Who Uses the Offshore World



By Marina Walker Guevara, Nicky Hager, Mar Cabra, Gerard Ryle and Emily Menkes

April 4, 2013, 12:30 pm

Secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveal tens of thousands of people in more than 170 countries and territories linked to offshore companies and trusts. Here are some examples from around the world:


Bidzina Ivanishvili

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili

Details: Georgia’s richest man, with a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine at more than $5 billion. Was elected prime minister in October 2012, straight from the business world.

Offshore business: Director of Bosherston Overseas Corp. in the British Virgin Islands (2006). The company is still in existence, according to BVI records.

Comment: “For the reporting period of 2011-2012 Prime Minister Ivanishvili had no interest in the company you have mentioned in your inquiry and therefore there was no obligation to report it in his declaration. The Prime Minister takes these reporting requirements seriously and everything is done according to the law,” a spokesman said.


Jean-Jacques Augier


Details: Campaign treasurer of François Hollande for the 2012 presidential elections.  They studied together at the prestigious National School of Management (ENA). He’s also chief executive officer of investment holding company Eurane SA, mainly focused on the publishing field.

Offshore business: Shareholder — through Eurane SA — and director of International Bookstores Ltd (2005) in the Cayman Islands.

Comment: Jean-Jacques Augier said he used the company to do a large investment in China in 2005. One of his partners in the offshore firm was Xi Shu, a businessman and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body in China dominated by the Communist Party but with representatives from other parties and organizations.


Bayartsogt Sangajav


Details: Became his country’s finance minister in September 2008, a position he held until a cabinet reshuffle in August 2012. During those years he attended international meetings and served as a governor of the Asian Development Bank, pushing the case for his poor nation to receive foreign development assistance and investment. He was at the forefront of encouraging foreign mining and other companies to move into Mongolia. He currently serves as deputy speaker of the Mongolian Parliament.

Offshore business: Bayartsogt Sangajav controlled Legend Plus Capital Limited, an offshore company administered from Hong Kong but incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (2008). The documents show the company was used to open a secret Swiss bank account, controlled by Bayartsogt, just months before he was appointed his country’s minister of finance.

Comment: Bayartsogt said the company and the bank account were set up as a syndicate by him and three unnamed business friends to trade in stocks. Both the bank account and the company remain in his name, and he did not declare them to Parliament, something he now describes as a “mistake.” He said he was considering resigning from Parliament over the issue.


José Eliecer Pinto Gutiérrez

Army General

Details: Top commander in the Amazonas state, overseeing security in the Venezuela-Colombia border.

Offshore business: Shareholder, director and secretary of Romana International Holdings, Ltd. (2003-2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Pinto Gutiérrez could not be reached for comment.


Aye Zaw Win   

Son-in-law of Burma’s former dictator Ne Win

Details: General Ne Win was a military strongman who ruled Burma during three decades, 1962-1988. His family became wealthy through business activities including forestry and fisheries.

Offshore business: Shareholder of Compass Point Finance Limited (1996) and Sky-Link Communications Ltd. (1997) in the British Virgin Islands. The companies were transferred to another offshore service provider, but the records do not provide a date.

Comment: Aye Zaw Win could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.


South Africa/Zimbabwe

 Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach


Details: Zimbabwean millionaire with close links to the Mugabe regime. The United States blacklisted him saying he has helped organized huge mining projects in Zimbabwe that “benefit a small number of corrupt senior officials.” Rautenbach fled South Africa in 1999 after being accused of fraud. The charges lodged personally against him were dismissed, but a South African company he controlled pleaded guilty to criminal charges and paid a fine of roughly $4 million.

Offshore business: Shareholder of Artemis Group, LTD. (2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Rautenbach denies U.S. authorities’ allegations, contending that they made “significant factual and legal errors” in their blacklisting decision, his attorney, Ian Small Smith, said. Smith said Rautenbach’s BVI company was set up as “special purpose vehicle for investment in Moscow” and that it complied with all disclosure regulations. The company is no longer active.


Ilham Aliyev, Mehriban Aliyeva, Arzu Aliyeva and Leyla Aliyeva

Ruling family

Details: Ilham Aliyev is the president of Azerbaijan and Mehriban Aliyeva is his wife. Arzu and Leyla are the couple’s daughters. The Aliyev family, beginning with Ilham’s father, Heydar Aliyev, has held power in Azerbaijan almost without interruption since the late 1960s.

Offshore business: Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva were directors of Rosamund International Ltd (2003) in the British Virgin Islands. Arzu Aliyeva was a director and shareholder of BVI company Arbor Investments (2008).  Leyla Aliyeva was director and shareholder of LaBelleza Holdings Ltd. (2008) and Harvard Management Ltd. (2008) both in the BVI.

