12 Taiwan families identified in ICIJ offshore funds report
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-23 05:17 PM
The International Consortium of Investigative Reporters (ICIJ) released a report Wednesday on holdings in so-called offshore ‘tax havens’ by individuals and corporations in three main areas of Greater China. The consortium, whose website is now blocked in China, worked with reporters from Europe, North America, and Asia to sift through leaked files from two offshore funds, Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and Commonwealth Trust Limited in the British Virgin Islands. The report identified twelve wealthy families in Taiwan who have taken advantage of such accounts to move funds offshore, either to facilitate business deals or – as activists claim – to avoid having to pay taxes on them.

The documents, which are part of a larger cache of 2.5 million files obtained by ICIJ and analyzed together with media partners, provide information on nearly 22,000 offshore clients with addresses in Hong Kong and mainland China. Another 16,745 come from Taiwan. Holders of the accounts from Taiwan covered in the report included 181 offshore companies and 1,377 with their registered addresses in Taiwan.

Statistics show that institutions like investment bank UBS and foreign accounting firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Deloitte & Touche hold accounts in the British Virgin Islands and Samoa in Asia and a number of other places to facilitate dealings with noted lawyers and CPAs from Taiwan as well as for customer-related business. The report provided by the consortium said that detailed information on most of the Taiwanese clients involved was not available. They were mostly listed under their English names, and only a small amount of data in Chinese was furnished.

US and European investment banks and accounting firms have held such offshore accounts for years to maintain trust accounts for investment banking or tax purposes. In Taiwan the flow of capital is still strictly regulated by the government and many firms and individuals handle their capital flows and foreign assets through local branches of investment banks and accounting firms in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The ICIJ report named some of the richest families in Taiwan, including the Tsai family of Want Want China and the Tsais of Fubon Group, plus the Wu family of Shin Kong Financial and nine other well-heeled families.

Commonwealth Magazine, which collaborated with ICIJ in compiling its report, claims that surveys conducted by ICIJ reporters and the consortium's database indicate that Taiwan's richest families and corporations are among the largest abusers of overseas tax havens in the Greater China area.

The magazine estimates that tax havens have enabled account holders in Taiwan to avoid paying some NT$300 billion over the past decade, an average of NT$30 billion a year, which it says would be enough for the island’s 1.2 million elementary students to eat lunches for three years .

The ICIJ report names more than a dozen Chinese dignitaries who have set up offshore companies in the Caribbean to facilitate their business dealings. These include people like the son-in-law of Deng Xaoping, Xi Jinping and his wife, the son of Hu Jintao, the nephew of Ye Jianying, the son-in-law of Wen Jiabao and the daughter of Li Peng.

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