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Pandora Papers: Journalists Uncover Secret Offshores of Politicians, Stars and Businessmen Around the World

The Pandora Papers - The Largest Offshore Data Leak In History - Reveals The Financial Secrets Of The Rich And Influential, Reports The Guardian.

Photo: Shutterstock

Secret deals and hidden assets of some of the world's richest and most powerful people have been uncovered in the largest offshore data breach in history.

The cache includes 11,9 million company files hired by wealthy clients to set up offshore structures and trusts in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

These documents reveal secret offshore affairs of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state. They also shed light on the secret finances of over 300 other government officials, such as ministers, judges, mayors, and military generals in over 90 countries.

The files contain information about the main sponsors of the Conservative Party, which puts Boris Johnson in a difficult position ahead of his party's annual conference.

The leaked data includes over 100 billionaires, as well as celebrities, rock stars and business leaders. Many use shell companies to store luxury items such as real estate and yachts, and to keep bank accounts incognito. The list of art objects is extensive, from plundered Cambodian antiquities to Picasso paintings and Banksy frescoes.

Pandora Paper exposes the inner workings of the shadow financial world, revealing the hidden operations of the global offshore economy that allow some of the world's richest people to hide their wealth and in some cases pay little or no taxes.

What is Pandora Paper

There are emails, memos, registration records, share certificates, compliance reports, and complex diagrams showing labyrinthine corporate structures. They often allow for the first time identification of the true owners of opaque shell companies.

The files were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington. He has provided access to the leaked data to select media partners including the Guardian, BBC Panorama, Le Monde and the Washington Post. More than 600 journalists viewed the files as part of a massive global investigation.

The Pandora Paper represents the latest - and largest in terms of data - series of major financial data breaches that have rocked the offshore world since 2013.

It is not illegal to set up or benefit from offshore companies, and in some cases people may have legitimate reasons to do so, such as security. But the secrecy provided by tax havens has at times proved attractive to tax evaders, fraudsters and money launderers, some of whom have been disclosed in files.

Other wealthy individuals and companies hide their assets offshore to avoid paying taxes elsewhere, a legal activity that is estimated to cost governments billions of dollars in lost revenue.

After more than 18 months of analyzing data in the public interest, the Guardian and other media outlets will release their findings in the coming days, starting with revelations about offshore financial affairs by some of the world's most powerful political leaders.

Whose offshores were revealed by the journalists

These include the ruler of Jordan, King Abdullah II, who, leaked documents show, created a $ 100 million secret empire of property spanning Malibu, Washington and London. The king declined to answer specific questions, but said there was nothing wrong with owning real estate through offshore companies. Jordan appears to have blocked the ICIJ website on Sunday, hours before the release of Pandora Paper.

Photo: Shutterstock

The files also show that family of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in recent years has sold real estate in the UK for about $ 544 million. One of their properties was sold as royal property. How they paid the $ 67 million to a company that acted as a front for the family that runs the country, which is regularly accused of corruption, is being studied. The Aliyevs declined to comment.

Pandora Paper also threatens to spark political unrest among the two leaders of the European Union. Czech Prime Minister Andrei Babis, who is running for election this week, is faced with questions about why he used an offshore investment company to acquire a $ 22 million castle in southern France. He also declined to comment.

And in Cyprus, which is itself an offshore center, President Nikos Anastasiades may be asked to explain why the law firm he founded was accused of hiding the assets of the controversial Russian billionaire behind fake company owners. The firm has denied any wrongdoing, and the Cypriot president says he has stopped taking an active part in its affairs since becoming the leader of the opposition in 1997.

The late Prime Minister of Bahrain and the uncle of the current King Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa owned a $ 60 million offshore shell company that bought properties in Switzerland and Germany.

Not everyone named in the Pandora newspapers is accused of wrongdoing. The leaked files show that Tony and Cherie Blair saved $ 424 in property taxes when they acquired a London building partly owned by the family of a prominent Bahraini minister.

The former prime minister and his wife bought the Marylebone office for $ 9 million from an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands. While the move was not illegal and there is no evidence that the Blairs were actively trying to avoid property taxes, the deal highlights a loophole that allowed wealthy property owners to avoid paying the tax that is common among ordinary Britons.

The leaked records vividly illustrate the central coordinating role that London plays in the dark offshore world. The UK capital is home to asset managers, law firms, company registrations and accountants. All exist to serve their super-rich clients. Many of them are foreign-born tycoons with “non-resident” status, which means they do not pay taxes on their overseas assets.

The leak also mentions President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskywho was elected in 2019 with a pledge to clean up his country's notoriously corrupt economy, under the influence of oligarchs. During the election campaign, Zelenskiy transferred his 25% stake in the offshore company to his close friend, who is now the president's chief adviser, the files say. Zelenskiy declined to comment and it is unclear if he will remain the beneficiary.

Photo: Shutterstock

But there is no Putin. Or is there? ..

