Panama Papers: How Singapore is Involved
ROY NGERNG 鄞义林
The Heart Truths
I searched through the news to find out how Singapore is involved in the Panama Papers. Below are excerpts from the news articles. Unfortunately, none of the newspapers in Singapore are part of the global consortium of news organisations and journalists who have been investigating the leaks, and the mainstream media in Singapore is largely controlled and unlikely to report on the news. We have to rely on external sources to find out more. (“Singapore” is highlighted in bold font in this article.)
Note: Please note that none of the articles are written by me – all articles are credited to their sources and writers, where the names are available. Please click into each of the header links to read more from the news sites.
“Panama, Bahamas, USA, Anguilla, U.K. Iceland, Seychelles, Syria, Costa Rica, Belize, Hong Kong, Samoa, Niue, Singapore, New Zealand, Uruguay, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Malta, Cyprus, and Switzerland are only some of the countries mentioned in the biggest database breach ever, opening up the flood gates to bust heads of states and other high-level officials from some of these countries of running the world’s largest criminal enterprise. Revealed today were the Panama Papers: With 11.5 million emails, documents, contracts, invoices and bank statements, it is the biggest data breach ever.
It reveals global capital transfers and secret deals of condemning criminals and persons who prosecutors accused of serious crimes – including war crimes, drug trafficking, sanctions fracture, the trafficking of children.
The Panama papers also show how heads of state as well as authoritarian rulers and their families build and use secret asset structures without anyone this seriously controlling it.”
Written by: Tommaso Faccio
“The Panama Papers leak sheds some light on the intricate ways in which the wealthy can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. As well as charging minimal or no tax to residents and non-residents, the main characteristics of tax havens are their lack of transparency and effective information exchange.
As the leaked files of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca show, these havens are used by individuals and companies to stash their cash, away from the prying eyes of civilians or investigators. This is not necessarily because their money has been obtained illegally. In the case of public figures such as politicians, for example, they may want to keep the size of their wealth a secret or hide from their electorates that they or their relatives are legally minimising their tax. To do so, they hide their identity using a number of complex legal mechanisms.
Whether it is a wealthy entrepreneur or a drug trafficker, the tricks used to make their affairs hard to trace are pretty similar. It all starts by incorporating a “shell company” (or a “letterbox company”) in an offshore tax jurisdiction, using the services of a law firm such as Mossack Fonseca. These companies have the outward appearance of being a legitimate business but in reality are just empty shells. They manage the money they receive and hide who owns it. The management is made up of lawyers and accountants, whose only role is to sign documents and allow their names to appear on the company’s letterhead.
The money is received by this shell company from people who wish to hide these funds from tax authorities and the wider public. Very few questions are asked about the source of this money, which can then be used by the shell company to carry out legal activities such as investing in real estate — or illegal activities such as bribing a government official.
It is not illegal to have dealings with a tax haven — and in fact there can be very legitimate reasons to conduct business there, such as investing in a hedge or mutual fund. And tax havens are often used by business people in unstable countries where they are at risk of “raids” by criminals or their governments.
In spite of this, the lack of transparency and lack of information exchange can also be used for illicit purposes, including money laundering, bribery, corruption, tax fraud and other illegal activities. Because the beneficial owners of a company are kept secret, the proceeds of crime can be hidden or used for nefarious purposes without any authorities being able to trace it. If law enforcement and other competent authorities had access to beneficial ownership information, they could “follow the money” in financial investigations involving suspect accounts or assets held by corporate vehicles.
Panama is far from alone in this business. According to the 2015 Financial Secrecy Index for 2015 compiled by the Tax Justice Network, Switzerland, Hong Kong, the US, Singapore and the Cayman Islands are the top five jurisdictions for secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities.”
Written by: Drew Schwartz
“Offshore companies aren’t illegal – not inherently, anyway. But using them to hide assets from tax authorities, thwart investigations and and protect criminals is.
