Business, Economics and Jobs

A trove of leaked documents reveal how the wealthy stash their cash overseas

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Democrats have called for an inquiry into Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's investments. Ross denies wrongdoing. 

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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Remember the Panama Papers — that huge trove of more than 11 million documents leaked in 2015 detailing financial data on more than 200,000 offshore entities? 

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Now, there's a sequel.

It's called the Paradise Papers, and it's brought to you via the same two German journalists who received the earlier data dump. 

"Here we are again with another leak and new revelations," says Süddeutsche Zeitung correspondent Frederik Obermaier, one of the two reporters who received the Paradise Papers from an anonymous source.

The leaks detail the massive sums of money parked in some 25,000 companies headquartered for tax reasons in locales including the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.

Related: Paradise Papers: Offshore trove exposes Trump-Russia links and piggy banks of the wealthiest 1 percent
 
"The money that is going into tax havens is actually money that is normally not being taxed," he says. "That is money that is being missed by the US, Germany and the UK. That is money that could be otherwise used for hospitals, for schools, for universities."

The Paradise Papers include details of the investments of US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, showing how his portfolio can be linked to those of individuals in Russian leader Vladimir Putin's inner circle.  

Related: Leaks show US commerce chief's ties to Putin-linked businesses

Obermaier calls that a conflict of interest.

"If you, as the secretary of commerce are profiting from business activities of a company that is, in part, owned by Vladimir Putin's son-in-law, that raises the question how independent [Ross] is," Obermaier notes. "Yesterday, there was this announcement that [Ross] would not have known who are the shareholders of this Russian company called Sibur. And I must admit, I'm a little bit skeptical on that one because you can find the shareholders on Siber's homepage. It's not really hidden. You can find that Kirill Shamalov, this son-in-law of Vladimir Putin, is one of the shareholders."

Obermaier says the Paradise Papers should alert those involved in shady, offshore transactions. 

"It is a signal to people doing business in secret jurisdictions that [they] cannot feel safe anymore," he says. 

Some US lawmakers have called for an inquiry into Ross's business links to Russia. 

Ross denies any wrongdoing. 

To hear more on how Frederik Obermaier got the papers, listen above.