Bureau van Dijk's fans won't be surprised to learn that we're keenly following developments in the Paradise Papers revelations, which come barely 18 months after we wrote about beneficial ownership in relation to the Panama Papers.
As reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 13.4 million leaked records obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the ICIJ expose deep financial ties between Russia and a network of high-profile public figures and politicians across the globe.
Given the nature of offshore structures, shell companies and the general secrecy surrounding tax avoidance schemes, it's impossible to piece together a full picture of the complicated corporate ownership structures that exist in this network. And in any case, the landscape of direct and indirect ownership links and percentage shares is likely to be constantly evolving.
But actually, much of the information is available, if hidden away. And if you know where to look, some of the elements of the picture are very revealing – and crucial for compliance practitioners involved in anti-money laundering and sanctions screening.
One of the avenues the ICIJ explores involves US Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. It shows that Ross has retained a large stake in shipping firm Navigator Holdings, something that the Orbis database of 275 million private companies around the world confirms.
But perhaps more concerning still are details of one of Navigator's most significant customers, Sibur, which has contributed more than $68 million to the shipper since 2014.
Key owners of Sibur include sanctioned Russian national Leonid Viktorovich Mikhelson, whose position in Sibur's complex corporate ownership structure (PDF) is shown within Orbis's Ownership Explorer.
We chose this channel almost at random; others would likely reveal similarly fascinating if partial pictures.
It will be interesting to see further revelations unfold.
In the meantime, you can read up on our ownership and compliance resources on the Bureau van Dijk knowledge base. Of note are our A-Z guide and integrated corporate ownership poster, both available digitally and in hard copy.