Pandora Papers: Hidden riches of world leaders ‘exposed’ in ‘unprecedented’ leak

Washington: A group of 600 investigative journalists on Sunday published new papers over the alleged involvement of a number of world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Abdullah II of Jordan and other high-profile individuals in tax haven schemes.

In an “unprecedented leak”, the financial secrets of 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories have been exposed, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

ICIJ, a US-based non-profit group, is a global network of reporters and media organisations. Their network of members encompasses investigative reporters from more than 100 countries and territories.

The massive trove of private financial records has been dubbed as ‘Pandora Papers’. The investigation involves more than 600 journalists from 117 countries as well as over 11.9 million leaked files “covering every corner of the globe.”

The new papers exceed the dimensions of the leak that was at the centre of the Panama Papers investigation five years ago, The Washington Post reported.

The financial records expose vast reaches of the secretive offshore system used to hide billions of dollars from tax authorities, creditors, criminal investigators and citizens around the world.

The revelation includes more than USD 100 million spent by King Abdullah II of Jordan on luxury homes in Malibu, California, and other locations.

It also includes the revelation of cash secretly owned by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Kenya, Ecuador and other countries; and a waterfront home in Monaco acquired by a Russian woman who gained considerable wealth after she reportedly had a child with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The files detail the financial activities of Russian President Putin’s “unofficial minister of propaganda” and more than 130 billionaires from India, Russia, the United States, Mexico, and other nations.

As per the reports, the Pandora Papers also uncovered dealings of the Presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The files include private emails, secret spreadsheets, clandestine contracts and other records that unlock otherwise impenetrable financial schemes and identify the individuals behind them.

“The offshore financial system is a problem that should concern every law-abiding person around the world,” said Sherine Ebadi, a former FBI officer who served as lead agent on dozens of financial-crimes cases.

The leaked records come from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients often seeking to keep their financial activities in the shadows. The records include information about the dealings of nearly three times as many current and former country leaders as any previous leak of documents from offshore havens.

In an era of widening authoritarianism and inequality, the ICIJ said: “The Pandora Papers investigation provides an unequaled perspective on how money and power operate in the 21st century – and how the rule of law has been bent and broken around the world by a system of financial secrecy enabled by the U.S. and other wealthy nations”.

The ICIJ added that these new findings spotlight how deeply secretive finance has infiltrated global politics – and offer insights into why governments and global organizations have made little headway in ending offshore financial abuses. 

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