ. “It never even occurred to me back then that VTB Bank was not just another investor for us.” But the deals are likely to be seen in a different light after the Russian government used accounts on Facebook and Twitter to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
Wilbur Ross’s business ties to Putin’s inner circle
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross maintains a stake in a shipping company that is closely linked to the family of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
According to the Paradise Papers, Ross owns between $2 million and $10 million in shipping company Navigator. The second-biggest client of Navigator is Russian gas company Sibur. Kirill Shamalov, who is Putin’s son-in-law, has been deputy chairman of Sibur’s board and until April owned more than a fifth of the company. (He has since reduced his ownership share.)
Gennady Timchenko, a close friend of Putin, is also a part-owner of Sibur. Timchenko has been banned from entering the US since 2014. Sibur’s main shareholder is Leonid Mikhelson, reportedly Russia’s richest man and CEO of gas company Novatek, which has twice been sanctioned by the US government.
Read the full article at: qz.com