In what seems like a page taken directly from the Edward Snowden playbook, over 260 gigabytes of financial data has been leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; 30 years of data from 10 offshore havens. The list of who’s who involved reads like an international thriller, involving Ponzi schemers, organized crime figureheads, arms dealers and money launderers just to name a few.
It was even discovered that so-called communist China, whose officials are supposed to enjoy only a modest increase in the quality of life over that of their subjects, has an elite wealthy class. The knowledge of such private wealth existing is likely to anger the ordinary Chinese population. To find out that relatives of their leaders are part of this elite class is likely to incense them.
The actual data leaked is fascinating in itself. Over 120,000 entities including shell corporations and legal trust. Emails and other correspondence outlining transactions involving people in over 170 countries. Data on legitimate activities as well as illegitimate are contained within the files. As long as an offshore entity is being used to launder money or hide wealth from taxation, it is not a crime to own them.
The ICIJ had months of work untangling the mess that has been said to be nearly twice the amount of data contained in the US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks in 2010. On the not-so-legal side of things the common practice is have agents incorporate companies in the Caribbean and South Pacific for wealthy clients, then hide their ownership by appointing front people to pose as shareholders and directors. The “nominees” become the face of the corporations and no one’s the wiser.
The Cook Islands, Switzerland, British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands all have laws preventing access by governments, creditors, and the like to the wealth stashed there—whether legal or otherwise. The Cook Islands, of particular note, contains trusts that are completely untouchable by the U.S. government as well as the identities of the owners. That is, until the massive leak containing nearly 3 million documents came to light.
Corporate data was not the only thing in the files, but also personal emails that had nothing to do with business, likepersonal communiques and even YouTube links. It would seem the upper echelon does what passes for normal stuff just as much as regular folk. There was even an email to a mom from a daughter who was out drinking with no intention of actually getting drunk but did anyway.
So, exactly who leaked these secret files and why? The ICIJ isn’t saying, if they even know. There are plenty of people with legal and illegal reaches who are not happy that this information is no longer hidden. The resultant shakeup from the release of those documents will reverberate from the highest levels of governments to the highest levels of other organizations and the top wealthiest of global citizens. Canada alone, where the secret financial data was leaked, has hundreds of wealthy Canadian names in them.
Editorial by Lee Birdine