Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Billionaires Flee Havens as Trillions Pursued Offshore

Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, Russia’s 14th-richest person, and his wife, Elena Rybolovleva, have been brawling for almost five years in at least seven countries over his $9.5 billion fortune.

More than 30 percent of the world’s 200 richest people, who have a $2.8 trillion collective net worth,Bloomberg Billionaires Index, control part of their personal fortune through an offshore holding company or other domestic entity where the assets are held indirectly. These structures often hide assets from tax authorities or provide legal protection from government seizure and lawsuits.

Rybolovlev, who lives in Monaco, made most of his fortune from the sale of two potash fertilizer companies for a combined $8 billion in 2010 and 2011. He held both companies -- OAO Uralkali and OAO Silvinit -- through Cyprus-based Madura Holding Ltd.

Singapore, the heart of Asia’s banking and offshore industry, will make laundering of profits from tax evasion a crime under a law taking effect on July 1. Luxembourg announced on April 10 that it would end its bank secrecy policy in 2015.

Cyprus was bailed out of its financial troubles in March by the European Union, which required the nation to impose a tax on bank deposits of more than 100,000 euros. That month, the country lost $2.4 billion in deposits, according to data from the European Central Bank.

The shift toward transparency has led many of the world’s wealthiest to reassess how and where they hold their assets, according to Goran Grosskopf, a Lausanne, Switzerland-based economist who has advised several billionaires, as well as the Russian government.
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