*The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) continues its reporting on The Pandora Papers; almost twelve million records that reveal hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering by some of the world’s rich and powerful. More than six hundred journalists from more than one hundred countries worked on reviewing the information for a year. The leak contains information from fourteen offshore service providers; three of which are based in Belize which is considered to be a tax haven. Those three companies are CCS Trust, CIL Trust International and Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP. Today Love News spoke to Will Fitzgibbon who says that the Pandora Papers did not allege any illegal activities by Belizean companies.*
Will Fitzgibbon, Reporter, I.C.I.J: “The Pandora Papers almost twelve million leaked documents from the offshore industry around the world that reveal how some of the world’s most powerful people, how some of the world’s richest people obscure and move money and assets through tax havens.
Hipolito Novelo, Love News: One of those tax haven is Belize. Highlighted in the Pandora Papers are fourteen companies that provide offshore services. Of that fourteen companies, three are based in Belize. CCS Trust is supposedly located here, inside the Blake Building. Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP and CIL Trust International are both located here on Barrack Road and owned by Senior Counsel Glenn D Godfrey.
Will Fitzgibbon, Reporter, I.C.I.J.: “What we found were that a number of American customers in particular had used the services of both of those outfits and a number of those American clients included those who were under investigation for quite serious crimes for example or who had gone through various court or enforcement actions in the United States including for example Mr.Robert Dirst who is well known around the world more recently for his conviction of murder.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love News: In a press release, Godfrey states (quote) “The publication, while not alleging any criminal activity by our company, casts general aspersions that we were somehow negligent in reviewing prospective clients before accepting them.” (unquote)
Hipolito Novelo, Love News: However these companies did not do anything illegal.
Will Fitzgibbon, Reporter, I.C.I.J.: “I think it’s important to note here that the ICIJ and Washington Post reporting does not allege any illegality relating to the Belizean companies. What we do is look at the records that we obtain and see and report on the facts. We report who are the people, who are the Americans who have used Belizean offshore services and then we report on the documents we find. Why is it and how is it that so many foreign governments made requests for information to SIL Trust for example regarding investigations of corruption and bribery for example. What we do as journalists as you well know is we look at the documents, we look at the fact and we report what we see nothing more, noting less.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love News: In a separate release Godfrey stated that the companies’ due diligence meets all legal requisites and that both companies always cooperated immediately, proactively and effectively with any request from the competent authorities
Will Fitzgibbon, Reporter, I.C.I.J.: “The leaked documents by their nature don’t always include every document that GDG and SIL Trust has ever produced and we state that quite clearly. In terms of the responsiveness we of course would have – well let me put it like this as a responsible journalist we made every possible effort to contact Mr.Godfrey, Mrs.Godfrey and the firms involved; that included multiple emails to multiple address, that included phone calls, phone messages left with their offices and we included that in our reporting. The primary duty of an investigative journalist is always to make contact with the subjects of their investigation and we practiced our journalism professionally in this case.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love News: Godfrey however says otherwise. He says that the ICIJ employed threats and heavy-handed bullying.
Will Fitzgibbon, Reporter, I.C.I.J.: “I can’t speak to those allegations. What I can say is that I.C.I.J. and the Washington Post in relation to the stories related to Belize employed the highest ethical and professional standards that’s why we spent weeks and weeks seeking comment from the parties involved. We have a practice of no surprises journalism which means that every fact and everything that we write about Belize and associated entities is conveyed in questions that we placed and that’s all that we can do.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love News: GDG’s position in one of the press release is that I.C.I.J. chose to attack international agencies rather than looking at those huge firms in the US and in the UK and GDG is saying that they conducted legitimate business with this huge law firm and they had no responsibility to do due diligence on their client’s clients. What’s your view on that ?
Will Fitzgibbon, Reporter, I.C.I.J.: “I think it’s very important to note that the Pandora Papers investigation is not just about Belize and it is not just focused on offshore service providers and financial institutions in Belize. Much of the reporting on the Pandora Papers is precisely about that. It’s the role of so called enablers and for example the way in which western law firms, American financial institutions and others play a role in ensuring that the offshore system thrives.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love News: And has the I.C.I.J. ever retracted a story because that’s what Mr.Godfrey is asking, for it to be completely retracted.
Will Fitzgibbon, Reporter, I.C.I.J.: “Not to my knowledge no.”
Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo.