ICIJ’s Bahamas leaks reveal EU Commissioner held offshore directorship

Details of Neelie Kroes’ link to the offshore company among the revelations found in new leak of Bahamas documents, received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ

Kroes, through a lawyer, told ICIJ and media partners that she did not declare her directorship of the company because it was never operational
Kroes, through a lawyer, told ICIJ and media partners that she did not declare her directorship of the company because it was never operational

A cache of leaked documents provides names of politicians and others linked to more than 175,000 Bahamian companies registered between 1990 and 2016

One of these is former EU commissioner for competition policy from 2004 until 2010, Neelie Kroes, who never disclosed that she was listed as a director of an offshore company in the Bahamas, the Caribbean tax haven whose secrecy and tax structures have attracted multinational companies and criminals alike.

Kroes was listed as director of a Bahamian company from 2000 to 2009, according to documents reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Details of Kroes’ link to the offshore company are among the revelations found in a new leak of documents, received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ, that disclose details behind companies incorporated in the Bahamas. The cache of 1.3 million files from the island nation’s corporate registry provides names of directors and some owners of more than 175,000 Bahamian companies, trusts and foundations registered between 1990 and early 2016. 

Kroes, through a lawyer, told ICIJ and media partners that she did not declare her directorship of the company because it was never operational.

Kroes’s lawyer blamed her appearance on company records as “a clerical oversight which was not corrected until 2009.”

Her lawyer said the company, set up through a Jordanian businessman and friend of Kroes, had been created to investigate the possibility of raising money to purchase assets – worth more than $6 billion – from Enron Corp., the American energy giant. The deal never came off, and Enron later collapsed amid a massive accounting scandal. 

Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman with powers to investigate alleged breaches of EU rules and procedures, did not comment on the Kroes’s case but said: “When the rules are breached, whether accidentally or otherwise, the negative impression it leaves with the public tends to resonate more strongly than any positive counter steps subsequently undertaken.”

Unlike the Panama Papers, 11.5 million often-detailed emails, contracts, audio recordings and other documents from one law firm, the information listed in the new Bahamian documents is plainer — if still fundamental — in content.

The new data does not make it clear, for example, whether directors named in connection with a Bahamian firm truly control the company or act as nominees, employees-for-hire who serve as the face of the company but have no involvement in its operations.

When paired with the Panama Papers, the Bahamas data provide fresh insights into the offshore dealings of politicians, criminals and executives as well as the bankers and lawyers who help move money.

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