Leaked data reveals much about hidden global wealth

They are a large and diverse group that includes a Spanish heiress; the daughter of the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos; and Denise Rich, the former wife of the disgraced trader Marc Rich, who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton. But, according to a trove of secret financial information released Thursday, all have money and share a desire to hide it.

And, it seems safe to say, they — and thousands of others in Europe and far beyond, in places like Mongolia — are suddenly very anxious after the leak of 2.5 million files detailing the offshore bank accounts and shell companies of wealthy individuals and tax-averse companies.

The leaked files include the names of 4,000 Americans, celebrities as well as more mundane doctors and dentists.

It is not the first time leaks have dented a thick carapace of confidentiality that usually protects the identities of those who stash money in the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and other havens. Nor, in most cases, is keeping money in such places illegal…

…Lifting the curtain on the identities of those who keep their money offshore is likely to cause particular anger in austerity-blighted Europe, where governments have been telling people to tighten their belts but have mostly turned a blind eye to wealthier citizens who skirt taxes with help from so-called offshore financial centers…

The consortium of investigative journalists did not specify how it got the information or where it came from. On its Web site, the group said “the leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.”

I’m confident there ain’t anyone from my neighborhood on the list. Might be some folks from the posh end of town, though. 🙂