Filthy Rich

04.04.13

This Is Where the World’s Richest People Hide Their Money

A massive leak of offshore accounts shows just how much money billionaires try to hide in offshore accounts. Here are some of the biggest culprits. By Eliza Shapiro

Where do rich people stash their money?

The British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Belize, and Switzerland. And we’re talking billions.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a group of news outlets including The Washington Post, Le Monde, Radio Free Europe, and the BBC, unearthed a trove of 2.5 million files related to offshore accounts of individuals and countries from the United States to Azerbaijan. ICIJ says these documents represent the “biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization.”

The documents have been seen and analyzed by members of the ICIJ, but the millions of files are not publicly available. Below, some of the highlights:

·     Tony Merchant, a prominent Canadian class-action lawyer and the husband of a senator, transferred almost $2 million to offshore accounts during a dispute with the Canadian Revenue Service over taxes. See one of the correspondences here.

·     Sweden’s best-known real-estate speculator left the country in 1989 with $500 million of debt to the government and creditors on his shoulders. His money ended up—where else?—stacked in offshore accounts.

·     An unnamed British property tycoon, who was imprisoned for failing to disclose where $600 million he paid for divorce proceedings ended up, has a network of offshore companies in the Caribbean.

·     French President François Hollande’s campaign treasurer, Jean-Jacques Augier, is under investigation for investing in offshore companies in the Cayman Islands.

·     Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, an extremely wealthy Spanish art collector, used a company in the Cook Islands (a tiny archipelago in the South Pacific) to buy an original Van Gogh painting, as well as other masterpieces through Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

·     Gunter Sachs, the German ex-husband of Brigitte Bardot, had an extensive network of offshore trusts in Panama, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands, and the Cook Islands, before he committed suicide.

·     Italian tycoons, including the ex-head of information security at Telecom Italia, invested in offshore companies. He was arrested in 2007 for keeping illegal dossiers on 4,000 people, including journalists and politicians.

·     An Azerbaijani corporate mogul, Hassan Gozal, has ties to Ilham Aliyev, the country’s president, via offshore accounts.

·     The son of one of Pakistan’s most prominent politicians has a secret company in the British Virgin Islands.

·     Thailand is chockfull of tycoons with offshore accounts, including a current senator, the ex-wife of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and several magnates listed in Forbes.

·     Maria Imelda Manto Mantoc, the daughter of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, receives funds from an offshore account that she has not included in her asset declaration.

·     Several prominent Russians have their cash stacked in offshore accounts, including the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, military contractors, and government-controlled companies.

·     The documents have also revealed the source of an offshore company that provided South African military helicopters in 1997 to Congo’s former president Pascal Lissouba before a Congolese civil war.

·     UBS, Clariden, and Deutsche Bank, among other major international banks, have “aggressively worked to provide their customers” with offshore accounts, according to the ICIJ.

·     There are 4,000 Americans affiliated with offshore accounts identified in the documents. Among them is Denise Rich, a Grammy-nominated socialite who helped secure the presidential pardon of her ex-husband, Mark Rich, who was indicted on charges of tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran. As of April 2006, she had $144 million stashed in a trust in the Cook Islands. She gave up her U.S citizenship in 2011 for Austrian citizenship.