- Frederik Obermaier
is the co-author of the Paradise Papers. He is an investigative reporter at Germany’s leading newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. Obermaier also worked on a separate investigation, the Panama Papers, and is co-author of the book Panama Papers: The Story of a Worldwide Revelation.
This weekend, a slew of 13.4 million leaked documents revealed how the world’s richest men stash away billions of dollars in wealth in offshore tax havens. The revelations, known as the Paradise Papers, implicate more than a dozen of President Trump’s Cabinet members, advisers and major donors. The 13.4 million leaked documents also reveal how millions of pounds of the British queen’s private estate were hidden in an offshore fund based in the Cayman Islands, and how the senior adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped funnel millions of dollars to offshore tax havens. For more, we speak with Frederik Obermaier, co-author of the Paradise Papers. He is an investigative reporter at Germany’s leading newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. Obermaier also worked on a separate investigation, the Panama Papers, and is co-author of the book “Panama Papers: The Story of a Worldwide Revelation.”
AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show with a slew of shocking revelations about how the world’s richest people stash away billions of dollars in wealth in offshore tax havens. The revelations, known as the Paradise Papers, implicate more than a dozen of President Trump’s Cabinet members, advisers and major donors, among them Wilbur Ross, who’s continued to conduct business with Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law through a shipping company, even after Ross became Trump’s commerce secretary. The shipping company, Navigator Holdings, is also linked to a Russian oligarch subject to U.S. sanctions.
The papers also show President Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the director of a Bermuda-incorporated oil and gas company linked to ExxonMobil which ran a controversial scheme to export tens of millions of barrels of natural gas from the oil fields in western Yemen.
Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, served as president or vice president of 22 separate companies based in Bermuda between 2002 and 2006, while he was at Goldman Sachs. The registered addresses of all 22 Bermuda-based companies were 85 Broad Street in Manhattan, then the headquarters of Goldman Sachs.
Even the Trump administration’s top banking watchdog, Randal Quarles, vice chair for supervision at the Federal Reserve, was the officer of two separate firms based in the Cayman Islands. The 13.4 million leaked files also implicate Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Jon Huntsman, Trump’s new U.S. ambassador to Russia; and Carl Icahn, Trump’s billionaire former adviser.
They also reveal how millions of pounds of the British queen’s private estate were hidden in an offshore fund based in the Cayman Islands, and how the senior adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped funnel millions of dollars to offshore tax havens.
The documents also take aim at the world’s biggest companies, showing how Nike and Apple avoid taxes and how Facebook and Twitter received hundreds of millions of dollars linked to the Russian state.
The files [were] obtained by reporters at the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The files were then analyzed by more than 380 journalists from over 90 media organizations across 67 countries.
For more, we’re joined by Frederik Obermaier, co-author of the Paradise Papers, investigative reporter at Germany’s leading newspaper, also worked on the Panama Papers investigation and is co-author of the book Panama Papers: The Story of a Worldwide Revelation.
Well, we do not have much time, Frederik, but if you could just start off by explaining how these papers were released, and then talk about some of the most outstanding examples within it, who this is implicating?
FREDERIK OBERMAIER: Hello. We started the Paradise Papers investigation more than a year ago. And it was the results—the first results were published yesterday noon or noonish U.S. East Coast time. The Paradise Papers show actually how the super-richest and how corporates hide their money offshore. Sometimes it’s illegal. Sometimes it’s still legal, but I think it’s still illegitimate, because hiding and avoiding taxes means that there’s money going away, money that our countries need, our societies need, for example, to building universities, to build streets, to build schools. So, I think this is a global problem. It’s a problem in the U.S., but also in the European Union. And I think there’s, therefore, a global approach needed.
AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about some of the most stunning findings in this, what you were most shocked by?
FREDERIK OBERMAIER: I was really surprised of the huge extent of how people being very close to Donald Trump being involved in offshore dealings. I think the case from Wilbur Ross shocked me the most, because we all know that there was—he was already questioned in regards to how he disinvested, but, I mean, nobody was aware of his connection to Russia. And, I mean, he now claims that the company, Navigator Holdings, where he is still holding some interest, that he didn’t know that they—that the company they did business with in Russia, a company called Sibur, that there is—one stakeholder is or one shareholder is, for example, Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law or the oligarch Timchenko. And I think I must admit that from a secretary of commerce, I would expect to at least know this, to research it. And I think it shows a huge conflict of interest that, in my opinion, should now be investigated.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain, because the commerce secretary, when questioned, said he was divesting from his holdings. So, what does the Paradise Papers show?
FREDERIK OBERMAIER: The Paradise Papers show that he indeed did disinvest from most of his companies, but that he kept—even after becoming secretary of commerce, that he kept, via a chain of offshore companies, interest in Navigator Holdings and that he didn’t disinvest from that one. And given the current debate in the U.S. about Russia’s influence in the U.S., I think it is very important to have a close look at what went on there and that not only media, but also authorities and investigators, should have a look on that one.
AMY GOODMAN: You also uncovered, for example, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state; Steve Mnuchin. Explain what you found.
FREDERIK OBERMAIER: Well, in the case of Mr. Mnuchin, it is interesting that his former bank, the CIT Bank, that they help their customers to set up structures, when they, for example, bought airplanes, to set up structures to avoid taxes. And this is things we have seen in many cases, and we have already seen that millions of dollars of taxes are avoided through such structures. And given the fact that nearly every country of the world needs money, needs tax money, to—basically, to keep up the infrastructure, keep up universities and schools running, I think this is something the public should be well aware of, that in the Trump government, in the Trump administration, there are many people with offshore ties and that this is something they should have a close look to.
AMY GOODMAN: And very quickly, the companies, like Apple and others, what role the Paradise Papers exposes them playing?
FREDERIK OBERMAIER: The Paradise Papers show that those multinational companies are looking for—to find always a loophole in the global tax system. So, when one loophole is closed, they try to find another one. They try to keep their taxes as low as possible. And it is countries like the U.S. that basically miss the taxes. So, for example, if—when a company like Nike sets up a complicated structure in the tax haven of the Netherlands, this actually means that it is a huge amount of taxes that the U.S. state misses.
AMY GOODMAN: Frederik Obermaier, we’re going to have to leave it there now, but we’re going to do Part 2 and post it online at democracynow.org. He’s co-author of the Paradise Papers. I’m Amy Goodman. Happy birthday, Andre Lewis!