Details of 11.9 million documents from 29,000 offshore businesses and trusts containing 2.94 terabytes of data have been leaked.
This leak was exposed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which consortium of journalists, made up of 600 reporters from 117 countries. ICIJ has released a trove of private financial documents that it said exposed the offshore business structures being used by scores of billionaires as well as royal families and the elite to hide their affairs from tax authorities.
In a statement on Monday morning following the release of the documents overnight, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) said it would be “analysing the information to identify any possible Australian links”.
The expose covers a wide range of topics, including the formation of shell companies, foundations, and trusts, the use of such entities to buy real estate, yachts, and jets, the use of such entities to make investments and transfer money between bank accounts, and tax evasion through complex financial schemes.
The leaks came from 14 separate entities around the world, including Asiaciti, a company established by Sydney accountant Graeme Briggs, according to the ICIJ journalists. There is no suggestion that Briggs was involved in any wrongdoing.
Some papers have been linked to money laundering and other financial crimes. The records date back to the 1970s, but most of the files span from 1996 to 2020.
In contrast, the Panama Papers exposed 2.6 terabytes of data. In a statement on Monday morning following the release of the documents overnight, the ATO said it would be “analysing the information to identify any possible Australian links”, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
ATO Deputy Commissioner and Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) chief Will Day said in a statement on Monday that the ATO didn’t rely on data leaks to do its job but said the tax office would review the trove of documents.
Asiaciti defended its compliance program when contacted by The Guardian Australia and the ABC saying each of its offices had passed third-party audits for anti-money laundering in recent years and it had an intense focus on that area.