Paradise Papers: Queen, Bono and Madonna linked to offshore tax haven files

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The names of Queen Elizabeth, Colombia's President, Michael Hutchence, Bono and Madonna have all been linked to offshore tax havens.

Queen Elizabeth, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the estate of Michael Hutchence, and singers Bono and Madonna are among the 127 internationally-known names linked to offshore tax havens in the leaked Paradise Papers.

An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has resulted in 13.4 million documents relating to the tax affairs of some of the world's biggest multinational companies being made public.

The documents, which span 1950 to 2016, were leaked by offshore law firm Appleby and the Asiatici Trust to German newspaper Duetsche Zeitung, which then called in ICIJ to examine them.

The documents come from 19 jurisdictions on the worldwide list of tax havens: Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Labuan, Lebanon, Malta, the Marshall Islands, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago and Vanuatu.

Among the leaders and other public figures linked to the offshore tax havens, according to the ICIJ's analysis, are Queen Elizabeth, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Stephen Bronfman, the fundraiser for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's election campaign, among others.

Irish rock star and activist Bono
Irish rock star and activist Bono
AAP

The documents also mention the estate of the late INXS singer.

The papers detail how lawyer Colin Diamond, who owns the rights to the singer's work, and entertainment entrepreneur Ronald Creevey set up a company named Helipad Plain Ltd to be "involved in the publication, distribution,  licensing and other commercial exploitation of the sound recordings, images, films and related materials embodying the performance of Michael Hutchence".

The pair set up Helipad in the tax haven of Mauritius in 2015 before the 20th anniversary of Hutchence's death later this month.

The papers also show Mr Ross, a billionaire investor helping to shape President Donald Trump's trade policy, has partnerships which have a 31 per cent stake in Navigator Holdings, which the New York Times says earns millions of dollars a year transporting gas for Russian petrochemical firm Sibur.

Britain's The Queen Elizabeth II in London
Britain's The Queen Elizabeth II in London
AAP

They also show the Queen's private estate invested some $17 million offshore including a small amount in the company behind BrightHouse - a chain accused of irresponsible selling of household goods to disadvantages Britons.

According to the Paradise Papers, the Duchy of Lancaster - which manages the Queen's financial affairs - invested millions in Dover Street VI Cayman Fund LP.

The files, leaked from the offshore law firm Appleby, claim the fund invested in and profited from a company that developed fingerprint technologies for mobile phones and made investments in other high-tech and pharmaceutical companies.

The documents show that in June 2008, the Queen's estate received about $504,000 from its initial $10 million investment.

A further $6.5 million was invested from 2004 to 2010 in the Bermuda-based Jubilee Absolute Return Fund Ltd.

The Cayman fund also invested in a private equity company that controlled BrightHouse, a UK rent-to-own firm that has been criticised by consumer watchdogs and members of Parliament for selling household goods to disadvantaged Britons on payment plans with annual interest rates as high as 99.9 per cent, the papers said.

President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos
President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos
AAP

The Queen's offshore investments have not been disclosed in annual financial reports of the Duchy, which is not obliged to reveal the details of her personal wealth.

There is no suggestion any of these practices are illegal.

The Queen voluntarily pays tax on income received.

In a statement, a spokesman for the estate said: "We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds.

"All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate."

In the case of Colombian President Santos, he appears as the "director" of two offshore corporations based in Barbados, although he said his association with those firms ended prior to 2000, when he became finance minister and he never invested in them or was a partner in them.

Also on the list is pop icon Madonna, a stockholder, according to the report, in a "medical supply company in Bermuda" registered in 1997 and dissolved in 2013, and the frontman for the Irish band U2, Bono, listed as a stockholder in a corporation registered in Malta from 2006-2014, the owner of a shopping centre in Lithuania.

In a written response to questions from ICIJ, a spokeswoman for Bono, Kathy McKiernan, says the U2 frontman is "a passive, minority investor" in the Guernsey company, Nude Estates I. Ms McKiernan also confirmed Bono had held a minority stake in Nude Estates Malta, which had since been wound up.

"Malta is a well-established holding company jurisdiction within the EU," Ms McKiernan said.

According to media outlets collaborating in the investigation, this is the largest leak of tax haven documents in history and is "even more important" that the so-called Panama Papers, which were leaked in April 2016.

Source: AAP - SBS

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