Here’s how this whole mess of a situation works:
An individual, often through a middle-man they’re close to, pays Mossack Fonseca to create a “shell company” – a business on paper, but in reality, a storehouse for a shit-ton of money, whether in cold hard cash or tied up in shares. Mossack Fonseca sets up the shell company offshore in a place like Panama (where the firm is based), the British Virgin Islands, or any other “tax haven” – a place where the true owner of a company can be anonymous and their home country (which, typically, doesn’t know about the company in the first place) can’t tax it.
Say a politician makes £100,000 pounds per year on salary, and for some reason – bribes, business deals, all manner of shady shit – also makes upwards of £1 million in some other way. If they put that money in an offshore shell company, they can access it without being taxed for it. Even if the shell company is discovered, it can’t be tied directly to the politician because the company is technically owned by someone else – a stand-in owner who’s appointed by Mossack Fonseca to run the company on paper, but, in reality, doesn’t own anything. To move the money, the company pretends to make business deals: the Panama Papers reveal thousands of fake share trades, million-dollar payments for “consultancy” and huge payouts in “compensation” for cancelled transactions.
“This is not business,” money-laundering expert Andrew Mitchell QC told BBC Panorama. “This is creating the appearance of business in order to continually move and hide assets.”
“The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes and among the tax havens identified are Hong Kong and Singapore in Asia, while the rest are mainly in the Caribbean vicinity.”
Singapore has 48 clients, 135 beneficiaries, 2,275 shareholders and 4,081 companies – one of the highest in the world.
Written by: Pat Sweet
“For the countries with the most active intermediaries, Hong Kong tops the list, with 37,675 intermediaries, followed by Switzerland 34,301 intermediaries); UK (32,682 intermediaries); Luxembourg (15,479 intermediaries); Panama (8,624 intermediaries); Cyprus (7,157); (Uruguay (5,174 intermediaries); Isle of Man (5,058 intermediaries); Singapore (4,050) and Russia (3,541).
ICIJ says more than 500 banks, their subsidiaries and their branches – including HSBC, UBS and Société Générale – created around 15,600 offshore companies for their customers through Mossack Fonseca.
Most of the offshore companies were active for only a short period. The number of active companies managed by Mossack Fonseca peaked in 2009, with almost 82,000, and have since been in decline. A total of 21 offshore jurisdictions were involved, including Nevada, Bahamas, British Anguilla, and Singapore.
The data includes emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records revealing the secret owners of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions, from Nevada to Singapore to the British Virgin Islands.”
Hong Kong tops for secretive offshore financial services, according to leaked docs (Hong Kong Free Press)
Written by: Tom Grundy
“According to the Tax Justice Network, Hong Kong is second only to Switzerland in its 2015 Financial Secrecy Index*. The ranking compares national jurisdictions based on their secrecy laws and the scale of offshore financial activities in the country. The United States, Singapore and the Cayman Islands were also amongst the “worst offenders” in the top five.”
*See below Financial Secrecy Index
Written by: Lucy Clarke-Billings
This former British colony vies with Hong Kong to be Asia’s leading offshore financial center.
According to the Boston Consulting Group in 2015, Singapore held around one eighth of the global stock of total offshore wealth, and an IMF report in 2014 estimated that over 95 percent of all commercial banks in Singapore are affiliates of foreign banks, a testament to its extreme dependence on foreign—and offshore—money.
It hosts substantial activity in insurance, in debt and equity capital markets, in derivatives, and in offshore companies and trusts. It is a major wealth management center, with $1.4 trillion in assets under management in 2013.
As a country, it poses many of the same threats that Hong Kong does—a lack of serious reforms to its corporate secrecy regime and a lack of interest in creating public registries of beneficial ownership.”
Written by: Danny Vinik
“Tax evasion overall is a far larger problem in developing countries, where norms around paying taxes are weak and rules designed to stop such evasion are ineffective. And when wealthy Americans do want to evade taxes, they turn to Bermuda, or the Cayman Islands, or Singapore. They don’t park their money in Panama.
“If there was a leak from Singapore, as opposed to Panama, which is what we have so far, we might find more [evasion],” said Reuven Avi-Yonah, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has testified before Congress about tax evasion.””
