Photo/IllutrationHoifu Energy Group Ltd.'s office in Hong Kong. Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama serves as honorary chairman and senior consultant at the company. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Yukio Hatoyama, a former prime minister, and two other former Diet members have ties to tax havens, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, according to a cache of leaked documents dubbed the Paradise Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

An analysis of the records as well as questioning of various individuals has also led to the names of many Japanese corporations.

A total of 13.4 million records related to entities established in tax havens such as Bermuda, in the Atlantic off the coast of North America, and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean have been obtained by the German daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The records were leaked in digital files that took up 1.4 terabytes of memory.

The documents were shared by 382 reporters affiliated with 96 media organizations in 67 nations through the ICIJ, headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Asahi Shimbun is participating in the project.

Media organizations around the world began reporting on the results of their investigations simultaneously from Nov. 5, or 3 a.m., Nov. 6, Japan time.

NAMES OF FORMER PRIME MINISTER, STATE MINISTER INCLUDED

The names of three former Diet members, including a former prime minister and former state minister, have been found in the records. Investments that were not included in past asset statements have also been found.

Masamitsu Naito, a former Upper House member with the Democratic Party of Japan who served as state minister in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, was one such politician whose name appeared in the records.

In 2006, when he was serving his second term, Naito invested 100,000 euros in an investment fund in the Cayman Islands, documents show. That is the equivalent of about 15 million yen in the exchange rate at the time.

However, Naito’s assets report for 2009 when he served as state minister did not mention the investment.

In response to questioning by the Asahi, Naito said, “Because Diet members are never certain about their futures, I was introduced to what was described as a valuable foreign investment opportunity. I did not know it was based in a tax haven. I did not do anything illegal.”

Regarding the assets report, Naito said he had forgotten to include the investment.

In 2013, a year after Hatoyama retired from politics, he became honorary chairman for the Hoifu Energy Group Ltd., which was established in Bermuda but has its corporate office in Hong Kong.

The Paradise Papers included an annual report that mentioned Hatoyama’s appointment.

In response to questions from the Asahi, Hatoyama said, “I met the head of the company several years ago and was invited to the wedding receptions for his children. Later, I was asked to allow my name to be included among those involved in the company. There is no actual significance to my appointment and I think they just wanted to gain greater trust through the Hatoyama name.”

The company posts its annual reports on the Internet and one showed that Neil Bush, a younger brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush, was deputy chairman of the group.

While Hatoyama said he received an adviser’s fee from the company, he did not reveal the amount. He added that he did not know about the company’s ties to Bermuda.

The records also contain the name of Taro Yamada, a former Upper House member who once belonged to what was then known as Your Party. Before becoming a Diet member, Yamada headed his own information technology company. At that time, the company announced the acquisition of a company in the Cayman Islands. The name of the acquired company is found in the Paradise Papers.

Yamada said, “When we acquired a Chinese computer system development company, it just happened to be registered in the Cayman Islands.”

OVER 1,000 NAMES OF JAPANESE INDIVIDUALS, COMPANIES

One part of the Paradise Papers includes close to 7 million records from the Appleby law firm. Those records cover a period from 1950 to 2016 and include e-mails, loan agreements and bank statements for at least 25,000 entities connected to people in 180 nations.

Going through those records for any connection to addresses and other information about Japan led to the names of 1,056 Japanese individuals or companies.

The figure represents not even 10 percent of the numbers for the United States and Britain. There were 31,000 American individuals and companies named, the largest number in the Paradise Papers. There were 14,000 British references, placing that nation in 2nd place.

Among all nations, Japan ranked 18th in the Paradise Papers, but that is a large increase over the 65th ranking it had in the Panama Papers.

The records include the names and executives of a number of Japanese companies that are known worldwide, such as Sumitomo Corp., Tokyo Electric Power Co., Nippon Yusen KK, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. and Softbank Group Corp.

In addition to the 1,056 individuals, there were also a large number of names of Japanese individuals and companies that were not connected in the data to any address in Japan.

The Paradise Papers also included the names of 14 current or former heads or leaders of state, including Queen Elizabeth II of Britain. An analysis of the records has led to the pinpointing of 127 names of current or former politicians and leaders of 47 nations.

Much like the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers were leaked by someone to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, and the ICIJ then created a database from the records.

Close to 7 million records came from the offshore law firm Appleby and corporate services provider Estera, two businesses that operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016. Appleby was founded in Bermuda, but has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and other offshore centers.

Another 566,000 records were internal documents from Asiaciti Trust, a family-run offshore specialist headquartered in Singapore, but with satellite offices in Samoa and the Caribbean.

The leaked files also included about 6.2 million documents from government business registries in 19 nations and regions, including some of the world’s most secretive corporate havens, such as the Bahamas, Malta and Barbados.

In Japan, besides the Asahi, Kyodo News and Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) became involved in analyzing the records from December 2016. Since September, reporters from the three organizations have been interviewing those named in the records as well as others connected to the documents.

The records were named the Paradise Papers because many languages in Europe refer to tax havens as “fiscal paradises.”

(Staff Writer Keiichi Kitagawa contributed to this article.)

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Visit The Asahi Shimbun's special website on the Paradise Papers for videos, photos and graphics on how journalists dug into the more than 13 million documents leaked from Bermuda and elsewhere to uncover shady transactions through tax havens.