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Panama Papers Reveal Possible Kentucky Ties

Dollar Sign Island
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Dollar Sign Island

Among more than 320,000 offshore accounts and trusts unveiled in a Panama Papers database Monday are a handful of accounts with names similar to Kentucky entities, and a few registered to addresses in the commonwealth.

Names on the accounts mirror a consulting company, a coal education foundation and historic Churchill Downs. Among the individuals identified are a Lexington accountant and a dentist.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting reached out to the entities and alleged account owners, and most said they had no connection to the offshore accounts or the mounting Panama Papers scandal.

The most prominently named entry in the database is “Churchill Downs Investment Limited,” an account registered in the British Virgin Islands and since dissolved.

John Asher, spokesman for Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc., said the company has no connection to any offshore bank accounts; subsidiaries would be registered in the United States. He noted that the famous name is often co-opted for use on subdivisions, streets and companies without the company’s permission.

In 1997, the corporationcreated a subsidiary named “Churchill Downs Investment Company.” Asher said this company was short-lived and had no link to any offshore banking.

The offshore account database, made public Monday by theInternational Consortium of Investigative Journalists, covers 40 years of data gleaned from two massive leaks. The searchable database doesn’t contain dollar amounts.

In its reporting, ICIJ noted that many of the activities carried out through offshore entities are perfectly legal -- but its lengthy investigation has shown that the anonymity granted by the offshore economy facilitates money laundering, tax evasion, fraud and other crimes.

Banks offering offshore accounts are typically located in countries with strict privacy laws that shield the account holder from disclosing pricey assets. They cater to the very rich with secrecy not available to people of average means.

Wayne Begin, the owner of Kentucky Consulting LLC, was surprised that a similar-named company, “Kentucky Consulting, Ltd.,” was listed in the database. Begin said he does information technology consulting and rents property, and has no connection to an offshore account registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The database also included an entry for “The Kentucky Foundation,” which was registered in 2003 through Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm where the vast majority of the leaked files originated.

The nonprofit Kentucky Foundation Inc. is not related to an offshore account, said a representative of the Kentucky Coal Association, which created the foundation in 2001.

“It’s not us,” said Bill Bissett, the association’s president. He said the foundation has used private money and state funding from Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet for various coal education efforts, has very limited resources -- well below $50,000 -- and no involvement outside the United States.

The newly released records also included names and addresses of Kentuckians.

James Collette, a Washington state dentist, lived in Kentucky several years ago. His address and name, along with those of nine family members, are tied to an entity called Ichiban Trust.

“I don’t have any accounts there. If I do, they’re linked through my dad,” Collette said.

Collette said he’s a beneficiary to a family trust, but that’s the extent of his knowledge.

Roger Huston, a Lexington accountant, was listed as an intermediary of International Financial Strategies Limited.

Reached Tuesday, Huston hung up on a reporter after he was advised of his inclusion in the database.

Reporter Kate Howard can be reached at  khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546. 

This story was reported by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

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