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Written by: Shane Wright
“It has been revealed Australian companies funnelled almost $110 billion in and out of low-tax Singapore in one year as tax authorities globally ramp up focus on the world’s richest.
As the Australian Taxation Office confirmed it was looking at the financial affairs of 800 Australians, data shows Singapore is by far more important for local firms than major trading partners such as the US and Japan.
Tax-office data also shows how keen Australian firms have become to move money through Singapore, where the corporate tax rate can be as low as 2 per cent.
In 2013-14, Australian firms declared revenues in Singapore through “international related-party dealings” of $51.2 billion, a 13 per cent rise on the year before.
Firms declared expenditures with related firms in Singapore of $57.8 billion. The money-flows through Singapore dwarf other countries, including the US ($16.4 billion in revenues), Britain ($17 billion) and Japan ($12.3 billion).”
Panama Papers: Fraudsters, former tax officials among Australians identified in Mossack Fonseca leak (ABC)
Written by: the National Reporting Team’s Lisa Main and Elise Worthington
Photo credit: ABC
“Former Queensland-based Lifestyle trader chief executive Murray Priestley relocated to Singapore after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) found he engaged in “deceptive conduct” and offered clients “misleading advice”.
In June 2013, ASIC banned Mr Priestley from providing financial services for three years.
At the time, Mr Priestley was a director of a company registered by Mossack Fonseca.
After Mossack Fonseca became aware of Mr Priestley’s ban, the firm sought additional due diligence information but it appears requests went unanswered.
Despite the ban, Mr Priestley and his company Alpha Holdings Management remain active, according to the leaked documents.”
Photo credit: Wikipedia
“Bhandari Ashok Ramdayalchand
Mossack FonseCa records show Bhandari Ashok Ramdayalchand is the sole director and shareholder of a BVI company called Ferryden International Limited, which is registered with MF’s Singapore branch. The company was registered in January 2005, with Bhandari holding all its 50,000 shares.
Bhandari operates mainly out of a single-storey bungalow called “Bhandaris” in a gated community known as Abhiship Bungalows in a posh stretch of the road between Ahmedabad’s Thaltej and Shilaj localities. He provides financial services including expertise on accountancy, auditing services and investment banking to a host of companies, including some listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
RESPONSE: He declined to meet or speak on the phone to The Indian Express for a response. “I have informed him about your queries. He is not interested in talking about his businesses to the media. We live in this part of the town because we love a bit of privacy,” said a woman who said she was “Mrs Bhandari” but declined to give her name. The address The Indian Express tried to reach him on is the same as the one in the MF records.
— Avinash Nair/Ahmedabad
Rahul Arunprasad Patel
Patel is one of the three managing directors of Sintex Industries Ltd, an Ahmedabad-based company that has made a name for itself in manufacturing water tanks. He is among the promoters of the company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. MF records show Patel was a director with a BVI entity named Amarange Inc which was registered in 2008. The company was struck off the
MF records in 2014. The purpose for which it was set up has been recorded as: “Investments and for holding real estate in Singapore”.
RESPONSE: Contacted by The Indian Express, Rahul A Patel said: “We have a number of companies registered abroad. I am not sure if Amarange Inc is still ours. I do not deal with the financial part.”
In response to the questionnaire sent to Rahul Patel, the managing director of Sintex Industries, Amit D Patel said over the phone: “We have about 21 plants outside India. We acquired this (Amarange Inc) in 2007. While we acquire international operations, we need to create holding companies. When you acquire a company, you need to hold it outside India and then repatriate the dividends to India. So it is done with RBI permission and guidelines. We also borrow money there and we also send money outside India to fund our acquisition and we also get dividends from those companies into India. It (Amarange Inc) is part of our balance sheets and we also disclose (information about) it in our balance sheets since 2007. We keep on creating and closing these companies as and when the acquisition opportunities arise.”
