October 28, 2021

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The Pandora Papers

6 min read

So what are the Pandora papers? The Pandora papers is the largest treasure trove of leaked data exposing tax haven secrecy in history. They provide a very rare window into the hidden world of offshore finance, casting light on the financial secrets of some of the world’s most richest people.

Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and not to forget drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts, and other assets for the past quarter-century.

This is according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world. The report was by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.

Released on Sunday, the Pandora papers is dubbed the “Pandora Papers” because the findings shed light on the previously hidden dealings of the elite and the corrupt, and how they have used offshore accounts to shield assets collectively worth trillions of dollars.

Over 330 current and former politicians were identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts. They 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 mentioned in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.

Many of the accounts were clearly designed to evade taxes and conceal mass assets for god only knows what shady reasons, according to the report.

“The new data leak must be a wake-up call,” said Sven Giegold, a Green party lawmaker in the European Parliament. “Global tax evasion fuels global inequality. We need to expand and sharpen the countermeasures now.”

British Charity Oxfam International praised the Pandora Papers for exposing these examples of greed that deprived countries of tax revenue that could be used to finance programs and projects for the greater good.

“This is where our missing hospitals are,” Oxfam said in a statement. “This is where the pay-packets sit of all the extra teachers and firefighters and public servants we need. Whenever a politician or business leader claims there is ‘no money’ to pay for climate damage and innovation, for more and better jobs, for a fair post-COVID recovery, for more overseas aid, they know where to look.”

The Pandora Papers is a very similar review released in 2016 called the “Panama Papers” compiled by the same journalistic group.

This report, however, is even more expansive, the journalists sifted through nearly 3 terabytes of data — the equivalent of roughly 750,000 photos on a smartphone — that was leaked from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions in the world.

The records date back to the 1970s, but most of the files span from 1996 to 2020.

The Panama Papers project had 2.6 terabytes of data leaked by one now-defunct law firm called Mossack Fonseca that was located in Panama.

The latest investigation looked into accounts registered in familiar offshore havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, and Belize. Although, some of the secret accounts were also set up in trusts in the U.S., including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.

Some of the initial findings released in the Pandora Papers on Sunday show some of the deals and prominent people involved.

For example, their investigation found that advisers helped King Abdullah II of Jordan set up at least three dozen shell companies from 1995 to 2017. This helped the monarch buy 14 homes worth more than $106 million in the U.S. and the U.K. One was a whopping $23 million California ocean-view property bought back 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.

Abdullah’s government was engulfed in scandal just this year when his half-brother, former Crown Prince Hamzah, accused the “ruling system” of corruption and incompetence. The king responded by claiming he was the victim of a “malicious plot,” and then placed his half-brother under house arrest as well as two former close aides on trial.

U.K attorneys for King Abdullah II said he isn’t required to pay taxes under his country’s law and hasn’t misused public funds. They said that there are security and privacy reasons for him to have holdings through offshore companies, according to the report. The attorneys also said most of the companies and properties are not connected to the king or no longer exist, though they didn’t provide any further details.

Former Uk Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2017 acquired an $8.8 million Victorian Building in 2017 after buying a British Virgin Island company that held the property. That very same building now is the home of a law firm or Blair’s wife, Cherie Blair.

The couple bought the company from the family of Bahrain’s industry and tourism minister, Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani. The Blairs saved more than $400,000 in property taxes by buying the company shares instead of the London building, the investigation found.

The Blairs and the al-Zayanis both claimed they didn’t know the other party was involved in the deal, the probe found. Cherie Blair claimed her husband wasn’t involved with the purchase, which she said was meant to bring “the company and the building back into the U.K. tax and regulatory regime.”

Cherie also said she didn’t want to own a British Virgin Islands company and that the “seller for their own purposes only wanted to sell the company,” which is now closed.

In response, a lawyer for the al-Zayanis said they complied with U.K. laws.

Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan is not accused of any wrongdoing in the Pandora report. But close 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 findings.

In a tweet, Imran Khan vowed to recover the “ill-gotten gains” and promised that his government will look into all citizens mentioned in the documents and take action if it is needed.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis back in 2009 threw $22 million into shell companies to buy a chateau property in a hilltop village in Mougins, France, near Cannes, the probe found. The shell companies and the chateau were not disclosed in Babis’ required asset declarations, according to documents obtained by the journalism group’s Czech partner, Investigace.cz.

A real estate group owned indirectly by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis purchased the Monaco company that owned the chateau in 2018, the investigation found.

“I was waiting for them to bring something right before the election to harm me and influence the Czech election,” Babis tweeted in response to the release of the report.

The Czech Republic parliamentary election is being held this Friday and Saturday.

“I’ve never done anything illegal or wrong,” Babis also said.

Claudia Schiffer and Shakira are among the famous faces linked to the Pandora Papers leak.

They are joined by Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar – as well as associates of Vladimir Putin and 35 world leaders – after they were all found to have companies set up in tax havens.

The papers claim Colombian pop star Shakira set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands to conceal assets. 

But lawyers of the 44-year-old said the singer declared the offshore companies, adding that they did not provide tax advantages. 

It comes as the Hips Don’t Lie hitmaker is already in a legal wrangle with the Spanish Government, which has accused her of failing to pay taxes in Spain in the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

In response to their client being named in the report, representatives of German supermodel Ms Schiffer, 51, said the mother-of-three correctly pays her taxes in the UK, where she lives. 

Meanwhile Mr Tendulkar’s lawyers said his investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities. 

The cricket star is also reported to have dissolved an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands three months after the release of the Panama Papers in 2016.  

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