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Pandora papers spill the beans on corrupt officials

Ever wondered where the rich hide their money? The  Pandora Papers, the largest investigation in journalism history has exposed a shadow financial system that benefits the world’s most rich and powerful, including Nigeria.  

The files expose how some of the most powerful people in the world – including more than 330 politicians from 90 countries – use secret offshore companies to hide their wealth. The Pandora Papers investigation [1] lays bare the global entanglement of political power and secretive offshore finance.

Based upon the most expansive leak of tax haven files in history, the investigation reveals the secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-level public officials in more than 90 countries and territories, including 35 country leaders. Ambassadors, mayors and ministers,  presidential advisers, generals, and a central bank governor. 

The files reveal secret offshore holdings of more than 130 billionaires from 45 countries including 46 Russian oligarchs. In 2021, according to Forbes, 100 of billionaires had a collective fortune of more than $600 billion. Other clients include bankers, big political donors,  arms dealers, international criminals, pop stars, spy chiefs, and sporting giants.

The Pandora Papers offer fresh insights into international corruption scandals, including the far-reaching bribery operation of Brazilian contracting giant Odebrecht S.A., the international soccer scandal known as FIFAGate, and the alleged looting of Venezuelan public assets.

Poor nations including Nigeria are disproportionately harmed by the stashing of wealth in tax havens, which starves treasuries of funds to pay for roads, schools, and hospitals. The Pandora Papers probe reveals that international leaders who could tackle offshore tax avoidance have themselves secretly moved money and assets beyond the reach of tax and law enforcement authorities as their citizens struggle.

Current and former leaders who have owned secret companies and trusts, as revealed by the Pandora Papers investigation, include King Abdullah II of Jordan, the prime ministers of Côte d’Ivoire and the Czech Republic, the presidents of Ecuador, Kenya, and Gabon, and the former presidents of El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, and Honduras.

Other players in the Pandora Papers’ global cast include a Bitcoin czar sentenced for money laundering in connection with the largest cyberheist in history. And offshore investments were linked to Bollywood actors, soccer stars, corrupt sports officials, a king’s lover, feuding princesses, movie directors and stars, supermodels, acclaimed designers and world-famous singers.

Hypocrisy of USA

Pandora papers

The reporting shows how the United States, in particular, has become an increasingly attractive destination for hidden wealth, although the U.S. and its Western allies condemn smaller countries for allowing the flow of money and assets tied to corruption and crime.

The Pandora Papers include documents from 206 U.S. trusts in 15 states and Washington, D.C., and 22 U.S. trustee companies.

The documents provide details about the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars from offshore havens in the Caribbean and Europe into South Dakota, a sparsely populated American state that has become a major destination for foreign money.

The Pandora papers also place a revealing spotlight on the offshore system itself. In a development likely to prove embarrassing for the US president, Joe Biden, who has pledged to lead efforts internationally to bring transparency to the global financial system, the US emerges from the leak as a leading tax haven. The files suggest the state of South Dakota, in particular, is sheltering billions of dollars in wealth linked to individuals previously accused of serious financial crimes.

The dirty money web 

The 14 offshore service providers whose documents make up the Pandora Papers data set include three owned by former government officials. They operate in jurisdictions including  Anguilla, Belize, Singapore, Switzerland, Panama, Barbados, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, the Seychelles and Vietnam, and they draw clients from more than 200 countries and territories.

In Kenya, the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has portrayed himself as an enemy of corruption. In 2018, Kenyatta, he told the BBC: “Every public servant’s assets must be declared publicly so that people can question and ask: what is legitimate?”

More than 100 billionaires feature in the leaked data, as well as celebrities, rock stars and business leaders. Many use shell companies to hold luxury items such as property and yachts, as well as incognito bank accounts. There is even art ranging from looted Cambodian antiquities to paintings by Picasso and murals by Banksy.

The Pandora papers reveal the inner workings of what is a shadow financial world, providing a rare window into the hidden operations of a global offshore economy that enables some of the world’s richest people to hide their wealth and in some cases pay little or no tax.

Setting up or benefiting from offshore entities is not itself illegal, and in some cases, people may have legitimate reasons, such as security, for doing so. But the secrecy offered by tax havens has at times proven attractive to tax evaders, fraudsters, and money launderers, some of whom are exposed in the files.

How much is hidden away?

Pandora papers

At least $11.3tn in wealth is held offshore, according to a 2020 study by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is money that is being lost to treasuries around the world and money that could be used to reduce global poverty. 

How much of that hidden $11 trillion belongs is owned by rich and corrupt Nigerians would soon be revealed. 

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