Comment: Ilham Aliyev, Mehriban Aliyeva, Arzu Aliyeva and Leyla Aliyeva did not respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.

200deniserich_2United States

Denise Rich


Details: Ex-wife of the United States’ most famous tax fugitive, Marc Rich, who was controversially pardoned by former President Bill Clinton on Clinton’s last day in office. She is a Grammy-nominated songwriter, having written chart-topping songs for the likes of Sister Sledge and Celine Dion. In 2012, Rich resigned her U.S. citizenship.

Offshore business: Settlor and beneficiary of The Dry Trust (1992) and director of DTD Limited (2007), both in the Cook Islands.

Comment: Denise Rich did not respond to a request for comment.


Eka Tjipta Widjaja 


Details: Head of Indonesia’s second richest family (2012), owns rainforest-clearing Asia Pulp and Paper and world’s second largest palm oil plantations.

Offshore business: Beneficial owner, through his Sinar Mas conglomerate, of various pulp and palm oil British Virgin Islands and Labuan offshore companies

Comment: Widjaja did not respond to a request for comment.


Potjaman Na Pombejra

Former Thai first lady

Details: Former wife of Thailand’s ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Potjaman and Shinawatra obtained a high-profile divorce at the Thai consular office in Hong Kong in 2008. Two years later, about $1.4 billion of Shinawatra’s family assets were seized after he was found guilty by the Supreme Court of corruption and abuse of power to benefit his family’s telecommunication company, Shin Corporation, while he was prime minister.

Offshore business:  Potjaman Na Pombejra acquired an offshore company called Premium Select Inc. (2007) in the British Virgin Islands, and soon after she was listed as the sole beneficial owner. The company was set up through the service of UBS AG Singapore.

Comment: Potjaman’s lawyer, Somporn Pongsuwan, did not return several phone calls seeking information on the offshore entity.


Fred Marafono 


Details: Ex-British SAS, he was involved in security work and diamond mining during the Sierra Leone civil war.

Offshore business: Director of Hinterland Mining Brokers Limited (1997-2000) in the Cook Islands.

Comment: Marafono passed away on March 27; earlier attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.


 Anthony “Tony” Merchant

Trial lawyer

Details: A former politician, he is married to Canadian senator Pana Merchant. He has been involved in a number of high-volume class action suits, including a $1.9 billion settlement with the Canadian government on behalf of native groups over abuse of students in residential schools.  Merchant has had repeated battles with the Canadian revenue agency over his tax payments.   He has also been disciplined by the Law Society for “conduct unbecoming of a member.”

Offshore business: Beneficiary (1998-2002), settlor and protector of the Merchant (2000) US Inc Trust (incorporated 1998) in the Cook Islands.  His wife, Canadian senator Pana Merchant, is a beneficiary of the trust.

Comment: Anthony and Pana Merchant declined to comment.


Mukhtar Ablyazov


Details: Ablyazov stands accused of embezzling up to $5 billion from a state-owned Kazakhstan bank in what British media describe as the biggest fraud in history.

Offshore business: An individual later named in U.K. court documents as a front man for Mukhtar Ablyazov set up 31 companies in 2006 and 2007 in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Ablyazov’s attorneys in London did not respond to a request for comment. Ablyazov has denied the fraud allegations in the past.


Imee Marcos


Details: Daughter of former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and at present governor of the province of Ilocos Norte.

Offshore business: Beneficiary and investment advisor to Sintra Trust (2002) in the British Virgin Islands. She was also a financial advisor for a company in which the Sintra Trust was a shareholder, ComCentre Corporation (2002), and a “master client” for the M Trust in Labuan, Malaysia (2007-2009).

Comment:  Manotoc did not respond to a request for comment.


Sheik Sabah Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah and two relatives

Members of Kuwait’s ruling family

Details: Sheik Sabah Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah has headed the Kuwaiti Public Ports Authority. He and his brother are sons of Kuwait’s former deputy prime minister

Offshore business: He or his relatives are shareholders in two British Virgin Islands companies CIC Realty, Inc and Capital Investment Company Group, Ltd for seven years until 2002

Comment: Sheik Sabah Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah did not respond to a request for comment


Alvaro Uribe and his sons  Tomás Uribe Moreno and Jerónimo Alberto Uribe Moreno


Details: Sons of former Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe. During their father’s eight years in office, they were accused of influence-peddling in two high-profile scandals, including in a case in which they acquired land in an area whose value skyrocketed after authorities granted it tax-free status. They were acquitted in both cases but prosecutors have started investigating new leads related to the land acquisitions.