— Avinash Nair/Ahmedabad
Thiruvananthapuram native George Mathew is a chartered accountant who moved to Singapore 12 years ago. He launched a firm, Future Books, which describes itself as a one-stop service-provider for setting up companies.
MF records show Mathew has been associated with a clutch of offshore entities registered in the BVI around 2011. He is shown as a director or nominee director, and several Powers of Attorney have been signed by him for the companies, among which there is a lot of cross-shareholding. BVI companies linked to him include Soul Rhythm International Limited, Seabridge Group Holdings Ltd, Azaxel Asset Holdings Limited, Hallwood Enterprise Ltd, and The Wonderful Solutions Corporation. MF records contain his addresses in Singapore and Kerala.
RESPONSE: Mathew told The Indian Express from Singapore that he has been an NRI for several years, and RBI regulations did not apply to him. “For the last 12 years, I have been away from India,” he said. Asked about Wonderful Solutions and Soul Rhythm International Limited, Mathew said: “These companies belong to our clients, who are natives of Singapore. The RBI and the Income-Tax Department of India have little to do with them.””
— Shaju Philip/ Thiruvananthapuram
- Keralite George Mathew figures in Panama papers (Mathrubhumi)
- Panama Papers III: Niira Radia, Satish Modi, Sintex’s MD, among others, figure in list (Business Standard smartinvestor.in)
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Written by: Simon Piel and Anne Michel
Photo credit: Le Monde/Julien Muguet/Hanslucas
“A sophisticated offshore system has been set up between Hong Kong, Singapore , the British Virgin Islands and Panama. It was used to getmoney from France , through company s screens and fake invoices with the desire to escape the French anti-money services.
At the center of this financial engineering offshore Frédéric Chatillon. Former leader of the Group Union Defense (GUD), student small group of extreme right, he met Marine Le Pen at the University of Assas right to early 1990. A strong friendship was forged since his company Riwal , has become the main provider of FN for communication during election campaigns and in 2012, its exclusive provider.
In 2012, just after the presidential election less than a month before the elections, Frédéric Chatillon is organized with the support of Nicolas hook to make out EUR 316 000 of the company Riwal and French territory. He intends to reinvest a portion of that sum in the company headed by one of his friends, Pascal Xatart based in Singapore without having to explain the origin of the funds.
To do this, a complex assembly is formed. First step in May 2012: the boss of Riwal is acquiring, through a company linked to Riwal and FN Unanimous France, a shell company, nicely called Time Dragon, based in Hong Kong, whose house mother is domiciled in more than 15,000 km away, the British Virgin islands. Time Dragon is a 100% subsidiary of Harson Asia Limited, domiciled on the island of Tortola in the Virgin Islands by Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca. It is she who will perform the final investment in the company of a friend of Frédéric Chatillon Singapore. But it is still necessary that Time Dragon can receive the French capital. Without attracting attention.
This is where Nicolas Hook is the second step. To confuse further tracks, the accountant – who was charged Marine’s economic program Le Pen in 2012 – proposes to use as porting entity, one of Hong Kong offshore company of his brother, Sebastian: Ever Harvest Garments Limited. A company also at odds with the Chinese tax authorities.
A false invoice is issued by Ever Harvest for the attention of Unanime France to justify the transfer of funds from France to Asia. This bill is supposed to regulate the realization of Marine Blue Rally websites for the laws, the beautiful benefits and well done but by a different provider qu’Ever Harvest. It remains only to make a transfer from the bank account to that of Ever Harvest Time Dragon. What’s done.
The third step can therefore engage Frédéric Chatillon recovers its funds in Hong Kong. It invests in Giift the company of his friend Pascal Xatart, by buying out a Luxembourg shareholder. Money travelagain, this time to its final destination, Singapore. The operation completed, the front company of the Virgin Islands was dissolved in October 2014, and Time Dragon, renamed flatly Unanimous Asia.”
(translated from Google)
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
“‘Saifullah family of Lakki Marwat’, which has a history of politics and business in the country, owns a record number of 34 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles.
The companies are owned by Senator Osman Saifullah and his family members. The companies also own bank accounts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland and lands in the United Kingdom.
