A key Australian financier named in the ‘Pandora Papers’ has snapped up oceanside mansions in the nation’s most exclusive postcodes, shelled out a fortune on his art and wine collections and even spent millions on rare luxury pens.
The lavish lifestyle of Graeme Briggs, 75, came to light when the staggering financial leak exposed the highly secretive world of offshore financing, where the globe’s most rich and powerful figures funnel money through small island nations.
Clients pay Briggs’ Singapore-based Asiaciti firm huge sums of money to set up complex corporate structures and trusts in order to minimise their taxes and protect their vast wealth.
The process isn’t illegal but is often frowned upon by the public, tax-collectors and policymakers.
More than 400 Australians were named in the 12 million documents from 14 financial services companies operating in tax havens including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Switzerland.
Many of the Australians are clients of Asiaciti who have sophisticated networks set in Pacific Island nations, such as the Cook Islands and Samoa.
More than 400 Australians have been named in a financial leak that exposed the secret offshore wealth of the world’s most powerful leaders and billionaires (pictured, Asiaciti founder Graeme Briggs)
Briggs has about $10million worth of known property including in the ritzy Victorian postcode of Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsular (pictured) and in Melbourne’s Toorak
Clients pay Briggs’ Singapore-based Asiaciti firm huge sums of money to set up complex corporate structures and trusts in order to minimize their taxes and protect their vast wealth
WHAT ARE THE PANDORA PAPERS?
The Pandora Papers are a treasure trove of financial documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Disclosed in the mammoth dump are 11.9 million documents containing 2.94 terabytes of data which lift the lid on the shadowy world of offshore financing.
There are 14 financial services companies named which operate in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Switzerland.
Among their clients are 35 current or former world leaders.
WHY DO SUPER RICH SEND THEIR MONEY OFFSHORE?
The world’s super-rich often move their stacks of cash to jurisdictions where financial regulations are lapse to minimise their tax and protect their vast amounts of wealth.
The process of setting up secretive trusts and financial structures in tax havens with stringent privacy laws is not necessarily illegal but is often frowned upon.
WHO IS NAMED IN THE PAPERS?
Some of the more prominent names include:
*Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of Kremlin officials
*King Abdullah II of Jordan
*Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
*Czech prime minister Andrej Babis
*German Supermodel Claudia Schiffer
*Colombian pop star Shakira
*Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar
*President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta
*President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky
*Italian mobster Raffaele Amato
The documents were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and studied by more than 650 reporters from the BBC’s Panorama, The Guardian and more than 100 other news outlets.
Asiaciti criticised the investigation by the ICIJ media partners in a statement on Monday saying his company abides by all necessary regulations.
Mr Briggs has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The ambitious Australian businessman has amassed a $62million fortune and now lives the high-life after somewhat humble beginnings.
Growing up in Echuca on the Victorian side of the Murray River, the son of a dairy farmer had a knack for numbers from an very early age.
‘He was quite a clever boy, really good on his maths and that,’ Graham Peat, a schoolmate from Echuca High School told the ABC.
‘He always wanted to be a millionaire before he’s 30.’
A fully-qualified and practicing chartered accountant by the age of 23, at 30 he had established Asiaciti.
The outfit made a name for itself among the super-rich during the 1980s as it set up offices in small palm-tree laden paradises which had stringent confidentiality laws but less restrictive legislation when it came to international businesses and foreign capital.
Over the years Mr Briggs has acquired luxurious property all over the globe including Melbourne’s Toorak and Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula, where he owns a huge vineyard.
He also has a passion for high-art and Italian vino and lays claim to a $400,000 wine cellar.
More bizarrely, the money man has spent more than $4million on rare Japanese fountain pens.
The Australian Taxation Office confirmed it is investigating all possible Australian links after the publication.
ATO Deputy Commissioner and serious financial crime taskforce chief Will Day said an investigation was underway to identify any Australians linked to the data included in the Pandora Papers.
‘We will certainly look at this data set and compare it with the data we already have to identify any potential connections,’ he said.
Mr Day pointed out that any names included in the data leak did not necessarily mean they were taking part in illegal activity.
Many of the Australians named in the papers are clients of Asiaciti – an international trust that has firms in Singapore, Cook Islands, Samoa, Nevis, Hong Kong, Panama, and New Zealand
Asiaciti made a name for itself among the super-rich during the 1980s as it set up offices in small palm-tree laden paradises like Samoa (pictured) which had stringent confidentiality laws but less restrictive legislation when it came to international businesses and foreign capital
Mr Briggs has spent $4million dollars on rare luxury Japanese Fountain pens in an impressive collection
‘There are a range of legitimate reasons that someone may have for an offshore bank account or structure,’ he said.
‘We know most Australians do the right thing. However, there are some who attempt to hide their ownership interests or financial misdoings through offshore arrangements.’
In the past, Asiaciti has drawn attention for some of its clients.
They include Moldovan politician Vladimir Plahotniuc – who is a fugitive – Myanmar’s agriculture minister Nyunt Tin – who resigned over corruption – and Nigerian politician Abubakar Atiku Bagudu – who laundered public funds.
The documents uncover how Asiaciti managed to build its fortune by helping some high-risk clients along the way.
In 2020, Asiaciti was fined US$793,000 after the organisation failed to introduce effective policies to prevent money laundering between 2007 and 2018.
Russian President Mr Putin was linked to secret assets in Monaco, while an offshore company owned by his alleged lover purchased a $4.1million apartment below the principality’s casino
The Pandora Papers named Jordan King Abdullah II (pictured) as one of the world leaders involved
The treasure trove of documents show how 35 current and former world leaders – including associates of Vladimir Putin – used accounts in tax havens to accrue huge amounts of wealth and carry out transactions.
Russian President Mr Putin was linked to secret assets in Monaco, and an offshore company owned by his alleged lover purchased a $4.million apartment below the principality’s casino.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair and Jordanian King Abdullah II are also among those include in the data drop.
The Pandora Papers go on to link several high-profile entertainment figures including singer Shakira, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
The papers claim Colombian pop star Shakira set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands to conceal assets.
Singer Shakira (pictured) was among the high profile entertainers named in the Pandora Papers
Former British prime minister Tony Blair (pictured with his wife) was also among those include in the data drop
The Pandora Papers also link several high-profile entertainment figures including singer Shakira, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer (pictured)
But lawyers of the 44-year-old said the singer declared the offshore companies, and they did not provide tax advantages.
The singer is already in a legal battle with the Spanish Government, which accused her of failing to pay taxes in Spain in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
In response to their client being named in the report, representatives of German supermodel Ms Schiffer, 51, said the mother-of-three correctly pays her taxes in Britain, where she lives.
Indian Cricket star Sachin Tendulkar’s offshore interests were also flagged along with a notorious Italian mobster.
Raffaele Amato used a shell company in the UK to buy land in Spain, where he fled to to set up his own crime gang.
Mr Amato, who has been tied to at least a dozen killings, is serving a 20-year prison sentence. His lawyers declined to comment.