Offshore business: Shareholders of Asia America Investment Corporation (2008) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: A lawyer for Tomás and Jerónimo Uribe Moreno, Jaime Lombana, said the company was created with the purpose of selling Colombian handcrafts abroad but the business never took off. The company was incorporated in the BVI because one of the partners in the venture lived there, said Lombana. The firm, he said, “didn’t produce any income.”


Abdourahman “Charles” Boreh 

Businessman and politician

Details: One of Djibouti’s most wealthy and powerful businessmen and a 2011 presidential election candidate. He is exiled in Dubai.

Offshore business: Beneficial owner of Net Support Holdings Ltd (2007) in the British Virgin Islands and Value Additions Ltd (2007) in Samoa

Comment: Boreh said he uses his offshore companies to steer his many investments worldwide and to protect his assets from potential political instability.


Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Art collector and philanthropist

Details: Former Miss Spain and widow of a German-Hungarian baron, she’s one of the world’s top art collectors. Her hundreds of works of art ranging from Van Gogh to Goya are exhibited in museums in Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga.

Offshore business: Beneficial owner of Sargasso Trustees Limited (1996-2004)  and shareholder of Nautilus Limited (incorporated 1994) in the Cook Islands.

Comment: Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza’s lawyer acknowledged that she gains tax benefits by holding ownership of her art offshore, but stressed that she uses tax havens primarily because they give her “maximum flexibility” when she moves art from country to country.


Dmytro Firtash


Details: Co-owns RosUkrEnergo, a partnership with Gazprom, the Russian natural gas giant. U.S. law enforcement officials and diplomats have linked him to arms and drug trafficking and to reputed Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich.

Offshore business: Shareholder and director (since 2007) in Group DF Limited (incorporated in 2006) in the British Virgin Islands, which became a holding company for Firtash’s interests in energy, chemicals and real estate.

Comment: Firtash could not be reached for comment.


Moonis Elahi


Details: Son of Chaudry Pervez Elahi, who until last month was Pakistan’s deputy prime minister. The Chaudry family has had a powerful role in the country’s politics for the past five decades. In 2010, Moonis Elahi was accused of receiving illicit payments as part of an alleged land scam. He was later acquitted amidst what Pakistan’s Supreme Court said was intense government interference in the investigation.

Offshore business: Shareholder and director of Olive Groves Assets Ltd. (2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Moonis Elahi denied that he owns or controls Olive Grove Assets Ltd. He did not answer whether he had owned the firm in the past. ICIJ verified Elahi’s connection to the firm through the address listed for the politician in the corporate records, which is that of the Chaudry family residence in Lahore.

200jameelSaudi Arabia

Hassan Mohammed and Fady Mohammed Jameel


Details: Sons of one of the richest men in Saudi Arabia and executives in Abdul Latif Jameel Group, one of the world’s largest Toyota dealers, with operations in the Middle East, UK, Central Asia and China.

Offshore business: Directors (2002-2003) of Costa Azzoura Limited (incorporated in 2002) and directors (2004-2009) of Hillbeck Limited (incorporated in 2004) in the British Virgin Islands. Hassan was also shareholder of Hillbeck Limited (since 2004).

Comment: The Director of Business Development at the Abdul Latif Jameel Group, Farooq Vaid, said the Jameel brothers were not related to the offshore companies as directors or shareholders. He acknowledged knowing about the entities but didn’t want to confirm any further details. “These are privately held companies and nobody has the right to know,” he told ICIJ. Internal records show Vaid was shareholder of Costa Azzoura Limited and shareholder and director of Hillbeck Limited. He is also related to five more BVI companies — in one case as shareholder and in the other four cases as director. The Abdul Latif Jameel Group address in Jeddah is mentioned in most of the company records obtained by ICIJ.


Mirzan Bin Mahathir


Details: Son of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the longest-serving prime minister of Malaysia (1981-2003), who modernized the country under an autocratic rule. Mahathir Mohamad was accused of abusing his extensive political powers to enrich his family and key business associates. Mirzan is a prominent entrepreneur, with directorships in various companies in Malaysia and internationally.

Offshore business: Shareholder and director of Utara Capital Limited (1997), Crescent Energy Limited (2003), and Al Sadd Investments Pte. Ltd. (2009) in Labuan.

Comment: An aide for Mirzan told Malaysiakini and ICIJ that Mirzan could not answer questions because he was out of town.


Fabio Ghioni


Details: Former head of information security at Telecom Italia, arrested in 2007 for leading a unit that illegally obtained data of 4,000 people, including politicians and journalists. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Cassation confirmed his 2010 plea bargain and his sentence of 3 years and 4 months in prison.