Interestingly, Senator Osman Saifullah is a member of the Tax Reform Commission set up by the government to check revenue leakage, broaden the revenue base and improve tax administration.”
“Sultan Ali Allana, Chairman of Habib Bank Limited, and Khawaja Iqbal Hassan, former NIB bank President, held the power of attorney of Swiss Fixed Income Advisors, S.A. registered in BVI in April 1999. A letter from ABN AMRO N.V. London advised to its Singapore branch for the issuance of a draft of one million dollars favoring USB AG and to hand that over to either Sultan or Iqbal upon production of a passport. The Swiss Fixed Income Advisors was dissolved after this. Their detailed version in response to The News questions has been given at the bottom.”
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Written by: Razak Ahmad
“The ICIJ on Monday reported that members of the Malaysian Government and their families were among those who owned offshore firms in Singapore and the British Virgin Islands.
Datuk Mohd Nazifuddin Najib, the Prime Minister’s son who was among those named in the leak, has explained that he was no longer involved in the two companies implicated.
There was no immediate reaction from the Inland Revenue Board over whether it would start investigations.”
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Written by: Fery Firmansyah, Abdul Manan and Wahyu Dhyatmika
“The Panama Papers named 899 individuals and companies in Indonesia who have set up shell companies in a number of tax havens, consisting of 803 shareholders, 10 companies, 28 set up companies and 58 relevant parties.
Panama Papers is different to Offshore Leaks. The Offshore Leaks, released in 2013, named 2961 Indonesians who were registered in 23 companies. Panama documents leak is from Panama-based legal firm Mossack Fonseca.
Whereas Offsore Leaks data came from Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and British Virgin Island-based Commonwealth Trust Ltd. However, both Offshore Leaks and Panama Papers were released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a global network of investigative journalists.
The Panama Papers named, among others, oil tycoon Riza Chalid and the Attorney General’s Office fugitive, Joko S. Tjandra.”
Written by: AAP
“More than $US200 billion is estimated to have been parked overseas, in places such as neighbouring Singapore, by well-off Indonesians, effectively allowing them to evade their tax responsibilities.”
Written by: Ayomi Amindoni
“Leaked information on clients of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, known as the Panama Papers, will be used as supplementary data by the tax office, the finance minister says. Analyst have urged the government to use the data to pursue hidden tax potential.
Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the government would examine information in the Panama Papers thoroughly and expected that the data would reveal a number of Indonesians who had undeclared assets in offshore companies.
Bambang said the government had information on Indonesians who had stashed money in countries that were tax havens. British Virgin Island, Cook Island and Singapore are the favorite tax havens for Indonesians.
“We will use the papers to supplement data that we currently have. According to our data, many Indonesians have ‘paper’ companies in various tax havens,” said Bambang in Jakarta on Tuesday.
He estimated that funds stashed overseas totaled more than Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP). “From estimated calculations of potential money owned offshore by Indonesians, I’d say it is more than our GDP, more than Rp 11.4 quadrillion [US$861.7 billion],” he said.”
Written by: Simon Carswell
“The Irish bank’s Vienna operation had in the 2000s been aggressively soliciting for business from wealthy depositors on the basis that their money would remain a secret if deposited in Austria.
The branch featured in a list of seven banks recommended by Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm that helped the rich and powerful conceal the ownership and control of assets, according to leaked documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which The Irish Times is a partner.
Anglo Irish Bank (Austria) appeared in other records leaked to the Washington-based consortium three years ago from a Singapore company that helped clients set up offshore companies and trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other tax havens.
One Anglo executive in Vienna boasted in an email to Portcullis Trustnet in Singapore in 2006 that Austria “deliberately keeps a lower profile” than the world’s private banking centre, Switzerland, and that investors appreciated “the smooth and quiet way in which the Austrian bank conducts business with their customers”.”
Written by: Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
“In the case of Bahamas, it was seen that exports had surged from just $2 million in 2008-09 to over $2 billion in 2010-11 – an increase of 1,000 per cent in shipments to a country with just 400,000 people, about 20 per cent less than the population of Siliguri in North Bengal.
