Last week the ICIJ released the largest data leak known to date, exposing some of the most lucrative deals and covert assets in the world. This has been the largest-known collection of leaked offshore data in history and it targets the world’s richest and most powerful people.
Known as the Pandora papers, the leak includes 11.9m files that belong to companies hired by wealthy and influential clients to create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens, such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands.
The Pandora papers reveal the clandestine operations of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers, and various heads of state. The papers further disclose the finances of 300 other public officials, including government ministers, judges, mayors, and military generals. Furthermore, more than 100 billionaires and a few celebrities have also been exposed as part of the leaked data.
The papers shed light on the lucrative ways used by the world’s richest to shelter money in offshore havens. These so-called affluent individuals have made use of shell companies to hold luxury items, such as property, yachts, and incognito bank accounts. The Pandora papers further reveal the inner workings of what has been dubbed as a ‘shadow financial world’. It has given the public a rare insight into the ways used by the rich to hide their wealth and in most cases, pay little or no tax.
The papers that were released to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) include emails, memos, incorporation records, share certificates, compliance reports, and diagrams along with convoluted and multiplex corporate structures. Top Figures featured in the Pandora papers.
The files reveal information on Azerbaijan’s ruling family, exposing evidence that they traded £400m of their UK properties in the last few years. One of these properties was sold to the Queens crown estate. The papers have further threatened the political stability between two European Union countries- The Czech Republic and Cyprus. The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic is also facing questions over why he used an offshore investment company to buy a $22m worth chateau in the south of France. The President of Cyprus has also been accused of hiding assets of a Russian billionaire behind fake company owners.
The President of Ukraine, elected in a campaign founded on claims of non-corruption, was revealed to have traded 25% stake in an offshore company to a close friend who now works as the president’s top adviser. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who is also suspected of having a secret fortune, has not been named in the Pandora papers. However, a number of his close associates, including his childhood best friend, have been named in the papers.
Apart from the names mentioned above, numerous other influential and significant influential people have been named in the Pandora papers, and all these individuals have refused to comment on the surfacing of their names. The more pressing issue here is that the Pandora papers shed light on the functioning of a full-fledged offshore system as well as make us aware of all the means and methods used by the rich to hide their tangible wealth.