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Massive Data Leak Reveals How the Ultra Rich Hide Their Wealth 893

Posted by timothy
from the hidden-in-congressional-offices dept.
bshell writes "According to the CBC, there was a massive leak of 'files containing information on over 120,000 offshore entities — including shell corporations and legal structures known as trusts — involving people in over 170 countries. The leak amounts to 260 gigabytes of data, or 162 times larger than the U.S. State Department cables published by WikiLeaks in 2010...In many cases, the leaked documents expose insider details of how agents would incorporate companies in Caribbean and South Pacific micro-states on behalf of wealthy clients, then assign front people called "nominees" to serve, on paper, as directors and shareholders for the corporations — disguising the companies' true owners.' Makes a good read and there are some good interactive components. Perhaps Slashdot readers can figure out how the source of the leak, the D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists got their hands on this data."
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Massive Data Leak Reveals How the Ultra Rich Hide Their Wealth

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  • by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @12:58PM (#43358869) Homepage Journal
    this cannot end well.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:05PM (#43359867)

      Sure it can! If anything, it will end far, far worse.

      You forget, laws don't apply to the upper caste the same way as with us proles. With this many upper caste members looking bad, this will either get swept under a rug and never spoken of again (this is the outcome you WANT to happen), or new laws will be written making what they're doing perfectly legal.

      But don't worry, we will MAYBE see one or two people who take the fall, so that all of us peons can think that "the system works", and that justice is being done. Whichever of the 1% is the least in favour with the rest of the 1% will likely be the ones who 'take a bullet for the team'. Those few who go down will naturally live in the cushiest, most opulent of conditions for their "prison", if they even get that. After that's over, we will hear nothing more of this, and the system will not change even slightly.

      Safe bet that there WILL be laws written in the future to protect the upper caste against problems occuring again though. So you're right... this cannot end well. For the 99%. Bad things don't happen to the vast, vast, vast majority of the upper caste, unless they need a sacraficial lamb (such as the few who will take the fall above). Bad things are for the peasants.

      • by s.petry (762400) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @04:15PM (#43361795)

        Absolute rubbish, and here is why. People like you are complacent, and believe yourself to be a tool for the people abusing you. Not only do you have that belief, but you are advocating this belief to others. That complacency, and willingness is normal, but sad behavior.

        The answer to the dilemma does come in time. Every so often, citizens behead the king and redistribute the wealth. Historically this is true, and the founding of the USA was an extreme example of this happening.

        The USA was built to have peaceful mechanisms in place to make this transition. What it could not do however, is make people become active in forcing changes. Fifty years of brain washing has people like you believing that you have no power, no voice, and no choices. We still have the power in the Constitution to make changes peacefully, but people like you have to stop being complacent and advocating complacency.

        Fortunately, there are people demanding changes and they will come eventually. I'm sure that you will be riding their coat tails when it happens to try and get a slice of the pie. Until that time you will sit on the coat tails of those currently abusing society happy to get their crumbs.

        Study "The Republic" and learn some history and you will realize that I'm correct on all accounts.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @03:06PM (#43360737) Journal

      It's worse than if there were no law. In the state of nature, the strong prey on the weak. In the United States of America, the strong prey on the weak with the help of the government.

      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday April 04, 2013 @03:37PM (#43361203) Homepage Journal

        this. The wealthy have freedom to keep their money and generally do with it as they wish. Same as they have school choice, can avoid the TSA, stay out of prison, etc. Different rules for them.

        The middle and lower classes live under an oppressive regime that largely keeps them this way, to the benefit of the wealthy. Both the wealthy and the politcal classes are quite satisfied with this state of affairs.

  • Translation ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Self entitled wealthy bastards go to great lengths to avoid paying taxes. Nobody at all is surprised.

  • Hypocrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:00PM (#43358887)

    We have no problem asking service men and women to sacrifice time with their families, their personal well being and their lives...all under the banner of patriotism. Yet when we ask the wealthy to sacrifice for their country in the form of simply paying their taxes they hide it in off shore accounts and attack those who question this as "redistributors".

    Blow the whistle and blow it loud on these cringing cowards.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_we_the_people_and_the_republic_we_must_reclaim.html

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Whoa bub, hold up with the WE. I was against every single action that has sent a single pair of boots overseas. I have never asked them for anything, and generally..... don't see how murdering people around the world is serving this country at all.

      I may live here, I may have been born here, and I grudgingly pay taxes here, but I have not asked them to do anything. in fact, I wish they would wise up and stop volunteering to go help these rich people make more money.

    • More succinctly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:45PM (#43359519)
      Call them simply what they are: Leeches. Taking everything civilized society has to offer (such as no roving hordes stringing up the filthy rich), but give nothing back but excrement.
    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      Blow the whistle and blow it loud on these cringing cowards.

      Better yet, bring in the freakin' gavel and make these douchebags pay, like everyone else, for breaking the law.

  • by JayPee (4090) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:02PM (#43358907)

    In this case I'd have to say, "who care how they got their hands on this data" and hope they do more work like this.

