Explosive documents called the Panama Papers have today exposed the secret offshore affairs of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state.
They have highlighted the secret finances of more than 300 other public officials such as government ministers, judges, mayors and military generals in more than 90 countries.
The examination of the files is the largest organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Fergus Shiel, from the ICIJ, said: “There’s never been anything on this scale and it shows the reality of what offshore companies can offer to help people hide dodgy cash or avoid tax.”
He added: “They are using those offshore accounts, those offshore trusts, to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of property in other countries, and to enrich their own families, at the expense of their citizens.”
The Pandora Papers are not representative of the wider offshore financial industry which typically helps hardworking people looking for better returns and more flexibility, says the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory, asset management and fintech organisations.
The pushback from Nigel Green, chief executive of deVere Group, follows the leak of almost 12 million confidential documents regarding the wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and ultra-high-net-worth individuals over the weekend.
These include former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the King of Jordan, Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, and Pakistan’s political elite, amongst many others.
Mr Green says: “When it comes to those who are in or have previously held political or royal office, and/or those who are actively seeking to break the law by hiding or ‘washing’ money, busting sanctions or evading tax, there must be complete transparency with financial dealings.
“However, the vast majority of the millions of people who use companies providing offshore financial products and services are not representative of those high-profile names that have been disclosed in the Pandora Papers.
“Indeed, the overwhelming number are hard-working, law-abiding individuals using fully legal and compliant solutions in order to seek out better returns, more options and greater flexibility.
He continues: “In my four decades of working with cross-border investors, I can confirm that the number one reason people keep money in an offshore account – which is simply an account in a jurisdiction different to the one in which the individual resides – is convenience.
“These accounts offer centralised, safe, flexible and global access to their funds regardless of where the person lives and regardless to where they may move to in the future, at the same time as offering an array of saving and investment options in a multitude of different currencies. These are important issues for those who live outside their country of origin, and who typically have transient lifestyles.”