A massive data leak has exposed some of the world’s richest, most powerful people to public scrutiny with the release of 13.4 million financial documents from an offshore firm.
The project — known as the Paradise Papers — reveals multinational corporations, heads of state and global figures in politics, sport and entertainment who have hidden their wealth in offshore tax havens.
Among the bombs dropped by the Paradise Papers this week was the news that around £10 million, or $16.7 million Cdn, from the private estate of Queen Elizabeth II is tied up in tax haven funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
According to the leaked papers, the funds reinvested the Queen’s money into a handful of businesses, including Brighthouse, a controversial rent-to-own retailer which has been accused of exploiting the poor.
Some of the estate money also went into a chain of now-bankrupt alcohol stores.
The financial advisors who manage the Duchy of Lancaster — the private estate that provides the Queen’s private income — say the investments were legal, and British media outlets report there is no suggestion either that the estate acted illegally or that it avoided paying any taxes due.
It’s also believed the Queen — who also holds the title Duke of Lancaster — was not aware of the investments.
Regardless, some people wonder whether it is appropriate for the Queen’s estate to be tied up in offshore tax havens and allegedly exploitative businesses, and whether her advisors should have acted in a way that could bring the monarchy into disrepute.
As the head of state not only for the United Kingdom, but also for Canada, Australia and New Zealand, should Queen Elizabeth II be held accountable for the way her private money is invested?