Top US official, pop star and royalty among prominent names caught up in leaks

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he's done nothing wrong and did properly disclose his investments in a shipping firm that has significant business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
After the Paradise Papers disclosures, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended himself, saying he did nothing wrong and properly disclosed investments in a shipping firm with ties to Russian President Putin's inner circle.
(From left) US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U2 frontman Bono and Britain's Queen Elizabeth are among those whose names have cropped up in the "Paradise Papers".
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (above), U2 frontman Bono and Britain's Queen Elizabeth are among those whose names have cropped up in the "Paradise Papers".PHOTOS: REUTERS, EPA-EFE
(From left) US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U2 frontman Bono and Britain's Queen Elizabeth are among those whose names have cropped up in the "Paradise Papers".
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U2 frontman Bono (above) and Britain's Queen Elizabeth are among those whose names have cropped up in the "Paradise Papers".PHOTOS: REUTERS, EPA-EFE
(From left) US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U2 frontman Bono and Britain's Queen Elizabeth are among those whose names have cropped up in the "Paradise Papers".
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U2 frontman Bono and Britain's Queen Elizabeth (above) are among those whose names have cropped up in the "Paradise Papers".PHOTOS: REUTERS, EPA-EFE

NEW YORK • As with the Panama Papers last year, the Paradise Papers leak came through a duo of reporters at the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and was then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a Washington-based group that won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the millions of records of the Panamanian law firm.

The core of the latest leak, totalling over 13.4 million documents, focuses on the Bermudan law firm Appleby, a 119-year-old firm whose elite clients contrast with those of Mossack Fonseca - the firm whose leaked records became the Panama Papers - which appeared to be less discriminating in the business it took on.

The records date back to 1950 and up to last year, according to the New York Times, which is part of the group of more than 380 journalists from over 90 media organisations in 67 countries that have spent months examining the latest set of documents.

Appleby helps clients reduce their tax burden; obscure their ownership of assets like companies, private aircraft, real estate and yachts; and set up huge offshore trusts that in some cases hold billions of dollars.

Besides its Bermudan base, Appleby works out of the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean; the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey off Britain; Mauritius and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean; and Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Setting up companies offshore is generally legal, and corporations routinely do so to facilitate cross-border transactions such as mergers and acquisitions.

The documents in the latest leak, NYTimes said, come not only from Appleby, but also from the Singapore company Asiaciti Trust and official business registries in places such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Lebanon and Malta.

ABOVE BOARD

There's nothing whatsoever improper.

U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY WILBUR ROSS, on his name in the "Paradise Papers".

Here's a look at some prominent names caught up in the leaks:

•US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, through a complex web of offshore investments, has interests in a shipping firm with significant business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, including his son-in-law, Mr Kirill Shamalov.

Agence France-Presse quoted Mr Wilbur as saying "there is no impropriety", and that "the media has made a lot more out of it than it deserves."

In a statement reported by Russian news agencies, the giant Russian petrochemical firm, Sibur, voiced its "amazement at the politically charged interpretation in some media of ordinary commercial activity".

•Over US$12 million (S$16 million) of Queen Elizabeth's private funds were invested offshore by the Duchy of Lancaster - a portfolio of assets which provides her income.

Mr Chris Adcock, the estate's chief finance officer, told the BBC: "The Duchy has only invested in highly regarded private equity funds following a strong recommendation from our investment consultants."

Reuters quoted a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May as saying it was important to point out that holding investments offshore was not an "automatic sign of wrongdoing", but the tax authorities were looking into the matter.

•U2 frontman Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson, used a Malta-based firm to invest in a Lithuanian shopping centre, the Independent newspaper said.

A spokesman for the pop star and prominent humanitarian denied any wrongdoing, saying the artist was a passive, minority investor in a company, which was wound up in 2015, in Malta, a well-established holding firm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Top US official, pop star and royalty among prominent names caught up in leaks'. Print Edition | Subscribe