Yesterday the mystery of the Panama Papers was all anyone was talking about. And then the names spilled out: designer Valentino Garavani and his business partner Giancarlo Giammetti, as well as London-based designer Roksanda Ilincic, all have interests in companies for which Panama City-based law firm Mossack Fonseca did some work.
But what, exactly, are the Panama Papers? Here’s what you need to know.
Three years ago a watchdog published a series of reports on tax havens based on leaks of confidential documents, called The Panama Papers. The documents were leaked from Mossack Fonseca, which, according to its website, offers “comprehensive legal and trust services.” The website goes on to say that the firm offers “research, advice and services for the following jurisdictions: Belize, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Malta, Hong Kong, Cyprus, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Panama, British Anguilla, Seychelles, Samoa, Nevada, and Wyoming (USA).” And also Panama.
The leaker (whose identity has not been revealed) provided the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) with files covering nearly 40 years. The number of documents involved in the leak is a staggering 11.5 million confidential documents, constituting financial and legal records. They unveil the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and officials, including 12 current and former presidents, monarchs and prime ministers. They show how money was moved around and hidden by at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the United States for allegedly doing business with rogue states, terrorists or drug barons. The sums involved are huge; so are some of the names.
According to Italy’s weekly L’Espresso, Italian fashion designer Valentino had the law firm “manage some reserved transactions” for himself and Giammetti. L’Espresso states that Giammetti’s offshore entity is called Jarra Overseas SA, and that it was registered in 2004 in the British Virgin Islands.
Both Valentino and Giammetti had been investigated for alleged tax payment evasion in reference to the fiscal years 2000 to 2006, the weekly states. As reported, the matter was settled for an undisclosed sum. L’Espresso claims that Jarra Overseas were part of the investigation.
The designer and his partner have been residing in London since the sale of the Valentino company to the now-defunct Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali in 1998. As of now the designer and his partner have declined to comment on this new matter.
Another high profile fashion brand also implicated is Roksanda Illincic. According to a report in The Guardian newspaper in London, Ilincic is part-shareholder in a British Virgin Islands company, Greenland Property Ltd., with her husband, Philip Bueno de Mesquita.
A spokesperson for Ilincic said the designer “does not avoid tax or obscure ownership of her assets. Indeed, she is taxed in the U.K. on her worldwide income and gains, subject to any double taxation treaties in place with the U.K. Revenue.”
The Guardian made clear there is nothing to suggest that any of the individuals named in its story — people including Simon Cowell; Stanley Kubrick; Sarah, Duchess of York; Jackie Chan, and Sir Mark Thatcher — sheltered, or sought to shelter, money or assets offshore to avoid tax for any unlawful purpose.