Remember the Panama Papers which put Panama on the map for the second time since 1914 and made a splash across the globe and brought down a few Governments, too? Well it looks like there is a new version of the incident being dubbed the Paradise Papers. The Paradise Papers leaks just hit the wires today and among the famous people involved in big “scandals” alleged by the leaked documents include Wilbur Ross, Kofi Annon, Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II, Justin Trudeau and OF COURSE Vladmir Putin (more on that below). The corporations in the leaks involve Glencore, Apple, Nike, Twitter, Facebook and Allergan and the documents ceom from Appleby law-firm, which had dealings with these entities and individuals.
So what do The Paradise Papers allege? The news is developing but here are the major stories involving offshare activities, "secret relationships" and more so far per the ICJ, which was involved in the Mossack Fonsecca Panama Papers release.
Reveals offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II, and 13 advisers, major donors and members of U.S. President Donald J. Trump
Exposes the tax engineering of more than 100 multinational corporations, including Apple, Nike and Botox-maker Allergan
Reveals tax haven shopping sprees by multinational companies in Africa and Asia that use shell companies in Mauritius and Singapore to reduce taxes
Shines a light on secretive deals and hidden companies connected to Glencore, the world’s largest commodity trader, and provides detailed accounts of the company’s negotiations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for valuable mineral resources
Provides details of how owners of jets and yachts, including royalty and sports stars, used Isle of Man tax-avoidance structures
It is unclear what yet is secretive or if anything is illegal as offshore vehicles and shell companies are commonly used by rich individuals and corporations to (in many cases) legally avoid taxes. I think these breaks are grossly unfair but there is a world of difference between using legal loopholes and committing fraud, we will put that aside for now.
Since Russia is the obesssion of every pundit let us take a look at this one - "Kremlin-owned Firms Linked to Major Investments in Twitter and Facebook" reads the headline from The Paradise Papers. The headline seems to imply some sort of evil, dubious control of Russia over American social media giants (although many of the same pundits say Russia is a weak control with a collapsing economy at other times, but I digress).
The article states:
"It’s public knowledge that [Yuri] Milner put together large investments in Twitter and Facebook. The Russian government’s ties to the investments were not previously known."
"He said that less than 5 percent of his firm’s investment funding came from Russian government institutions."
"He stressed that VTB Bank was a passive investor in the Twitter deal arranged by his investment fund, DST Global. He said the Russian bank, like all of his limited partner investors, did not gain any control over Twitter or DST Global’s investment vehicles."
This could be true - VTB is not a mom and pop bank but a massive corporation and among the larges banks and overall corporations in Russia.
It appears from a quick look that Millner HAD approximately a 5% stake in Twitter when the IPO launched this was before Putin and Trump conspired to steal the election since Twitter was not nearly as influential as it was now (ditto Facebook). IF that is correct than Millner had a 5% stake of which 5% was owned by Russian institutions, so 5% of 5% is really really small. Although, activism requires a lot smaller stake than it deed 30 years ago, it seems unlikely that this 1% "influence" would have any impact on the election, even if the shares were held today.
Of course, the media loves Putin controlling Facebook and Twitter and Trump and everything so do not expect a sober analysis.
I must admit too I did not get the Paradise Papers in advance and am writing this to get a quick initial analysis up. If I am reading incorrectly than perhaps there is a bigger story, but if I got this down right then this seems like outlets with an agenda trying to push one.
It is an odd world when someone whose family lived in Poland for 800 years and were brutalized and murdered in sadistic fashion by the Czars and then the even worse sucessors, the communists, thinks the media over-exagerrates Russian threats and danger to the world, but then again nowadays nothing surprises me these days when $100k in Facebook ads could sway an election in which billions were spent.
Stay tuned for more coverage on the Paradise Papers from both the Russia and non Russian perspective in the coming days.