Billionaires, Olympian and porn king among Canadians named in massive new leak exposing offshore accounts and secret tax havens of the global elite

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A massive new leak of offshore financial records has exposed thousands of secret shell companies used by the global elite – including world leaders, CEOs and criminals – to move trillions of dollars into tax havens.

Washington DC-based nearly 12 million documents leaked international association of investigative journalists (ICIJ) was shared with more than 600 journalists in 117 countries, including journalists from the Toronto Star and CBC in Canada.

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It marks the largest journalistic collaboration in history and unveils the shadowy world of offshore tax havens where secret assets, secret deals and hidden assets siphon off hundreds of billions of dollars in government tax revenue that would otherwise have been spent to the public. can go. .

There are hundreds of Canadians exposed in the leaks of prominent businessmen, celebrities, fugitives, judges and tax officials, including a co-founder of one of the world’s biggest porn companies, a billionaire fashion mogul, the country’s second richest man and a former Figure skating world champion.

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Secret documents uncover the offshore behavior of 35 former and current world leaders, including the King of Jordan, the Presidents of Ukraine and Kenya, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as more than 330 politicians and public figures and over 130 billionaires Huh.

The leak also shows that Canada’s position is an international laggard when it comes to investigating and prosecuting those who exploit offshore secrecy to pay bribes, evade taxes and launder the proceeds of crime. .

The Canada Revenue Agency has calculated that offshore accounts held by wealthy Canadians lose $3 billion in tax revenue annually. Simultaneously $11.4 billion in tax is lost due to the use of offshore subsidiaries by corporations, and costs Canadians about $15 billion each year in tax havens.

“This is more than enough to offer free tuition to all universities and colleges across Canada. This is more than enough for a national childcare program,” said Toby Sanger, executive director of the Canadian for Tax Fairness.

Globally, at least $11.3 trillion (US) is kept offshore, according to a 2020 study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The leak – called the Pandora Papers – is based on the 2016 Panama Papers investigation, which shocked the world with leaked details of how corrupt politicians can steal from their people, sophisticated criminals their illegal profits and wealthy businessmen. can be stolen with the help of excessive payment. One can find legal ways to avoid paying a penny in tax.

Establishing a corporation in an offshore tax haven is legal. And there are reasonable reasons for doing so, especially if the owners have a presence in the country and do business there.

But tax havens are a fairness issue, as their complex structures require the services of specialized accountants and attorneys, which renders the domain — and its tax advantages — accessible only to the richest people and the largest corporations, says Sanger. he said.

“The biggest companies have done extremely well during the pandemic and have made it harder for mainstream businesses to compete. And one of the reasons for this is that they take great advantage of tax havens,” he said. “This applies to individuals as well. We have a lot of inequality at the top end and it is tied to the use of tax havens.”

The emerging offshore industry has also come under intense fire from financial experts for providing corporate anonymity that could undermine the public interest.

As former US President Barack Obama said at the time of the Panama Papers leak, “The problem is that a lot of these things are legal, not illegal.”

“We should not only make it legal to engage in transactions to avoid taxes,” he said, but “we should adopt the fundamental principle of ensuring that everyone pays their fair share.”

When you cut down on the financial jargon, the leak of offshore documents presents an ethical question, not a legal one, says Sanger.

“These things can be considered legal, but I think most Canadians would say they are immoral. It is unfair that people can avoid paying taxes this way,” he said.

Over the next several days, Star will be reporting on some of the players living in this offshore world, ranging from a convicted fraudster to an alleged arms dealer to an accountant who is secretly developing the Middle Eastern king’s luxury real estate portfolio. manages. Offshore Accounts.

In some cases, records reviewed by STAR show violations of offshore transparency laws created after the publication of the Panama Papers.

The motivations for setting up companies in secret offshore havens are often not transparent and the use of offshore tax havens often does not violate the letter of a specific law.

