The Pandora Papers investigation is the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration, involving more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.
The report released Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, is based on a leak of confidential records of 14 offshore service providers that give professional services to wealthy individuals and corporations seeking to incorporate shell companies, trusts, foundations and other entities in low- or no-tax jurisdictions. The entities enable owners to conceal their identities from the public and sometimes from regulators. Often, the providers help them open bank accounts in countries with light financial regulation. Many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and conceal assets for other shady reasons
The 2.94 terabytes of data, leaked to ICIJ and shared with media partners around the world, the files date to the 1970s, most of those reviewed by ICIJ were created between 1996 and 2020, more than 330 politicians exposed by the leak
The Pandora Papers investigation also reveals how banks and law firms work closely with offshore service providers to design complex corporate structures. The files show that providers don’t always know their customers, despite their legal obligation to take care not to do business with people who engage in questionable dealings. The investigation also reports on how U.S. trust providers have taken advantage of some states’ laws that promote secrecy and help wealthy overseas clients hide wealth to avoid taxes in their home countries.
Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets for the past quarter-century. The most prominate include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, and associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The billionaires called out in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.
For instance, In Kenya, the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has portrayed himself as an enemy of corruption. In 2018, Kenyatta told the BBC: “Every public servant’s asset must be declared publicly so that people can question and ask: what is legitimate?”
He has come under pressure to explain why he and his close relatives amassed more than $30m of offshore wealth, including property in London. Kenyatta did not respond to enquiries about whether his family wealth was declared to relevant authorities in Kenya
The investigation found advisers helped King Abdullah II of Jordan set up at least three dozen shell companies from 1995 to 2017, helping the monarch buy 14 homes worth more than $106 million in the U.S. and the U.K. One was a $23 million California ocean-view property bought in 2017 through a British Virgin Islands company. The advisers were identified as an English accountant in Switzerland and lawyers in the British Virgin Islands. He denied any impropriety in a comment Monday by the Royal Palace, citing security needs for keeping the transactions quiet and saying no public funds were used. The details are an embarrassing blow to Abdullah, whose government was engulfed in scandal this year when his half-brother, former Crown Prince Hamzah, accused the “ruling system” of corruption and incompetence. The king claimed he was the victim of a “malicious plot,” placed his half-brother under house arrest and put two former close aides on trial.
The Pakistani prime minister, is not accused of any wrongdoing. But members of his inner circle, including Finance Minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin, are accused of hiding millions of dollars in wealth in secret companies or trusts, according to the journalists’ findings. In a tweet, Khan vowed to recover the “ill-gotten gains” and said his government will look into all citizens mentioned in the documents and take action, if needed.
The consortium of journalists revealed Putin’s image-maker and chief executive of Russia’s leading TV station, Konstantin Ernst, got a discount to buy and develop Soviet-era cinemas and surrounding property in Moscow after he directed the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ernst told the organization the deal wasn’t secret and denied suggestions he was given special treatment.
In 2009, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis put $22 million into shell companies to buy a chateau property in a hilltop village in Mougins, France, near Cannes, the investigation found. The shell companies and the chateau were not disclosed in Babis’ required asset declarations A real estate group owned indirectly by Babis bought the Monaco company that owned the chateau in 2018, the probe found.
Source : The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists