On November 14, 2006, a man going by the name Paul William Hampel was arrested at a Canadian airport on charges of being a Russian spy.
Hampel’s carefully constructed identity portrayed him as a successful businessman, yet for a decade his company did no business.
Only months before his capture, the same apparatus used to create his alias was also employed by a very different spy agency – the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency —to build a secret prison in Lithuania, where U.S. agents interrogated suspected al-Qaeda terrorists.
Earlier again, it was used by the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to cheat the Oil for Food program.
All three deceptions employed a common subterfuge: far-flung corporate entities used as anonymous fronts, with “executives” who lacked knowledge of what the firms were up to.
The activities of these so-called nominee directors are a little noticed part of the world of secretive offshore finance that’s grown so vast that it touches more than 170 of the globe’s 206 countries, but it’s one that’s often drenched in intrigue.
For a fee as low as $90, men and women who often appear to have little or no formal business qualifications lend their names as directors to enterprises they later can claim to know nothing about – even after those enterprises are linked to everything from stock fraud to money laundering.
Click through to ICIJ.org to continue reading.
MORE IN THIS SERIES
- François Hollande’s Campaign Treasurer’s Investments in the Cayman Islands
- Caribbean Go-Between Provided Shelter for Far-Away Frauds, Documents Show
- Philippine Government to Probe Marcos Daughter’s Offshore Trust
- Deutsche Bank Helped Customers Maintain Hundreds of Offshore Entities
- Who Uses the Offshore World
- Elites Undermine Putin Rail Against Tax Havens
- Ponzi Scheme Used Offshore Hideaways To Shuffle Investors’ Money
- Taxmen Have Little Clue of Offshore Companies Owned by Greeks
- Map: Key Tax Haven Clients In the World
- Ferdinand Marcos’ Daughter Tied to Offshore Trust in Caribbean
- Disclosure of secret offshore documents may force top Mongolian lawmaker to resign
- How ICIJ’s Project Team Analyzed the Offshore Files
- Canadian Senator’s Husband Shifted Money Into Offshore Tax Havens
- Offshore companies provide link between corporate mogul and Azerbaijan’s president
- Interactive: Gunter Sachs’ Offshore Network
- ‘Crony’ of African Strongman Among Thai Names in Secret Offshore Files
- Interactive: Stash Your Cash
- Mega-Rich Use Tax Havens to Buy and Sell Masterpieces
- Key Findings
- Secret Files Expose Offshore’s Global Impact
- About This Project: Secrecy For Sale
- Nominee Directors Linked to Intelligence, Military
- Cosmetic surgery tycoon had secret offshore company
- Britons Snapped Up Luxury Villas on Thai Island
- Post-Soviet Billionaires Invade UK … Via British Virgin Islands
- Interactive: We Reveal Who’s Buying Up Britain
- Who’s Buying Britain? Probe Reveals Real Estate Speculators Hidden By Offshore Alchemy
- One Block in London, Many Secret Owners
- Video: How To Dodge Tax
- Front Men Disguise the Offshore Game’s Real Players
- ‘Fatal Blow’ Against Sham Corporate Directors Not So Fatal After All
- Meet the Queen of Nevis
- British Virgin Islands Well-Known for Sunny Beaches – and Strict Secrecy
- How the nominee trick works
- Inside the shell: Drugs, arms and tax scams
Help support this work
Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.