Paul May Editor at Arachnys
The Bahamas Leaks are breaking - where to begin
Following the Panama Papers leaks, 1.3 million documents from the commercial register in the Bahamas have been obtained by Suddeutsche Zeitung, the same newspaper which received the Panama Papers from Mossack Fonseca: the Panamanian firm have also created 15,915 entities in the Bahamas. Whilst smaller in scope, the leak still includes information on around 175,888 companies and 25,228 Officers named in the papers (the Panama Papers included 238,402). The data represents around 38 gigabytes - smaller than the Offshore Leaks too, but still sizeable compared to Luxembourg and Swiss Leaks.
Compared to previous historic leaks, the Panama Papers was enormous. The Bahamas Leaks represent 38 of the squares above. Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung
This week, the documents have gone live into Arachnys:
The Bahamas Leaks as featured in the Arachnys database
The documents cover the period 1990-2016, and likewise reveal a network of offshore companies and 539 intermediaries. There are many politicians included in the list, but unlike the Panama Papers the leak does not appear to include contracts or email addresses of the beneficiaries.
Why have these companies registered in the Bahamas?
There are many reasons to register an offshore company in the Bahamas, legitimate and illegitimate. Simply put, it allows for greater secrecy in documenting the origins of ownership, along with greater freedom to distribute funds and confidentiality.
The Bahamas previously refused to sign the global agreement established the OECD to commit to exchanging company ownership information, the Common Reporting Standard (though they have committed to signing it in 2018). From 2017, tax information will pass from country to country. The European Commission described the Bahamas as not ‘co-operative’ for tax transparency and black-listed it in 2015 (Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner named in the leaks, would perhaps describe them as very co-operative). Before 2001, the Bahamas was considered by the OECD to be blacklisted, yet it was later upgraded to ‘greylisted’ in 2009. The Bahamas have also struck a Bilateral Agreement with US FATCA in 2014.
The Bahamas are described as a ‘tax haven’ because there is no income, asset or inheritance tax there. However, since the Bahamas abolished bearer (anonymous) shares in 2000, the number of companies setting up decreased substantially. Previously, there was no way of seeing the ownership of these shares, which made it possible to simply trade shares and ownership without scrutiny.
Which stories have been published upon initial release?
The Guardian ran with the story of Amber Rudd as the director of two offshore firms registered in the Bahamas in 1998-2000. It has also been revealed that Neelie Kroes, European Competition Commissioner until 2010 and Digital Commissioner until 2014 (currently she works for Uber), failed to declare her directorship in the Bahamas. The New York Times are reporting that Transparency International have requested the help of the EU in tracking down other related figures. Other notable figures covered in the media upon release include:
- Marco Antonio Pinochet - son of former dictator Augusto Pinochet;
- Carlos Caballero Argaez - Minister of Mines and Energy of Colombia from 1999 to 2001;
- Sani Abacha - son of the president of Nigeria;
- Sheikh Hamad - former minister of Qatar abroad;
- Mauricio Macri - family of the current president of Argentina;
- Ian Cameron - father of former British Prime Minister David Cameron
What are the limits of the information?
It is not possible to search for names. After discovering related entities in the online version of the database, it may be necessary to look up the original documentation. There are also inconsistencies in the data due to the poor quality of some names, which means that Arachnys fuzzy matching will be tremendously helpful. There is an online public register in the Bahamas, where one can request company documents for a fee of $10 (per document). There are 47 documents available from the Center for Public Integrity. If you go online to grab one from the registry, you can expect something like this:
As you can see, addresses are publicly available, as is the Directors section. But the information is incomplete. However, the docs published with The Centre of Public Integrity include the registrar of directors, which shows more:
Screenshot obtained from DocumentCloud, demonstrating the ownership information of EXXON AZERBAIJAN CASPIAN SEA LIMITED.
These documents are of course much more extensive, showing Addresses, Officer positions, and date of election to office and cessation.
With Arachnys, even more detailed information can be found on these entities:
On the Arachnys system you can search the Bahamas Leaks as a dedicated single source to remediate any potential reputational issues stemming from this new leak.
We allow you to use a range of logical operators like wildcards in case there is ambiguity in spelling or Romanizations. You can use a proximity operator like NEAR2 to account for the fact that first and last name might sometimes be listed in different order
We apply a fuzzy matching logic to your queries. This means we will automatically pick up slight differences between your search term and the name as it is listed in the Bahamas Leaks.
Investigator and D3 are a great starting point to corroborate information, find further leads as well as local language news that are likely to report on local politicians or prominent figures mentioned in the Bahamas Leaks. D3 allows you to include the Bahamas Leaks as part of an extensive workflow which you can be tailored for offshore sources.
For supplementary documentation, or manual sources, we can help with data concierge to supply additional documentation on entities.
We are looking forward to searching the names and entities in our investigations. Do drop us a line on Discuss if you want to contact us about your findings.