Is it raining money? Are you rolling in the dough? Whether you know it as “making bank” or “bringing in the big bucks,” usually when any of us has a little extra money we like to put it into a savings account where it can accrue interest. Yet, what many of us forget until tax season rolls around is that Uncle Sam likes to take his fair share of what we earn, especially if we’ve made quite a bit of interest. And, while we gasp at paying taxes on an extra $1,000 here and there, celebrities making top dollar often have it even worse.
In hopes of avoiding high taxes on their hard-earned income, some celebrity millionaires move the majority of their net worth to offshore accounts in countries like Switzerland or the British Virgin Islands where taxes are notoriously low. While many assume that this is illegal, it actually isn’t; however, the stigma that comes from getting caught as someone who avoids paying taxes in their home country can be quite hard to overcome especially if you’re in the spotlight.
With the recent Panama Papers leak of 11.5 million records in addition to a long history of other financial fiascos, curiosity got the best of us. Which celebrities have offshore accounts and just how much are they worth? Join us we take a look at 20 celebrities with offshore accounts and uncover their reasoning behind moving their money abroad!
#20 – Jackie Chan
“Everybody was Kung Fu fighting…” A true jack of all trades, no other Asian actor has translated his talents into international success quite like Jackie Chan. Born in Hong Kong in 1954 and trained in martial arts such as Kung Fu and Wing Chun, Chan launched his acting career at the age of five and made his breakthrough performance in the 1978 film Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow before joining the American film industry in the 1980s. Since then, Chan has established himself as a talented actor, director, producer, stuntman and singer with a knack for comic timing and innovation.
Now worth a whopping $350 million with over 150 film credits to his name, Chan is the first of many celebrities on our list who were named in the Panama Papers leak. According to the papers, Chan has at least half a dozen companies managed by the Panama firm that include Jumbo Jaz Investment and Jackie Chan Ltd. Though the 54-year-old martial artist has yet to comment on the situation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported that “there is no evidence that Chan used his companies for improper purposes.”
#19 – Mel Gibson
Though many believe he’s off his rocker these days, it’s undeniable that Mel Gibson is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood history. Getting his start in 1979 in the original Mad Max films while working in the Australian television circuit, Gibson eventually found fame as an action hero in film series like Lethal Weapon before proving his talents as a screenwriter, producer and director in award-winning hits like Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, The Patriot and Apocalypto.
Losing half of his $850 million net worth to his wife of 31 years—Robyn Denise Moore—during their divorce in 2011, the settlement might have been the highest in Hollywood history but things could have been much worse. In 2014, Gibson’s name was leaked as part of the Jersey files taken from the United Kingdom where he and his five children (now eight) were listed as beneficiaries. Though Gibson refused to comment, many believe it was a way for the 60-year-old to hold onto what fortune he had left after such a nasty divorce and public breakdown.
#18 – Andy Cole
Gooooooal! The first of many athletes to appear on our list, England native Andy Cole is best known for his impressive 20-year career as a soccer star. Playing for some of the most popular teams in the sport from 1988 to 2008, Cole truly showed his talents on the field from 1995 to 2001 with Manchester United when he scored 93 goals with the club. Officially retiring with Nottingham Forest after 509 career games and 229 total goals, Cole is one of the few players in England to have earned every possible honor and award in the industry.
Certainly not shy about admitting his trouble managing his finances, the 44-year-old Cole has had his fair share of money issues in recent years. After taking financial advice from David McKee and Kevin McMenamin of the Kingsbridge Wealth Management firm, Cole was one of many high profile soccer players who lost a collective $141 million in bad investments. When it comes to his offshore accounts, things haven’t been any better as Cole was also mentioned in the Panama Papers leak after investigators discovered he financed a house in Nottingham through Crewzen Finance Ltd. Unsurprisingly, Cole also declined to comment.
#17 – Daddy Yankee
“Da me mas gasolina!” Though there’s a fairly good chance that the only hit song you remember from Daddy Yankee is “Gasolina,” he is still one of the most successful Puerto Rican Reggaeton singers in the genre. Born as Ramon Rodriguez and planning on a career with the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball, Yankee was struck with a stray bullet before officially signing with the team. With his baseball career ended before it ever began, Yankee shifted his focus to music where he’s sold nearly 20 million albums including Prestige and King Daddy.
The 39-year-old Yankee is yet another celeb who was part of the Panama Papers leak when investigative reporters in Puerto Rico claimed that he “allegedly assigned the rights of one of his concerts in Peru in exchange for the transfer of $350,000 to an offshore bank account.” Doing some backtracking after the leak to check his financial activity, Yankee’s representative released the statement: “We reject any link our client has with this journalistic investigation…It is false that we have some relationship with the firm Mossack Fonseca.”
