Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles ELISE WORTHINGTON: This is a story about a parallel universe, where the super rich hide eye-watering amounts of money around the world. GERARD RYLE: We're talking about presidents, we're talking about prime ministers, we're talking about rock stars, we're talking about porn stars and people that have been convicted of crimes all over the world. Their methods are usually highly guarded secrets. But, hidden in an elaborate paper-trail, they're now exposed for all to see. ANTHONY WATSON: It's a shell game. They hide the assets, they hide the income, they hide the real beneficial owners. To unscramble these incredible structures that you find, it takes a really long time. The keepers of these secrets are lawyers and accountants, who work through a global network of trusts and shell companies based in tax havens around the world. LAKSHMI KUMAR: Without checks, gatekeepers have carte blanche and are able to ride roughshod over the financial landscape with no questions really asked and no accountability. They pay the fine, and then it's just business as usual. JOHN CHEVIS: I think some of the best money's to be made if you're willing to turn a blind eye to who you're dealing with and where their money might've come from. I think there's very good money to be made, sadly. DEBRA LAPREVOTTE: You have a handful of people who loot the resources of a country. Imagine the good that could have been done with $5 billion. The roads, the infrastructure, schools, medicine, education, healthcare. All of that could've been and all of that was taken away by a handful of people. The private fortunes of the rich, famous and sometimes infamous are concealed through lucrative financial holdings and expensive real estate, and Australia has become a prime destination for them to stash their cash. PETER WHISH-WILSON: I think the outrage that would be expressed by Australians if they knew that corrupt money was buying their local jewels in the crown and competing against locals at auctions, I think they'd be furious about that. NATHAN LYNCH: In real terms, that means that your children or yourself might be going to buy a property, and, when they're at auction, there could be a person there in a suit looking very, very sharp and legitimate, but they could be a proxy acting for a foreign kleptocrat or a politically exposed person. Tonight on Four Corners we investigate how politicians, criminals and the super-wealthy move millions through a parallel economy open only to those who can afford it. And we reveal how an Australian accountant made a fortune helping high-risk clients keep their riches away from prying eyes. Our investigation begins in Singapore. This glittering island financial hub is an ideal place to set up complex business structures. PETER WHISH-WILSON: Their corporate tax rate of 17% has always been traditionally much lower than other foreign jurisdictions. So, that's attractive to companies that want to go set up business there and pay less tax. And, of course, if you're going to go to the effort of setting up a headquarter in a country like Singapore and you're a big multinational firm and you're involved in profit-shifting activities and a whole range of other things that are certainly immoral and unethical, then what you're going to also demand from the Singapore government is layers of regulations to hide your identity and what you're doing. It's actually a recipe for setting themselves up for scandal. For the last 40 years Singapore has been home to a little-known business run by an Australian accountant named Graeme Briggs. He set up his company, Asiaciti, here in the 1980s. (ELEVATOR DOOR DINGS) Today, it's a global business with clients on every continent. GERARD RYLE: It's one of the largest offshore service providers in the world. And it's actually run by an Australian man. They have all sorts of legitimate clients, big banking, big banks, big accountancy firms. Asiaciti essentially sets up offshore companies for people who want privacy. Asiaciti is part of a growing industry of professional wealth managers helping the super rich manage their cash. LAKSHMI KUMAR: It's lawyers, accountants, investment advisors. You know, so, anyone that helps with the private equity, venture-capital fund, real-estate agents. All of them are gatekeepers. And when we use the term 'gatekeepers', it really... ..is these are the individuals that are meant to guard the financial system, because they have the expertise, they have the know-how to navigate the nitty-gritties of what is otherwise a very complex system to navigate. What we've found when we've looked into it is that individual entities that are providing these services, for them in isolation it's hugely profitable. So, you know, there's the ongoing advice. There's the fees of setting up these structures. There's a trailing revenue model because you're continually managing these structures. So, for those individual businesses that are active in this space, it's hugely profitable. Asiaciti prides itself on trust and discretion, keeping the confidential information of its high-profile clients secret. Now an anonymous source has leaked millions of internal documents from Asiaciti and 13 other offshore providers to media around the world through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. GERARD RYLE: It's interesting that we're seeing somebody who no-one's ever heard of. You're talking about Graeme Briggs - an accountant, somebody who's gone to Singapore, built a business, and now he's centre of what will be, I think, a political storm around the world. Graeme Briggs is a 75-year-old grandfather with a taste for the finer things in life. He owns a multimillion-dollar mansion on a vineyard in the Mornington Peninsula. Graham lives in Victoria. He collects art. He likes fine wine, particularly Italian wine. He also collects Japanese fountain pens. So, he's somebody with expensive tastes. But he also mixes with people from all over the world, very wealthy, important clients, but also some people who are very high public figures. The leak reveals Graeme Briggs amassed a $62-million fortune that includes more than $10 million in real estate, a $4-million rare-pen collection and $400,000-worth of fine wine. Like the fortunes of those he's managed, much of Graeme Briggs's wealth is held through a complex offshore company and trust structure. One of the trends that's emerging in the documents in the Pandora Papers is the fact that this offshore world lobbies behind the scenes, it lobbies governments to allow the offshore world to take place. So, Graham was particularly involved in turning Samoa into a tax haven. The island nation of Samoa is a tiny speck in the ocean halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Graeme Briggs was one of the first to realise Samoa's potential over two decades ago. He spruiked himself as an expert consultant to the government on offshore finance. He set up an Asiaciti office in the nation's capital, just down the road from the regulator. TO'OTO'OLEAAVA DR FANAAFI AIONO: He was one of the first to bring that type of business here to Samoa. And I understand that he did have a say in advising on the original legislation. I've met him once. In fact, I met him during one of the reviews of Samoa in accordance with the Asia Pacific Group on anti-money laundering. One of their reviews of Samoa back in 2014, that was when I first met Mr Graeme Briggs. He seems very personable. He's not very tall. Short, curly hair. Grey. Aussie. (LAUGHS) It may not look like a global finance hub, but there's tens of thousands of international companies based here - one for every three residents. The genesis was... ..I think it was trying to find other sources of income that were legitimate and legal for a small island nation with very limited natural resources.