Pandora Papers sparks secrecy debate amid massive data collection from 38 jurisdictions

Leaked documents on more than 27,000 companies and 29,000 beneficial owners were released by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on October 3, its third such data foray into financial centers. international.

The so-called Pandora Papers, which succeeded the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, focused on the world of politics with details of 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 politicians and officials in 91 countries and territories.

Pandora Papers information included 2.94 terabytes in more than 11.9 million records from 14 providers offering services in at least 38 jurisdictions.

In what it further described as “the greatest journalistic partnership in history,” the ICIJ said the secret documents exposed the offshore transactions of the King of Jordan, the presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and from Ecuador, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and the former British Prime Minister. Minister Tony Blair.

The files also detailed the financial activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unofficial propaganda minister” and more than 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States, Turkey and other countries.

The ICIJ said: “The leaked documents reveal that many powerful players who could help end the offshore system are profiting instead – by hiding assets in secret societies and trusts while their governments are not doing much. – something to slow down a global flow of illicit money that enriches criminals and impoverishes nations. “

He obtained over 11.9 million confidential files and led a team of more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets who spent two years sifting through them, searching for hard-to-find sources and digging through court records and other public documents from dozens of countries. .

The leaked documents came from 14 offshore service companies around the world who have established shell companies and other offshore nooks and crannies for clients often looking to keep their financial businesses in the dark. The files contain information on the transactions of nearly three times as many current and former leaders of countries as any previous leak of documents from offshore havens.

The ICIJ said: “The files contain an unprecedented amount of information on the alleged beneficial owners of registered entities in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, Belize, Panama, South Dakota and others. Secret jurisdictions. They also contain information about shareholders, directors and officers. In addition to the rich, famous and infamous, those exposed by the leak include people who do not represent a public interest and who do not appear in our news stories, such as small business owners, doctors, and others, usually wealthy, out of the public spotlight.

“While some files date from the 1970s, most of those examined by the ICIJ were created between 1996 and 2020. They cover a wide range of subjects: the creation of shell companies, foundations and trusts; the use of such entities to purchase real estate, yachts, jets and life insurance; their use to make investments and transfer money between bank accounts; estate planning and other inheritance matters; and tax avoidance through complex financial schemes. Some documents are linked to financial crimes, including money laundering. “

He added: “The 11.9 million plus records were largely unstructured. Over half of the files (6.4 million) were text documents, including over 4 million PDFs, some of which were over 10,000 pages. The documents included passports, bank statements, tax returns, company incorporation documents, real estate contracts and due diligence questionnaires. There were also over 4.1 million images and emails in the leak. “

Thelma J. Longworth