A huge leak of confidential documents has revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth, as 11 million documents were leaked from one of the world’s most secretive companies, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
They show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax.
The company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrongdoing.
Some Nigerian politicians were named in the leak, as not less than four assets belonging to the Saraki family — all tucked away in offshore territories — were uncovered in the leak.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki was reported to have left them (the assets) out while declaring his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as required by Nigerian laws.
But the President of the Senate yesterday said he had fully complied with the law on asset declaration.
Under the code of conduct law, a public office holder is required to declare his own assets, those of his wife as well as assets in the names of his children below the age of 18.
In his declaration form, Saraki listed property owned by his wife, Toyin Saraki, to include a plot of land at Lekki valued at N5 million, which he said was a gift he received in January 1989.
Mrs. Saraki was also listed as owner of a property at 15 Bryanston Square, London W1 and 69 Bourne Street, London.
While the first, which rental income was put at £48,000 with a value of £900,000, was acquired in January 1989, the second, which value was put at £2m and had rental value of £150,000, was acquired for business in April 2000.
The Senate President stated in his assets declaration form that his wife held an account in Eco Bank Broad Street, Lagos, where she had N1.5 million at the time he became governor in 2003.
She also maintained an account in Coutts & Co Strand, London, where she owned £450,000 and $125,000 in addition to $3 million in Northern Trust International Banking Corporation Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner.
Mrs. Saraki was also listed as maintaining substantial shares in European and American Trading Company, Tyberry Corporation and Eficaz Limited just as she held 500,000 shares, valued at £500,000, at P.C.C (U.K) Ltd. He was however silent on the number of shares the former first lady had in Haussmann and Tiny Tee (Nig) Limited.
But In a reaction to the claim contained in the Panama-based offshore provider, Mossack Fonseca and shared by the International Consortium of Investigation Journalists (ICIJ) that he failed to declare assets belonging to his wife, Mrs Toyin Saraki, in secret offshore territories, Saraki said he has in his different asset declarations included properties owned individually by himself and his wife.
A statement signed by saraki’s special advisers on media, Yusuph Olaniyonu,and released to journalists in Abuja yesterday, made it clear that:
“The property in question forms part of Dr. Saraki’s wife’s family asset. It is public knowledge that Mrs. Saraki comes from a family of independent means and wealth with numerous and varied assets acquired over decades in family estates and investments.”
“Furthermore, the law only requires a public officer to declare both his own assets and those held by his spouse and his children under 18 years of age. The law does not require a public officer to declare assets held by the spouse’s family.
The statement continued: “It is not expected by the law that a public officer should declare such assets held in the spouse’s family estate. Indeed, the Code of Conduct form does not make provision for declaration of spouse’s family assets”, he stated
French President Francois Hollande hailed the “good revelations” which would “increase tax revenues from those who commit fraud”.
The documents show 12 current or former heads of state and at least 60 people linked to current or former world leaders in the data.
They include the Icelandic Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugson, who had an undeclared interest linked to his wife’s wealth. He has said he will not resign.
The files also reveal a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring involving close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The investigation, which started late last year discovered over 11 million records, which shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.
These are among the findings of a yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.
In collaboration with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations ICIJ leaked files exposing offshore companies controlled by the king of Saudi Arabia, the children of Azerbaijani President, the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan. Also in the list are over 30 individuals and firms blacklisted by the United States for allegedly doing business with rogue nations like North Korea and Iran or Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
The leaked files show how Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and his wife secretly owned an offshore firm that held millions of dollars in Icelandic bank bonds during that country’s financial crisis.
Prominent world leaders who embraced and instituted anti-corruption programmes featured in the leaked documents. The files reveal offshore companies linked Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has positioned himself as a reformer in a country shaken by corruption scandals and also the family of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, who has vowed to fight “armies of corruption”. Offshore dealings by the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, where also captured in the leaked file.
In the investigation which covered global financial dealings ranging from 1977 to late last year, documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players have often failed to follow legal requirements that they make sure their clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. In some instances, the files show, offshore middlemen have protected themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions or manipulating official records.
Sports men are not left out in the web as the data also revealed that reigning FIFA world’s best player, Lionel Messi, is also found in the documents. The records show Messi and his father were owners of a Panama company: Mega Star Enterprises Inc. This adds a new name to the list of shell companies known to be linked to him. It also reveal that the law firm of Juan Pedro Damiani, a member of FIFA’s ethics committee, had business relationships with three men who have been indicted in the FIFA scandal — former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, the father-son team accused of paying bribes to win broadcast rights to Latin American soccer events.