The Guardian view on the Paradise Papers: a light on murky dealings | Editorial

Photo of The Guardian view on the Paradise Papers: a light on murky dealings | Editorial

Allowing the very richest to secede from the rest of society and choose the jurisdiction they operate under has led to an astonishing rise in global inequality

The millions of leaked files in the Paradise Papers once again shine a bright light on where the uber-elite stash their cash. Until very recently the hidden web of investments made by the super-rich operated in the comforting darkness offered by secretive tax shelters. The disinfecting sunlight provided by whistleblowing-led investigations since 2013 has fundamentally altered how the world looks at, and regulates, tax affairs. Last year’s Panama Papers cost the leaders of Iceland and Pakistan their jobs. More than a dozen nations have changed their laws and the offshore law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers closed offices in tax havens. It is work that is both necessary and brave: one of the journalists involved in investigating the Panama Papers was blown up by a car bomb last month.

This latest dump of data centres around the Bermudan law firm Appleby, a 119-year-old operation favoured by the global super-rich and big corporations, as well as the Singaporean company Asiaciti Trust and the mostly opaque company registries of 19 tax havens. The first stories have already generated global headlines: about why millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate went into an offshore portfolio which included an investment in the retailer BrightHouse, criticised for exploiting poor families with high-interest loans to purchase white goods; and about why anti-poverty campaigner Bono has so much money he didn’t know some of it bought a piece of a Lithuanian shopping centre via a tax haven.

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