Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers appear to have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets for the past quarter-century. A review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world was released on Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Collated by 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries, it is being dubbed the "Pandora Papers".
The list of individuals named in the document includes business moguls, kings and Prime Ministers, sports icons, and more. 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.
The Pandora Papers are a follow-up to a similar project released in 2016 called the "Panama Papers" compiled by the same journalistic group. The latest bombshell is even more expansive, porting through nearly 3 terabytes of data - the equivalent of roughly 750,000 photos on a smartphone - leaked 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. The latest 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 US, including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.
Some of the initial findings released Sunday painted a sordid picture of the prominent people involved. The investigation unmasks the covert owners of offshore companies, incognito bank accounts, private jets, yachts, mansions, and even artworks by Pablo Picasso, Banksy and other masters, by providing more information than what is usually available to law enforcement agencies and cash-strapped governments.
The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts 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 associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The list also includes around 300 Indians, with many including Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Ambani, Nirav Modi and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw being linked to the case. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) said people linked by the secret documents to offshore assets also include pop music diva Shakira, supermodel Claudia Schiffer and an Italian mobster known as "Lell the Fat One".
The Pandora Papers have also revealed names of 700 Pakistani individuals and members of Prime Minister Imran Khan's cabinet, inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families and major financial backers, who have secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth, according to International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Following the document's release, several individuals have issues clarifications or statements. "My govt will investigate all our citizens mentioned in the Pandora Papers & if any wrongdoing is established we will take appropriate action. I call on the international community to treat this grave injustice as similar to the climate change crisis," Khan tweeted.
Jordan's King Abdullah II has denied any impropriety in his multi-million-dollar purchases of luxury homes abroad, citing security needs for keeping the transactions quiet and saying no public funds were used. A statement released by the royal palace said that his ownership of several residences was no secret and that this was not "unusual or improper".
Shaw had released a statement countering the allegations. "Media stories reporting on Pandora Papers wrongly implicate my husband’s offshore trust, which is a bonafide, legitimate trust and is managed by Independent Trustees. No Indian resident holds “the key” to the trust as alleged in these stories," she tweeted.