British Virgin Islands leaks
On April 4, 2013, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began leaking the details of 2 million emails and other documents naming prominent public figures from around the world who were concealing their wealth through the offshore tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. Based on this leak, the ICIJ released a report focussing on China's elite on January 22, 2014.
Tax-haven leak will spur graft probes, analysts say
The massive haul of leaked financial information on offshore havens by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) will spur anti-corruption efforts in China and other nations, analysts say.
In one of the biggest information leaks in history, an investigation by the United States-based ICIJ has gathered more than two million documents naming businessmen and politicians with financial dealings through secretive firms in offshore havens such as the British Virgin Islands.
"It's very important to the Chinese. It's also very important to other jurisdictions," said John Bruce, director of Macau at Hill & Associates, a Hong Kong-based risk consultancy.
President Xi Jinping had recently underscored his intention to tackle corruption, Bruce said.
He added that the ICIJ's information would be of interest to governments of other countries such as France, where it had been disclosed that French President Francois Hollande's campaign treasurer, Jean-Jacques Augier, had a business partnership with Chinese businessman Xi Shu.
"That it was concealed is unfortunate," Bruce said. Hong Kong, with a "long history as a place that deals with offshore jurisdictions", was a channel through which a lot of mainland money flowed to offshore havens like the British Virgin Islands.
Chris Leahy, a co-founder of Blackpeak Group, an Asian strategic advisory firm, said it was possible that Xi's administration would use the ICIJ's data in its crackdown on corruption.
"It's useful ammunition for Xi," Leahy said.
Raymond So Wai-man, dean of the business school at Hang Seng Management College, said the ICIJ's findings might spark short-term measures by Beijing to fight graft, but corruption on the mainland remained a long-term problem.
Global Witness, a British NGO, called on British Prime Minister David Cameron and leaders of the G8 nations (Britain, America, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia) to crack down on anonymous company ownership, following the ICIJ's discovery.
Stuart McWilliam, a Global Witness campaigner, said: "This revelation of financial secrecy should act as a wake-up call. Hidden company ownership enables corruption, state looting and dodgy deals that deplete state budgets and entrench poverty."