Paradise Papers: Everything you need to know about the leak (2023)

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What are the Paradise Papers?

The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance.

A number of stories are appearing in a week-long expose of how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures to protect their cash from higher taxes.

As with last year's Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. BBC Panorama and the Guardian are among the nearly 100 media groups investigating the papers.

The Paradise Papers name was chosen because of the idyllic profiles of many of the offshore jurisdictions whose workings are unveiled, including Bermuda, the HQ of the main company involved, Appleby. It also dovetails nicely with the French term for a tax haven - paradis fiscal. Then again, the Isle of Man plays a big part.

Who is being exposed?

The offshore financial affairs of hundreds of politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals, some of them household names, have been revealed. The papers also throw light on the legal firms, financial institutions and accountants working in the sector and on the jurisdictions that adopt offshore tax rules to attract money. These are the stories so far:

This is by no means everything - more will be coming out over the next few days.

You can find our stories on the revelations here.

If you have a question about the Paradise Papers you can submit it here.

Where do the Paradise Papers come from?

There are more than 1,400GB of data, containing about 13.4 million documents. Some 6.8 million come from the offshore legal service provider Appleby and corporate services provider Estera. The two operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016. Another six million documents come from corporate registries in some 19 jurisdictions, mostly in the Caribbean. A smaller amount comes from the Singapore-based international trust and corporate services provider, Asiaciti Trust. The leaked data covers seven decades, from 1950 to 2016.

What is Appleby?

A law firm that helps corporations, financial institutions and high-net-worth individuals set up and register companies in offshore jurisdictions.

Founded in Bermuda and with a history dating back to the 1890s, it has become one of the largest and best known of about 10 major companies involved in the specialist arena. The leak shows the US dominates Appleby's client register, with more than 31,000 US addresses for clients. There were more than 14,000 UK addresses and 12,000 in Bermuda.

Who leaked the Paradise Papers?

As with 2016's Panama Papers, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung obtained the original material and was the stepping off point for this investigation. In the case of the Panama Papers, the originator of the leaks, named only as John Doe, issued a manifesto a month after the publication date. A simple statement this time says: "For their protection, Süddeutsche Zeitung does as a general policy not comment on its sources!"

Who is working on the leaks?

As with the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a global network of investigative journalists, was called in to work on the project. Along with the BBC's flagship Panorama programme, there are nearly 100 media partners involved in 67 countries, including the Guardian and the New York Times.

Why is it in the public interest?

The media partners say the investigation is in the public interest because data leaks from the world of offshore have repeatedly exposed wrongdoing. The leaks have led to hundreds of investigations worldwide, resulting in politicians, ministers and even prime ministers being forced from office.

Why is this leak different?

The $64m question, or probably more if you are in a tax haven, or offshore financial centre as the industry prefers to call it. It is indeed the fifth major leak of financial papers in the past four years and, yes, last year's Panama Papers were bigger in size - 2.6TB to 1.4TB - but the scale of the information in the Paradise Papers and how it lifts the lid on sophisticated, upper-end offshore dealings, many linked to the UK, is unprecedented.

As Gerard Ryle, who oversees member journalists at the ICIJ, says: "This leak is important because it's the high end of town. People may have dismissed the Mossack Fonseca leaks as they were rogue players who would take any client. Most of the offshore world is not like that at all. Here you have the gold-plated company."

The documents were tougher than the Panama Papers too. Mr Ryle says: "They came in different formats and it took us a long time to decipher them. There were nice surprises along the way but it was a much more difficult data set."

What exactly is a tax haven?

It's hard to pin down an exact definition. Tax haven is the term usually used in the media and public, whereas the industry would prefer the term offshore financial centre (OFC). It is essentially a financial jurisdiction outside the regulations of your own nation used by companies and individuals to lower their taxes on profits or assets. They are usually secretive and stable. They are also often small islands, many of them UK Crown Dependencies or Overseas Territories, but not exclusively so. Nations such as Switzerland, Ireland and the Netherlands have similar tax reducing mechanisms, while the UK and the US are leading nations providing services that facilitate the use of OFCs.

Find out more about the words and phrases found in the Paradise Papers.

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The papers are a huge batch of leaked documents mostly from offshore law firm Appleby, along with corporate registries in 19 tax jurisdictions, which reveal the financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders.

The 13.4 million records were passed to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Panorama has led research for the BBC as part of a global investigation involving nearly 100 other media organisations, including the Guardian, in 67 countries. The BBC does not know the identity of the source.

