'2.5 lakh entities from over 170 nations evaded taxes'
Washington: A worldwide media expose has claimed that it has unearthed details of 2.5 lakh individuals and entities from more than 170 countries, including India, that evaded taxes by setting up companies in tax havens.
While details of persons and companies from India have not been made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), it said that the 15-month long probe has exposed "hidden dealings of politicians, con artists, and the mega-rich" from across the world.
The Washington-based consortium of journalists from across the world has claimed that its investigation has found a trove of 2.5 million digital files, detailing "secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts and nearly 130,000 individuals and agents" across the world.
The data covers many countries including France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore, the UK and the US.
"The files identify the individuals behind the covert companies and private trusts based in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands, Singapore and other offshore havens.
"They include American doctors and dentists and middle-class Greek villagers as well as Russian corporate executives, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Wall Street fraudsters, international arms dealers and families and associates of long-time dictators," ICIJ said in a statement.
The group said it would release the details of the mega probe in tranches through April 15, as part of the first round that began on April 3, while further rounds would continue throughout the year.
According to ICIJ, the leaked information -- totalling more than 260 gigabytes of data -- includes corporate files, emails, account ledgers, and other records that show cash transfers, incorporation dates and links between individuals and companies.
Among others, ICIJ said that the mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages and anonymity not available to average people.
ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle said the investigation lifts the curtain on the offshore system and provides a transparent look into the secret world of tax havens and the individuals and companies that use and benefit from them.