The documents were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with almost 100 media partners around the world by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), an international group of journalists.
Once again, we think they've made a bad decision. I think the best way to explain why is to have the ICIJ explain it themselves. Below is a screenshot of the terms you must agree to before reading the list of people and businesses they outed.
Basically, they're admitting that there is, most likely, no story behind the story. They themselves state that "There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts". Is there a possibility that some of those named in the leak committed crimes? Sure. But is there also a possibility that most of those involved were simply trying to manage their wealth in a sensible fashion? Absolutely.
When has having money become a crime? If someone in the US wins the lottery, don’t they always first hire an attorney to try to figure out the best way to pay the least amount of taxes? When you fantasize about winning, isn’t your first thought “I’ve heard taking the monthly payout is the way to go, less tax than the lump sum!” So let’s say you were a wealthy individual that had legal and accounting counsel that could assist you in investing your money in the best way…legally. Wouldn’t you take advantage of that?
And what about those that live in countries where if you have a lot of money, you become a target for all sorts of criminals simply because you have money? There exist people in this world who will extort you, or murder your family members if you don't pay a kidnap ransom. The exposure of confidential financial information will put many at risk for all sorts of criminal enterprises. Who will be responsible if someone is murdered because their anonymity (that they have a right to) has been breached?
We've had clients wrongfully imprisoned, kidnapped and ransomed, and had their stuff wrongfully seized. These people are kind of sensitive about keeping their affairs private. It absolutely disgusts us that this so-called journalist group is so casual about disclosing sensitive information about people that didn't even break one law.
We need to ask what the intention was behind this leak and why the information is being presented to the general public in the way that it is. The public needs to understand that when a group claims to be a “concerned journalist” or from a “center for public integrity,” yet they disclose criminally obtained material, there is at least a possibility that their actual intentions are the complete opposite of what they claim.
We'll give the same advice we gave when the Panama Papers leak happened. If you find that your name is on this list, don't try to bury your head in the sand and ignore the issue. It's best to have your situation reviewed to see if you have a serious problem. The Department of Justice and IRS like to go after 'minnows'. Most likely, you sincerely didn't know that you had to report your offshore accounts, and this can be remedied.
If you'd like to schedule a confidential consultation with us to discuss your situation, contact us.