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U2 frontman Bono named in Paradise Papers tax evasion leak

November 6, 2017

The megastar is known for using his name to fight for social justice, but the Paradise Papers reveal that he also owns shell companies in tax havens.

USA Los Angeles - Bono von U2
Image: Getty Images/F. Harrison

U2 frontman Bono is one of the richest musicians in the world. At the G8 summit in 2007, he sang against poverty in the world, but that same year, he also invested his money in a letterbox company in the tax haven of Malta, as stated in the so-called Paradise Papers.

For almost a year, 400 journalists from 67 countries have evaluated the documents that reveal the tax tricks of companies, politicians, athletes and criminals. 

Read more: Offshore: The legal and the not so legal

Bono, whose real name is Paul David Hewson, is one of the many prominent names that appear in the review of the Paradise Papers. His name is associated with a company called "Nude Estates Malta Limited," which invested in a Lithuanian company that used the money to develop a shopping center in the small Lithuanian town of Utena. 

Although that is not a crime in itself, it was also stated that the profits of the mall have been incorrectly booked. If that is confirmed to be true, it will also mean that Bono has evaded taxes.

'Gross violation of the tax law'

"In my view, this is not a mistake, tax planning or tax avoidance, but a gross violation of the tax law," said a Lithuanian tax expert, Ruta Bilkstyte, after reviewing the Paradise Papers. While the Lithuanian authorities are now investigating the case, tax experts estimate tens of thousands of euros could have been misappropriated.

In 2012, Bono's company obtained a new, Guernsey-based parent company, "Nude Estates I," which is said to have bought the mall for 100 pounds (€126, $131). The company has been holding Bono's shares since 2007, too. Another one of the musician's companies, "Nude Estates Limited," was also active in Germany, where it acquired a 10-story office building in Duisburg.

Bono's management confirmed the singer's involvement in the company network but rejected the allegations of tax violations.

Read more: Paradise Papers — what you need to know

Although the musician is very rich, he has been using legal tax credits for years to shield his assets from the tax office. For instance, he moved the tax residence of his band U2 to the Netherlands because, in Ireland, his homeland, tax benefits for musicians and artists were abolished.

rey/jt/eg (with dpa)