ICIJ releases Pandora Papers

By Ivy Lewis, Staff Writer

The bombshell Pandora Papers released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday revealed the illicit offshore financial dealings of prominent political figures. 

The Pandora Papers include roughly 12 million files taken from companies that establish offshore accounts, which allow clients to minimize their tax burden. Offshore jurisdictions, also known as “tax havens,” do not enforce taxation on assets or income.

The papers revealed that over 300 politicians and hundreds of key players in the global economy collaborated with companies to hide their assets and wealth in order to avoid paying taxes. Officials from 91 countries and territories have been exposed thus far, resulting in widespread condemnation of the practice of offshore banking and the infiltration of undocumented wealth into global politics.

“Many of the power players who could help bring an end to the offshore system instead benefit from it — stashing assets in covert companies and trusts while their governments do little to slow a global stream of illicit money that enriches criminals and impoverishes nations,” ICIJ officials stated in their introduction to the leaks.

The investigation revealed that clients hired financial firms to create offshore accounts in locations including Panama, Dubai, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. 

The release of the Pandora Papers was the latest in a series of leaks involving offshore firms, dating back to the Panama Papers in 2016. The current leak included data from 14 different firms, representing the largest leak of the past five years.

Investigative journalist Lakshmi Kumar explained that offshore tax havens allowed wealthy individuals to move and conceal their money from tax authorities, leading to large amounts of global wealth that is not accounted for in GDP. 

“(In) the financial centers of the world… leaders are able to funnel and siphon money away and hide it in these jurisdictions,” Kumar said.

Estimates on the amount of money stored in offshore accounts have ranged from $5.6 – 32 trillion, according to the ICIJ.

Notable politicians exposed included King of Jordan Abdullah II, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and former British prime minister Tony Blair. The leak also named close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and several members of the Pakistani government.

Abdullah II was revealed to have secretly amassed over $100 million in property in locations including Malibu, Washington and London. Abdullah and associates declined to comment but asserted that they have not engaged in any illegal activity.

Blair and his wife, Cherie were also named in the Pandora Papers, due to their connections with a British Virgin Islands offshore company. The ICIJ estimated that the couple saved roughly $312,000 in property taxes through their use of offshore investments.

Kenyatta, who is known for his stance against government corruption, came under pressure for having amassed over $30 million in offshore wealth, including property in London. Kenyatta has not yet revealed to the media whether or not his property was disclosed in his tax return.