#16 – The Rolling Stones
“I can’t get no satisfaction…” Legends in the music industry, The Rolling Stones changed the face of rock and roll forever when Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts first took the stage in London in 1962. Rocking out to hits like “Paint It Black, “Satisfaction” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” throughout departures, deaths and disagreements, the current lineup consists of Jagger, Richards, Watts and Ronnie Woods who carry on the Stones legacy of 29 albums and some of the highest grossing concert tours of all time.
A decade before the world ever learned of the Panama Papers, another rumor was leaked that several musicians were using offshore accounts to avoid paying high taxes. Among those named were The Rolling Stones who made an estimated $114 million in 2004 but only paid 1.6 percent in taxes in 2005. Veterans of using offshore accounts since the early 1970s after receiving financial advice from their business advisor, the band members even admitted that they avoided playing frequent concerts in the United States due to taxes. Hey, at least they were honest, right?
#15 – Elle MacPherson
Nicknamed “The Body” after her record-breaking five cover appearances on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Australian model Elle MacPherson had every intention of studying law but a trip to New York City changed everything. Modeling to earn money to buy law books, MacPherson’s dreams of the courtroom were replaced by the catwalk after landing dozens of covers on magazines like Cosmopolitan, Vogue and GQ. Continuing to model today while working as a businesswoman, television host and actress, MacPherson has appeared in Batman and Robin and The Edge in addition to hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live.
Building her wealth to an impressive $45 million over the last 30 years, the 52-year-old MacPherson made headlines in 2015 for something other than her beauty when her finances were brought into question. Included on the list of high profile clients who used HSBC bank to hide millions for tax purposes, MacPherson was reported as having a total of $12.2 million spread across several offshore accounts in 2008. Her lawyers quickly responded by denying any malicious activity by saying, “MacPherson is an Australian citizen who has accounted for UK tax.”
#14 – Mark Knopfler
“Get your money for nothin’ get your chicks for free…” One of the most memorable guitar riffs in the history of rock is none other than “Money for Nothing” by guitarist Mark Knopfler of the Dire Straits. Ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” the four-time Grammy Award winner has been making waves in the music industry for over 50 years as a singer-songwriter, record producer and film score composer working with big names like Tina Turner and Bob Dylan as well as on major films like The Princess Bride and Wag the Dog.
Worth an estimated $95 million and joining the ranks of celebrities outed in the Jersey files leak, the 66-year-old Knopfler was investigated for having a trust for his ex-wife—who was a citizen of the United States and living in London—as well as their two children. Managing to escape all legal consequences, Knopfler’s representatives told reporters that “all relevant details concerning the trust have been made in tax returns to the authorities both in the UK and the USA.”
#13 – Bobby Fischer
Checkmate! Often considered one of the greatest chess players of all time, Bobby Fisher learned how to play chess when he was six years old and studied the game with great intensity. By the age of 20, he won the 1963-64 US Championship with the only perfect score ever recorded and went on to publish his techniques in My 60 Memorable Games. The grandmaster became the World Chess Champion in 1972 but, when he lost the title years later, he became a recluse and spent the rest of his life in Iceland until his death at 64 years old.
Before his death in 2008, Fisher held numerous offshore accounts when he held the power of attorney for Kettering Consultants Inc. based out of Panama. Eight years later during the Panama Papers leak, Fisher’s name was one of the first to appear when the papers revealed the firm was operated by four shareholders. Having become erratic and combative in his later life after losing the championship title, the discovery came as no surprise since Fisher once said that he hadn’t paid taxes in the United States since 1976.
#12 – Emma Watson
Training as an actress at Oxford’s Stagecoach Theatre Arts, England native Emma Watson landed her first professional acting gig at the age of nine when she was cast as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. Immediately earning international fame and critical praise for her performance, Watson appeared in all eight films from 2001 to 2011. Now an A-list actress at only 26 years old, Watson has proven her talents beyond wizardry with appearances in films such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Bling Ring, Noah and This is the End.
A month after the initial Panama Papers leak, Watson’s name appeared in a follow-up leak that outed even more high profile celebrities and politicians. Claiming that her offshore account was only for privacy purposes to guard part of her $70 million net worth, Watson’s representatives were quick to respond by saying “Emma receives absolutely no tax or monetary advantages from this offshore company whatsoever.” Although the truth eventually came out that Watson’s accounts weren’t as private as she hoped, the young A-lister has stuck to her story of innocence.
#11 – Nick Faldo
Tiger who? Long before Tiger Woods ever dominated the PGA in the early 2000s, Nick Faldo was one of the biggest names in the industry and a talent to be reckoned with on the course. Ranked as the top player in the world for 97 weeks, Faldo won 40 professional titles including six major championship wins at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia and The Open Championship in Great Britain. Today, the 58-year-old pro continues to play on the European Tour but spends the rest of his time as an on-air golf analyst.
