the new life in Dubai of Philippe Houman, the Swiss lawyer of Jérôme Cahuzac

By Anne Michel, Jérémie Baruch and Maxime Vaudano

Published on October 05, 2021 at 06:00 – Updated on October 05, 2021 at 10:04

We left him in Paris, in February 2018, at the appeal trial of Jérôme Cahuzac, when he learnedly explained, at the helm, that offshore is easy. “I understand that the diagram you have in front of you is puzzling, but there is nothing very complicated”, had launched, faraud, the Swiss lawyer Philippe Houman. The very one whom the criminal court had described as ” Kingpin “ of the skilful arrangement set up by the former socialist budget minister to defraud the tax authorities. Through front companies in the Seychelles and the Samoa Islands, Mr. Houman had enabled the transfer of Mr. Cahuzac’s hidden money from Switzerland to Singapore. His sentence in 2016 to a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 375,000 euros was confirmed on appeal two years later.

What are the “Pandora Papers”?

“Pandora Papers” is a collaborative investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in partnership with 150 international media, including The world. It is based on the leak of nearly 12 million confidential documents, transmitted by an anonymous source to the ICIJ, from the archives of fourteen firms specializing in the creation of offshore companies in tax havens (British Virgin Islands, Dubai, Singapore, Panama, the Seychelles…).

Five years after the “Panama Papers”, the investigation reveals the extent of the excesses of the offshore industry and its limited companies. She shows how this system benefits hundreds of politicians, and how new tax havens take over as old ones convert to transparency.

To read : Article reserved for our subscribers “Pandora Papers”: a global dive into the secrets of offshore finance

Easy, offshore? Three years later, the facts prove the intermediary right. Because, despite the scandal and the turn of the screw of the laws against bank secrecy, fraud and tax optimization, we find him today at the head of a flourishing business of administration of companies created in all tax havens of the planet. His small company, Monfort Capital Partners, is based in Dubai, opposite the island of Palm Jumeirah, in a popular district of the flamboyant emirate, bristling with skyscrapers of steel and glass.

A second homeland, much less showy, for this former lawyer at the Geneva Bar specializing in the administration of companies, who left Switzerland around 2009, when banking secrecy began to waver. “After the scandals, many Swiss lawyers gave up this offshore activity. But some decided on the contrary that she was a carrier and pursued her, analyzes Carlo Lombardini, himself a lawyer at the Geneva Bar and professor of law. They probably feel protected by settling in distant states. »

The headquarters of Monfort Capital Partners in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), in September 2021.

Partner too bulky

5,000 kilometers from Switzerland, Philippe Houman keeps a low profile. Barely a showcase site for Monfort Capital, with a telephone number and an e-mail address. Admittedly, the Cahuzac affair cost him his relationship with Mossack Fonseca, the firm of the “Panama Papers”, which had preferred to sever ties with this too cumbersome partner. But the “Pandora Papers” attest to the company’s vitality. In conjunction with other offshore firms in Cyprus, Panama or the British Virgin Islands, Monfort Capital has managed more than a hundred offshore companies in recent years, for a diversified international clientele whose assets are in the millions – of euros, dollars, rubles. Mr. Houman has even directly played the role of director in some of his clients’ companies, thus avoiding them to appear in the open.

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