Paradise Papers sends shockwaves around the world

With high-ranking politicians appearing in the Paradise Papers, officials around the globe were quick to react to the leak. The EU and India have started investigations while Russian and US officials were on the defense.

Paradise Papers (picture-alliance/dpa/J.-F. Frey)

Governments around the globe worked quickly on Monday to respond to the Paradise Papers, a collection of 13.4 million leaked records from two offshore firms, after several politicans and public figures were mentioned in the data.

Obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the trove of leaked documents details the offshore tax avoidance methods used by the world’s wealthiest companies and individuals.

Read moreParadise Papers — what you need to know

Here’s how some around the world reacted to the news:

Watch video01:47

Transparency advocates see opportunity as outrage over leaks grows

Europe

European Union finance ministers are set to discuss plans for a tax haven blacklist on Tuesday, EU officials announced.

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.

Read moreGermans among those featured in the Paradise Papers

The bloc previously planned to reach an agreement on an EU-wide blacklist by the end of the year, although no decision is expected on Tuesday.

Currently, each of the EU’s 28 member states has its own list of jurisdictions that are perceived as being less cooperative where taxes are concerned. The criteria to define tax havens vary widely among EU states with little consensus on the jurisdictions that appear on their national blacklists.

“It’s time that we agree and publish a blacklist on tax havens,” EU tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici told reporters, calling for “adequate sanctions” when serious offenses are unveiled.

United Kingdom

The papers also revealed that British Queen Elizabeth II’s estate also made investments in tax havens, prompting calls from the opposition Labour Party for a public inquiry.

“All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate,” a spokesperson for the Duchy of Lancaster said in a statement. The duchy provides the monarch with her income and handles her investments.

They added that the queen “voluntarily pays tax on any income she receives from the duchy.”

“The shocking revelations from the Paradise Papers today, yet again of widespread tax avoidance and evasion on an industrial scale, must lead to decisive action and real change,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

United States

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the main allies of US President Donald Trump implicated in the leak, denied any wrongdoing.

The papers revealed that Ross invested in a shipping firm that has significant business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

“There is nothing wrong with anything that was done,” Ross told CNBC, adding that he properly disclosed his investments in Navigator Holdings, which reportedly transports gas for Russian petrochemical company Sibur.

He added that he is not considering resigning from his post.

As Commerce Secretary, Ross’s ties to Russian entities raise questions about potential conflicts of interest and whether they undermine US sanctions on Russia.

Read moreOffshore — The legal and the not so legal

Watch video02:02

Paradise Papers implicate US-Secretary of Commerce

Russia

Russian officials downplayed the Paradise Papers data on Monday, with Russian companies and government officials saying that the deals leaked in the data were legal and not politically-motivated.

In a statement reported by Russian news agencies, petrochemical giant Sibur expressed “amazement at the politically charged interpretation in some media of ordinary commercial activity.”

The head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian senate, Konstantin Kosachev, accused reports on the leaks of “stirring emotions” and having “muddled wording.”

“When it is boiled down, what is described here is standard and legal commercial activity,” Kosachev told RIA Novosti state news agency.

Read moreU2 frontman Bono named in Paradise Papers tax evasion leak

Watch video01:20

How do tax havens work?

Canada

Canada’s tax agency said it has already started reviewing the Paradise Papers documents for any evidence of its nationals having used tax havens to avoid paying taxes at home.

Over 3,000 Canadian companies, foundations, trusts and indivduals appear in the documents, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s close friend and chief fundraiser Stephen Bronfman.

Bronfman also denied any wrongdoing in a statement, saying that one multi-million dollar transfer to a trust in the Cayman Islands was made “in full compliance with all legal requirements.”

Trudeau has made tax fairness one of his main policy aims.

India

Indian officials announced that a panel of government officials has been established to investigate cases mentioned in the Paradise Papers.

Officials from India’s central bank along with members of government bodies will conduct and monitor the investigation, India’s finance ministry said.

Read moreParadise Papers prompts probe of India’s corporates

The names of some 714 Indians appear in the Paradise Papers documents. Although their inclusion in the documents does not mean they attempted to stash funds, some of the individuals and companies are already being investigated by Indian authorities.

