On Monday, Fusion published its findings from a months-long investigation into a trove of millions of leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca (MF). Working with more than 100 media organizations through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Fusion helped sort through 2.6 terabytes of data that linked wealthy individuals and powerful politicians to the firm, which specializes in creating shell companies.
While it’s not necessarily illegal to distribute wealth across these secret companies, which can be used by the super wealthy as legitimate forms of holding their wealth, shell companies can be used to evade taxes and disguise illegal behavior. But just because someone is involved with Mossack Fonseca doesn’t necessarily mean their business holdings are illegal.
Politicians (see: Iceland’s prime minister Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who resigned Tuesday) and public figures alike were named in the leaked documents—including a number of celebrities. Here’s who we know are involved so far.
Jackie Chan (and his son, Jaycee)
Chan, 61, was estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of about $350 million as of 2015. According to the ICIJ, the movie star “has at least six companies managed through the law firm,” including one called Dragon Dream Services, LTD. The ICIJ is quick to point out that “there is no evidence that Chan used his companies for improper purposes.”
The agency representing Chan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Guardian reports that Cowell, known to most Americans for his biting evaluation of contestants as a judge on American Idol, “is the sole shareholder of two British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies called Southstreet Limited, set up in February 2007, and Eaststreet Limited, set up in October 2007.” The companies were apparently set up when Cowell was in talks to purchase land in Barbados. Now, however, the project has stalled and the companies are inactive.
A spokesman for Cowell said in a statement to The Guardian that the companies were never used:
The companies were set up, not by my client, but by accountants acting for him as a common means for an overseas investor to purchase property in Barbados. My client, however, preferred to purchase them transparently in his own name. Therefore, the companies were never used for anything at all. I can also confirm on behalf of my client that he has not used any offshore companies for any purpose whatsoever.
Cowell reportedly has a net worth of $459m.
The DreamWorks co-founder also started Asylum and Geffen records, and has an estimated net worth of $6.8 billion.Records from Mossack Fonseca show that the law firm drew up the contracts for the sale of Geffen’s Pelorus, a 377-foot-long yacht, to a Panamanian shell set-up by the firm.
An assistant to Geffen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stanley Kubrick’s family
The estate of the late director appears to have setup companies and trusts following his death, in the names of his daughters and stepdaughter. According to The Guardian, the companies were set up to control Kubrick’s estate, Childwickbury Manor, where he is buried. Each daughter, Anya Kubrick, who died in 2009, Vivian Kubrick, and Sam Finney, received a share and were made trustees in Wilmington Trust Limited in the Cayman Islands in 2008. A request for comment from Kubrick’s estate was not returned.
According to the Spanish publication El Confidencial, the Spanish Oscar-winning writer and director known for films like Talk to Her and his brother/business partner Augstin are named in the leaks. Augustin issued a statement Sunday to El Confidencial saying that he set up the offshore Glen Valley Corporation in the 1990s with the intent to expand his brother’s film business. The company was closed in 1994.
Attias, of the consulting firm Richard Attias & Associates, is perhaps best known for his marriage to Nicolas Sarkozy’s ex-wife Cecilia. According to the leaked documents, the production mogul, who served as executive producer of the World Economic Forum at Davos for several years, used MF to set up at least one shell company.
Records show that the company was created in 2010 and disbanded in 2014 and was, according to Attias, never activated. In a statement to Fusion, Attias denied any wrongdoing, and explained that he was not aware of the existence of one or any shell companies set up in his name through MF at the time. When he later learned about the company, which he says was created in Dubai where his group’s HQ is based and registered through MF, he did not find it out of line with his legitimate business practices.
He added in a statement to Fusion that “[Richard Attias & Associates] are a global player and our business is worldwide including Latin America,” adding, “we are very transparent and all our subsidiaries pay taxes in the countries where they are registered.”
Faldo is considered one of the best golfers of his era. He won the Masters tournament and the British Open three times. A spokesman for Faldo declined to comment to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (the group that provided Fusion with the leaked documents) about Faldo’s ownership of Blenhim Limited from 2006 to 2008. Faldo was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2009.
Sarah Ferguson (Fergie)
According to The Guardian, “The documents reveal a degree of chaos around the Duchess of York’s finances.” Allegedly, letters between Ferguson’s legal representatives and Mossack Fonseca show the British royal “trying to make sense of her assets,” set up in Essar Company Inc. in the British Virgin Islands in 2000.
Ferguson is perhaps best known stateside as a representative of Weight Watchers. Ferguson issued the following statement to The Guardian:
Essar Company Inc was formed by the partners who were to develop the business opportunities with the duchess. Had any of the intellectual property generated income or gains or other profits, it would have been disclosed by the duchess as part of her normal tax filings.
The spokesman said the duchess has always disclosed all sources of income in her tax returns.
