Australians named in ‘dark money’ database



BHP Billiton, Wilson Security and more than 800 Australian citizens have been linked to a trove of documents that allegedly reveals the tax havens of the world’s rich and famous.

The US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported on Monday that its team of reporters had obtained a database of 11.5 million records belonging to Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, believed to be dated between 1977 and 2015.

Later the same day, ABC’s Four Corners programs reported that the Australian mining giant and Wilson Security – which holds a number of lucrative government contracts – were connected to the documents, as well as a Gold Coast businessman and a Hong Kong billionaire who is one of Australia’s biggest foreign investors.

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On Tuesday, the Greens called on the federal government to strip Wilson Security of its contracts for offshore immigration detention centres after revelations the company had links to a Hong Kong corruption scandal.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described the revelations as alarming and said the government needed to act immediately.

“Wilson Security must be stripped of their contract for running Manus Island and the Nauru detention centres,” Ms Hanson-Young said.

The documents reportedly name 214,488 companies and 14,153 individuals who used the Central American law firm to hold wealth in low-tax countries.

The documents were originally provided to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, amounting to about 2.6 terabytes of data.

Australians caught in the web

An analysis of the documents by Guardian Australia and the ABC found that the law firm acts for 77 Australian clients.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) said in a statement on Monday that it had identified more than 800 Australian taxpayers in the data.

The tax office’s deputy commissioner, Michael Cranston, said the agency was working with federal police, the Australian Crime Commission and the nation’s financial intelligence agency, Austrac, to cross-check data from the documents.

“Through data analysis we have been able to identify patterns such as clusters of individual taxpayers and advisers for further investigation,” Mr Cranston said in a statement.

The big names

A court has dismissed an appeal by BHP Billiton against the $2.2 million payout awarded to Steven Dunning.

BHP is one of Australia’s largest companies, and arguably its most iconic.

Hollywood celebrities, world leaders and international corporations were reportedly identified in the 11 million documents. The ICIJ said it would release the full list of names in May.

Other well known names caught up in the scandal inclue soccer mega-star Lionel Messi, Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko, action actor Jackie Chan, Saudi Arabian king Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud and Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former Chinese premier Li Peng

Other high powered figures on the list are Island’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and FIFA ethics committee member Juan Pedro Damiani .

Sergey Roldugin and Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, who are close friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were listed also. The late Ian Cameron, father of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, is also mentioned.

Australian involvement.

Australian security contractor Wilson, which has won some of the government’s most lucrative protection contracts, was controlled by two Hong Kong brothers using a legal structure devised by the Panama law firm, according to Four Corners.

Four Corners also claimed that BHP used Mossack Fonseca offices in the British Virgin Islands to register five companies linked to its aluminium, diamonds, steel and finance arms.

Millions of dollars in loans were moved through the tax haven from London. BHP said it did not use the companies to avoid tax and each one paid tax in Britain.

What is Mossack Fonseca?

The book will also receive an English translation. Photo: Getty

Associates of Vladimir Putin’s were linked to the scandal. Photo: Getty

Mossack Fonseca is a little-known but powerful law firm operating out of Panama’s capital city. It is reportedly one of the world’s largest creators of ‘shell companies’ – registered businesses used to hold wealth offshore that exist purely on paper, with no offices or employees.

According to the firm’s website, it offers “legal and trust services” since establishment in 1977 by German-born lawyer Jurgen Mossack and Panamanian lawyer Ramon Fonseca, a former advisor to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela.

The global network offers advice in 15 jurisdictions, including notorious low-tax destinations, the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.

Until now, Mossack Fonseca had claimed to be a middleman, with no role in moving money for their customers, but according to the documents the firm was intimately involved in the bank accounts of some clients.

This included a service called MF Trust, which allowed clients to deposit money into the account, which they would then send on.

– with Emma Manser, Jackson Stiles, Rod Myer, Kaitlin Thals, ABC and AAP


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