A vast coalition of journalists from around the world have uncovered millions of files pertaining to the offshore financial activity of a host world leaders and public figures. Here we explain what the Pandora Papers are
The Pandora Papers are the latest and greatest in a series of major leaks relating to the shadowy underworld of offshore tax havens and people who use them.
The leaks shed light on the activities of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people, after work by over 600 journalists from 140 media organisations in 117 countries sifted through nearly 12 million documents from 14 different offshore service companies.
The investigation, which has thrown up the names of dozens of world leaders and hundreds of public officials, was run by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC and was spearheaded in the UK by BBC Panorama and The Guardian.
The data, which amounted to 2.94 terabytes, does not necessarily imply that those discussed have done wrong, but rather lifts the lid on the prolific use of offshore accounts. They raise a variety of questions about how the super-wealthy shield their assets, taxation, evasion, and money laundering and are potentially embarrassing for current and former leaders and public figures who may have in the past criticised similar practices.
Who are some of the biggest names involved?
In the UK, perhaps the highest profile figure is Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, who did not have to pay £312,000 of stamp duty on a London property after acquiring the offshore firm that owned it.
There is no suggestion the pair tried to avoid tax and the purchase was legal. In a statement, the couple said the transaction had been completed “in a normal way through reputable estate agents,” themselves having “nothing whatever to do with the original company nor those behind it”.
They added they had “never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax”.
The Queen’s crown estate has also drawn attention during the findings, after it was revealed it had paid $67 million to the family of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, over the period of two decades in return for part of their London property portfolio. The crown estate has since launched an inquiry.
The files are also purported to include revelations regarding a number of Conservative party donors. According to The Guardian, donor Viktor Fedotov co-owned a company once accused of playing a part in a major corruption scandal. Mr Fedotov’s lawyers said “there is no evidence whatsoever” of any wrongdoing.
Elsewhere, other high profile cases include the King or Jordan, Abdullah al-Hussein, whose $100 million property empire hidden through offshore accounts has been exposed.
The revelation is likely to cause a stir in Jordan where protesters have faced prison time in the past for asking questions about the King’s private property. His lawyers say he has done nothing wrong.
It has also been alleged that the documents include information on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner cirlce, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, as well as Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, supermodel Claudia Schiffer and singer Shakira among a host of others.
Mr Kenyatta said said he would “respond comprehensively” upon his return from a state visit, adding the reports: “Go a long way in enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe.”
Ms Schiffer has reportedly told the ICIJ that she correctly pays taxes in the UK, while Shakira has released a statement her accounts referenced in the Pandora papers were correctly registered with Spanish authorities. Mr Putin’s associates have denied any wrongdoing, as do Mr Tendulkar’s representatives