Watch video02:35

‘Paradise Papers’ leak – Q&A with Robin Hodess, Transparency International

rs/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Courtesy: Fox News

Brexit talks: EU, Britain say ball is in the other’s court

Six months of Brexit negotiations have passed with little progress. With British Prime Minister Theresa May due to address parliament, both sides have now said that the other is responsible for making the next move.

Union Jack flag next to exit sign

As the EU and Britain started the fifth round of Brexit talks on Monday, both sides quarreled over who was responsible for making the next move in the stalled negotiations over Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Theresa May told the British parliament on Monday that a new agreement “will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU,” adding that “the ball is in their court.”

Theresa May in the House of Commons

Key points from the speech:

– Britain will not be a member of EU institutions during the two-year “implementation” period after it leaves the union on March 29, 2019, but it will retain access to the EU single market until the implementation period is over.

– Both sides can only resolve the problem of how much Britain owes the EU if they consider the future EU-UK relationship after the implementation period.

– Britain will not revoke Article 50, which would stop the Brexit talks and keep Britain in the EU.

– Government ministries have been preparing “for every eventuality,” a hint that Britain could accept leaving the EU without a deal.

Margaritis Schina speaking in BrusselsMargaritis Schina refuted May’s claim that the EU would need to make the next move

But before May had given the speech, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas had told reporters in Brussels that “there has been so far no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings.”

“So the ball is entirely in the UK court for the rest to happen,” he said.

Phase one troubles

The EU has repeatedly said that both sides can only discuss a new partnership agreement – which is expected to include a new EU-UK trade deal – after “sufficient progress” had been made on Britain’s exit from the union.

The first four rounds of negotiations have so far focused on three major exit issues:

– How much Britain owes the EU

– The status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

– The rights of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU after Brexit

Watch video00:55

May: ‘Our most important duty is to get Brexit right’

British leaders have criticized the EU for demanding a strict division in the talks, saying agreements on specific exit issues depend on whether both sides can agree on the terms of the post-exit partnership. But EU leaders have so far resisted that call.

Initial plans to complete phase one by mid-October have looked increasingly unrealistic after talks during the summer failed to achieve much progress.

The will to compromise

Both sides have indicated they may compromise to avoid Britain exiting the EU without any final deal.

May said in a speech in Florence, Italy in September that Britain would agree to abide by EU rules and pay into the common budget for two years after Brexit in March 2019.

She also said London would pay any outstanding amount it owed to Brussels, but did not say how much she thought the bill should be. Both sides have clashed on how to calculate the final exit bill.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen called on Britain and the EU to be flexible, saying “this will never be a 100 percent win for one side or the other side. This will be a political compromise.”

Watch video02:09

European lawmakers vote against advancing Brexit

All eyes on Brussels

EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels for a summit on October 19-20 wherethey will formally decidewhether “sufficient progress” has been made to open up phase two negotiations.

With six months of the two-year negotiating period already up, officials and business leaders have become increasingly worried that both sides may not agree to a final deal in time.

May, however, struck a confident tone during her speech on Monday, telling MPs: “I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong.”

amp/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Eurozone unemployment hits lowest level in eight years

Europe’s financial recovery continued at a steady pace amid a number of uncertainties in the market. The official eurozone figures were better than estimates of 9.2 percent from data company Factset.

Polish building worker (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Dedert)

Unemployment in the eurozone fell to 9.1 percent in June, its lowest figure since February 2009, according to official data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the bloc.

The jobless rate in the 19-state single currency market was better than expected by financial analysts. The numbers came a week after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the eurozone was strengthening, but warned of instability around Brexit and low inflation rates.

Read more: IMF: ‘Economic recovery on firmer footing’

Read more: Angela Merkel to open common Eurozone budget

Greece remained the EU country with the highest unemployment rate with 21.7 percent out of work, down 0.8 percent from May.

Meanwhile, the lowest rates were recorded in the Czech Republic at 2.9 percent, while Germany had the second-lowest jobless rate at 3.8 percent.

Spain, which has the second-highest rate of unemployment in the eurozone at 17.1 percent, saw the biggest fall – down from 2.8 percent from the previous year.

The number of people out of work in the European Union’s 28 member states remained at 7.7 percent, the lowest figure since December 2008, according to Eurostat.

Europe’s recovery post-Brexit remained stable with Eurostat estimating that the rate of inflation would stay at 1.3 percent, below the 2-percent target of the European Central Bank.

