|Home of Sarah Petre-Mears on Nevis. |
Photograph: James Ball/guardian.co.uk
Offshore secrets revealed: the shadowy side of a booming industryA worldwide research effort in collaboration with BBC Panorama and the ICIJ reveals the people behind these anonymous companies
David Leigh, Harold Frayman and James Ball
The Guardian, Sunday 25 November 2012 15.00 ES
The existence of an extraordinary global network of sham company directors, most of them British, can be revealed.
The UK government claims such abuses were stamped out long ago, but a worldwide joint investigation by the Guardian, the BBC's Panorama and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has uncovered a booming offshore industry that leaves the way open for both tax avoidance and the concealment of assets.
More than 21,500 companies have been identified using this group of 28 so-called nominee directors. The nominees play a key role in keeping secret hundreds of thousands of commercial transactions. They do so by selling their names for use on official company documents, using addresses in obscure locations all over the world.
This is not illegal under UK law, and sometimes nominee directors have a legitimate role. But our evidence suggests this particular group of directors only pretend to control the companies they put their names to.
One British couple, Sarah and Edward Petre-Mears (video), who migrated from Sark in the Channel Islands to the Caribbean island of Nevis, have sold their services to more than 2,000 entities, with their names appearing on activities ranging from Russian luxury property purchases to pornography and casino sites.
In 1999, the government claimed Britain's sham director industry had been "effectively outlawed" after a judge, Mr Justice Blackburne, said the court would not tolerate "the situation where someone takes on the directorship of so many companies and then totally abrogates responsibility". But our findings show this has failed to be policed.
Video and more at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/nov/25/offshore-secrets-revealed-shadowy-side