By Staff Writer
The rich and famous, Third World dictators, Western politicians and businessmen who have a vast amount of cash hidden in secret offshore accounts in Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and Singapore, are spending a sleepless weekend after a consortium of international investigative journalists got on to their game and exposed how they do their business and where their secret trove is being hidden.
From influential American politicians, East European mafia groups and Asian political power houses, to lowly South African businessmen running business errands for leading Zimbabwean politicians, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). “There will be people all over the world today who are now scared witless,” Richard Murphy, research director for Tax Justice Network, a British-based organization that has long campaigned to end the secrecy that surrounds assets held in offshore havens, said.
The secret files lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways. They 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 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 fuelling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.
The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories. The hoard of documents represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010.