Pandora papers leaks: How the biggest investigation in journalism history
revealed financial secrets of powerful personalities
The ICIJ in its biggest investigation exposed the shadow of the financial system that benefits the world’s most rich and powerful personalities who used offshore tax havens to hide assets & fortunes worth billions of dollars.
What are Pandora Papers Leaks?
The Pandora Papers are the documents that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) exposing the offshore dealings of some current and former world leaders, and several other famous personalities analysed by the ICIJ. These world leaders & personalities also face allegations of corruption, money laundering and global tax avoidance.
The Pandora Papers which were published on October 4 revealed leak of millions of documents exposing hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases even money laundering by some of the world’s powerful people including Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers, like Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In total, personalities from countries like United States of America, India, Russia, The United Kingdom, Mexico and Pakistan used shell firms and incognito bank accounts to purchase secret assets and conduct secret financial dealings to hide the real identities in order to make it impossible for tax authorities to reach them & to safeguard their investments from creditors and law enforcers.
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)
Based in Washington DC, the ICIJ is a network of reporters and media organisations that launched a two-year effort & worked for this with over 150 media organisations on its biggest ever global investigation.
Around 600 journalists in 117 countries obtained the data by trawling through the 11.9 million confidential files from 14 sources for months.
All these secret documents comprising of emails, images spreadsheets and other kinds were leaked to the (ICIJ) International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC. The data was shared access to the leaked data with selected media partners like The Guardian, BBC Panorama, The Washington Post & more.
The (ICIJ) International Consortium of Investigative Journalists during this investigation discovered that the documents were connected to more than 330 politicians and public officials that include 35 current and former national leaders, from over 90 nations and territories.
“These data include information and details about the dealings of nearly three times as many current and former country leaders as any previous leak of documents from offshore havens,” the ICIJ wrote on its website.
Who all are named?
The investigation files also detail various financial activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unofficial minister of propaganda” and more than 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States of America, Turkey and other nations.
The Indian Express who was part of the ICIJ investigation, revealed that Indian businessman Anil Ambani along with his representatives owned at least 18 offshore companies.
Among other significant individuals, the ICIJ in its report also revealed the names Colombian rock star Shakira, German supermodel Claudia Schiffer and the cricket legend & former Indian team captain, Sachin Tendulkar.
Regarding these allegations, “Mr. Tendulkar’s attorney informed that the former cricket player’s investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities.
However, Sachin Tendulkar who was also a former member of India’s Parliament owned a BVI-registered company as per Pandora Papers records, but he dissolved it in 2016 shortly after ICIJ published the Panama Papers and his company was not named in the 2016 investigation.
India is shown as having 6 and Pakistan 7 on a world map highlighting the number of politicians linked with offshore dealings.
Apart from these, The Indian Express also revealed the names of Nirav Modi & sister Purvi Modi, Nira Radia, Cox and Kings’ Ajit Kerkar, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, SC lawyer Harish Salve, Bharat Hotels Group, MGF’s Shravan Gupta, Jackie Shroff, Mumbai real estate major Hiranandani and many more on Pandora Papers list.
The (ICIJ) International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, emphasizes that it is not however illegal to have assets offshore or to use shell companies to do business across the national borders.
But, such revelations are also no less of an embarrassment for these world leaders who used to campaign publicly against corruption multiple times.
How much money is hidden offshore?
According to the latest reports from ICIJ, it is actually impossible to be exact, but the estimates & findings have ranged from $5.6 trillion to $32 trillion.
Centre orders multi-agency investigation
The Government of India has directed investigative agencies to probe Pandora Paper leaks that revealed hidden wealth & illegal investments of hundreds of politicians and businessmen in India.
The investigation will be monitored by a multi-agency group headed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman comprising of having representatives from CBDT, (RBI) Reserve Bank of India, (ED) Enforcement Directorate and Financial Intelligence Unit, according to the spokesperson of the tax authority.
The “Pandora Papers” are the latest & the biggest in a series of mass ICIJ leaks of financial documents and even bigger than the Panama Papers leak which rocked the world in 2016 in which Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and many more were named.