An enormous document leak of over 13 million files was revealed on Sunday, in what is being collectively referred to as the Paradise Papers. It’s one of the biggest data leaks in history, and involves the elaborate offshore assets of top politicians and corporations, as well as some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and celebrities.
Millions of the leaked files come from a single company, Appleby, which is based in Bermuda and offers offshore legal services. Appleby has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the findings from the documents.
The Paradise Papers closely resemble a document leak from last year known as the Panama Papers, which also detailed the offshore holdings and tax avoidance schemes of some of the world’s most powerful people.
The Panama Papers caused a significant international fallout when they were released in April 2016, even leading to the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister amid protests and the surrounding controversy. The effects of this new Paradise Papers leak remain to be seen, but it has already put increased scrutiny on high-profile figures including U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Queen Elizabeth II.
How Did This Happen?
A German newspaper called Süddeutsche Zeitung first obtained the leaked documents from an unnamed source, and then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists when it became clear there was too much information for one organization to handle.
The ICIJ partnered with 96 media organizations across the world, including major outlets like the New York Times and the BBC, to give access to the leaked files for reporting purposes. HuffPost does not have access to the leaked documents, and cannot independently verify the information gleaned from the files.
What’s In The Leak?
The full extent of information contained in the leaked files is still unknown, but already a number of outlets have published articles based on the documents.
So far, one of the most notable findings for U.S. politics is a report that President Donald Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shares business interests with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law. Ross previously failed to disclose the connection during his confirmation hearing earlier this year, according to NBC News.
A investor in one of top White House adviser Jared Kushner’s business ventures is also named in the files, The Guardian reports. The documents show that two Kremlin-linked financial institutions invested significant funds into Twitter and Facebook, using companies controlled by Kushner investor Yuri Milner as a go-between to invest the money.
Another revelation is that Queen Elizabeth II has around $13 million of her private funds invested in offshore holdings, according to the BBC. As with many aspects of offshore finance where loopholes in tax law are utilized, it appears there is nothing illegal about the Queen’s actions.
But the Paradise Papers’ records of offshore holdings do highlight the elaborate ways that the wealthy and powerful can utilize tax havens for their own benefit, and the convoluted framework of institutions and firms that are in place to aid them.
The Paradise Papers also include figures such as U2 lead singer Bono, Madonna and a top fundraiser for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who are all involved in the use of offshore holdings and questionable foreign companies.
Correction: This article has been updated to amend a description of Yuri Milner, who was inaccurately described in the cited Guardian report as a “business associate.”