The release of the Paradise Papers, a leak comprised of over 13.4 million documents, is giving insight into the tax havens of the world’s elite, with a special focus on Britain’s offshore empires, raising questions about why Queen Elizabeth II appears to have made millions by exploiting poor and mentally ill individuals.
The documents included in the leak came from two offshore services providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, which was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
ICIJ reported that the Paradise Papers “show how deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants, including Apple, Nike, Uber and other global companies that avoid taxes through increasingly imaginative bookkeeping maneuvers.”
The report from ICIJ claimed that according to records from the offshore law firm Appleby, Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate has invested millions of pounds in a Cayman Islands fund that has a history of taking advantage of poor families:
“Queen Elizabeth II has invested millions of dollars in medical and consumer loan companies, Appleby’s files show. While the Queen’s private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, provides some details of its investments in U.K. property, such as commercial buildings scattered across southern England, it has never disclosed details of its offshore investments.
‘Yes, the Duchy was aware that the Jubilee Absolute Return Fund was run offshore,’ said Chris Addock, chief finance officer of the Duchy of Lancaster.
The records show that as of 2007, the queen’s private estate invested in a Cayman Islands fund that in turn invested in a private equity company that controlled BrightHouse, a U.K. rent-to-own firm criticized by consumer watchdogs and members of Parliament for selling household goods to cash-strapped Britons on payment plans with interest rates as high as 99.9 percent.”
According to a report from the Guardian, which partnered in sharing the revelations from the Paradise Papers, over the last 12 years at least, the Queen’s estate has made significant investments in businesses such as the off-license chain Threshers and the retailer BrightHouse.
Last month, BrightHouse, which is Britain’s biggest rent-to-own retailer, was ordered to pay 14.8 million pounds to 249,000 customers after the watchdog Financial Conduct Authority found that the retailer was guilty of overcharging customers and intentionally taking advantage of people with mental health problems and learning disabilities.
The Guardian reported the most recent filings by the Queen’s private estate show that it had around 519 million points worth of investments at the end of March, and according to the Paradise Papers, the estate “has used offshore private equity funds designed to shield UK investors from having to pay US tax on their holdings.”
The massive leak also details the offshore interests of more than 120 politicians around the world, including President Donald Trump’s Cabinet members and the chief fundraiser for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Paradise Papers stands as the second largest leak in history, next to the release of the Panama Papers in April 2016, which detailed financial information from more than 200,000 offshore accounts and exposed criminal donors who helped fund the careers of politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton.