Pandora Papers: Here’s what you need to know
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CAPE TOWN - In one of the biggest offshore data leaks in history, the Pandora Papers leak on Sunday revealed the secret wealth to some world’s richest and most powerful people.
The files which were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) were sifted through by more than 650 investigating journalists from selected media partners including the Washington Post, the Guardian and the BBC.
The leak comes exactly five years after the Panama Papers leak on 3 April 2016 which exposed political corruption across the globe.
According to the ICIJ, the latest data leak is around 2.94 Terabytes made up of around 11.9 million files, compared with the 2016 drop which had 2.6TB of data from 11.5 million files.
These files include images, emails, spreadsheets and various other forms of documents gathered from companies who were hired by its wealthy clients to create offshore structures.
These trusts were set up in tax havens such as Panama, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.
The ICIJ reported that the leaked records came “from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients to keep their financial activities in the shadows”.
Compared to the Panama Papers leak which came from a single offshore services provider, the ICIJ said that the Pandora Papers leak reveals “twice as much information and shines a brighter light that extends across lawyers and middlemen who are at the heart of the offshore industry”.
In many countries, it is not illegal to have shell companies in order to do business abroad or to possess offshore assets.
However, doing business abroad gets tricky when companies shift profits from high-tax countries to low-tax jurisdictions.
Celebrities such as singer Shakira and Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar’s attorneys said their client’s offshore investments and companies were legitimate and had been declared to the tax authorities.
Meanwhile, the secretly owned offshore companies of world leaders and politicians have triggered accusations of corruption, embezzlement and global tax avoidance.
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the son of the country’s founding leading and belongs to one of Africa’s wealthiest families, is linked to a Panama foundation. Kenyatta’s mother and siblings own at least six offshore businesses and foundations, through which they manage their assets.
Former Congo military leader Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Zimbabwean presidential adviser Martin Rushwaya are other notable Africans who have made the Pandora Papers list. Sassou-Nguesso owned a company called Inter African Investment in the British Virgin Islands which controlled diamond mines, while Rushwaya was a shareholder in a shell company called Greatgem Corp which was created in the Seychelles in 2010.
Across the rest of the world, leaders such as former British prime minister Tony Blair, members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and a number of leaders in the Middle East have been listed. Blair owned a British Virgin Islands entity named Romanstone International which owned an $8.8 million building in London.
ICIJ investigations also revealed a link between Blair and the family of Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani, Bahrain’s industry and tourism minister, as Romanstone International had been a subsidiary of a real estate firm owned by Rashid al-Zayani.
Arab Emirates Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been linked to Tandem Investco Limited and Tandem DirectorCo Limited of the British Virgin Islands and Allied International Investments Limited in the Bahamas.