Pandora Papers reveal the offshore dealings of public officials and billionaires
Exposed are, among hundreds of others, the ruler of Jordan and the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
by Isti Miskolczy
Almost three terabytes of confidential data detailing the offshore dealings of high-profile politicians and billionaires – now known as the ‘Pandora Papers’ – have been leaked from a wide range of offshore providers recently. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) investigation has found that these documents – amounting to almost 12 million pieces altogether – contain the financial secrets of more than 330 politicians from more than 90 countries and territories in total.
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According to the report, powerful political and business figures have set up or helped in setting up offshore structures and trusts in popular tax havens such as the Bahamas, Seychelles, Belize, Panama, and even in Monaco and Switzerland. The ICIJ has put considerable efforts into this investigation with a team of 600 journalists of 150 news outlets working for two years to analyse the leaked data and release it to the press to “reveal the inner workings of a shadow economy that benefits the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of everyone else” (ICJ).
Named in the Pandora Papers was for instance Andrej Babis, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic who has allegedly bought a chateau in the south of France for 22 million dollars via offshore companies. This leaked information is believed not to aid his campaign ahead of the 2021 elections in the country. Nevertheless, Mr Babis was not the only one revealed to have been making questionable property purchases.
The King of Jordan has bought properties in the UK, the US, and Malibu too. The ruling family of Qatar has also purchased excessively high-priced homes in London through offshore means, averting millions of pounds in tax. So did Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family, as well.
Moreover, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife have been named buyers of a British Virgin Islands company and thus owners of a Victorian building with a value of almost 9 million dollars. Conservative party donors have also been mentioned in the document. Yet, it is important to highlight that, on the one hand, it is not illegal to buy properties through offshore companies in the UK. On the other hand, even the UK Government acknowledges that the risk of money laundering in real estate is considerably high.
In total, 336 politicians and public officials are featured in the Pandora Papers. 38 of them appear to be from Ukraine, 19 others are from Russia. There happens to be a substantial share of politicians from South America and Southeast Asia, too.
The Pandora Papers are not the first batch of data that have been leaked. In 2014 the ICIJ revealed tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg. This investigation has since become known as “LuxLeaks.” 2016 saw the exposure of the Panama Papers (2,6 terabytes), followed by the Paradise Papers (1,4 terabytes) a year later. However, the Pandora Papers are most certainly the largest out of all leaks considering the total data. Furthermore, unlike the previous leaks, they include information on offshore companies in not just one but in a dozen countries. What effect this exposure might have on politicians’ credibility and reputation in the future is yet to unfold.