Shakira, Ringo Starr, Mario Vargas Llosa, Elton John, Julio Iglesias, Claudia Schiffer and Bernie Ecclestone, among many other celebrities, have something in common. All control offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Panama, Bahamas and other tax havens to manage their fortunes and enjoy airplanes, mansions and even football clubs away from public scrutiny and, on many occasions, from the tax authorities .
The ‘paradise’ of the Legionaries of Christ: 295 million euros in offshore companies
The dynamic is often repeated: the star hires the services of an accounting or legal firm that completes the procedures that allow him to enjoy the benefits of anonymity to buy assets and, often, pay less taxes. Because, even if they declare their wealth, they often do so in places with low or no taxation, with the social damage of that decision. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), tax havens cost governments between $ 500-600 billion in corporate taxes each year, plus another $ 200 billion in personal taxes.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), tax havens cost governments between $ 500-600 billion annually in corporate taxes, plus another $ 200 billion in personal taxes.
The names of several rich and famous appear alongside details of their offshore practices among the more than 11.9 million documents in the Pandora Papers, the new global leak from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). ) of which elDiarioAR is a part, the sister newspaper of elDiario.es in Argentina, and which publishes in Spain The country and the sixth.
Shakira stands out among those celebrities. Among other reasons, because it is not the first time that you have stumbled on the stone of offshore companies. In July of this year, a judge from Esplugues de Llobregat concluded that there was enough evidence for her to be judged for the alleged evasion of 16.4 million dollars between 2012 and 2014. And according to the agency in charge of its public relations, the singer has already paid the taxes owed as soon as she learned of that debt.
Pandora Papers shows application forms for three offshore companies in the name of Shakira as of 2019, when the investigation for tax fraud in our country was already progressing. These documents are normally used to open new companies, but representatives of Shakira have pointed out in a statement sent to laSexta that the companies were created many years before, before Shakira was a resident in Spain, and that the forms were part of the process to transfer those companies, which did not have – always according to that statement – income or activities, to another law firm to its dissolution.
On response to El País, the other Spanish media that participates in the ICIJ investigation, Shakira’s representatives assured that she used offshore companies because most of her income comes from outside Spain and that the Spanish tax authorities know all her companies.
Shakira seems to follow in the footsteps of Julio Iglesias, the singer turned into a great real estate mogul, with an estimated fortune of 936 million dollars controls more than 20 companies, such as’ G-450 Holding Limited, also in the British Virgin Islands. But in his case, the singer placed them in the name of his lawyer, Russell L. King, as detailed by the corporate and corporate services firm, Trident, in a corporate email that is part of the Pandora Papers.
Eight of those offshore companies, for example, served for Iglesias to buy properties in Miami and its surroundings since 2008, as could be verified in the property records of that city, as well as in a small enclave in the state of Florida called ‘Indian Creek Island ‘, better known as “the bunker of the billionaires”.
Asked by The Miami Herald, ICIJ’s partner in this investigation, King declined to give details. He said he was “not free to discuss any contact he may have had with current or past clients.”
Vargas Llosa and the hidden rights
The writer Mario Vargas Llosa, for his part, turned to ‘Melek Investing Ltd’, a company also incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, to invest the rights to his books in “stocks and bonds.” Consulted by El País, his representative confirmed the information, although he clarified that he declared it before the Treasury and closed it in 2017.
Former supermodel Claudia Schiffer also answered ICIJ’s questions through her attorneys. He said he declared all his offshore operations – with, for example, ‘Brewer Finance Limited’ or ‘Crimson Rosella Finance Limited’ – with UK tax authorities, including his six companies and one trust, all registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Elton John accumulates a fortune of $ 530 million and controls a dozen companies in the British Virgin Islands that receive dividends from his many sources of income. But with a particularity, several of these companies bear the names of the shows that demonstrated their talent: ‘WAB Lion King Ltd’ or ‘HST Billy Elliot Ltd’, among others.
According to his representative, Elton John would have everything declared before the UK tax authorities. But in your case, your goal would not be to pay less taxes, but to hide your business operations, according to Richard Murphy, a professor of accounting practice at the University of Sheffield School of Business Administration.
Mansions, planes and a club
Another great British musician, Ringo Starr, with an estimated fortune of around $ 400 million, created two partnerships in the Bahamas to buy property, including a Los Angeles mansion that was left in the name of ‘Rectory Holdings Ltd’. He also set up at least five trusts in Panama, three of which are linked to insurance policies with his children as beneficiaries, plus another that concentrates his earnings from copyright and live performances. Asked by ICIJ, however, its representatives declined to answer questions.
The once inescapable reference in Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone, turned to tax havens to buy a football club in London. It was after dealing with a tax investigation in the UK for nine years and paying $ 100 million in 2014, in Germany, to avoid a bribery trial.
Ecclestone, together with the former owner of the Renault team in F1, Flavio Briatore – who was convicted of evading 5.5 million dollars in 2018 – used a British Virgin Islands company called ‘Sarita Capital Investment’ to buy the Queens Park Rangers in 2007 for $ 28.2 million
Consulted by ICIJ, Ecclestone did not give further details on the commercial operation. He claimed that he participated as a favor he did to Briatore and that his name was used to attract potential investors. Briatore, for his part, did not respond to requests for information.