Panama Papers Reveal Offshore Holding Companies of Art World A-Listers Dominique Lévy and Ella Fontanals-Cisneros

The accounts are often used to hide from tax authorities.

Louise Blouin Photo via Louise Blouin Foundation

The other shoe may have dropped with regard to the art world and the Panama Papers. Despite initial speculation that Mossack Fonseca—the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal—worked with few American clients, several news outlets are now reporting that they have established connections between art world A-listers and various offshore companies. Among those named are art collectors Ella Fontanals-Cisneros and Denise Rich, Canadian-born magazine publisher Louise Blouin, and art dealer Dominique Lévy.

ICIJ states on its website that there are “legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts” and that they “do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”

The information about these offshore accounts was made available by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) last week when the organization made public a trove of 11.5 million documents. The leak has been billed as the largest-ever disclosure of information about shadowy offshore companies and the people behind them.

While there are legitimate uses for offshore companies, some argue that they are often created in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands and used to hide assets from tax authorities or to maintain privacy.

The Miami Herald has identified Fontanals-Cisneros, a Miami art collector, as being connected to Elmaguri Shipping Ltd., a company set up with the help of Mossack Fonseca. Through Elmaguri Shipping, Fontanals-Cisneros bought and sold a 156-foot yacht worth $14.9 million. Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein of The New York Post have named nineteen New Yorkers, ranging “from moguls to art-world luminaries,” whom the reporters found listed in the trove of new documents.

Dominique Lévy. Photo Grant Lemos IV/Getty Images.

Dominique Lévy. Photo Grant Lemos IV/Getty Images.


Among the art-world boldface names mentioned by the Post are Denise Rich, the collector and philanthropist (and widow of fugitive financier Mark Rich), who is linked to two offshore companies, DTD Limited and The Dry Trust; Paola Milei, an art lecturer and professor at the School of Visual Arts, named as the beneficiary of the offshore Claudius Trust; and Blouin, publisher of magazines including Art and Auction and Modern Painters, who appears as a shareholder of the British Virgin Islands-registered company Kirkswood Ltd.

Lévy owns eponymous galleries in New York, London, and Geneva. According to the Post, “the 48-year-old Levy is a shareholder of Aldabra International Ltd., which was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2012.” A gallery spokeswoman told the Post that Aldabra International is “a personal holding company put in place for estate planning and is fully disclosed in the United States.”

A representative for Ms. Lévy told artnet News in a phone call that “Aldabra is a holding company that has no offshore bank accounts, holds her interests in her London gallery, was set up for estate planning purposes on the advice of counsel, and is fully disclosed in all relevant jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom.”

Correction: This article reported that the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) had identified Ms. Lévy as having placed funds offshore or having set up companies in island nations to shelter her holdings. That was a misstatement. ICIJ has not identified Ms. Lévy as having placed funds offshore or having set up companies in island nations to shelter her holdings.

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