Watch video05:15

Scotland: Fears of losing EU workforce

rd/hg (AFP, dpa)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

British PM Theresa May signs Brexit letter to begin divorce from EU

British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed the historic letter that will launch Brexit, according to a photo released by her office. The letter will be delivered to Brussels on Wednesday.

England Theresa May unterschreibt Brexit-Antrag (REUTERS/C. Furlong)

Theresa May late on Tuesday signed the letter to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, nine months after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

The letter is to be hand-delivered to EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels on Wednesday, formally triggering the process to end Britain’s 44-year membership in the bloc.

From then, there are exactly two years to settle the terms of the divorce before it comes into effect in March 2019.

Around the same time the letter is delivered, May will address the British parliament and vow to achieve a Brexit deal for everyone in the UK, including EU nationals – of which there are around three million in the UK. The divisive campaign ahead of the June 2016 vote, and aftermath of the result, have left many EU citizens in Britain worried about their future.

Watch video01:03

UK Parliament clears way for Brexit

“It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country,” May will say, according to comments released in advanced by her office.

“We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together,” she will say.

May has a tough job ahead of her – negotiating with the EU’s 27 other member states on issues like finance, trade and security, while dealing with semi-autonomous Scotland’s renewed push for independence.

Scottish lawmakers presented the British government with an welcome distraction on Tuesday, voting to seek a new referendum on independence, after rejecting it in a poll in 2014.

The push is seen as protest at Brexit – Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, as did Northern Ireland, which is currently in a political crisis and risks losing self-government. Scottish and Northern Irish voters were outnumbered by support for Brexit in England and Wales.

jr/bw (AP, dpa, AFP)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Nigeria moves to stop illegal emigration

Nigeria’s government is worried about clandestine migration. Unlike in Europe, the issue is not people coming in, but Nigerians leaving the country. New rules are being enacted to solve the problem.

African migrants on a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean

On Monday, the Nigerian government presented the “Immigration Regulation 2017” in Abuja. It makes it easier for businessmen to visit the country, strengthens the defense of borders against terrorism and aims for better registration of immigrants. But both the title and the packaging hide the fact that this is far from being only about immigration. New rules for emigration are just as central to the project. To quote Nigerian Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazu: “It is an adjustment to the dynamics of modern-day’s migration realities.”

Harsh measures 

Mohammed Babandede, comptroller general of the Nigerian Immigration Service, is less inclined to mince words. “Nigeria today demonstrated it is committed to the fight against the smuggling of migrants. We are aware that a lot of our citizens are dying in the desert and the sea,” he said.

The government believes that only harsh measures will stop the dying. Accordingly, the new regulations include severe punishment for illegal migration. The old immigration law from 1963 established only modest fines of less than one euro ($1.08). New fines for infractions can go up to 3,000 euros ($2,800). Prison sentences for serious violations of the immigration law will be much longer than in the past.

Nigeria's Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazau and Comptoller General Mohammed Babandede Nigeria’s Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazau (right) and Comptroller General Mohammed Babandede presented Nigeria’s new migration policy in Abuja

Nigeria is one of the main countries of origin of illegal migration. In the last year alone, around 30,000 undocumented Nigerians crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Hundreds die each year attempting to reach the continent. Human trafficking has tarnished Nigeria’s reputation around the globe. Current estimates point to more than 10,000 Nigerian women forced to prostitute themselves in Europe. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari believes these numbers are a blight on his country’s reputation and has called for a coordinated strategy to fight smugglers and human traffickers.

The right of free movement

Babandede has promised to improve cooperation with Niger and other neighboring states which Nigerian emigrants cross on their way to Europe.

“If we have evidence that a migrant is planning to travel beyond Niger, we can stop him,” Babandede said.

That is the kind of measure rejected by Enira Kdrzalic, Nigeria’s chief of mission of the International Organization of Migration (IOM).

“Every single person has a right of free movement,” she told DW. That applies to all the citizens of the Economic Community of West

African refugees in Niger sit on the floor waiting for an opportunity to travel further to EuropeNigeria’s neighbor Niger is the main transit country for West African refugees

African States (ECOWAS), Kdrzalic added, before conceding that countries like Nigeria are under heavy pressure due to climbing numbers of undocumented migrants.

The European Union is seeking assurances from African states that they will take measures to stop mass migration. Countries willing to cooperate with Europe by joining so-called “migration partnerships” will be rewarded with substantial financial aid and investments. Those who refuse will face sanctions. The EU has put aside billions of euros to finance the partnerships in coming years.

