Paradise Papers hell for tax dodgers

Latest leak of confidential financial data reveals big names from Asia

The rich and famous in Asia were not spared in the latest leak of confidential financial data, which showed how Bermuda law firm Appleby allegedly helped the wealthy around the world set up offshore trusts in tax havens.

The information was made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) over the weekend, and authorities in at least one jurisdiction in Asia - Indonesia - are already looking at the names which surfaced in what has been dubbed the "Paradise Papers".

These include former army general and leader of Indonesia's opposition coalition, Prabowo Subianto, as well as the scions of former President Suharto, Tommy and Mamiek.

"We will try to obtain more comprehensive and detailed data as part of efforts to ensure taxpayer compliance," said Mr Hestu Yoga Saksama, spokesman for the Directorate General of Taxation.

Mr Dian Ediana Eae, who is deputy chief of Indonesia's anti-money laundering agency, the Financial Transaction Report and Analysis Centre (PPATK), also confirmed that the agency was looking into the accounts and fund movements of the persons identified in the leak.

Other familiar names in politics, business and even entertainment from Hong Kong, India, Japan and Malaysia were also flagged by the ICIJ, which has promised to release more details of illicit transactions involving cross-border transfers of trillions of dollars, in the weeks ahead.

There are 714 names of Indian businessmen, lawmakers and Bollywood stars and at least one federal minister, according to the Indian Express newspaper, which was one of the 96 organisations that was part of the ICIJ investigative project.

They include Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha and businessman Vijay Mallya, who is wanted in India for financial irregularities and is currently in Britain.

In Japan, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Mr Masamitsu Naito, who served as State Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, were among a handful of former Diet members said to have ties to tax havens in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Responding to questions from the Asahi Shimbun yesterday, Mr Naito said: "I was introduced to what was described as a valuable foreign investment opportunity. I did not know it was based in a tax haven."

Information on Mr Tommy Suharto and his sister Mamiek indicated that the companies they were linked to in Bermuda were closed after a few short years.

Similarly, Mr Prabowo's Nusantara Energy Resources, which was established on the British island territory in 2001, was closed by 2004, according to Appleby's records.

Mr Fadli Zon, who is deputy chairman of Mr Prabowo's Gerindra Party, denied that the firm was set up to avoid taxes and said that it has not been active since it was founded.

"This is a one-dollar company," he told Tempo magazine.

The leak of 1.4 terabytes of data from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens' company registries makes the Paradise Papers the second largest data dump after the Panama Papers from 2016, which involved 2.6 terabytes of data.