Payments were often made via a string of shell companies in various places even as the actual shipments went to or came from some other place.
In the case of coal imported from South Africa or Indonesia, the payment could be routed through tax havens in Dubai, Singapore or the British Virgin Islands.
The payment shown on paper could be 50-60 per cent higher than the actual CIF (cost, insurance and freight) value of the shipment.
Importers would claim that the spot prices had shot up for that day or the coal was of a higher calorific value. The actual price could vary between $30 per tonne and $40 per tonne, but the price shown as paid through the various layers of companies in tax havens could be anything between $70 and $80 per tonne.
Enforcement Directorate officials said while the actual value was paid to the company in South Africa that shipped the coal, the “extras” were paid to the intermediary firms in tax havens.”
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Panama Papers: Dmitry Rybolovlev used offshore company to hide art from wife, leaked documents reveal (The Art Newspaper)
Written by: Cristina Ruiz
Photo credit: The Art Newspaper/AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau
“In December 2008 Elena Rybolovleva filed for divorce from her husband Dmitry, who is now embroiled in a separate legal battle with his former art advisor Yves Bouvier. The Rybolovlevs were based in Switzerland and under Swiss law each spouse was entitled to an equal part of the couple’s wealth.
But tracking down Dmitry Rybolovlev’s assets was not easy. Mossack Fonseca had helped the businessman transfer ownership of many of his art assets to a company they set up for him in the British Virgin Islands, Xitrans Finance Ltd. This off-shore firm owned paintings by Picasso, Modigliani, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Rothko and “also bought Louis XVI-style desks, tables and drawers made by some of Paris’s grandest furniture makers,” the ICIJ writes.
“As the marriage broke down, according to notes from a court hearing sent via email to Mossack Fonseca in January 2009, [Rybolovlev] used Xitrans Finance Ltd to move these luxury items out of Switzerland to Singapore and London, beyond [his wife’s] reach.”
- Read more: How the One Percenters Divorce: Offshore Intrigue Plays Hide and Seek with Millions (The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists The Panama Papers)
Written by: Jon Schwarz
“So as a result of all the different schemes like the ones being unveiled by the Mossack Fonseca leak, governments around the world are dealing with at least a one-third of a trillion dollar annual shortfall that must be made up by cutting spending, borrowing, or taxing the rest of us more than they should.
In terms of tax avoidance, Zucman points out that about a third of U.S. corporate profits, or $650 billion, are purportedly earned outside the country. Corporate tax lawyers use accounting tricks to make 55 percent of this $650 billion bogusly appear to have been generated in six low- or zero-tax countries: the Netherlands, Bermuda, Luxembourg, Ireland, Singapore, and Switzerland. According to U.S. law, the corporations don’t have to pay our corporate tax rate of 35 percent until the profits are brought back to the United States, so the profits generally stay overseas. However, if those profits did come home and were taxed at the proper rate, the U.S. corporate tax bill would be about $130 billion higher per year.
Thus tax evasion is most costly for the regular citizens of Russia, Latin America, and Africa. Meanwhile, while it’s impossible to calculate precisely, Americans and Europeans pay more of the burden of American corporations’ tax avoidance.”
Written by: Matthew Yglesias
Photo credit: Vox
“The use of shell companies and tax havens isn’t new, but it’s an increasingly important subject, and not just because the Panama Papers leaks have it in the news. According to estimates from UC Berkley economist Gabriel Zucman, the share of global wealth being held in these kinds of structures has skyrocketed over the past quarter-century:
Pretty much any tax regime you can think of is going to have some exploitable loopholes. If you don’t do anything to change the system, over time those loopholes are going to be found, publicized, exploited, and expanded. Eventually, their use becomes so simple and routinized that whole industries are dedicated to guiding tax avoiders through the process and foreign economies (like the Cayman Islands) are based on protecting the gains.