    Eat the rich.

  • by mveloso (325617) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:05PM (#43358945)

    Given that there are interoffice emails in the stream, that implies that someone was able to access:

    1. the mail server archive/backup
    2. the mail server's scrubber (whatever they call the thing that scans email for sensitive info).

    Do they all share a mailhost or something like that?

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:06PM (#43358959)

    You'd think a guy moving his accounts offshore for the tax break had just been awarded the Medal of Honor! It's a badge of honor to a lot of people that you avoid paying taxes by any means necessary.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:07PM (#43358963) Journal

    The files contain information on over 120,000 offshore entities — including shell corporations and legal structures known as trusts — involving people in over 170 countries.

    Oh, no no no, tax evasion for the ultra rich that can play international games isn't the reason the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. No! From Forbes' response to the viral video "Wealth Inequality in America" [forbes.com] they say:

    Look — we’re moving into the opening years of an economic revolution. The floods of Big Data pouring from the Internet and related technologies are washing away the foundational reasons for the existence of several of our most critical – and comforting – societal structures, potentially changing forever the very notion of what a company is, what a job is, what a brand is, what an educational degree means, and how we’ll work and govern and care for ourselves while attempting to live long and prosper. Almost every part of our existence is being restructured, and quickly, by the stunning power of nearly infinite information.

    Don't you see? It's not tax evasion or unfair taxation, it's just the magical power of the internet. Stop asking questions and demanding an equal opportunity to skirt income laws! It's "Big Data" that's changing things rapidly and excitingly. Stop fighting the Economic Revolution!

    What an absolute crock of shit.

  • Take it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:08PM (#43358969)
    Free society is incompatible with individuals wielding thousands or millions of times more unchecked power than others.
    • Re:Take it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @04:00PM (#43361589) Journal

      I saw a blurb somewhere that summed it up for me:
      "Which is more likely: that 150 million Americans are lazy or that 400 Americans are greedy?"

      The context being that the top 400 have wealth equivalent to the bottom 50%.
      Income and wealth inequality is not some abstract concept.
      It is real and it is not about how whether the bottom 50% own TVs or a microwave.

  • by AngelFrog (1742434) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:09PM (#43358983)
    Nice and all to see the info come out but seriously, with that much money and that many wealthy, influential people involved, what is going to happen with this information? Nothing. A couple of hippies are going to protest against the 1% thingy while texting from their iPhone 5, be discredited, a couple of journalists are going to get vanished, the whole thing will get swept under the rug of the media coverage of an imminent war with North Korea. Problem solved. Damned i'm too young to be this jadded
  • by bcore (705121) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:09PM (#43358985)

    Perhaps Slashdot readers can figure out how the source of the leak, the D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists got their hands on this data.

    The story on the CBC national news last night suggested that it was snail-mailed anonymously on a portable hard drive to a DC based journalist. This doesn't explain where the data ultimately came from, but does explain how the ICIJ came to have it.

    • I heard on the CBC just now that it was a journalist in Australia who had a few years ago reported on this kind of corruption. He started getting emails, and eventually the package with the hard drive.

  • by RoTNCoRE (744518) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:10PM (#43358993) Homepage

    The husband of a Senator has been named in the leak thus far (who is a high profile class action lawyer), and his Senator wife was named as the beneficiary of the accounts. This is the same Senate that had a member (Patrick Brazeau) charged with both sexual and vanilla assault while also under investigation for expenses claimed. While we Canadians sat around scratching our heads about how to get rid of the lifetime appointed Senators, he then had the audacity to April Fools tweet his resignation, only to thumb his nose at us the next day. I'm thinking about sharpening the tines on my pitchfork right now...this adds fuel to the fire.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:11PM (#43359009) Homepage
    Whoever got this should be considered a hero. Let's hope they keep going.
  • by khallow (566160) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:11PM (#43359011)
    I wonder who collected these records in the first place? Either it's all from the same business or someone collected it across many such businesses. In that latter case, it could be a government spy agency with resources or a particularly powerful and well organized blackmailer.

    100,000 shell companies over thirty years is significant but not, I think, a large share of the overall market. I gather that these sorts of businesses process millions of new shell companies a year.

    It'll be interesting to see who gets caught as a result.
    • by khallow (566160) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:15PM (#43359067)
      This story indicates that the companies in question seem to cluster [guardian.co.uk] on the British Virgin Islands.

      The data seen by the Guardian shows that their secret companies are based mainly in the British Virgin Islands.

      But this might be a quirk of how the data was released (apparently, news organizations have access to the data from their country, meaning that the British Virgin Islands may be the preferred destination for UK money).

    • by khallow (566160)
      I stand corrected on the number of companies. Apparently, the British Virgin Islands are a major creator for such companies and they've created over a million [guardian.co.uk] such companies since the 80s. So 100,000 companies is a bigger share of the entire market over its entire history than I expected.
  • by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:11PM (#43359019) Journal

    I've been looking for a walkthrough for hiding my wealth in low-tax countries. The eHow article wasn't cutting it. I'm thinking of sending my gazillion dollars to the Bahamas.

