In 2013, the world was shaken by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) as it released the report dubbed “offshore leaks” which exposed around 130,000 offshore accounts and trusts across the globe.
Published by more than 40 media organizations, it was considered as the largest collaboration of investigative journalists who probed into the secrets of offshore tax havens.
Others called it the “biggest hit against international tax fraud of all times” as it disclosed the hidden transactions of legislators, tycoons and even religious leaders in more than 170 countries and territories.
Philippine’s current senator Imee Marcos, who is the daughter of former (dictator) President Ferdinand Marcos, was identified on the “offshore” list, noting that she was a beneficiary of a secret trust in the Caribbean.
According to reports, documents showed that Imee became a financial advisor for the Sintra Trust and ComCentre Corporation; as well as a “master client” for the M Trust in Malaysia.
Lee Swee Eng, the Group Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of KNM Group was also tied to an offshore trust in Germany.
The head of the Malaysian-based process equipment manufacturer and energy firm was found to be a shareholder and Director of Active Nobile Incorporated, a subsidiary of Regula Limited which has reportedly masterminded a huge money-laundering scheme.
Also on the list is Bangladeshi industrialist and politician Kazi Zafarullah, who together with his wife and other family members, had established and held shares in two offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands from 2006 to 2008.
With these irregularities and secrecies, several countries including Austria, Australia, Canada, Greece, India, Israel, Mongolia, Philippines and South have initiated official investigations and inquiries in the aim of transforming their tax policies with the report serving as their wake-up call to crack down on offshore sanctuaries and comprehensive tax evasion.
According to the United States’ Center for Public Integrity, ICIJ has transformed the world into a more transparent one following inquiries, high-profile resignations and policy reforms.
“In South Korea, police and prosecutors raided the home of a former President, hauling away paintings and other big-ticket items; in Austria, one of Europe’s most famed bankers abruptly resigned; and in Great Britain and France, national leaders have appeared on TV and promised to eradicate tax havens,” the center’s published article read.
Europeans and Belgians credited ICIJ for promoting a sense of urgency to act on business and property ownership disclosures.
Other states have likewise tightened “corporate transparency standards” not only to protect investors but more likely to evaluate criminal obligation with lawful assurance and to recoup resources in a compelling way.
Based in Washington, ICIJ operates as a global network of hundreds of investigative journalists from various countries as part of the Center for Public Integrity. It maintains its official website, http://www.icij.org/, where the offshore leaks database is posted along with other timely “watchdog” reports about corruption, abuse of power and cross-border crimes.