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Offshore Leaks


A huge database with information about offshore companies was exposed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Most likely, the gift is partially the deed of anonymous hackers: a publication in the Guardian notes that over “two million messages and other documents have been intercepted.” Deutsche Welle cites the incredible number of 120 000 companies which made the scandalous list. Over 140,000 people from 170 countries appear with their names. The documents cover a period of 30 years, and the volume of information is many times larger than the releases of Wikileaks so far.

The words ‘onshore’ and ‘offshore’ refer to the jurisdiction to which the capital owners are subject – of the country in which they reside or outside of it. Most attractive in this case are territories with low taxes and easy to breach financial regulations. Panama, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands are on the “grey list” of the OECD. Tax evasion however seems to be the most innocent sin of offshore zones. They are notorious as money laundering havens, for drug dealers and arms dealers or for politicians not immune to corruption.

Offshore Leaks is a large-scale 15-month project, implemented by a consortium including the BBC, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Le Monde, Sonntagszeitung, Suddeutsche Zeitung and NDR. One can assume that hacking was the vital instrument to make this happen, but the media apparently also enjoyed the silent support of the German government, too. It was the German tax revenue services which did not hesitate to pay hackers to receive information about the bank accounts of German citizens in the British Coutts bank, based in Zurich.

If this information is not swiftly swept under the rug, it promises a long series of secondary tidal waves. The preliminary estimates of the money hidden in offshore zones vary between 21 and 32 trillion dollars. Some of the first names announced include, for example, Jean-Jacques Oger, the treasurer of Hollande’s presidential campaign, Olga Shuvalova, the wife of the Russian Vice Prime-minister, and others. The Bulgarian public also has a chance to see who owns much of the national capital offshore.

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