Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Paradise Papers Reveal Toxic Mix of Tax Havens, Oil and Trump’s Top Aides

Popular
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

By Andy Rowell

On Sunday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), working with dozens of media partners around the world, published the results of a huge global investigation into the use of tax havens.

The results of the investigation, based on the leak of 13.4 million files from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens' company registries, are shocking and lead to people who are close to Trump.


The files, known collectively as the Paradise Papers, reveal the offshore financial affairs of some of the world's biggest multinational companies and richest individuals, including some in Donald Trump's cabinet.

Trump has said he will work for ordinary Americans, but his Cabinet are certainly not paying their fair share of tax.

Let's take a quick look at Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The ex-boss of Exxon is named in the Paradise Files "as a director of an offshore firm used in a multibillion-dollar oil and gas venture in the Middle East that became embroiled in controversy," according to the Guardian, one of the papers involved in the Paradise Papers collaboration.

Tillerson was a director of Marib Upstream Services Company, incorporated in Bermuda in 1997 to conduct operations in the Yemen's Marib-Al-Jauf basin, according to documents from leading offshore law firm Appleby, which is at the center of the leak.

Marib was tied to Exxon during the time that Tillerson was president of ExxonMobil's Yemen division. Tillerson sat on Marib's board in the late nineties.

In turn, according to the ICIJ, Marib Upstream was a joint Venture between three companies, including the Yemen Exploration and Production Company which was jointly owned by Exxon and Hunt Oil.

Hunt had discovered the gas fields in the mid nineteen eighties and had brought in Exxon to help develop them.

However, according to the ICIJ, "In 2005, the Yemeni government … turned over production rights to a state-owned company," effectively nationalizing the assets. Naturally Exxon and Hunt objected and filed a complaint with the International Chamber of Commerce, although Yemen won. Despite this ruling, the company still existed as recently as 2015. But this is not Exxon's only offshore dealings.

The Guardian pointed out that in a report published last year, the campaign group Citizens for Tax Justice said Exxon had at least 35 subsidiaries in tax havens such as the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Luxembourg. The company held over $51 billion in offshore accounts while Tillerson was CEO.

The leak also raises questions about U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. who still has a stake in a shipping firm, Navigator holdings, that receives millions of dollars a year in revenue from a company whose key owners include Russian President Vladimir Putin's son-in-law, which is incorporated in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. Some of the individuals linked to the company are closely related to top Russian officials currently under sanctions.

It is alleged that Ross was not totally forthcoming about the extent of these business dealings. According to NBC News, Ross "failed to clearly disclose those interests when he was being confirmed for his cabinet position."

And once again the scandal links to oil. According to the ICIJ, "Among Navigator's largest customers, contributing more than $68 million in revenue since 2014, is the Moscow-based gas and petrochemicals company Sibur," which was created by the Russian state.

Two of its key owners are Kirill Shamalov, who is married to Putin's youngest daughter, and Gennady Timchenko, the sanctioned oligarch whose activities in the energy sector, the Treasury Department said, were "directly linked to Putin."

The ICIJ continued: "The leaked files showed a chain of companies and partnerships in the Cayman Islands through which Ross has retained his financial stake in Navigator. The fact that Ross' Cayman Islands companies benefit from a firm controlled by Putin proxies raises serious potential conflicts of interest, experts say."

Amos Hochstein, the top energy diplomat during the Obama administration, told the ICIJ: "When you start doing business with Russian energy companies like Gazprom and Sibur, you're not just getting into bed with the company. You're getting into bed with the Russian state."

The Democrats have seized on leaked documents, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) calling the revelations of the Kremlin links "inexcusable." Blumenthal also told NBC News, "Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies."

But today Ross has come out fighting. He told the BBC, "There's nothing whatsoever improper about Navigator having a relationship with Sibur … If our government decided to sanction them, that would be a different story."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Women walk from Santa Monica beach after a social media workout on the sand on May 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.

Read More Show Less
Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans and others who suffer from PTSD. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Arash Javanbakht

For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.

Read More Show Less
Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.

Read More Show Less
NASA is advancing tools like this supercomputer model that created this simulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to better understand what will happen to Earth's climate if the land and ocean can no longer absorb nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 emissions. NASA/GSFC

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

Read More Show Less
A child stands in what is left of his house in Utuado, Puerto Rico, which was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, on Oct. 12, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios. Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
Read More Show Less
President Trump's claim last September that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama's gulf coast was quickly refuted by employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An independent investigation found that NOAA's chief violated the agency's ethics when he backed Trump's warning and doctored map that used a Sharpie to alter the storm's path, as EcoWatch reported.
Read More Show Less

Trending

African bush elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve in Botswana on Nov. 22, 2016. Michael Jansen / Flickr

More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.

Read More Show Less