More than 400 Australians have been named in a financial leak that exposed the secret offshore wealth of the world’s rich and powerful.
The Australian Taxation Office confirmed it is investigating all possible Australian links after the publication of what has been dubbed the Pandora Papers.
The documents show how 35 current and former world leaders – including associates of Vladimir Putin – used accounts in tax havens to accrue huge amounts of wealth and carry out transactions.
The files consist of 12 million documents from 14 financial services companies in countries including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Switzerland.
More than 400 Australians have been named in a financial leak that exposed the secret offshore wealth of the world’s most powerful leaders and billionaires (pictured, Asiaciti founder Graeme Briggs)
Many of the Australians named in the papers are clients of Asiaciti – an international trust that has firms in Singapore, Cook Islands, Samoa, Nevis, Hong Kong, Panama, and New Zealand
They were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and studied by more than 650 reporters from BBC Panorama, the Guardian and more than 100 other news outlets.
Many of the Australians named in the papers are clients of Asiaciti – an international trust that has firms in Singapore, Cook Islands, Samoa, Nevis, Hong Kong, Panama, and New Zealand.
The organisation features prominently in the papers with a little under two million documents – of the 12 million – coming from Asiaciti.
Its founder is Graeme Briggs, who is worth an estimated $62 million. Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Mr Briggs is involved in any wrongdoing.
ATO Deputy Commissioner and serious financial crime taskforce chief Will Day said an investigation was underway to identify any Australians linked to the data included in the Pandora Papers.
‘We will certainly look at this data set and compare it with the data we already have to identify any potential connections,’ he said.
Mr Day pointed out that any names included in the data leak did not necessarily mean they were taking part in illegal activity.
‘There are a range of legitimate reasons that someone may have for an offshore bank account or structure,’ he said.
‘We know most Australians do the right thing. However, there are some who attempt to hide their ownership interests or financial misdoings through offshore arrangements.’
Meanwhile Russian President Mr Putin was linked to secret assets in Monaco, while an offshore company owned by his alleged lover purchased a $4.1million apartment below the principality’s casino
The Pandora Papers also named politicians including former British prime minister Mr Blair and Jordan King Abdullah II
In the past, Asiaciti has drawn attention for some of its shadowy clients.
They include Moldovan politician Vladimir Plahotniuc – who is a fugitive – Myanmar’s agriculture minister Nyunt Tin – who resigned over corruption – and Nigerian politician Abubakar Atiku Bagudu – who laundered public funds.
The Pandora Papers show that Briggs held a meeting with Herman Gref, who is chairman of Russia’s largest bank Sberbank, in 2015.
His bank was hit with international sanctions after the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down, making Gref a high-risk client.
The documents reveal how Briggs managed to build his fortune by helping some high-risk clients along the way.
‘I think [Briggs] is pushing the law as far as you can possibly push it,’ ICIJ’s Gerard Ryle said. ‘I don’t think he’s got any excuse for some of the clients he’s taken on.’
Singer Shakira was among the high profile entertainers named in the Pandora Papers
In 2020, Asiaciti was fined US$793,000 after the organisation failed to introduce effective policies to prevent money laundering between 2007 and 2018.
The Pandora Papers also link several high-profile entertainment figures including singer Shakira, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
They also named politicians including former British prime minister Tony Blair and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
Russian President Mr Putin was linked to secret assets in Monaco, and an offshore company owned by his alleged lover purchased a $4.1 million apartment below the principality’s casino.
The papers claim Colombian pop star Shakira set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands to conceal assets.
But lawyers of the 44-year-old said the singer declared the offshore companies, and they did not provide tax advantages.
The Pandora Papers also link several high-profile entertainment figures including singer Shakira, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer (pictured)
The singer is already in a legal battle with the Spanish Government, which accused her of failing to pay taxes in Spain in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
In response to their client being named in the report, representatives of German supermodel Ms Schiffer, 51, said the mother-of-three correctly pays her taxes in Britain, where she lives.
Mr Tendulkar’s lawyers said his investment was legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities.
The cricket star is also reported to have dissolved an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands three months after the release of the Panama Papers in 2016.
Italian mobster Raffaele Amato is also named in the leak, which shows how he used a shell company in the UK to buy land in Spain, where he fled to to set up his own crime gang.
Mr Amato, who has been tied to at least a dozen killings, is serving a 20-year prison sentence. His lawyers declined to comment.