The Pandora Papers show how tax havens are part of the global problem of inequality
A huge treasure trove of leaked financial documents, the Pandora Papers, has exposed the offshore financial transactions of hundreds of global elites, including more than 330 politicians from nearly 100 countries.
The nearly 12 million documents were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The ICIJ worked with more than 600 journalists in 117 countries to sift through the files.
“We’re not looking for a few million dollars here,” said Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ, in a video accompanying the release. “We are looking at trillions of dollars.”
The massive leak shows wealthy people around the world guaranteeing money in Caribbean tax havens, hiding assets in foreign trusts and protecting their wealth in opaque Panamanian corporations. Of the 12 sitting heads of state involved in the Pandora Papers, most are from low- and middle-income countries, as are many other politicians and other personalities. Brazil, CÃ´te d’Ivoire, Gabon, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are among the countries on the list.
âWe literally have countries where people are starving, lining up for food, while their leaders lead lavish lifestyles abroad,â says MaÃra Martini, a money laundering expert with International Transparency which is based in Berlin. Martini and Transparency International were not part of the investigative team that published the Pandora Papers.
âThe impact is devastating,â she said. âYou have money that should be used to fund public services such as health, education and housing that end up funding luxury homes and yachts and other luxury goods overseas. It is very, very worrying. “
Financial records come from 14 law firms. The ICIJ is not disclosing the exact origins of the leaks to protect its sources. The documents include bank statements and ownership records for assets held in the British Virgin Islands, Belize, Panama, South Dakota, Samoa, Seychelles and other jurisdictions that actively cater to investors seeking the secret.
Among the current heads of state involved in the Pandora Papers is Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, along with six members of his family. The newspapers allege they control a network of offshore companies and foundations in Panama and the British Virgin Islands worth more than $ 30 million.
The family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was allegedly involved in real estate offers in Britain is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His son Heydar Aliyev, now a young adult, was just 11 when he became a shareholder in a British Virgin Islands-based company that bought a building in London’s upscale Mayfair for $ 49million. dollars.
âIf you look at the individuals on the list, most are from countries with the highest levels of inequality,â says Martini of Transparency International.
An example is Chile. The documents link Chilean President SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±era (who made his fortune in the credit card business before entering politics) to more than $ 100 million parked in shell companies in the British Virgin Islands.
The former head of the Philippine Presidential Commission on Good Government is also on the list.
Most of the individuals accused of hiding assets in the Pandora Papers either refused to discuss the matter with the ICIJ or said their offshore accounts were legal.
In the hours following the publication of the Pandora Papers, tax authorities in several countries, including India, said they plan to investigate any potential criminal activity.
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