Crime in Paradise: Massive Tax Haven Conspiracy Discovered in Caribbean Islands

Capitalism! Corporations! Celebrities! Caribbean! With your powers combined, I am Captain Corruption!

Griffin Sonnemann-Creed, Columnist

On Nov. 5, the world of business was shaken to its core yet again when 13.4 million documents were released by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the same newspaper who released the Panama Papers a year ago. The papers detail the shady offshore investments of thousands of different celebrities and corporations in order to reduce the amount of money they pay in taxes.

The release of the 1.4 terabytes of documents was preceded by accusations of corruption against Appleby, an offshore law firm who the documents originated from. The accusations were carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ,) who received the info from Süddeutsche Zeitung beforehand.

Offshore investments are a type of tax evasion common throughout the world. Money is invested into countries that are separate than that of the person’s original country. Many of the countries that offshore investments are located in, while still charging these people for taxes themselves, have a far lower tax percentage than their home country. This means that the person can then claim they have less money than they actually do, which leads to them having to pay less in taxes.

Appleby is an offshore law firm with offices on island nations such as the Seychelles, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, as well as a presence in the financial centers of Hong Kong and Shanghai, both located in China. The company’s location on numerous islands make it a prime company to invest in for tax evaders. In spite of the accusations and documents, Appleby has made it a point to profess its innocence in the matter.

Despite claims of the source of the documents being an internal leak, there may be more crime involved. According to the New York Times, Appleby confirmed a month ago that its security systems had been breached a year prior. At the moment, the supposed hacker is unknown, but it does seem awfully suspicious that Süddeutsche Zeitung, as well as the ICIJ learned of the documents when no leaks were detected.

According to The Guardian, notable companies who were implicated in the documents include Apple, Nike, McDonald’s, and Walmart; figures and celebrities include Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and, most prominently, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Many of these celebrities have also used this money to fund questionable companies, such as Wilbur’s holdings in companies directly related to Russian Premier Vladimir Putin’s family.

The current situation is a filled powderkeg at the moment. Accusations of corruption and mismanagement are already being thrown around, and nobody’s quite sure what will happen next.