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Probe reveals over 16,000 Taiwanese set up tax shelters

WASHINGTON -- Over 16,000 Taiwanese “clients” have set up trusts and companies and opened accounts in offshore tax havens, according to confidential files published by a Washington-based media group Wednesday.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) said it obtained documents naming 16,745 Taiwanese clients have set up shop in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and other offshore centers usually associated with hidden wealth.

Data about most of the Taiwanese clients were unavailable in the files released by ICIJ. Most of the names were identified in English, making it difficult to identify individual Chinese names. Chinese-language information was available for only a few.

The Taiwanese patrons were helped by Western banks and accounting firms, including UBS, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Deloitte & Touche, the report said.

Well-known Taiwanese accounting and law firms have reportedly played the role of middlemen in those operations as well.

Most notable in the ICIJ report was nearly 22,000 offshore clients from China and Hong Kong, including relatives of top Chinese leaders like President Xi Jinping, former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao.

The revelations are only the latest to shine a light on the hidden assets of family members of China's senior leaders.

The files were obtained from two offshore firms — Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and BVI-based Commonwealth Trust Limited — that help clients create offshore companies, trusts and bank accounts, the ICIJ said, adding that they are part of a cache of 2.5 million leaked files that ICIJ has sifted through with help from more than 50 reporters in Europe, North America, Asia and other regions.

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