The EU slams what it calls “shocking” leaks about offshore investments and tax evasion by top companies and dignitaries, including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
The leak, dubbed the Paradise Papers and obtained by the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ), contains 13.4 million documents, mostly from one leading firm in offshore finance. Nearly 100 media groups are investigating the leaked papers.
The core of the leak, totaling more than 13.4 million documents, focuses on the Bermudan law firm Appleby, a 119-year-old company, whose clients are corporations and very wealthy people. Appleby helps clients reduce their tax burden; obscure their ownership of assets like companies, private aircraft, real estate and yachts; and set up huge offshore trusts that in some cases hold billions of dollars.
The newly-leaked documents reveal even the private estate of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has also invested millions of pounds in the British Caribbean tax havens of the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
EU officials announced that European Union finance ministers are set to discuss plans for a tax haven blacklist on Tuesday.
“This new scandal shows once again that some companies and rich individuals are ready to do anything to not pay tax,” said European Economics Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. “In light of these shocking revelations, I call on member states to rapidly adopt a European tax haven blacklist, as well as other dissuasive measures.”
The revelations from the data “put renewed emphasis on the work the European Commission is doing to fight tax avoidance,” said European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis.
The bloc previously planned to reach an agreement on an EU-wide blacklist of tax havens by the end of the year, although no final decision is expected on Tuesday.
EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, who has cracked down on EU countries making illegal tax breaks to Apple and Amazon, lauded the journalists that made the latest revelations.
“Congratulations and thanks to ICIJ for all the work done on Paradise Papers. It enables the work against tax avoidance, for transparency,” said Vestager in a tweet.