  • Political aftermath (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rs1n (1867908) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:13PM (#43359039)
    The biggest question I have, now that the general public is also aware of how the ultra rich "hide" their money (and oftentimes to avoid taxation):

    What are the politicians going to do to address these loopholes?
    • by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:20PM (#43359131)

      The biggest question I have, now that the general public is also aware of how the ultra rich "hide" their money (and oftentimes to avoid taxation):

      What are the politicians going to do to address these loopholes?

      Move their money elsewhere.

    • What are the politicians going to do to address these loopholes?

      Close them up and then create some new ones, obviously.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:24PM (#43359193)

      The biggest question I have, now that the general public is also aware of how the ultra rich "hide" their money (and oftentimes to avoid taxation):

      What are the politicians going to do to address these loopholes?

      Oh you mean the politicians who are likely using said loopholes? What the fuck do you think will happen?

      We'll be reading about this in much the same way we read about justice and change after the financial meltdown of 2008. Not a fucking thing will change, and not a single greedy corrupt bastard will be punished.

      Not. One.

  • Non-Story (Score:4, Informative)

    by JBMcB (73720) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:17PM (#43359087)

    Want to know how the super wealthy "hide" their money in off shore accounts? Call an off shore bank and ask? They'll be happy to tell you. For a couple hundred bucks they'll even set up the company for you and open an account.

    Problem is, you'll need to get money into your account somehow. To do so will take a wire transfer that the IRS will be notified about. Going the other direction would also take a wire transfer, that the IRS will be notified about.

    Here's a radio show about it:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/07/27/157499893/episode-390-we-set-up-an-offshore-company-in-a-tax-haven [npr.org]

    Also, it doesn't let you magically hide money from the IRS like most people think:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/09/18/161358307/episode-403-what-can-we-do-with-our-shell-companies [npr.org]

    • by PPH (736903)

      Problem is, you'll need to get money into your account somehow. To do so will take a wire transfer that the IRS will be notified about.

      Wire transfer assumes that the money is presently 'in the system'. That means properly tracked, taxed and accounted for. So your trick is to make it 'dissapear'. Easy.

      Wire your money to Monaco. After tax money, of course, since this will be a visible transfer.

      1. 1. Go to casino.
      2. 2. Buy chips.
      3. 3. Go to roulette wheel.
      4. 4. Bet everything on black (nod, nod, wink, wink).
      5. 5. Lose it all (nod, nod, wink, wink).
      6. 6. Your banker goes to cashier with chips and deposit instructions.
      7. 7. Account opened.
      8. 8. ????
      9. 9. Profit!

      Or, yo

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:48PM (#43359563) Journal

      Problem is, you'll need to get money into your account somehow. To do so will take a wire transfer that the IRS will be notified about. Going the other direction would also take a wire transfer, that the IRS will be notified about.

      Your "non-story" assertion is a bit short sighted from what I know ... if you divert all your income to Ireland or the Netherlands you can get it there nearly tax free. What you perceive as a hard time getting your money to the states is trivial if you find someone who will accept those accounts as collateral for you to borrow against. Oftentimes, the rate of the loan is lower than what you would lose getting hit with capital gains taxes in the US. On top of that, you can put that money in Ireland into a highly rated international fund to cut that loan rate down. Just because you had enough money, you get to skirt tax law enacted by our democratically elected politicians. Congratulations, you're a dick and I'm sure you can blame the socialists and "the system" for forcing you to do this and I'm sure you'll ask me if I donate extra money when I'm doing my taxes -- I don't. But I sure the hell don't tell my employer that I actually have accounts in Grand Cayman and they'll be moving 75% of my paycheck there for me and I'll take 25% of it here so I get a huge rebate for living below the poverty line while building bigger assets in the Caribbean.

      These offshore accounts? This is just one piece of a very large puzzle ... I can't wait for the bean counters to poor over all this data and find some of the other pieces [businessweek.com]. Either give me and every other equal citizen the same rights to avoid taxes or shut this crap down.

  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:21PM (#43359135) Journal
    Sounds great! Where do *I* sign up?
  • 32 Trillion Dollars (Score:5, Informative)

    by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:24PM (#43359207)

    According to the report I just heard on the BBC World News, estimates place the total value of these hidden assets around $32 trillion.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:45PM (#43359527) Homepage

    Recall long ago when the US State Department cables thing was going on that Wikileaks said they had something MUCH MUCH bigger. I wonder if this is what they had to offer. They said it would embarass and damage a lot of people and it kind of sounds like this. It would seem like enough to keep honest law enforcement and tax offices business for a decade. (Note that I said "honest" because we generally know how it will play out in the U.S. We'll hear things like "too big to prosecute" and massive offers like 10 cents to the dollar or less.)

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:14PM (#43360021)

    Sounds interesting... but there's very little information here. They list about 20 names of people I haven't heard of mostly in 3rd world countries. Where are all the US citizens? The Euro zone? Name names, give us account balances... Put the data on the pirate bay and I'll start believing this.

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