Paradise Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #ParadisePapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag "Paradise Papers"

Watch Panorama on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

More on this story

  • The lawyers at the heart of the leak

    • Published

      5 November 2017

  • Are we taming offshore finance?

    • Published

      5 November 2017

  • Your guide to nine years of finance leaks

    • Published

      3 October 2021


What did the Paradise Papers reveal? ›

They reveal the offshore interests and activities of politicians, world leaders, and celebrities and the tax engineering of more than 100 multinational corporations spanning more than 65 years. This leak is important because it put the actions of the high-profile people involved into focus.

Who was exposed in Panama Papers? ›

Many individuals mentioned in the Panama Papers are connected with the world governing body of association football, FIFA, including the former president of CONMEBOL Eugenio Figueredo; former President of UEFA Michel Platini; former secretary general of FIFA Jérôme Valcke; Argentine player for Barcelona Lionel Messi; ...

Did anyone go to jail for Panama Papers? ›

U.S. taxpayer Harald Joachim von der Goltz was convicted of wire and tax fraud, money laundering, and a host of other crimes relating to the Panama Papers scandal. He was sentenced to four years in a U.S. federal prison. Time will tell who else will be charged in connection with this scandal.

How did journalists investigate the Paradise Papers? ›

Süddeutsche Zeitung journalists contacted the ICIJ, which has been investigating the documents with 100 media partners. The consortium made the data available to these media partners using Neo4j, a graph-database platform made for connected data, and Linkurious, graph-visualization software.

What were the main findings of the Panama Papers? ›

While anonymous company structures hidden in offshore holdings are not illegal, the leaks reveal the extent to which many high-level political figures have relied on shell companies to conceal their wealth, launder money, or evade taxes.

How did the Panama Papers get leaked? ›

The secrecy industry

An anonymous whistleblower shared documents from the firm with the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. For nearly a year, the newspaper analysed the leaked documents together with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – a journey depicted in a new documentary film.

Was Trump mentioned in the Panama Papers? ›

Bernstein's most recent finding marks the first instance chronologically of Trump's name appearing in the Panama Papers but it is not the only time the President's name appears in the documents.

Who was the whistleblower in the Panama Papers leak? ›

John Doe (whistleblower)

Who are the people involved in Panama paper leak? ›

Heads of state
  • Mauricio Macri, former President of Argentina.
  • Petro Poroshenko, former President of Ukraine.
  • Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (d. ...
  • Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, former Emir of Qatar, is listed as owner of Afrodille S.A., which had a bank account in Luxembourg and shares in two South African companies.

How many documents were leaked in Panama Papers? ›

The Panama Papers refer to the leak of 11.5 million files from the world's fourth-largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

What was illegal about the Panama Papers? ›

Many confidential documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca were central to the scandal. The legal company had assisted wealthy people and corporations all over the world in establishing offshore shell firms in order to conceal their assets and avoid paying taxes.

What Pandora Papers leak? ›

The Pandora Papers reveal hidden bank accounts, corporate ownership, and P.O. boxes set up in tax havens like Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Panama, and the Bahamas. Other foreign holdings have been shown to exist in Russia, the United Kingdom, and France.

What is bigger than Panama Papers? ›

In terms of raw size, the Pandora Papers leak, at 2.94 terabytes, is bigger than both Panama Papers (2.6 terabytes) and Paradise Papers (1.4 terabytes).

Who was the investigative journalist who expose corruption? ›

The muckrakers were reform-minded journalists, writers, and photographers in the Progressive Era in the United States (1890s–1920s) who claimed to expose corruption and wrongdoing in established institutions, often through sensationalist publications.

Does Mossack Fonseca still exist? ›

The now infamous Panamanian law firm and target of the leak, Mossack Fonseca, closed within two years of the investigation's release, buckling under lawsuits and global pressure.

What the Panama Papers reveal about the art market? ›

The papers reveal that a collection of modernist masterpieces assembled by Victor and Sally Ganz, a Manhattan couple, and auctioned for $206.5 million at a landmark sale at Christie's in New York in 1997, was not actually sold by their family, but by a British financier who had secretly bought it months earlier.

What happened in the Panama Papers scandal? ›

The Panama Papers scandal resulted in the release of millions of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. An unidentified source revealed the details in 2015, and they were sent to the German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung. The papers were subsequently provided to the ICIJ.

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