Offshore business: Owner of Constant Surge Investments Ltd (2006) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Fabio Ghioni denied being the owner of Constant Surge Invesments Ltd. “The BVI? I don’t know where they are located!” he said on the phone. ICIJ verified Ghioni’s connection to the BVI firm through the address he used upon incorporation of the company which is that of his personal residence in Milan. The corporate files also include annotations describing Ghioni’s occupation at the time.


Clarice, Leo and Fabio Steinbruch


Details: Members of one of Brazil’s richest families, which owns large steel and textile companies and a bank.

Offshore business: Shareholders and directors of Peak Management Inc. (2007) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Leo Steinbruch told ICIJ that “Peak Management exists, is active, it’s been declared on its owners’ tax forms and has been duly disclosed to the Brazilian Central Bank as a Brazilian investment abroad.”


Ravikant Ruia


Details: In December 2011, he was accused of criminal conspiracy by India’s principal anti-corruption enforcement agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation. The accusation relates to a broader investigation of politicians, government officials and telecom executives in India for alleged irregularities in the award of cell phone frequencies to telephone companies.  Ruia’s firm is disputing the charges made against him and others.

Offshore business: Shareholder in one firm in the British Virgin Islands, Orion Worldwide Universal Corporation (2008). His daughter, Smiti, is a shareholder in two others. One of Ruia’s flagship companies, Essar Power, has further BVI entities that are named in the ICIJ documents.

Comment: A company spokesman said that of the eight companies registered in Ruia’s name as well as in the name of his flagship business Essar Power, five have since been liquidated. Three continue to be operational. “These companies were started as SPVs [Special Purpose Vehicles] to make investments and are in the knowledge of the authorities concerned,” the spokesman added.


Dionisio Garza Medina


Details: His family co-owns Alfa, a conglomerate with interests in oil, food and telecommunications.

Offshore business: Shareholder of Vercors Private Limited (2005) in Singapore.

Comment: Garza Medina did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Alfa, of which Garza Medina was CEO until 2010, declined to answer questions saying this is a “private matter of Mr. Garza not related to Alfa.”


Apostolos Vakakis


Details: CEO of the retail conglomerate Jumbo SA, one of Greece’s largest companies.

Offshore business: Shareholder of Karpathia Ltd. (2007) in the British Virgin Islands. Company transferred to another offshore service provider in 2009.

Comment: “I have declared officially all without exception my transactions that should be announced in public, as provided by relevant Greek legislation. … One does not use a legal entity in order to hide the identity of the beneficial owner by using shadow names but to be able to complete a transaction in a straightforward manner,” said Vakakis.


The Shoman family: Suha, Omar and Aysha Shoman            

Widow and children of one of Jordan’s richest families

Details: The family’s father, Khalid Shoman, was — until his death in 2001 — vice-chairman of the Arab Bank Group, one of the main banks in the Arab world, founded by his father. Omar sold their share of the bank for about $375 million in 2003.

Offshore business: Omar and Aysha are shareholders — jointly or on their own — of 12 companies in the British Virgin Islands, including OS Investments Inc. (2002), OAKS Inc. (2003), Fisch Investments Inc. (2005) and OS Tech Inc. (2006). Their mother is connected with two of the firms as a shareholder and one as a director. Most entities were transferred to another offshore service provider between 2007 and 2009.

Comment: Omar Shoman didn’t reply to requests to comment through his assistant and email. The ICIJ could not locate Aysha Shoman and could not reach Suha Shoman on the phone despite several attempts.


Mehbub Yusufali Manji


Details: The Manji family is one of the richest in Tanzania. It started Quality Group Limited, the country’s major conglomerate with interests ranging from automotive to food processing.

Offshore business: Director and shareholder of Intertrade Commercial Services Inc. (2007-2009) in the British Virgin Islands.

Comment: Yusuf Manji, chairman and CEO of the company, did not reply to ICIJ’s emailed request for comment. The contact address in the records is that of the company in Dar-Es-Salaam.

Key Findings

  • Government officials and their families and associates in Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and other countries have embraced the use of covert companies and bank accounts.
  • The mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages and anonymity not available to average people.
  • Many of the world’s top’s banks – including UBS, Clariden and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways.
  • A well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other operatives has helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money laundering or other misconduct.
  • Ponzi schemers and other large-scale fraudsters routinely use offshore havens to pull off their shell games and move their ill-gotten gains.

Map: Key Tax Haven Clients In the World


Gunter Sachs’ Offshore Network

VIDEO: ICIJ collaborated with the BBC and The Guardian to unmask the “nominee directors” who pose as public faces for more than 21,500 offshore companies:

RELATED ARTICLE:  http://wp.me/p2qWaW-G5

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