Paradise Papers Expose “Cleverest Ways of Exploiting” Offshore Tax Havens by GOP & Democratic Donors


AMY GOODMAN: Here on Democracy Now!, I’m Amy
Goodman with Juan González. Our guest is Jon Swaine, senior reporter for
The Guardian, where he’s part of the team that is publishing stories on the Paradise
Papers. One of his new stories, “The seven Republican
super-donors who keep money in tax havens.” JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about that,
Jon? JON SWAINE: Sure. I think one example from this story that is
a particularly interesting case about money in politics today is this guy Warren Stephens. He’s not that well known. He’s not your Kochs, the Adelsons, who are
household names perhaps. But he’s very important. He gives a lot of money to Republican candidates. And what we found is he is the hidden co-owner
of a payday lending company that is being sued by the federal government for allegedly
exploiting customers, for overcharging them with loans, for deceiving them on how much
their loans would cost. And unbeknownst to all of us, he’s been
a co-owner of one of these companies while backing Republicans who are seeking to bring
down the regulator, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that is taking this company
to court. You know, it’s a clear conflict. And before this leak arrived, we just didn’t
know that he was involved in it. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about the major Democratic
donor, as well, who’s Simons? JON SWAINE: So, James Simons—we talked about
Robert Mercer. James Simons took over, as you said, as head
of Renaissance Technologies—Robert Mercer took over from James Simons at that hedge
fund. James Simons founded it. And what we found in this leak is that since
the ’70s he’s been building a trust fund, a private wealth fund, in Bermuda, which is
this tax haven in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s worth at least $8 billion, probably
quite a lot more. And it’s been accumulating wealth year after
year without facing any U.S. taxes. And, you know, he is now saying he’s going
to use most of it to give to charity, which—fine, but most people, when they give money to charity,
they’ve already paid their taxes, right? And so, I think people view this as proof
that for the super-rich, for the ultra-wealthy, there’s a kind of completely different set
of laws and of practices. that are out of reach for most people. AMY GOODMAN: One of the filings leaked in
the Paradise Papers shows how an attorney for Renaissance Technologies founder James
Simons asked Bermuda’s Supreme Court to hold hearings on restructuring his trust in
private, in order to prevent the Simons name from being listed in the public docket. The lawyer writes, quote, “There has always
been very great sensitivity as regards even the remotest possibility of publicity of the
wealth of Mr Simons and his family. Mr Simons himself is exceptionally private,”
he wrote. The Guardian also reports Simons has publicly
called for higher taxes on Americans he has termed “rich guys like me.” So you have these two political guys, James
Simons, founder of Renaissance Technologies in Stony Brook, Long Island, right near the
university there, and Robert Mercer, who took over from him. Now, according to BuzzFeed, it’s Simons
that has convinced Robert Mercer to step back because he’s demoralizing the entire company
for supporting the white nationalists and Milo Yiannopoulos and Breitbart News. And so Mercer has stepped back. But you’ve got these guys covering the spectrum,
supporting the various parties, and all—but what they have in common is their offshore
tax havens. JON SWAINE: I think that’s right. And I think it actually speaks to why a lot
of people on the left are disenchanted with sort of mainstream Democratic politics. This is a guy who gave $11 million to Priorities
USA, the sort of major super PAC that backed the Clinton campaign. He’s given millions more to other Democrats,
to the Senate Democratic fund and to the House Democratic fund. And yet, as you say, he is storing billions
of dollars offshore. And I think, as you said, it covers the spectrum
to an extent, but it’s the sort of the mainstream spectrum of U.S. politics, and it’s why
I think a lot of liberals are disenchanted with these mainstream Democrats. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to ask you
about the two Russian state institutions with close ties to Putin who were investing in
Facebook and Twitter, but also through a business associate of Jared Kushner. JON SWAINE: That’s right. So we knew the man you mentioned. His name’s Yuri Milner. He’s a Russian tech investor, and he also
invests in a Jared Kushner company here in the U.S. What we didn’t know is that a couple of
his investments, in Facebook and in Twitter, were funded by Russian state banks, essentially. One of them is a bank. One of them is a sort of investment vehicle
for the Russian government. And this is more—this is more information
that came out of the Paradise Papers leak. Twitter has a—had an investment of $191
million funded by VTB Bank in Moscow, which has close links to Russian intelligence. Facebook had a billion-dollar investment funded
by Gazprom, which is an oil and gas company in Russia, but it has a sort of financial
arm, as well. And we didn’t know any of this before these
leaks sort of showed us the way to find these investments. AMY GOODMAN: So talk more about Apple, Facebook,
Twitter, and what you found in the Paradise Papers. And then lay out what these papers are and
what this Appleby company is. The front page of the Times today is a picture
of Madonna, Bono and the queen of England. And it’s the Paradise Papers that links
them all. JON SWAINE: Appleby is the company at the
center of this whole thing. They’re a legal and accounting services
firm. They have offices in Bermuda, in the Isle
of Man, in tax havens all around the world. And what they do is basically they get paid
by corporations and wealthy people to find the most tax-efficient, as they say, areas
to put their money. And the people who do this range from, as
you say, the royal family in the U.K. to celebrities like Madonna to corporations like Apple, all
of them paying very expensive lawyers and very expensive advisers to find the new tax
loophole, essentially, around the world for them to park their funds. Apple, you know, one of the most popular,
ubiquitous companies of our time, parking tens of billions of dollars offshore rather
than just bringing it into the U.S. and paying taxes on it, you know, they’re a U.S. organization. They have employees using public services
in California. They’re an American corporation, and yet
they decide that they’re going to park all this money offshore. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Appleby, the company
from which many of these documents come, has insisted that it’s reviewed the allegations
and is comfortable that there’s nothing illegal that has occurred here. What about this issue of whether there’s
anything illegal happening in all of these exposés of the Paradise Papers? JON SWAINE: You know what? They’re probably right, that probably the
lion’s share—there may be a few cases around the edges—the lion’s share of this
is going to be legal, because this is the system that is in place, where these loopholes,
these offshore vehicles and all these sort of systems and schemes are within the law. But as I say, they are the most—the newest,
sort of cleverest ways of exploiting the system. And these kinds of systems are just out of
reach for normal people. Most people just get paid and pay their taxes. They can’t find expensive lawyers to find
them kind of clever loopholes in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands to just save a bit more
money here, a bit more money there. And so, yeah, they’re right. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve done
nothing wrong. This is what they do, if you like. AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute to go,
but your colleague, Ed Pilkington, at The Guardian has a new report out today, “From
Harvey Weinstein to Shakira, the Celebrities with offshore interests: Martha Stewart, Madonna
and Nicole Kidman are among those named in leaked Paradise Papers documents.” What about Harvey Weinstein? JON SWAINE: So, Harvey Weinstein turns out
to have been involved in a offshore scientific research company. It’s a strange company where several sort
of well-known people seem to have put money in. I think it’s now ended, but, as you said,
this just shows what a range of people involved in this whole thing, from political influence
to royals to celebrities like Madonna and Harvey Weinstein, all involved in putting
money offshore, away from the IRS. AMY GOODMAN: And what that means is the lack
of investment in infrastructure, in social services in the United States and other countries
around the world. JON SWAINE: I think that’s right. And I think that’s what really concerns
people when they read these stories. You know, times are tough. Wages have been stagnating for decades for
the average worker. There’s this sort of backlash against the
system, which we see with Brexit and with Trump and all these movements. And actually, perhaps part of that is because
the money that could be going into improving things for most people, improving public services,
improving basic infrastructure in the country, is being moved offshore. AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jon Swaine, we want to
thank you for being with us. We will link to all your pieces. He is a reporter for The Guardian, part of
the team publishing stories on the Paradise Papers. A very happy birthday to Kieran Krug-Meadows! Democracy Now! is accepting applications for
our paid 6-month internships. Check democracynow.org.