The London-based, Serbian-born fashion designer counts many A-listers as fans, including Kate Middleton, Anne Hathaway, and Emma Stone. Ilincic and her husband Philip Dermot Bueno De Mesquita are listed as the owners of Greenland Property Limited. The Belgrade-based KRIK network investigating crime and corruption said the couple company was based in the British Virgin Islands. A representative for Ilincic told Fusion in an emailed statement:
Roksanda does not avoid tax or obscure ownership of her assets. Indeed she is taxed in the UK on her Worldwide Income and Gains subject to any double taxation treaties in place with the UK Revenue Greenland Property is a dormant company with no assets.
Family of Juanes (Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez)
Records show that Jaime Aristizabal Vasquez, Juanes’ oldest brother, made use of MF’s services. Documents show that Jaime owns a company called Linthal Holding Corp., and that the team of MF lawyers was attempting to bring on Jose Luis Aristizabal, another of Juanes’ brothers, as a client as well by offering a full suite of services, including airport pickup.
Fusion did not immediately receive a response to a request for comment sent to Juanes philanthropic organization, where Jaime Aristizabal Vasquez and Jose Luis Aristizabal serve as board members. The benefit foundation was not mentioned in the leaked files. Juanes’ management also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Jaime Aristizabal Vasquez and Jose Luis Aristizabal’s mention in the leaked documents.
The paternal second cousin of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and a French businessman who was CEO of Adidas as well as advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. He was one of the largest shareholders of French football club Olympique de Marseille. He died in 2009. A request for comment from The Louis Dreyfus Company was not returned.
The world-famous athlete, who plays for the Spanish club Barcelona as well as the Argentine National Team, is already facing accusations of tax evasion, and his inclusion in the Panama Papers is adding fuel to the fire. The Associated Press reported that “Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been charged with three counts of tax fraud and could be sentenced to nearly two years in prison if found guilty. They are accused of defrauding Spain’s tax office of €4.1 million ($4.4m) in unpaid taxes from 2007-09.”
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the shell corporations implicated in that allegation are likely comparable to the one linked to Messi through the MF files. The ICIJ explains that “the records show Messi and his father were owners of a Panama company: Mega Star Enterprises Inc.”
[We wish] to make it clear Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the acts of which he is accused in the stories and that the allegations of him having designed a tax evasion project are false and injurious, as are those relating to the creation of a money laundering network…. the Panamanian company referred to in said reports is a completely inactive company, which has never had any capital or active current accounts, and which dates from the old corporate structure set up by the Messi family’s previous financial advisors, with the tax implications for Lionel Messi having been settled at the time.
Mills, who famously was awarded £24m in her divorce settlement with Paul McCartney appears in the leaks as a shareholder of Water 4 Investment Limited. The company holds a trademark for V Pure, but was set up as a health food brand. According to The Guardian, the investment failed and the company never got off the ground:
“I can say hand on heart I am a straight taxpayer and you will never find anything on me if you investigate thoroughly,” she said in an emailed statement. A spokesman said: “Heather invested £1m in a company which intended to utilise algae [rather than fish] to harvest Omega 3 oils, thus preserving the marine ecosystem.”
The wife of actor Sean Connery is listed in as the shareholder of Blue Cedar Investments Limited, with documents showing the company was incorporated in the Bahamas.
Connery and his wife are noted tax exiles, having fled Scotland for the Bahamas. The couple are also currently facing tax fraud charges in Spain in a case that resembles a Hollywood thriller. We’ve reached out to Connery’s publicist for comment.
A TV writer known for working on popular 1980s sitcoms like Benson and Family Ties as well as writing the screenplay for two Olsen Twins movies. In the leaks he is connected to the Baskerwill Foundation, of which there is scant information available online, and Moonjade Capital Inc, a Panama-based firm incorporated in 2008. A request for comment submitted to Wolff through his personal website was not returned.
Daddy Yankee (Ramón Luis Ayala)
Reggaeton singer, songwriter, and producer Daddy Yankee (who you may know as the man behind a number of Billboard chart-topping hits like “Gasolina”) was also named in the Panama Papers. Latino Rebels points out that despite 39-year-old Ramón Luis Ayala’s obvious success, his publicized companies El Cartel Records and Los Cangris Inc. have reportedly failed to generate much revenue. A representative for Ayala declined a request to be interviewed by the ICIJ to discuss his relationship with MF. Ayala’s representative also did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fusion.
Update, 04/06/2016, 3:46 P.M.: This post has been updated to specify which representatives were contacted for comment and to reflect that Blue Cedar Investments Limited is based in the Bahamas.
Update, 4/6/2016, 6:10 P.M.: Post has been updated to reflect that David Geffen sold the Pelorus to a shell company set up by Mossack Fonseca.
Correction, 4/9/2016, 4:41 P.M.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested that Juanes was managed by his oldest brother. Fusion regrets the error.
This post has been updated to reflect additional information and a statement provided by Richard Attias.