In a functioning political system, this becomes a cat-and-mouse game where the government closes the loopholes and the lawyers and accountants try to keep discovering news ones. But across much of the world, the cats — inspired by anti-tax ideology — have been deliberately falling further and further behind, and the mice are acting with more impunity. That’s what you see on this chart.
The result is a world in which it’s hardly fair to call things like tax shelters in Panama “loopholes” anymore. They are a visible, persistent part of the global tax system, and the authorities behind that system have implicitly signaled that it is safe and even acceptable to use them.”
The Panama Papers expose how the global elite ruined the housing market and stopped you from buying a home (The Independent)
Written by: Hannah Fearn
“Last year, speaking in Singapore, David Cameron was forced to acknowledge that foreign investment in British housing stock was damaging to the housing market and provided a cover for illegal activities. He agreed to crack down on individuals and organisations using the mask of offshore companies to invest in the UK property market as a means to launder what he called “dirty money”. He described how London property was being snapped up with “plundered and laundered cash” and promised that the UK should not be a “safe haven for corrupt money”. But it wasn’t enough.
In making the speech, Cameron was responding to a growing realisation that, in ushering in foreign investment, the government had also welcomed in a wealthy elite that objected to transparency in its financial dealings. Did we really know what, or who, we were dealing with? More importantly, did we understand how significant an effect their secret spending with the global luxury real estate brokers of Mayfair was having on everyone else, right down to the family trying to buy a modest two-bedroom semi in Chelmsford?
Even Donald Toon, director of economic crime at the National Crime Agency, said the use of ‘corporate wrappers’ and other tactics to launder money had “skewed” the property market. “Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK, ” he said last year.
Wealthy elites, purchasing high end residential and commercial property, have pushed up the prices of housing for everyone. In the city centre, global high rollers compete aggressively for prime space, the solid investments that can weather a global financial crisis – and even a predicted future downturn. The fight pushes up the price, but when you’re finding ways to sidestep all the financial obligations that go with buying a home, perhaps that doesn’t matter quite so much. The buyers keep on coming.
What hope for an ordinary household, requiring two incomes to repay a mortgage? Even with a major deposit of, say, 40 per cent, the buyer with the readies will always take precedence. That causes a ripple effect.”
Written by: AFP
“The president of the United Arab Emirates owns London properties worth more than £1.2 billion ($1.7 billion, 1.5 billion euros) through offshore companies revealed in the so-called Panama Papers, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was among numerous public figures named as owners of billions of pounds of central London real estate following the huge leak of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Owning British property through offshore companies is perfectly legal, but it is controversial because such holdings obscure the identity of the owners, allowing them to avoid scrutiny and tax.
“There is no place for dirty money in Britain,” Cameron said in a speech during a visit to Singapore.”
Written by: Kate Lyons
“So it doesn’t come as a surprise to us, nor I imagine to older generations, that leaders are out for themselves, that some wealthy people do immoral, or possibly illegal, things to make more money for themselves and keep as much of it out of the communal pot as possible. It’s easy to get blase about what are extraordinary revelations, and to dismiss them with a world-weary shrug of the shoulders.
Which is exactly why today’s revelations about the connections between tax havens and property ownership are so important. Revealed in the leaked documents was the fact that 2,800 Mossack Fonseca companies are connected to more than 6,000 UK title deeds, worth at least £7bn . On top of this, according to Guardian analysis, more than 90,000 properties in England and Wales are listed in the Land Registry to overseas owners, at least 75,000 of which are owned by companies or individuals registered in tax havens.
In a country where most young people cannot afford to buy a home, the fact that thousands of properties are bought through tax haven-based companies, by people who are already wealthy enough to restructure their finances to take advantage of tax havens, driving up house prices, and pushing out owner-occupiers, matters. And it especially matters to millennials.
This is where the Panama Papers come in. Now we know just how much property is owned by companies linked with Mossack Fonseca, we can see how it affects young people. These companies buy property for very different reasons and with very different resources at their disposal than the average millennial looking to get on the property ladder.