Proving illegality – which requires a law to prevent conduct, enforcement and successful prosecution – remains treacherous as complex pieces of evidence are sprinkled with borders, various laws and corporate registries designed to keep secrets. had gone.

“In this area, the law is so messed up and there are so few experts who are qualified to determine what’s legal, it’s almost as if you’re going into confession and if you pay enough money for the indulgence. If you do anything you can, sin is acceptable,” says James Henry, a prominent American economist and lawyer who specializes in tax issues, including the effects of tax havens.

“The difference between legal and illegal is in the eye of the willful beholder.”

New leaked records clearly reveal that there is a tremendous demand for corporate anonymity among the world’s wealthiest, and companies – and their rightful owners – have been made invisible to meet the demand for international lawyers and accountants.

David Tasillo

David Tasillo, who co-owns the popular website Pornhub, used nominated directors and shareholders, hiding his identity in several tax haven corporations, documents show.  In a statement, Tasillo said "every aspect of the business, including tax obligations, was handled in accordance with the law."

Fake corporate directors and shareholders play a vital role in concealing the identities of the actual owners of offshore assets.

So-called nominee directors are people who are paid a small fee to represent companies on paper in place of their actual owners. They are necessarily sign for sale.

An offshore law firm whose documents are involved in the leak says that using nominee directors helps “maintain confidentiality by avoiding the identity of the final principal … being publicly accessible.”

It’s legal.

David Tasillo, who co-owns one of the world’s largest pornography websites, Pornhub, used designated directors and shareholders, several tax haven corporations, to hide their identities, documents show.

The co-owner of MindGeek, the corporate parent of Pornhub, has accused of profiteering From videos depicting sexual assault, rape, revenge porn and non-consensual images on one of the most popular websites on the Internet.

New leaks reveal Tasillo’s name on two companies registered in Delaware – considered a domestic tax haven in the US – as well as Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands tropical tax haven.

In all four cases, records show that it had bought out nominee directors and shareholders.

He is the sole beneficial owner of Delaware-registered Appscrutiny LLC and Appraisal Management LLC, records show. In both cases, they paid a corporate registration firm about $2,500 (US), including fees for “nominated directors” and “designated shareholders”.

The two offshore tax haven companies registered in the documents are Singleron Limited, registered in Anguilla in October 2017, and a British Virgin Islands company named Tekkix in June 2017.

In a written statement to the Star, Tasillo said the companies were created as part of a pilot program with a US firm, which he did not name, to use the company’s proprietary bot detection technology — software Which identifies and eliminates fake online accounts.

“To support the business, we established several Fortune 500 companies as well as companies in Delaware like Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands,” the statement said.

It says the project that ended in 2018 earned $100,000 which went to a Delaware company. All taxes were paid in full, the statement said, “and every aspect of the business, including tax obligations, was handled in accordance with the law.”

The statement did not answer questions about why Tasillo chose to register the companies in tax havens or why he used nominated shareholders and directors.

According to American expert James Henry, the use of nominee directors is often “about hiding your activities from journalists and the government.”

In June, 34 women filed a US lawsuit against MindGeek, Tassilo and other company executives, alleging that the company is “a classic criminal enterprise carried out through widespread criminal activity” including human trafficking and child pornography. .

The lawsuit alleges that the owners of MindGeek “developed a network of hundreds of fake shell companies scattered around the world … This shell game was specifically designed to implement and mask the enterprise’s criminal plans, evade taxes, exists to launder money and protect members of the enterprise from culpability.”

The allegations, which remain before the courts and have not been proven, have been denied by Pornhub.

“The allegations … that Pornhub is a criminal enterprise that trafficked women and is run like ‘The Sopranos’ are completely absurd, completely reckless and outright false,” the company responded to the lawsuit. Giving a statement reads. “Pornhub takes every complaint regarding abuse of our platform seriously.”

A Pornhub spokesperson said on condition of anonymity that any links between the offshore shell company’s allegations in the class action suit and those appearing in the newly leaked documents are false and…

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