Quite possibly one of the most curious cases on our list, Faldo made his professional debut in 1976 just as a company called Blenhim Road Ltd. was established in the British Virgin Islands. Though the coincidence raised very few eyebrows at the time even with Faldo as the company’s only shareholder, the facts couldn’t be ignored in 2009 when Faldo retired just as Blenhim Road closed for good. With a $60 million net worth and the Virgin Islands as a known tax haven, Faldo’s offshore accounts are incredibly fishy even to the untrained eye.
#10 – U2
“It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away…” Joining The Rolling Stones as another legendary rock band to dabble in offshore banking, U2 was formed in 1976 as Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. first took the stage in Dublin, Ireland. Rising to international fame by the mid-1980s thanks to an impressive tour and the release of The Joshua Tree album, U2 has become one of the best-selling and most awarded bands of all time with over 170 million records sold and 22 Grammy Awards thanks to hits like “Beautiful Day,” “One” and “Mysterious Ways.”
With Bono’s net worth hovering around $850 million and the band collectively worth over $1 billion, U2’s addition to our list is no surprise. In 2013, authorities discovered that the band used offshore accounts in the Netherlands to avoid paying taxes in Ireland. Speaking on the band’s behalf and claiming that Ireland was fine with their actions, Bono said, “U2 is in total harmony with our government’s philosophy. Tax competitiveness has taken our country out of poverty.” Although, if you ask us, it seems like Ireland would want their share of taxes from that whopping $1 billion.
#9 – Sarah Ferguson
Though not as popular as her late sister-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson has enjoyed her place in the line of British royalty as the Duchess of York and former wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York from 1986 to 1996. Busy raising her two daughters—Beatrice and Eugenie—who are seventh and eighth in line to succeed Queen Elizabeth II, Fergie has made a name for herself beyond royalty as a talented author, public speaker, television personality and film producer.
Following her divorce from Prince Andrew in 1996, Fergie faced a tough financial period that was only later brought to light after the Panama Papers were leaked nearly two decades later. With letters addressed to Mossack Fonseca—the largest law firm involved in the scandal—and dated back to 2001 when Fergie requested more information about her accounts in the British Virgin Islands, the leaked correspondence outlined every detail about Ferguson’s accounts and how the process worked after her divorce.
#8 – Heather Mills
Continuing the trend of famous Brits, next on our list is 48-year-old Heather Mills. Launching her modeling career in the late 1980s, Mills first made headlines in 1993 when a motorcycle accident resulted in the amputation of her left leg. Continuing to model with a prosthetic and selling her story to the tabloids, Mills found herself in the spotlight once again in 2002 when she married Paul McCartney. Divorcing in 2008, Mills received $50 million in the settlement and now spends her time working as an animal rights activist and media personality.
Known for her activism and charity work as well as her vegan lifestyle, Mills also had some business interests in the British Virgin Islands when she purchased 100 shares of Water 4 Investment Ltd. to support their dreams of inventing a technology to extract fatty acids from fish oil. The company eventually went under and cost Mills over $1 million in losses but, when the Panama Papers were leaked, Mills jumped on the defensive and said, “I am a straight taxpayer and you will never find anything on me if you investigate thoroughly.”
#7 – Christian Slater
Rising to stardom in 1985 for his performance in The Legend of Billie Jean, Christian Slater continued his streak of popular movies and stellar performances throughout the 1990s when he starred in blockbusters like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Broken Arrow and Hard Rain. Since then, Slater has transitioned to television with appearances in shows like The West Wing and Alias before landing the starring role on the award-winning USA Network series Mr. Robot.
Though the details are minimal, the 46-year-old Slater is another celebrity who has turned to HSBC to take some of his $40 million net worth offshore. Having already amassed quite a bit of wealth by 1996 and prior to his run-ins with the law the following year, Slater bought into an account operated by an HSBC client that simply went by the name of “Captain Kirk.” While there were numerous addresses in the United States and the United Kingdom linked to the account, Slater’s specific role and involvement is still unknown.
#6 – Stanley Kubrick
Considered to be one of the most important and influential directors in cinematic history, Stanley Kubrick started his career as a photographer in the 1940s before releasing his first Hollywood film, The Killing, in 1956. Honing his talents and building a reputation for his skillful use of music and attention to detail, Kubrick quickly became a staple in the horror and science fiction genres thanks to films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. Continuing to work until his death in 1999 at the age of 70, Kubrick’s final contribution to film was Eyes Wide Shut.
