Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns in the rain at Harmon Tree Farm in Gilbert, S.C., Friday, Jan. 20, 2012.

WASHINGTON — An Associated Press examination of financial records of Mitt Romney shows that the Republican presidential candidate has offshore-based investments worth between $7 million and $32 million.

Offshore accounts are often used legitimately by private equity firms to attract foreign investors. Tax experts say offshore accounts also enable wealthy investors to defer paying U.S. taxes on some assets.

The AP analysis found at least six funds set up in the Cayman Islands. The small Caribbean island chain has long been used as a base for international investments because of its low tax rates and financial secrecy.

Romney has acknowledged that some of his investments are based in the Caymans, but he has not identified specific accounts and amounts. There is no indication he uses the accounts to dodge U.S. tax obligations.