Criminals will find a way

Enira Kdrzalic from the IOM believes that the failure to stop irregular emigration in Nigeria is not due to a lack of political will. Mostly, continued violations of the rules are a result of deficits in the country’s administration.

“Many agencies are operating in parallel. Much action is needed to ensure the effectiveness and coordination of their activities to avoid duplications,” Kdrzalic said.

Immigration head Babandede agreed that the new rules will not be enough if the job is not done properly.

“There must be a lot of training, attitude change and punishment of officials who compromise at the borders,” he said.

But Babandede also said that Europe must assume part of the responsibility. He called for the quick improvement of European laws regulating legal immigration for Nigerians.

“If you don’t create the opportunity for regular migration, criminal groups will provide those opportunities,” Babandede said.

Watch video03:44

Italy: Nigerian women forced into prostitution

 

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Unprecedented migrant crisis forces EU to seek answers

Reuters

A Syrian migrant lifts a child over a fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border near Asotthalom

.

View gallery

A Syrian migrant lifts a child over a fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border near Asotthalom, Hungary …

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union ministers were summoned on Sunday to meet in two weeks’ time to seek urgent solutions to a migration crisis unprecedented in the bloc’s history, as the mounting death toll on land and sea forced governments to respond.

Luxembourg, which holds the rotating EU presidency, called interior ministers from all 28 member states to an extraordinary meeting on Sept. 14, saying: “The situation of migration phenomena outside and inside the European Union has recently taken unprecedented proportions.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier called on her EU neighbours to do more as Germany expects the number of asylum seekers it receives to quadruple to about 800,000 in 2015.

“If Europe has solidarity and we have also shown solidarity

towards others, then we need to show solidarity now,” she told

reporters in Berlin. “Everything must move quickly.”

Luxembourg said the meeting would focus on policies on sending some migrants home and measures to prevent human trafficking.

Seven people died when their boat sank off Libya’s coast on Sunday, the second such fatal accident at sea within days. The Italian coastguard said some 1,600 migrants had been rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy over the weekend.

At least 2,500 migrants have died since January, most of them drowning in the Mediterranean after arduous journeys fleeing war, oppression or poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Africa or beyond.

The horrors faced by migrants were brought to the heart of the European mainland on Friday when 71 bodies, including those of a baby girl and three other children were found in an abandoned refrigeration truck in Austria.

The dead, believed to be refugees from Syria or

possibly Afghanistan, had been packed into the truck with just 1 square metre (10 sq ft) of space per five people, police said on Sunday, as initial forensic tests indicated they had suffocated.

Hungarian police arrested a fifth suspect, a Bulgarian citizen, in connection with the deaths. Three Bulgarians and one Afghan had already been arrested.

BORDERLESS SYSTEM

Criticism of Europe’s disparate laws and approaches to dealing with asylum seekers has mounted.

Some governments have refused to take in refugees and resisted EU proposals to agree on a common plan. Others are toughening their asylum policies and border security, sometimes because of rising anti-immigration and nationalist sentiment.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius accused eastern European states, notably Hungary, which is building a fence against migrants along its border, of a “scandalous” policy.

“They are extremely harsh. Hungary is part of Europe, which has values and we do not respect those value by putting up fences,” Fabius told Europe 1 radio.

But British interior minister Theresa May blamed Europe’s borderless system, known as “Schengen”, for fuelling the crisis and demanded tighter EU rules on free movement.

“When it was first enshrined, free movement meant the freedom to move to a job, not the freedom to cross borders to look for work or claim benefits,” May said. “We must take some big decisions, face down powerful interests and reinstate the original principle.”

Some European governments are considering amending the Schengen code, but the European Commission, the EU executive which enforces it, says there is no need to change the rules, either to improve security or control migration.

In Italy which as the entry point for many migrants has been at the forefront of the crisis, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the rising death toll would push EU states to confront the problem.

“It will take months, but we will have a single European policy on asylum, not as many policies as there are countries,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome, William James in London, Karin Strohecker in Vienna, Paul Carrel in Berlin, Hani Amara and Ahmed Elumami in Libya, and Marton Dunai in Budapest; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Alison Williams)

Greek debt crisis: Five things you need to know about the Greece bailout deal

Ravender Sembhy By Ravender Sembhy
July 13, 2015 13:54 BST Greece debt crisis
Greece debt crisis
The groundwork has been laid for a Greek bailout package.(Reuters)
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been forced into a humiliating climbdown, barely seven days after claiming a referendum he called would give him stronger negotiating power with his nation’s creditors.

