From Harvey Weinstein to Shakira, the celebrities with offshore interests

Martha Stewart, Madonna and Nicole Kidman are among those named in leaked Paradise Papers documents

They are some of the biggest names in entertainment, and all of them make an appearance in the Paradise Papers. Some do so by name, such as the Ciccone, Madonna listed in tiny print among the investors of a Bermuda company, while others are there by dint of the offshore entities they have backed.

Some of the celebrities interests are historical, others contemporary. Some are similar to those of the singer Shakira, who holds a substantial portion of her showbusiness earnings offshore.

Others such as Justin Timberlake and Nicole Kidman seem more interested in acquiring property in the Bahamas, and may have real estate or privacy reasons for registering companies in those jurisdictions.

Whatever the motive, there is nothing illegal about moving money offshore and nothing to suggest that any of those named below had any unlawful purpose. But the industry has evolved and grown exponentially in recent years and political and public attitudes to offshore regimes have changed equally dramatically.

The current political climate raises legitimate questions about the actions of wealthy and well-known individuals: what benefit were they hoping for and will they continue to use such vehicles following the Paradise Papers revelations?

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein invested in the now-defunct Bermuda-based medical venture capital firm Scientia Health Group Ltd. Weinstein took out 2,000 shares in the company in November 2001, leaked files from the law firm Appleby show.

He gave as his contact point the name of Richard Koenigsberg, one of the directors of the Weinstein Company who last month fired the film mogul after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

It is not known whether Weinstein sold his stake in Scientia before it went out of business. He did not respond to Guardian questions.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart. Photograph: Lovekin/WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

The lifestyle guru Martha Stewart was also an investor in Scientia. The company was founded by Samuel Waksal, who at the time was also chief executive of ImClone.

Stewart took out a stake in both of Waksals companies. It was her decision to sell about $230,000 (174,000) of shares in ImClone in December 2001, a day before the release of an adverse US Food and Drug Administration ruling, that landed her in insider-dealing trouble, with Stewart and Waksal ending up in prison.

Stewart declined to comment on her historical Bermuda investment.


Madonna. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Tucked away on page 31 of one of the 7m documents contained in the Appleby leak is an entry in tiny print for a company shareholder, listed with her last name followed by first name: Ciccone, Madonna. The suspicion that this report may refer to Madonna Louise Ciccone, better known simply as Madonna, is strengthened by the address given for the holder, the Manhattan offices of Provident Financial Management, which specialises in managing tours and live performances in the music industry and has worked for the queen of pop.

Madonna is listed as having bought 2,000 shares in the Bermuda-incorporated company SafeGard Medical Ltd in1998.

What the star was doing investing in a medical company based in a tax haven remains a mystery, as does whether or not she sold her shares before the entity was dissolved in 2013. While it was active, SafeGard produced medical equipment such as retractable syringes.

The Guardian asked Madonna through her London-based publicist to illuminate the subject, but she did not reply.

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In August 2015, the musician and actor Justin Timberlake created a Delaware company with a similar name to his record label Tennman Records. Legal documents contained in the Paradise Papers show the limited liability company was set up with Timberlake as its sole member and his Los Angeles-based accountant, Michael Dreyer, as manager.

The purpose of the company, the documents show, was to engage in the purchase of real estate in the Bahamas. Four months after setting it up, Timberlake moved to register the entity as a foreign company in the Bahamas.

Why Timberlake was keen to have a company structure for buying real estate in the Bahamas remains unclear, and the star did not respond to a Guardian request for comment. A clue is provided, perhaps, in another Appleby document showing that a month before the holding was set up, a separate entity called Nexus Luxury Collection Ltd was incorporated in the Bahamas as an international business company.

Timberlake is the main partner in Nexus Luxury Collection along with the golfer Tiger Woods and financier Joe Lewis. One of its prime assets is an 18-hole golf course in Albany, a resort community in the Bahamas.

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

The actor Nicole Kidman and her country musician husband, Keith Urban, registered their joint US-based limited liability company as a foreign entity in the Bahamas in March 2015. Leaked documents show their aim was to secure ownership of interests in real property in the tax haven using a portion of their wealth.

If the celebrity couple were to buy and later sell a property on the island, they would be subject to taxation on any increase in its value. Were they to do so as a Bahamian entity, they would face individual levels of US tax on the rise anything up to 39.6%.

By contrast, setting up a US-based limited liability company and registering it in the Bahamas as they did would allow them to treat the increase in price as capital gains. That way, they would only pay an effective rate of 23.8%.

A spokesman for Kidman and Urban said tax was irrelevant to the way they structured their affairs. The registering of the US company in the Bahamas was solely to comply with local laws and to hold Bahamian property and protect their familys privacy. The company is taxed under US law and no special tax advantages accrue to them or the company. They are taxed as if they owned the property directly.


Shakira. Photograph: ddp USA/Rex Shutterstock

The Colombian singer-songwriter makes an appearance in the documents under her full name, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll. The Grammy award-winner, who released her first album when she was 13, is listed as a resident of the Bahamas even though she lives in Barcelona.

She is alsothe sole shareholder of Tournesol Ltd, a Malta company with 3m in share capital. Malta, the smallest EU member state, has faced accusations that it operates as a tax haven.

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Author: Billy Roland

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