The tax haven-operated company is not wondering whether it can scrimp and borrow from their family to get together the deposit for a two-bedroom apartment that mightallow them to have a child, rather than the one-bedroom property that’s already bankrupting them. They’re not debating whether the savings they get from buying in the furthest-flung suburbs of the city are worth the cost of the commute. In fact they may not be thinking about the property as a place in which people live at all.
Properties owned by offshore landlords aren’t illegal, nor are they the only reason for the precipitously escalating house prices across the country, but they are a factor. And as these companies and the, until now, mostly anonymous people behind them, buy more properties across the country, the dream of young adults buying a house, not as an investment, but as a home, gets further and further out of reach.
Millennials probably won’t be surprised by the revelations of how the tax haven system keeps the rich and powerful rich and powerful, but it’s important to remember that such wealth often comes at the expense of others. Even if it doesn’t shock us, it should make us angry.”
The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight.
The index was launched on November 2, 2015.
Singapore ranks 4th most secret.
You should also read the following – from the previous Offshore Leaks by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2013
- Offshore Banking / Money Laundering (Jess C Scott Singapore Politics: Blog)
- ICIJ’s Offshore Files: The Singapore Link? (Article 14)
- The Secret List of Off-Shore-Companies, Persons and Adresses, Part 147, SINGAPORE
Written by: Kimberley Porteous
- “The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on June 14 (2013) released the Offshore Leaks interactive database that allows the public to search through more than 100,000 secret companies, trusts and funds created in offshore locales such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands and Singapore.
- British tax authorities said they were working with the United States and Australian tax administrations on analyzing a 400GB data cache “showing the use of companies and trusts in a number of territories around the world including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands,” the British tax office statement said. The data cache is believed to be the same one obtained by ICIJ and used as a basis for the Offshore Leaks investigation.
- British authorities say they have so far identified “over 100 people who benefit from these structures … and are under investigation for offshore tax evasion,” as well as more than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other middlemen who helped set up the offshore structures.
- Fabio Ghioni, the former head of information security at Telecom Italia who was later convicted of hacking the data of 4,000 people, had an offshore company called Constant Surge Investments Limited. Internal documents reveal he was advised by the Singapore branch of Deutsche Bank to do business with Portcullis TrustNet. When interviewed by L’Espresso, he denied being the beneficial owner of CSIL: “I don’t know anything of this. I don’t even know where the Virgin Islands are located.”
- Top Malaysian politicians and their families, including former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s son Mirzan and current cabinet minister Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin, are among prominent Malaysians with secretive offshore companies housed in Singapore and the British Virgin Islands.
- Two major French banks, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole oversaw the creation of a large number of totally opaque offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and Singapore from the late 1990s until the end of the 2000s for clients in search of secrecy and lower tax rates.
- Nicky Hager provides an in-depth look at the offshore service provider Portcullis TrustNet. Roughly 45,000 of about 77,000 of the client list come from China, Taiwan, Singapore and other East and Southeast Asian nations. The firm is used by many of the world’s major banks, such as UBS, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse subsidiary Clariden, and by the world’s biggest auditing firms, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG, to provide secrecy for their wealthy clients, and was implicated in New Zealand’s “winebox affair” scandal of the decade.
- Germany’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, helped its customers maintain more than 300 secretive offshore companies and trusts through its Singapore branch.”
Written by: Martin Hesse
“And therein lays the contradiction: Singapore wants to be an attractive financial center while preserving its reputation as a corruption-free zone and remaining a level above pure tax shelters, like Nauru. The government under the ruling People’s Action Party is relentless when it comes to keeping streets, subways and parks spotlessly clean, but some question whether it is equally diligent about implementing the new laws on money laundering and tax evasion.”
And now, look at how Norway responds – with conscience and ethics:
Written by: The Associated Press
“The bank DNB said it regrets having helped about 40 customers open offshore companies in the Seychelles with the help of Mossack Fonseca. The bank was reacting to a report in Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten showing it had helped customers set up shell companies in the Seychelles to avoid taxes.
The bank said “that it was legal to set up this type of companies doesn’t mean that it was correct for us to do it for these customers.”