Bernie Sanders warns of ‘international oligarchy’ after Paradise Papers leak

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US senator warned that leak of documents exposing offshore tax havens show rapid movement toward a group of billionaires controlling the global economy

Bernie Sanders has warned that the world is rapidly becoming an international oligarchy controlled by a tiny number of billionaires, highlighted by the revelations in the Paradise Papers.

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Sanders intervention in the debate sparked by the Paradise Papers marks the most prominent political response to the leak in their opening 24 hours. The investigation stems from the leak of some 13m files obtained by Sddeutsche Zeitung in Germany and shared with almost 100 news organisations around the world including the Guardian by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

One of the most pointed disclosures in the Paradise Papers was that Wilbur Ross, Trumps commerce secretary, has continued to do business with the son-in-law of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as well as a member of Putins inner circle who is under US sanctions. Ross, himself a billionaire, has retained since joining the Trump administration his investment in a shipping company, Navigator, that has a partnership with the Russian gas giant Sibur.

In turn Sibur is part-owned by Kirill Shamalov, the husband of Putins daughter.

The emergence of Rosss ongoing ties to business interests so close to the Russian president at a time of intense scrutiny of the relationship between the Trump administration and the Kremlin has incensed prominent Democrats involved in Rosss confirmation to office. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who sits on the US Senate commerce committee, accused Ross of deceiving the public as well as lawmakers who had allowed the confirmation to go through having heard Ross promise to divest himself of any interests that carried potential conflict.

If he fails to present a clear and compelling explanation, he ought to resign, Blumenthal told MSNBC in an interview.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said: In February, I opposed Mr. Ross nomination because there were a number of unanswered questions about his ownership stake in the Bank of Cyprus and his connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as his refusal to divest from a $1 billion co-investment made with the state-owned Chinese Investment Corporation.

Despite assurances from the Commerce Department and the White House on the eve of his nomination, these questions remain unanswered over eight months later. These unanswered questions and recent revelations certainly warrant a Commerce Committee hearing and I think an Inspector General investigation is in order. We should get to the bottom of this.

On Monday, Ross denied that he had done anything wrong in his handling of his investment in Navigator. In the course of a visit to London, he told UK media that there is nothing wrong with it. The fact that it happens to be called a Russian company doesnt mean there is any evil in it.

Further responses to the Paradise Papers came from the Democratic leader in the US Senate Chuck Schumer, and the ranking Democratic member of the Senate finance committee, Ron Wyden. In a joint statement they accused Republicans in Congress leading the push towards a reform of the tax code of failing to close egregious loopholes revealed by the leaks.

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Key revelations from the Paradise Papers

1)Millions of pounds from the Queens private estate has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund and some of her money went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families.

2)Prince Charless estate made a big profiton a stake in his friends offshore firm.

3)Extensive offshore dealings by Donald Trumps cabinet members, advisers and donors, including substantial payments froma firm co-owned by Vladimir Putins son-in-law to the shipping group of the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross.

4)Twitter and Facebook received hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions.

5) The tax-avoiding Cayman Islands trustmanaged by the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeaus chief moneyman.

6) TheFormula One champion Lewis Hamilton avoided taxes on a 17m jetusing an Isle of Man scheme.

7) A previously unknown$450m offshore trust that has sheltered the wealth of Lord Ashcroft.

8) Theman managing Angolas sovereign wealth fund invested it in projects he stood to profit from.

9)Apple secretly moved parts of its empire to Jerseyafter a row over its tax affairs.

10) How the sportswear giantNike stays one step ahead of the taxman.

11)The billions in tax refunds by the Isle of Man and Malta to the owners of private jets and luxury yachts.

12)Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton.

13) Thesecret loan and alliance used by the London-listed multinational Glencorein its efforts to secure lucrative mining rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

14) Thecomplex offshore webs used by two Russian billionairesto buy stakes in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.

15) Stars of theBBC hit sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys used a web of offshore companies to avoid tax.

16) An ex-minister who defended tax avoidance has a Bahamas trust fund.

17) TheDukes of Westminster pumped millions into secretive offshore firms.

18) A tax haven lobby group boasted of ‘superb penetration’ at the top of the UK government before a G8 summit that was expected to bring in greater offshore transparency

19) The law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers leak was criticised for ‘persistent failures’ on terrorist financing and money laundering rules.

20) SevenRepublican super-donorskeep money in tax havens.

21) A topDemocratic donor built up a vast $8bn private wealth fundin Bermuda.

As a result Republicans were rewarding, the duo said, wealthy billionaires like secretary Wilbur Ross for dodging taxes, while punishing many in the middle class with new tax hikes. If you deduct medical expenses or student loan interest from your taxable income, the Republican plan comes after your wallet. But if you stash your billions in secret bank accounts overseas, their plan gives you the green light to keep doing what youve been doing.

They added that the Paradise Papers were proof positive that the Republican tax plan favours the wealthy and betrays the middle class in this country, who are the ones left carrying the financial burden of massive corporate tax avoidance.

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