A week is a long time in politics, as the saying goes, and so it has proved.

From the heady days of early July when Tsipras appeared to gain the upper ground on the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the creditors have hit back, in a big way.

On 13 July, Tsipras accepted conditions that are harsher than the bailout deal he last rejected and rubber stamp austerity on a grandiose scale.

IBTimes UK looks at the deal in detail, the various scenarios and how they might play out.

The deal

In return for a bailout package of up to €86bn (£61bn, $95bn) for Greece, the broke country must make sweeping economic reforms to pensions, tax policy, energy and retail markets, transport, labour markets and its financial sector.

In addition, Greece must create a fund to sell off €50bn worth of assets, the proceeds of which will go to repaying the new bailout and help refinance its banks.

Greece will then gain access to bridging finance to avert the collapse of its banking system and be permitted to resume discussions on debt restructuring.

Most importantly, the deal means the threat of a so-called Grexit has been avoided.

Timeline

Tsipras must pass the mammoth set of reforms through Greek parliament on 15 July, after which the German parliament will vote on whether to open talks on a new loan to Greece.

Greece will then need to start passing the reform laws before 20 July, when it is due to pay debt owed to the ECB.

This will unlock one tranche of funding and, following further reforms being passed, a full bailout package will be released in September.

What will this mean for ordinary Greeks?

Should the package be signed off, which is by no means a certainty, experts believe the already battered Greek economy will take another beating.

“This crisis has caused fundamental damage to the Greek economy and financial system and those problems aren’t going away. Today’s agreement is a sticking plaster and kicks the can down the road. Capital controls are likely to remain and the new austerity measures will probably, at least in the short term, damage the already incredibly fragile economy even further,” said Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group.

In summary, the Greek people, who overwhelmingly voted against austerity, will be presented with yet more austerity. In return, the will get to remain in the eurozone.

Capital controls, which are limiting Greeks to withdrawing €60 a day from ATMs as banks remain shut, are likely to stay in place for some time.
Greek bailout deal: What Greece has agreed to in 90 secondsIBTimes UK
What could possibly go wrong?

Other than the prospect of the Greek parliament rejecting the deal, and further protraction in an already long running saga, some analysts have ironically harked back to post-First World War Germany to caution on Greece’s future.

Michael Every of Rabobank said: “Of all countries, Germany should recall the lesson of 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles unfairly saddled it with unpayable debts in reparation for a terrible war that all involved had been party to, not just it; and that Chancellor Bruning’s deliberate austerity policies led to the rise of the Nazis and the horrors of World War Two.

“After the war, the US Marshall plan rebuilt Germany, while the Allies slashed its debts and included the key provision that repayments were only to be made while Germany ran a trade surplus, to incentivise others to buy German goods, despite more than a little ‘lack of trust’ about the Germans at the time.”

The risk of an implosion in Greek society over the coming years with extremists of all description profiting from economic misery has been well documented.

Long-term fallout for the European project

The consensus view, that Greece is being asked to give up fiscal sovereignty in return for staying in the eurozone, greatly damages the fundamental principles of the European project: that of unity, cooperation and a shared future.

“The ramifications of this weekend’s incredible bloodletting will have long-term consequences. Chancellor Angela Merkel looks seriously constrained by the more hawkish members of her government who have moved to flex Germany’s muscles and assert their version of rule based monetary union,” said James Nixon at Oxford Economics.

“The damage done to relations between France and Germany may prove irredeemable while the German suggestion that Greece be granted a short-term euro area [exit] surely shatters the principle that membership of the euro area is irrevocable.”

Nixon also argues the saga has effectively pitted southern European governments against those of the north, again conjuring up images of battles rather than unification.

More about Greece
How is Greece going to spend its €86bn rescue package?
The Euro Summit in full
Euro leaders hail controversial bailout agreement
What Greece has agreed to explained in 90 seconds
European markets rise but analysts hesitant about eurozone ‘progress’
Euro shrugs off new Greek deal as stock indices rally
Comments
2
Recommend
39
Share
15