It is a well-kept secret, a persistent mystery, a question that has been unresolved for years : what is the financial centre in Luxembourg hiding ? What would we find if we opened the safe of this tiny State located in the heart of the European Union, listed by many researchers in the world’s top 5 tax havens ? The OpenLux investigation, conducted by Le Monde along with ten media partners for more than a year, provides answers : 55,000 offshore companies managing assets worth at least 6 trillion euros.
These phantom companies without offices or employees were created by billionaires, multinationals, sportsmen, artists, high-ranking politicians and even royal families. Luxembourg acts as a magnet for the wealth of the world : in a territory of 2,586 km2, Tiger Woods and Cristiano Ronaldo rub shoulders with Shakira and the King of Bahrain. Hundreds of multinationals (LVMH, Kering, Altice, Pfizer, Amazon…) have opened financial subsidiaries. Wealthy families increase their real estate assets there.
More surprisingly, OpenLux reveals that questionable funds, suspected of originating in criminal activity or linked to criminals targeted by judicial investigations, have been concealed in Luxembourg. This is the case of companies linked to the Italian Mafia, the’Ndrangheta, and the Russian underworld. The League, Italy’s far-right party, has hidden a secret fund which is sought by the Italian authorities. People close to the Venezuelan regime have recycled corrupt government procurement funds.
To conduct this investigation, Le Monde has compiled a huge database that lists the beneficiaries of the 124.000 commercial companies registered in Luxembourg, i.e. their true owners, along with 3.3 million administrative acts and financial reports. These are documents that have recently been made public, but are only available on the Luxembourg trade register website. Le Monde was able to extract them in their entirety for analysis, in partnership with the Suddeutsche Zeitung in Germany, Le Soir in Belgium, McClatchy in the United States, Woxx in Luxembourg, IrpiMedia in Italy, and the OCCRP Consortium of investigative journalists.