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is suspected by the United States of possessing a secret fortune, does not appear in the files by name. But it featured the name of the late Pyotr Kolbin, whom the media called Putin's "wallet". The archive also mentions a close friend of Putin and the alleged mother of his third daughter Svetlana Krivonogikh, reports "Reviewer".

Photo: Shutterstock

In particular, the dossier contains documents that suggest that part of the property of the President of the Russian Federation is hidden in Monaco. Investigators have discovered a connection between Svetlana Krivonogikh's apartments in this country with the company in which lawyer Gennady Timchenko and Pyotr Kolbin were serviced.

As shown in the Pandora Papers dossier, Moores Rowland was in charge of the Crookedlegs in Monaco. The documents show that the luxury apartment overlooking the harbor was purchased in 2003 for $ 3,6 million.

The journalists found out that the property through offshores is hidden by the family of the head of Rostec Sergei Chemezov, the head of the presidential administration Anton Vaino and the son-in-law of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov Alexander Vinokurov. In addition, the latter was found to have Israeli citizenship.

On the subject: Mikheil Saakashvili returned to Georgia: he was immediately arrested

Pandora Paper also draws attention to the offshore system itself. In a situation that could embarrass US President Joe Biden, who has pledged to spearhead international efforts to ensure transparency in the global financial system, the US is the leading tax haven, as the document shows. The documents suggest that South Dakota, in particular, is home to billions of dollars associated with individuals previously charged with serious financial crimes.

Documents released Sunday show that client assets are worth about $ 360 billion in South Dakota.

Photo: Shutterstock

The offshore trail also stretches from Africa to Latin America and Asia and is likely to pose difficult questions for policymakers around the world. In Pakistan, Munis Ilahi, a prominent minister in the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, contacted an offshore provider in Singapore to invest $ 33,7 million.

In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta portrays himself as an enemy of corruption. In 2018, Kenyatta told the BBC: "The assets of every civil servant must be publicly announced so that people can ask the questions: what is legal?"

He will be pressured to explain why he and his close family have amassed more than $ 30 million offshore, including real estate in London. Kenyatta did not respond to questions about whether his family's condition had been reported to the relevant authorities in Kenya.

Sports and show business stars are also associated with offshore assets - singer Shakira, athlete Sachin Tendulkar, model Claudia Schiffer, singers Elton John and Julio Iglesias.

Why are offshore companies needed?

The Pandora docs also reveal some of the unseen consequences of previous offshore leaks that have spurred modest reforms in parts of the world, such as the British Virgin Islands, which now keep records of the real owners of companies registered there. However, recently leaked data shows money is shifting offshore as wealthy clients and their advisors adjust to new realities.

Some clients of Mossack Fonseca, the now defunct law firm behind the 2016 Panama Papers disclosures, have simply turned over their companies to competing vendors, such as another global trust and corporate administrator with a large office in London, whose data is housed in a new leaked file repository. ...

When asked why he was transferring a new company, one of the clients answered bluntly: "Business decision to exit in accordance with the Panama Papers." Another agent said the industry has always “adjusted” to external pressures.

The leaked files show that some in the industry are seeking to circumvent the new privacy rules. One Swiss lawyer refused to send the names of his valuable clients to a service provider in the British Virgin Islands under the new legislation. Instead, he sent them by airmail with strict instructions that they should not be processed "electronically." The identity of the other beneficial owner was revealed via WhatsApp.

"The purpose of this method is to enable you to comply with the rules of the British Virgin Islands," - wrote the lawyer. Referring to Mossack Fonseca, the lawyer added: "It is your responsibility to keep our clients confidential and not to allow the second Panama Papers story to repeat itself, which happened to one of your competitors."

Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ, said the leading politicians who have organized their finances in tax havens are interested in maintaining the status quo and are likely to be an obstacle to reforming the offshore economy. "When you have world leaders, when you have politicians, when you have government officials, everybody is using secrecy and everybody is using this world, in these conditions, I don't think we will see the end of this all."

He expected Pandora Paper to have a bigger impact than previous leaks, not least because they appeared in the midst of a pandemic that exacerbated inequality and forced governments to borrow unprecedented amounts that fell on the shoulders of ordinary taxpayers. “These are Panama articles on steroids,” Ryle said. "But wider, richer and more detailed."

At least $ 2020 trillion is stored offshore, according to a 11,3 study by the Paris Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “This is money that is being lost by treasuries around the world, and money that could be used to recover from Covid,” Ryle said. - We are losing because some people are winning. It is so simple. This is a very simple transaction. "

As the Business InsiderOffshore accounts and asset-protecting trusts often play a role in heinous crimes like drug trafficking and extortion, experts say.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

“The offshore financial system is an issue that should concern every law-abiding person around the world,” former FBI officer Sherin Ebadi told the Post. “These systems don't just allow tax fraudsters to evade paying their fair share. They undermine the foundations of a good society. "

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Miscellanea taxes Panama Dubai Putin Aliyev offshore Monaco World Zelensky Pandora paper Switzerland and Cayman Islands ruler of Jordan King Abdullah II Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrei Babis Tony and Cherie Blair
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