Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Aga Khan island that hosted Trudeau owned by company with offshore ties, records show

The Bahamas island where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a vacation that is now the subject of an ethics investigation is owned by a company connected to a secretive web of corporations located in countries known to be offshore tax havens.

Bell Island, a private property nestled in the turquoise waters of the Exumas, has been widely known as the tropical retreat of the Aga Khan, a longtime Trudeau family friend.

Pictures and video of Bell Island obtained by CBC News show an idyllic location. An elegant, modern cream-coloured main house. A landscaped terrace surrounded by tropical flowers overlooking the water. Waterfront gazebos with thatched roofs and wooden pathways leading to ocean lookouts.

However, a CBC News investigation into Bell Island and the helicopter that carried Trudeau to the tropical retreat over the Christmas holidays has found a trail that includes several different companies and four countries known for their favourable tax rules and their ability to keep secrets.

The legal ownership of Bell Island involves several shell companies and nominee directors with links to Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse. The reasons for the complex corporate structure are unclear, and officials connected to the Aga Khan have refused to comment.

"Our policy is not to comment on any matters pertaining to His Highness's private affairs," said Semin Abdulla, communications manager for the Aga Khan Development Network.

Setting up offshore companies is legal and there can be legitimate reasons for using networks of offshore companies with nominee directors.

However, experts say it is also the kind of structure often used by those who are trying to hide assets or avoid or evade taxes. While tax avoidance can be legal, evading taxes is not.  (more...)

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