A number of high profile South African businesses and individuals have been named in the Paradise Papers leak.
The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance.
The names form part of a leak of more than 13.4 million files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.
More than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years, with the report being shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times.
Most of the documents relate to Appleby, an elite law firm with offices in offshore jurisdictions across the globe, and its corporate services provider Estera, which operated together under the Appleby name until last year.
According to South African investigative website amaBhungane, South Africa’s largest JSE-listed commodities company Glencore has been implicated in the leak, as well as Illovo Sugar, investment company Shanduka (which has ties to deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa), and a number of large banks.
While merely being an Appleby’s client, or simply being mentioned in the leaks, does not imply wrongdoing, the leak of information is likely to embarrass companies, said amaBhungane.
“Several SA banks maintain offices in secrecy jurisdictions, from where account details were compromised – including Investec and Standard Bank,” it said.
“In a brochure for potential clients, Appleby brags about its role in advising Standard Bank of South Africa Limited on a $70 million facility for the purpose of refinancing Zambia Sugar, a subsidiary of Illovo Sugar Limited.”
Speaking to amaBhungane, David Lewis, director of Corruption Watch and the former chair of the Competition Tribunal, said it was not illegal for South African firms to put money into places considered tax havens.
“However, the problem is, some companies abuse this privilege by using it for transfer pricing, evading taxes and hiding transactions behind secrecy provisions,” he said.
There are also a number of connotations attached to tax avoidance, with the built-in secrecy historically attracting money-launderers, kleptocrats and politicians eager to hide bribes.
You can read the full story on amaBhungane here.