37 comments on “Paradise Papers Expose “Cleverest Ways of Exploiting” Offshore Tax Havens by GOP & Democratic Donors”

  1. Info Illness says:

    American political donors do not want to pay tax to the country they purport they want to serve…

  2. phillip st says:

    are the lawyers they paid also banking off shore? what laws do we have to stop the rich from doing whatever they want?

  3. Stella Bar says:

    Excellent interview.

  4. Grim Locke says:

    It’s so lovely how the lumpenproles let the lords loot them. But, I’m sure Princess Rebekah is excited to take the reins from Poppy Bobby Mercer, because that puts so much distance between Renaissance Technologies and White Supremacy.

  5. edward woods says:

    Lol.. The corruption is staggering in the United States .. It's like the 80s all over again on steroids .. These Billionaires need more tax break so they can add more $$ to there off shore accounts . I hate to say it but the Dems and the republicans are working for the same team .. Election reform is a must for the United States

  6. Adrian Varona says:

    Milo is Jewish gay married to a black man, I find it hard to believe he knowingly supports white nationalist. Just because you guys say it every time you mention his name doesn't make it true. But great interview otherwise.

  7. tony fat says:

    Does anybody care that Hillary stole the election from Bernie Sanders

  8. zz says:

    MAGA: Messy Ass Guillotines Again

  9. Darla Gaub says:

    There needs to be a massive push from citizens to our government to overturn these legal laws of offshoring money by the wealthiest.

  10. Glamdring83 says:

    https://secure.avaaz.org/de/petition/Antonio_Tajani_Close_tax_havens_worldwide/?cjHAhcb

  11. Jethro Peters says:

    It shows again the reality of what a greedy and crooked world we live in. Instead of Apple and others investing in, for example, education or infrastructure, its been draining away, out of reach. Conclusion: that fat wealthy rich basterds dont realy care.. they exploit people and this earth. I am from Europe, and its – in a way – fascinating to see trump as president. I think his obvious selfishness and crooked morality, symbolises perfectly what is wrong. The real sad thing is that a large public let themselves be manipulated and vote for this bully!… it is predictabe! The rich exploit, make conditions to live hard, and because of that, people are easy to manipulate

  12. Guido Arce says:

    its so refreshing watching objective news without being force feed others opinions

  13. Sacred Thyme says:

    oh ma'donna ~

  14. altitude illume says:

    DEMS CAUGHT, ALSO, OF COURSE. THIS IS FINANCIAL COMPETITION, CAPITALISM;
    WHICH IS DESIGNED TO PIRATE, TO BREAK LAWS, ULTIMATELY.

