PANDORA PAPERS

Julio Iglesias’s multi-million network of businesses: From the Virgin Islands to ‘Billionaire Bunker’

The Pandora Papers reveal that the Spanish singer has at least 20 companies in the British Virgin Islands, which were used to purchase luxury homes in Miami and a plane

Image: Sr. García
Image: Sr. García

Spanish singer Julio Iglesias has used five companies located in the British Virgin Islands, which is a tax haven, to acquire a number of properties in Indian Creek, the sought-after island on Miami known as “Billionaire Bunker.” The current value of the homes is as much as $112 million (€96 million), according to data from Miami-Dade county’s public records. The 78-year-old, who was born in Madrid, is linked to another 15 firms, all of them managed by Trident Trust, one of the administrators at the center of the Pandora Papers, an investigation coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Over a two-year period, more than 600 journalists from 117 countries have analyzed 11.9 million files from the offices of 14 different offshore service providers specializing in creating offshore companies in tax havens. This type of company, based in different countries than the tax residence of their administrators, are legal provided that the owner declare them in their place of residence. Problems for the authorities start when anonymity and zero taxation are what is being sought.

In Spain, EL PAÍS and television network La Sexta have analyzed these leaked documents to search for people of public interest who have taken advantage of some of the most opaque jurisdictions in the world. The result is more than 700 companies linked to Spain, among which there are dozens of key figures.

As well as the five properties on the island, Iglesias has used another six companies to acquire six more modest properties in the Surfside neighborhood, all of them close to the entrance to Indian Creek, for a total value of $4 million (€3.45 million). Via one of these, G-450 Holding Limited, he is the owner of a private plane. Another eight companies that appear do not have a clear function. In total, he is the beneficiary of 20 companies – 16 of them, with his wife, Dutch national Miranda Rijnsburger, and another four that are just in his name. All of them are controlled by a trust – the most opaque vehicle for controlling assets held abroad – called the Julio Iglesias de la Cueva Revocable Trust. It was created in 1995 in the British Virgin Islands with the aim of managing Iglesias’s assets “for inheritance purposes.”

The crooner made this tiny private island just north of Miami Beach fashionable among the elite, with its access to the Atlantic and Biscayne Bay, views of the Miami skyline and total security provided by a private police squad that patrols the perimeter by land and sea to keep out prying eyes. Scarcely more than a kilometer square and crowned by a 1930s golf club, the island now has 31 mansions all built with a sea view and surrounded by huge palm trees that shield the owners from view as they cool off in luxurious pools or lie on artificial beaches of pink sand shipped in from the Bahamas. And while the enclave has no stores, hotels or supermarkets, the mansions have private piers for the mooring of luxury yachts. In short, this is among the most expensive expanses of real estate in the United States.

A view last month of the properties located on the southern side of Star Island, in Miami, Florida.
A view last month of the properties located on the southern side of Star Island, in Miami, Florida.Eva Marie UZCATEGUI

With a fortune estimated by Forbes at €800 million, Iglesias is one of the few millionaires to be linked to so many offshore companies, some of which were founded in the late 1990s and beyond. The singer of hits such as La vida sigue igual or Me va, me va, who is widely considered to be the biggest-selling Spanish-speaking artist of all time with around 350 million records sold, has not been a tax resident in Spain since 1978, according to his representative Juan Velasco, who divulged the information during an interview with EL PAÍS. Until at least 2018 he lived in the Dominican Republic, but his lawyers, who declined to comment on this story, have not confirmed where his current residency is.

Iglesia blazed the trail to Miami, followed by other Spanish musicians such as balladeer Alejandro Sanz in the 2000s and, more recently, flamenco-pop artist Rosalía. “I have never stopped paying a single damn tax anywhere in the world; where I sing, I pay my taxes,” Iglesias snapped during an interview with television journalist Jordi Évole in 2015.

The way the land in Indian Creek is purchased appears to follow a pattern: a limited company is founded in a tax haven and the land, valued at up to $25 million (€21.5 million) for an undeveloped lot of about 7,400 square meters, is then bought through that company.

In December 2020, Indian Creek Island made headlines. While Donald Trump clung to the US presidency, and half the world wrestled with the coronavirus pandemic, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were busy reorganizing their assets. The outcome was that one of Iglesias’s vacant plots was sold to the couple for $32,179,000 (€26,864,300), the official amount registered by Miami-Dade County, according to the US media, although the property records have not yet published the identity of the plot’s latest owner.

I have never stopped paying a single damn tax anywhere in the world; where I sing, I pay my taxes
Spanish singer Julio Iglesias

The land coincides with the four undeveloped plots Iglesias owns on the most-privileged area of the island, which boasts the best views of downtown Miami. In 2008, he bought the mansion at number 30 and, in 2017, he was asking an eye-watering $150 million (€129 million) for the lot of four empty plots close to his property that, together, gave access to almost 250 meters of seafront. One of those plots is the one that local media, such as the South Florida Business Journal, claim the former president’s daughter has bought.

“It’s the most exclusive and private corner of Miami,” says luxury real estate expert Kevin Kavanaugh from his Miami Beach office. “While the luxury market for new buildings fluctuates every year, according to which penthouses are fashionable, the mansion market is a stable business that grows every year. A secure asset.”

On Wednesday of last week, a construction truck was waiting at the gates of the bridge for access to the island. Neighbors speculate that Ivanka is currently living nearby in Surfside while her mansion on the other side of the bay is being built.

In 2020, another couple of well-known faces acquired a similar piece of land: supermodel Gisele Bündchen and her husband, American soccer star Tom Brady, snapped up number 26, which already has a mansion on it, though the couple stated an intention to demolish it to make way for another ecological and sustainable house, as announced by several US media outlets last December. This piece of land was sold to them for $17 million (€15 million) last October.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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