The secret offshore wealth of more than 300 world leaders, politicians and billionaires was exposed in the “Pandora Papers” on Sunday in one of the largest ever leaks of financial data.
The documents show how 35 current and former world leaders used accounts in tax havens to accrue enormous amounts of wealth and carry out transactions.
The data were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with a number of major media outlets.
The ICIJ says the secret documents expose offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the presidents of Cyprus, Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador, the prime minister of the Czech Republic and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The files also detail financial activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unofficial minister of propaganda” and more than 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States, Turkey and other nations.
The Cypriot president’s law firm is accused of disguising the financial assets of a Russian senator through phoney beneficial owners. Nicos Chr. Anastasiades & Partners said that four of the offshore companies it managed where beneficially owned by members of the firm, but the report shows that they were actually owned by Russian former senator Leonid Lebedev.
Pandora Papers reveal power players benefit from offshores
While many of the transactions – made by tens of thousands of different offshore firms -feature no legal wrongdoing, they reveal that many of the power players who could help bring an end to the offshore system, instead benefit from it, stashing assets in covert companies and trusts while their governments do little to slow a global stream of illicit money that enriches criminals and impoverishes nations, the ICIJ notes.
NEW: #PandoraPapers reveals the inner workings of a shadow economy that benefits the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of everyone else.
Brought to you by ICIJ and 600+ journalists, the largest collaboration in journalism history. 🧵 https://t.co/qXMuUcqPc4
— ICIJ (@ICIJorg) October 3, 2021
Among the hidden treasures revealed in the documents:
- A $22 million chateau on the French Riviera – replete with a cinema and two swimming pools – purchased through offshore companies by the Czech Republic’s populist Prime Minister, a billionaire who has railed against the corruption of economic and political elites.
- More than $13 million tucked in a secrecy-shaded trust in the Great Plains of the United States by a scion of one of Guatemala’s most powerful families, a dynasty that controls a soap and lipstick conglomerate that’s been accused of harming workers and the earth.
- Three beachfront mansions in Malibu purchased through three offshore companies for $68 million by the King of Jordan in the years after Jordanians filled the streets during the Arab Spring to protest joblessness and corruption.
11.9 million confidential files included in the Papers
The ICIJ says it obtained the trove of more than 11.9 million confidential files and led a team of more than 600 journalists from 150 news outlets that spent two years sifting through them, tracking down hard-to-find sources and digging into court records and other public documents from dozens of countries.
The leaked records come from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore entities for clients often seeking to keep their financial activities in the shadows. The records include information about the dealings of nearly three times as many current and former national leaders as any previous leak of documents from offshore havens.
An ICIJ analysis of the secret documents identified 956 companies in offshore havens tied to 336 high-level politicians and public officials, including country leaders, cabinet ministers, ambassadors and others. More than two-thirds of those companies were set up in the British Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction long known as a key cog in the offshore system.
At least $11.3 trillion is held “offshore,” according to a 2020 study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Because of the complexity and secrecy of the offshore system, it’s not possible to know how much of that wealth is tied to tax evasion and other crimes and how much of it involves funds that come from legitimate sources and have been reported to the proper authorities.