Singapore Company Asiaciti Trust In Involved In Paradise Papers Leak

The Paradise Papers published by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung has dominated the global Twittersphere since Sunday (5 Nov), implicating everyone from the Queen Elizabeth II to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But a Singapore-based company, Asiaciti Trust may have a larger role to play in this than most local mainstream news sources are letting on.

Selective Reporting In Local Mainstream Media

Perhaps it’s because we’re all distracted by the MRT and its failures, but news that a Singaporean company was involved in the leak of 13.4 million documents linked to offshore investments linked to tax evasion has largely flown under the radar.

Here’s a summary of local news reports of the Paradise Papers released Monday (6 Nov).

Today’s report mentions Asiaciti Trust only once in passing. Blink and you’ll miss it, so read carefully.

“The documents come not only from Appleby, but also from the Singaporean company Asiaciti Trust and official business registries in places such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Lebanon and Malta.”

Channel NewsAsia leaves them out completely stating instead,

“The Paradise Papers contain 13.4 million documents mainly from Appleby, an offshore law firm with offices in Bermuda and beyond.”

And what about the Straits Times?

“The Paradise Papers contain 13.4 million documents mainly from Appleby, an offshore law firm with offices in Bermuda and beyond.”

Wow, bonus points for originality.

Since both ST and CNA quoted AFP as their source, maybe it stands to reason that they simply reposted the story without reading further into it.

What are the Paradise Papers?

The Paradise Papers is a collection of leaked financial documents that reveal how various politicians, multinational companies, and even celebrities around the world have allegedly used complex financial structures to protect themselves from higher taxes.

As reported by BBC, of the 13.4 million documents leaked in the Paradise Papers, 6.8 million originate from offshore legal service provider Appleby and corporate services provider Estera. The other 6 million documents come from corporate registries in 19 mostly Caribbean jurisdictions.

What on earth does this have to do with Singapore?

BBC states,

A smaller amount comes from the Singapore-based international trust and corporate services provider, Asiaciti Trust.

By doing the math using BBC’s figures, approximately 600,000 documents may be traceable to the firm headquartered in Singapore. That’s more than half a million documents leaked, which is apparently still not enough to warrant its own news article.

It is important to note that previous investigations into offshore-related data leaks (see the Panama Papers) exposed widespread corporate wrongdoings and led to the resignation of the Iceland Prime Minister.

Asia Simi Trust?

We did a little digging and found that Asiaciti Trust’s headquarters is located in the Winsland House II building along Penang Road in sunny Singapore.

They describe themselves as a family-owned, wholly-independent international trust and corporate services provider, specializing in fiduciary and administrative services to individuals and corporations.

Based on their official webpage and LinkedIn profile, they operate out of an international network including Hong Kong, the Cook Islands, Dubai, Nevis, New Zealand, Panama and Samoa.

You’ll remember Panama as the infamous namesake of the previous iteration of tax-evasion related leaks, the Panama Papers. Not exactly the best place to have an office listed given the current circumstances.

A Closer Look At Asiaciti Trust

According to their official website, for corporate clients like multinationals, corporations and private businesses, Asiaciti Trust’s services include:

  • A complete range of administration and secretarial services
    • Formation, registration and administration of corporate vehicles
    • Corporate secretarial, directorship, registered office
    • Accounting, banking, business process services
  • Extensive experience dealing with complex corporate structures

Basically they seem like a one-stop shop for creating your very own off-shore company — or even “corporate vehicle”, for those who prefer a friendlier name.

For private clients like individuals and their families, Asiaciti Trust provides:

  • Specialised wealth structuring and asset preservation services
    • Establishment and administration of trusts, foundations, funds and corporate vehicles
    • For estate planning, succession planning, wealth protection and philanthropic endeavours
  • Safeguarding the wealth by acting as fiduciaries and confidantes

Notably, they go on to praise Singapore as a credible jurisdiction for offering “a range of economic incentives and taxation concessions” and a “highly attractive centre for private wealth”.

Definitely true, but very ironic given their current situation.

Nightmare In Paradise

As global income inequality worsens, exploitation of tax havens for offshore dealings have been widely panned as governments promise a crackdown on these individuals and corporations.

Just to clarify, setting up offshore accounts is not illegal. However, due to anonymity and comparatively lax regulations in certain countries, this gray area can be exploited to conduct illegal activities such as money-laundering and tax evasion.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists currently are trudging ahead with their on-going investigations into the data leaked and will continue to release damning exposés on potential tax reduction schemes by well known public figures and brands including Apple, Nike, and Facebook.

This worthy sequel to the Panama Papers was brought to you by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Featured image from ICIJ’s Youtube Channel.