These Boston Companies Turned Up in the Panama Papers Database
In terms of sheer volume, Panama Papers are the single biggest leak in history, dwarfing Wikileaks and Edward Snowden’s high-profile hauls by multitudes. Since the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published its findings on April 3, detailing how some prominent individuals and corporations have used offshore companies and hard-to-find tax shelters, Iceland has ousted its prime minister, while associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and even Harry Potter actress Emma Watson were revealed to have money stashed away in offshore accounts.
Of course, with 2.6 terabytes of data on 214,000 entities scattered across 21 jurisdictions, Boston was bound to turn up sooner or later.
The ICIJ made available to the public Monday the information contained in more than 11.5 million files anonymously leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the world leaders in the creation of so-called shell companies, in a searchable database. As the ICIJ notes, there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts, and a person, company, or other entity’s inclusion in the database does not necessarily suggest any wrongdoing.
Responding to questions from the ICIJ and its media partners, Mossack Fonseca said it “does not foster or promote illegal acts. [The ICIJ’s] allegations that we provide shareholders with structures supposedly designed to hide the identity of the real owners are completely unsupported and false.” But in one memo contained in the Panama Papers, a partner at the firm said that “95 percent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes.”
Though the ICIJ’s report contained big, international names like British PM David Cameron and soccer superstar Lionel Messi, Americans were noticeably absent. Expect that to change in the coming weeks.
Editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung responded to the lack of U.S. individuals in the documents, saying "Just wait for what is coming next"
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) April 3, 2016
More than 40 addresses in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville appear in the ICIJ database, touching a range of industries from financial services to biomedicine. As major American publications like the New York Times and Washington Post—who did not participate in the ICIJ’s initial investigation—begin to sink their teeth into the database, they will likely find a number of named parties in the Boston area.
Eighteen trusts in the database list Lourie & Cutler, a law firm with offices in 60 State Street, as their intermediary. These trusts, with names like Maple Trust, Aztec Trust, and Best Trust, were incorporated between March 1993 and August 2008, with 12 still active.
Fidelity Investments Limited, formerly known as Financial Administration Services Limited, was spun off from Boston’s Fidelity Investments in 1980, and is still owned and managed by members of the company’s founding family. In the ICIJ database, the still-active entity is registered to an address in British Anguilla, and linked to Gecko Corporate Services, an Isle of Man firm specializing in offshore companies and trust structures.
General Electric, which announced plans to move its global headquarters from Connecticut to Boston’s Seaport District earlier this year, also makes an appearance in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks database, under the name GE International Operations Company (GEIOC), a publicly disclosed U.S. incorporated entity with employees in several countries.
Incorporated in 2005 and still active, GEIOC appears in the database registered to a P.O. box in the British Virgin Islands, and Hong Kong arm of Julius Baer, a Swiss private banking firm, listed as its intermediary. Bloomberg also lists the subsidiary with a P.O. box at 1209 Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware, one of the country’s better known corporate tax havens.
But it’s not just companies that appear. Douglas R. Brown, an MIT and Harvard Business School alum, has been the CEO of AquaVenture Holdings since 2007, and served as the CEO of Seven Seas Water Corporation from 2007 until 2012. He appears in the ICIJ database registered to a Commonwealth Avenue address, while AquaVenture Capital is registered to a P.O. box in Tortola, with International Business Company Formation, Inc. as its intermediary.
IBCF, headquartered at 101 Main Street in Tappan, New York, assists with offshore company formations in the British Virgin Islands. AquaVenture Water Corporation and Seven Seas Water Corporation both list IBCF as its intermediary.
In the map below, we have plotted the more than 40 Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville addresses included in the ICIJ database, many of which are concentrated in the Financial District.
Red = Boston, blue = Cambridge, green = Somerville.