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Trump’s ‘involvement in a Panama hotel project’ appears in Pandora papers

Donald Trump has been named in the Pandora Papers over his links to a Panamanian hotel project, but the leaked files ‘do not reveal significant information’ about his dealings, according to a report. 

The dump of 12 million financial records has turned up the heat on elites from King Abdullah of Jordan to the alleged mistress of Russian President Vladimir Putin

The former US president is mentioned for his ‘involvement in a Panama hotel project,’ according to The Washington Post.

‘But the Pandora documents do not appear to reveal significant new information about his finances,’ the report says.  

Trump’s name previously appeared in relation to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in the Panama Papers leak of 2016.

It’s not clear whether this gleaming sail-shaped complex which towers over Panama City bay is the same project discussed in the Pandora Papers.

Trump put his name to the development and stood to make up to $75 million from it, according to a bond prospectus.

He did not exert management control over the construction and was under no direct legal obligation to conduct due diligence on other people involved.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on September 25, 2021 in Perry, Georgia

Trump's name previously appeared in relation to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in the Panama Papers leak of 2016

Trump’s name previously appeared in relation to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in the Panama Papers leak of 2016

It reflects a business model which Trump has used around the world, lending his name to hotels and apartment complexes, while not actually running them himself.

The Pandora Papers are being examined by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), but this coterie have not published the trove in full, meaning that fuller detail of Trump’s involvement cannot yet been reported. 

Aside from the brief mention of Trump in the new leak, it has been noted that while the world’s wealthiest are being skewered from London to Hong Kong, heavyweights in the United States are not named.

Financial secrecy laws in South Dakota have made the state THE spot for foreigners who want to conceal millions in assets 

The state of South Dakota has joined the likes of familiar offshore tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong and Belize with South Dakota trusts quadrupling in size in the space of ten years to $360 billion.  

The Papers reveal how one of the largest trust company’s in the state has confirmed that it has clients spread across 54 countries and 47 states that include more than 100 billionaires.  

State politicians have continued to approve legislation that allow for even more protections and benefits for the customers of such trusts. 

The U.S. has continued to refuse to join a 2014 agreement that is supported by the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, requiring American financial institutions to share information they have about foreigners’ assets. 

‘South Dakota now rivals notoriously opaque jurisdictions in Europe and the Caribbean in financial secrecy,’ The Washington Post stated. 

Furthermore, the legislation that allows such secrecy has been drafted by insiders who work in the trust industry. 

The state laws provide both protection and secrecy while keeping the money within the U.S.

Normally, the government would tax any interest earned by an account, but in South Dakota, assets are protected from any civil claims such as a divorce or legal proceedings. They are not protected from criminal investigations. 

Nevertheless, because South Dakota has no income tax, inheritance tax or capital gains tax, the finances held there are effectively kept out of the reaches of the U.S. government.    

Documents from the Pandora Papers, ICIJ and Post managed to identify almost 30 US-based trusts that were linked to foreigners whose companies were accused of misconduct of wrongdoing and human rights abuses… all now based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Billionaires, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are absent from the Pandora Papers.

Financial experts say that this is because the generous tax rates they pay domestically mean there is little incentive to seek overseas tax havens. 

Others speculate that it may also be that they use different havens, such as the Cayman Islands, which weren’t reflected in the papers. 

But if American people are absent from the list, the United States themselves are not. 

South Dakota in particular has become a new hub for opaque financial dealings, rivalling the likes of the British Virgin Islands and Switzerland.

Trusts in the state have quadrupled in size in the space of ten years to $360 billion thanks to laws which protect assets from any civil claims such as divorce. 

The Pandora Papers detail more than 29,000 offshore accounts — double the number identified in the Panama Papers — linked to officials in 91 countries and territories. 

The report showed how world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets for the past quarter-century. 

Many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and conceal assets for other suspicious reasons, according to the report.  

The report listed 130 alleged billionaires as account owners but did not include any of America’s wealthiest individuals.

Financial analysts speculate America’s uber-rich — such as Bezos, Buffet, Musk and Gates — have less incentive to use offshore havens due to the low tax rates they pay.

According to a Forbes report published in June, the 25 richest Americans paid a ‘true tax rate’ of 3.4 percent on wealth growth of $401billion between 2014 and 2018.

Bezos reportedly paid a true tax rate of 0.98 percent with Buffet and Musk paying rates of 0.10 percent and 3.27 percent, respectively. 

Gates’ true tax rate was not readily available, however, in 2018 he admitted to needing to pay more in taxes.

‘I need to pay higher taxes … I’ve paid more taxes, over $10billion, than anyone else, but the government should require people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes,’ Gates told CNN at the time. 

Additionally, experts analyzing the Pandora Papers argue that America’s wealth leaders may have utilized other companies or offshore accounts in different jurisdictions to conceal their money.

Amazon owner Jeff Bezos

Legendary investor Warren Buffet

Amazon owner Jeff Bezos (left), America’s riches man, and legendary investor Warren Buffet, do not appear on the lists

Bill Gates

Elon Musk

America’s wealthiest billionaires, including Bill Gates (left) and Elon Musk do not appear in the Panama Papers.

The Pandora Papers only encompassed records for 14 financial services entities that were operating in Switzerland, Singapore, Cyprus, Belize and the British Virgin Islands. 

It is possible that additional firms could be holding Americans’ funds.   

Meanwhile, experts argue that the Pandora Papers leak should spark concern as financial shielding can impact citizens for several generations by worsening wealth disparities and crimes such as drug trafficking, ransomware attacks, arms trading and more.

‘The offshore financial system is a problem that should concern every law-abiding person around the world,’ former FBI officer Sherine Ebadi told the newspaper.

‘These systems don’t just allow tax cheats to avoid paying their fair share. They undermine the fabric of a good society.’  

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