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Mass leaks reveal secret bank accounts

AFP-JIJI

Millions of emails and leaked records from offshore tax havens have exposed the identities of thousands of holders of offshore accounts, including the family of the president of Azerbaijan and French President Francois Hollande’s one-time campaign treasurer, the Guardian and Le Monde newspapers reported on Thursday.

Britain’s Guardian said the information came from a leak of 2.5 million documents and emails that mainly concern the British Virgin Islands, but also the Cayman Islands.

The investigation into offshore accounts has been carried out by a variety of media organizations in conjunction with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers reported that Augier, who controlled the purse strings for the last year’s election campaign of President Hollande, holds shares in two companies registered in the Caymans, including a distributor based in China.

Another case cited by the Guardian was the wife of Igor Shuvalov, a businessman close to President Vladimir Putin who has been first deputy prime minister since 2008, who is recorded as setting up several offshore companies.

The ICIJ’s exploration of offshore accounts began when it obtained a hard drive packed with corporate data as a result of Australia’s Firepower scandal, a case involving fraud and offshore havens.

The European Commission reacted to the reports by calling on EU states to do more to tackle tax fraud, estimating it costs their cash-strapped governments around ?1 trillion a year.

“For the Commission, there can be no exceptions whether for individuals, companies or third countries who … abet tax evasion,” Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said.

Transparency campaigner Global Witness urged the G8 to take the leak as a wakeup call and require the names of company owners to be made public.

“This revelation of the extent of financial secrecy should act as a wakeup call to us all,” said Global Witness spokesman Stuart McWilliam.

“Hidden company ownership enables corruption, state looting and dodgy deals that directly deplete state budgets and entrench poverty,” he added.