Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders, and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts, and other assets for the past quarter-century, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 different firms located around the world.
The report released Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in117 countries. It’s being dubbed the “Pandora Papers” because the findings shed light on the previously hidden dealings of the elite and the corrupt, and how they have used offshore accounts to shield assets collectively worth trillions of dollars. Many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and conceal assets for other shady reasons, according to the report.
The investigation dug into accounts registered in familiar offshore havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, and Belize. But some of the secret accounts were also scattered around in trusts set up in the U.S., including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida. More than 330 current and former politicians are identified as “beneficiaries” of the secret accounts. Notables include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, and former associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The billionaires called out in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.
The humorous side of this very serious story is that even after two apocalyptic offshore finance/law firm leaks, those industries are still compiling vast databases of ruin, and still secure them with a Post-It Note marked "do not leak."
Hats off to the source!#PandoraPapers
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 3, 2021
Some of the initial findings released Sunday painted a sordid picture of the prominent people involved. For example, Blair, the U.K prime minister from 1997 to 2007, became the owner of an $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017 by buying a British Virgin Islands company that held the property, and the building now hosts the law firm of his wife, Cherie Blair, according to the investigation. The couple bought the company from the family of Bahrain’s industry and tourism minister. Buying the company shares instead of the building saved the Blairs more than $400,000 in property taxes, the investigation found.
Some 35 current and former leaders and more than 300 public officials are featured in the files from offshore companies, dubbed the Pandora Papers.
They also show how ex-UK PM Tony Blair and his wife saved £312,000 in stamp duty when they bought a London office.
— Maureen Fitzsimmons (@mojos55) October 3, 2021
The Pandora Papers are a follow-up to a similarly named project released in 2016 called the “Panama Papers”, which was compiled by the same group. But this new report is even more expansive; the group had access to nearly 3 terabytes of data — the equivalent of roughly 750,000 photos on a smartphone — leased from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions in the world. The records date back to the 1970s, but most of the files span from 1996 to 2020.
CLIENT 13173 – UHURU Kenyatta Family.
This expośee explains Tony Blair's recent visit to Kenya and Uhuru Kenyatta's choice of Presidential candidate – Raila Odinga pic.twitter.com/vMrAWTEWjf
— Kiplangat Allan, GE (@EngKiruiAllan) October 3, 2021
The current investigation dug into accounts registered in familiar offshore havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, and Belize. But some of the secret accounts were also scattered around in trusts set up in the U.S., including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.