The Paradise Papers are 13.4 million documents leaked to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. They provide details of the dealings of law firm Appleby and Singaporean corporate services firm Asiascit Trust on behalf of their clients and specifically how they sought to avoid tax and conceal information from authorities. Among the businesses and individuals named in the leak are AIB, Bank of Ireland, Apple, Bono, Wilbur Ross and Britain's Queen Elizabeth.
In one instance reported by the Irish Times, a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the documents show AIB - at the time more than 99% owned by the state - refused to give the Revenue Commissioners access to information on its offshore customers when responding to a court order.
Jim Clarken, chief executive of Oxfam Ireland, said that he was not all that shocked at the content released in the Paradise Papers, adding that only for very precise, high quality journalism people would not know about these issues. Mr Clarken said the latest revelations show the level of secrecy about people's tax affairs is absolutely staggering and the amount of money that is being hidden in offshore locations by the wealthy elite and corporations is just "mind-boggling".
Oxfam Ireland estimates that at least $100 billion of tax revenue is lost to developing countries alone every year. Mr Clarken said that if even half of this money was paid in taxes, the lives of 8 million women, children and babies would be saved. Back home, the lack of tax revenue leads to essential services being cut or additional taxes imposed on ordinary citizens, he added.
Mr Clarken said that if we have learned anything from the financial crisis, it is that secrecy is dangerous - secrecy means that money is moved around and things are not done properly. He said these is no legitimate reason for big corporations to hide their tax affairs, adding that Oxfam has urged the implementation of simple processes whereby big companies pay their fair share of tax and they publish their tax details and profits in each country in where their economic activities are taking place.
"There is no reason why wealthy individuals should have access to trusts and foundations that have anonymous names and that are built in off-shore havens," Mr Clarken said. He said the only reason these exist is to allow them avoid paying their fair share of tax. He said a global tax crisis exists and Oxfam estimates that over $7 trillion of personal wealth is hidden in these offshore accounts.
MORNING BRIEFS - Research by Intertrade Ireland, the cross-border trade and business development body set up following the Good Friday agreement, indicates 95% of companies here still do not have a formal plan on how to deal with Brexit. Intertrade's latest quarterly business monitor is based on a survey of over 750 small and medium sized companies across Ireland. One in three exporters say they have experienced negative consequences already due to Brexit.
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*** Oil prices hit their highest level in two years this morning. That follows a wave of arrests in Saudi Arabia over the weekend as businessmen, senior officials and a number of other princes were summarily detained on the orders of the Kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.