  15. ellieysama says:

    So these corporate asshoes rather PAY ALL that money to these 'LAWFIRMS' to help them PAY little to NO taxes instead? fucking stupid if they had HALF a brain that would pulsate right in all that fucked up GREED they have they would realize how just PAYING taxes instead is probably WAY more better because it would be probably FAR less than the lawfirm they pay so hahaha IDIOTS!

  16. altitude illume says:

    HOARDING IS UNHEALTHY, UNLESS YOU LIVE ALONE IN THE GREAT WHITE NORTH, I MEAN.

  17. dixgun says:

    science ? maybe jeffrey epstein is involved ?

  18. Charles Brightman says:

    And consider also the fractional reserve banking system:
    Some banks generate money out of thin air, loan that money out, then get the principal with interest paid back with real money to them. Why try to spin straw into gold when real money can be generated from thin air?

    And consider also:
    Since the economy hasn't collapsed by this system of money being generated out of thin air, create a central world bank that generates money out of thin air and gives that money to the various nations to help take care of the young, old, poor, needy, ill and dying, plus funding a pro-active space program that might save any of us one day.

    Main stream modern science claims that this Earth and it's Sun will not last for literally all of future eternity. When the Earth is no more, the central bank will be no more. But, many people would have lived a better life while they did exist. The people who would get this money would most likely spend that money thereby growing and strengthening the economy along the way.

    If banks can do it, why can't we do it to help all people?

  19. Kris Ballard says:

    We always knew that rich people were corrupt. However, the Paradise Papers reveals that this corruption is even worse than was previously imagined.

  20. Charles Brightman says:

    The joke still appears to be even on the rich and powerful people:
    1. They are still ALL going to die one day from something;
    2. They are still ALL going to forget everything they ever knew and experienced;
    3. They are still ALL going to be forgotten one day in future eternity as if they never ever existed at all in the first place.
    (OSICA)

  21. Charles Brightman says:

    "Trickle down economics" is a fallacy. Money at the top goes out of this country and doesn't come back to even be able to trickle down. When are all the 'We The People" going to wake up and vote their own interests? "We" can be the change.

  22. House Of Bowles Lost Tribe says:

    We the People want these people charged with Tax Evasion
    Even the "Tweeds" that were involved should not escape this .
    When is the Attorney General & the DOJ going to go after the tax havens on US soil?
    I thought Trump was going to drain the Swamp .
    Not all Swamp members are active politicians etc .

  23. justgivemethetruth says:

    These people need to be in prison

  24. justgivemethetruth says:

    One good start to fixing the US would be publicly funded national elections. Also, for the media mess reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and make it have teeth.

  25. justgivemethetruth says:

    Come on … telling us that Russian investors have ties to the Russian Government is like saying American investors in Russia have ties to the American government … OF FUCKING COURSE THE DO …. WHO IS REX TILLERSON FOR GOD'S SAKE?

  26. justgivemethetruth says:

    WAKE UP IDIOTS …. This is PURE MARX … it is class warfare … and the class war for 99% of people on the planet is the only war worth fighting !

  27. paladro says:

    they devalue your dollar by keeping the money hidden like that…

  28. John Doe says:

    But, but… Russians and stuff!

  29. arthur granopoulos says:

    I hear Apple had over 350 million dollars stashed in just this scam

  30. GroovyVideo2 says:

    All Politicians are Crooks

  31. Jason x31x32x33 says:

    Christ, I hate this woman. Robotic liberal shill.

  32. Brian Koski says:

    These greedy money whoarders remind me of crazy cat hoarders.

  33. upliftspirits says:

    Well if the new tax reform bill does not include taxing all machines…then it’s a failure coming out of the gate!!🇺🇸🇺🇸
    It is clear that since there are more machines than people doing all the work world wide ; machines must be responsible for paying the taxes to pay the government public servants!!😂😳😆🔑🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸💯💯🔈🔈✅🛎
    America being a capitalist nation with all the wealthy keeping their capital off shore; there is not enough human taxpayers to finance Americas’ criminal with badges!!😂😳😆🇺🇸🇺🇸🔈🛎

  34. OG Johnson says:

    Thank you For This Great Report! Salute

  35. TheMystery Gamer says:

    In the UK the government claims we're too poor to fund the National Health Service, schools, a police force, a fire brigade and social housing but we've got more than enough money to subsidise private multimillion profit making corporations, cut Corporation Tax and ignore the billions hidden away in tax havens in British owned territories.

  36. Abdul Charisteas says:

    What is a “co-earner “?

  37. Marsiling Martian says:

    If you "donate" your money to the charity organisation that you created, you don't need to pay taxes. That is why many rich people in USA like to "donate" to charity.

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