The investigation into 400 gigabytes of leaked data will be carried out by officials in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
The leaked inside information including records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists expose individuals behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands, Singapore and other offshore hideaways. It is believed to be the largest stockpile of secret tax information (400 Gigabytes) ever gathered by media organizations in history.
But the British tax authority claims it has even more data.The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.
The total size of the ICIJ files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of U.S. State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010.
A statement from the British tax office puts the size of the data obtained by the three tax authorities at 400 gigabytes, compared to the 260 gigabytes gathered by the ICIJ.
“The 400 gigabytes of data is still being analyzed but early results show the use of companies and trusts in a number of territories around the world including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands,” the British tax office statement said.
“The data also exposes information that may be shared with other tax administrations as part of the global fight against tax evasion.”Included in the files are facts and figures, cash transfers, incorporation dates, and links between corporations and individuals. Together, they all combine to expose how offshore financial secrecy has proliferated around the world in recent years, which in turn has allowed the extremely wealthy and those individuals connected to them to dodge taxes. The overall process has fueled corruption and brought on economic strife in both wealthy and poor countries around the world.
Last month, the ICIJ and 37 media partners began reporting on more than 2.5 million files that include the names of thousands of American, Australian and British citizens as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran’s nuclear-development program.
The publication of the leaked data by the ICIJ has sparked resignations along with a burgeoning sense of urgency from European Union leaders to fight tax evasion. In just the first few days since the publication, The five biggest economic powers in Europe -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain -- all announced regular inter-country exchanges of banking and tax information to expose tax evaders and other financial wrongdoers.
British tax authorities said they were working with the United States and Australian tax administrations “on data which reveals extensive use of complex offshore structures to conceal assets by wealthy individuals and companies.”Also under scrutiny now are more than 200 U.K. accountants, lawyers and advisers charged with setting up the structures. British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was quoted as saying the cached information is "another weapon" against tax evasion.
So far, it said, it had identified “over 100 people who benefit from these structures … and are under investigation for offshore tax evasion.”
“The message is simple: if you evade tax, we’re coming after you,” he said.Britain's tax chief, Jennie Granger said many of the arrangements could be legitimate.
“However they may involve tax evasion, avoidance or other serious offences by taxpayers. What has to stop is using offshore structures to illegally hide assets and income.”A statement by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service reiterated that the three countries...
“... have each acquired a substantial amount of data revealing extensive use of such entities organized in a number of jurisdictions including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands.”
And, the data...
“... contains both the identities of the individual owners of these entities, as well as the advisors who assisted in establishing the entity structure.”According to officials, early analysis had uncovered information that could also be relevant to tax administrations of other jurisdictions they would share at request of other countries.
“This is part of a wider effort by the IRS and other tax administrations to pursue international tax evasion,” said IRS acting commissioner Steven T. Miller.Given the current fervor over the IRS's latest scandal regarding its reported targeting of conservative organizations, I doubt this massive investigation will get the attention it deserves here in the U.S. But at least we're staying informed.
"Our cooperative work with the United Kingdom and Australia reflects a bigger goal of leaving no safe haven for people trying to illegally evade taxes.”