Before his death, rumors ran wild that Kubrick guarded his $20 million net worth with an offshore account in an attempt to help his family avoid inheritance taxes after his death. The Mossack Fonseca law firm confirmed the rumors when they leaked that Kubrick used a large network of offshore companies to protect his money as well as his property. After his death, three of the companies took ownership of his estate and, since the companies were named Anya Renata, Vivian Vanessa and Katherina after his daughters, there’s little question as to who is calling the shots these days.
#5 – Joan Collins
Making her stage debut at the age of nine years old in 1942, London native Joan Collins made her way to Hollywood in her 20s where she became a sultry sex symbol thanks to films like The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing. Starring in hits like The Stud, Land of the Pharaohs and Tales from the Crypt, the 83-year-old Collins is perhaps best known for her award-winning performance in the 1980s soap opera Dynasty as well as her high profile marriages to Maxwell Reed, Anthony Newley, Ronald Kass, Peter Holm and Percy Gibson.
Worth $30 million thanks to her work as an actress, author and columnist, Collins also made headlines as a result of her offshore accounts with HSBC. Maintaining that she did not take part in any wrongdoing, Collins’ representative said, “In 1993, my client deposited funds into a bank account in London and subsequently discovered that, without her instructions, the money had been transferred to the Swiss account referred to (by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists).” Regardless, many couldn’t help but question Collins’ innocence in the whole fiasco after five publicized marriages and four divorces.
#4 – Phil Mickelson
Affectionately known as “Lefty” to many of his most loyal fans, Phil Mickelson is the second golfer on our list and joins the exclusive club of professionals who have won three of the four major tournaments. Turning professional in 1992, the 45-year-old Mickelson has amassed an estimated net worth of over $180 million with big wins at The Open Championship, The PGA Championship, three Masters Tournaments, six runner-up finishes at the US Open and 42 wins on the PGA Tour.
Part of the Panama Papers leak in March 2016, Mickelson’s fans were shocked to learn that their favorite lefty was involved in the offshore scandal. Though how much he actually knew about the account is up for debate, Mickelson is supposedly linked to a sports gambling handicapper who was laundering money from an offshore account that was owned by Mickelson. Nearly $3 million was discovered in the account after being transferred to the handicapper with the sole intent to “place bets on sporting events.” As of today, Mickelson has not been charged as part of the investigation.
#3 – John Malkovich
Though rarely cast as the leading man, John Malkovich has undoubtedly made quite the name for himself in Hollywood as an actor and director over the last four decades. Majoring in theater at Illinois State University and moving to New York City in 1980 where he made his Broadway debut four years later, the Illinois native has found continual success on the Broadway stage and in Hollywood with over 70 film appearances in hits like Empire of the Sun, Con Air, Secretariat and, of course, Being John Malkovich.
The last celebrity on our list who was part of the HSBC scandal, Malkovich supposedly had an account through HSBC that was moved to Switzerland to help avoid taxes on a large chunk of his $65 million net worth. The 62-year-old Malkovich claimed he knew nothing about the account and said that it might have been Ponzi mastermind and American fraudster Bernie Madoff who was taking care of it without his knowledge. Malkovich then sued the French newspaper, Le Monde, for publishing the report on the basis that the situation was entirely false.
#2 – Simon Cowell
“You’ve got talent!” When reality television took off in the early 2000s, Simon Cowell cashed in big as the creator, producer and judge on Britain’s Pop Idol in 2001. Using the series to launch the spinoff American Idol, Cowell took his seat as the opinionated, blunt and controversial British judge with a keen eye for talent. The mastermind behind series like America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor, the 56-year-old philanthropist, entrepreneur and film, record and television producer has been recognized by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world.
In March 2016, the Panama Papers leak revealed that Cowell was the only shareholder for two companies called Southstreet Ltd. and Eaststreet Ltd. located in the British Virgin Islands and established in 2007. Coincidentally enough, while Cowell was operating these companies, he was in the process of using his $550 million net worth to purchase two areas of land in Barbados with the hopes of building a hotel that would be frequented by his long list of famous friends. With the hotel plans eventually falling through, neither company has seen any activity since.
#1 – Lionel Messi
Who’s the greatest soccer player in the world? While soccer fans may never agree on the answer, many have no doubt that the 28-year-old Lionel Messi holds the coveted title. Born in Argentina in 1987 and diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, Messi moved to Barcelona in 2000 and received medical treatment before making his competitive debut in 2004. Since then, Messi has become a household name in the industry and a star on the field as the only soccer player in history to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or Trophy five times.
After the Panama Papers leak made headlines, Messi was one of the most shocking names included as he and his father were charged with tax fraud in 2015 in their native Spain and were forced to stand trial in 2016. At the same time, Messi was under further investigation for additional tax irregularities in his offshore accounts that didn’t add up to his $218 million net worth. Though Messi argues that he and his family did not actively do or know about any illegal activities, the investigation is still ongoing.