After benefiting from a corporate tax exemption in Morocco for five years, Dominique Strauss-Kahn created an offshore company in the United Arab Emirates in 2018, in an area where companies pay no tax.
“One could imagine that there are offshore places that are not tax havens.” Before the senators charged with investigating the role of banks in tax evasion in June 2013, Dominique Strauss-Kahn did not further elaborate on the distinction he made between the two concepts. And for good reason. Only one month before his hearing before the senators, he himself domiciled his personal company, Parnasse international, in the offshore place of the free zone of Casablanca in Morocco (CFC). Parnasse International thus benefited from a corporate tax exemption for five years. A regime so favorable, that it was worth to Morocco to be placed on the gray list of tax havens of the European Union in 2017.
DSK knows this area well, CFC. During a hearing before the investigators in charge of the LSK affair, the former financial company he chaired in Luxembourg and which went bankrupt, he indicated that he had “had the opportunity to work for the government Moroccan development of CasaFinanceCity, the project of a free financial zone in Casablanca. ”
But Casablanca is not the only offshore area that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has chosen to host his companies. In the Pandora Papers, a data leak obtained and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with its partners, including the Investigation Unit of Radio France, we learn that in 2018, he created a company called “ Parnassus Global Limited ”in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. This territory enjoys a very special status within the Emirates. It has gradually competed with tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands or the Seychelles. It is also at the heart of the Dubai Papers affair, which with our colleagues from the Obs, the investigation unit of Radio France had revealed. A case of international tax fraud.
The Pandora Papers provide an understanding of what DSK’s activity was like after it moved to Morocco after the Sofitel in New York affair. The leaked documents contain, in fact, the Key Accounts of his Moroccan company Parnasse International during its activity in 2016 and 2017. The names of some of its clients, benefiting from its consulting services or conferences, had already been revealed. But the Pandora Papers reveal the identity of new customers as well as the amounts of the services. For example, throughout 2016 and 2017, Russian oil giant Rosneft was Parnassus International’s main customer. 1,750,000 euros of invoiced services appear in the accounts books to which we have had access.
Then comes an oil company, Orion oil, run by a Congolese businessman, Lucien Ebata. Orion Oil has paid more than 1.4 million euros to Parnassus International. There are also four invoices referenced “Presidency” for a total amount of 3.5 million euros.
In 2017, a new client, the Chinese conglomerate HNA, is listed among the clients. Parnasse International invoices it for 400,000 euros for services. According to our calculations, over the two years 2016 and 2017 as a whole, DSK thus received seven million euros in cumulative salaries and dividends, all net of tax. This amount is explained by the invoicing amount of invoices, but also by the absence of taxes paid on profits.
But, everything has an end. The exemption granted to the company of DSK by the advantageous tax regime of CFC in Morocco, ends in spring 2018, five years after its installation. Chance of the calendar? Only a few weeks before the expiry of this tax break, Dominique Strauss-Kahn decided to create a new offshore company, Parnasse Global Limited, which he domiciled this time in Ras al-Khaimah. There is a very advantageous tax system there, since offshore companies are not taxed on their profits, and there is great flexibility in keeping the accounts.
DSK’s arrival in the Emirates was facilitated by the law firm Bonnard Lawson. According to an internal document that the ICIJ partners were able to consult, DSK appointed the firm in January 2018. The following month, Bonnard Lawson’s Dubai branch began the process of creating the offshore company. Its activity will concern, in the words of the firm: “advisory services in the Gulf region”. To create the company, Bonnard Lawson turned to SFM Corporate Services, a company historically based in Switzerland which now operates out of Dubai. SFM will take care of registering the new entity with the company register. But before that, you have to study the client’s situation. In a confidential letter sent by Bonnard Lawson to SFM, the law firm traces the career of DSK, and claims to have verified a variety of documents, including the origin of its funds. Lawyers estimate its annual net income at 3.5 million euros per year, and “the client’s total net worth” at 15 million euros. Parnasse Global Limited also maintains a bank account in the Emirates.
However, there is one step missing to finalize the process. The presence of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the provision by him of numerous supporting documents: civil status, extract from criminal record, deed of sale of Moroccan land, tax declaration. DSK brings all these documents in person on March 28, 2018. The day after his arrival, they are registered and certified by a lawyer for Bonnard Lawson in Dubai. Parnasse Global Limited was then officially born on April 3, 2018.
Impossible to go further. The data contained in the Pandora Papers gives no indication of the activity of this new company, its customers, or the income it generates. According to the company register website, Parnasse Global Limited has been “inactive” since April 2, 2021, three years after its creation. DSK did not respond to our requests for clarification. On the other hand, one of his relatives told us that the UAE company had been created “at the request of a client to develop a business there” and that the project had been interrupted because of the pandemic.
Investigation by ICIJ (international consortium of investigative journalists), Abdelhak El Idrissi and the investigation unit of Radio France.
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