Pandora Papers: The Big International Names Featured in the List of Leaked Data
Who are they and what do they do? How much money did they save or hide, from whom, and how?
The 'Pandora Papers', claimed to be the largest collection of leaked data exposing tax avoidance and secret wealth by the world's rich and powerful, has sent shockwaves across the world.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), based in Washington DC, got access to this data and shared it remotely with journalists in 117 countries, The Guardian reported.
The data includes 6.4 million documents, 2.9 million images, 1.2 million emails, almost half a million spreadsheets and just over 886,000 'other' sources of data. Taken together, the data of the 'Pandora Papers' adds ups to 2.94 terabytes.
But while the numbers are shocking, what about some of the big international names that have appeared in the Pandora Papers? Who are they and what do they do? How much money did they save or hide, from whom, and how?
King Abdullah (Abdullah II of Jordan)
Between 2003 and 2017, the King of Jordan has spent millions of dollars buying lavish homes (at least 14) in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), in cities like Malibu and London respectively, according to the ICIJ investigations published on their website.
According to the report, he splurged more than $106 million altogether on properties that are held by offshore companies.
Most of these purchases were made during a time of increasing economic crisis, public anger and alleged corruption in Jordan that has contributed to the political instability in the country.
Shaukat Tarin (Finance Minister of Pakistan)
Shaukat Tarin was Pakistan's finance minister between 2008 and 2010 before being appointed to the same post by Prime Minister Imran Khan in April 2021.
Tarin and his family members own four offshore companies. While Tarin holds Triperna Inc, his family members hold companies named Hamra Inc, Moonen Inc and Seafex Inc, according to the ICIJ website.
All the above-mentioned companies were registered to Tarin and his family in the Seychelles in 2014.
Tariq Malik, a financial consultant who maintained the correspondence of all four companies, told the ICIJ that Tarin's family wanted to invest in a bank (called Silkbank) in partnership with a Saudi business.
Tarin tweeted regarding the same and even issued a statement that said the "off-shore companies mentioned were incorporated as part of the fund raising process for my [his] Bank", the ICIJ report added.
Konstantin Ernst (CEO of Channel One Russia)
Ernst has been listed in the ICIJ report as part of "President Vladimir Putin's inner circle." He has managed Russia's biggest TV station since 1999 and is acknowledged as the man who is responsible for Putin's public image and pro-Putin propaganda.
Ernst has been implicated for purchasing a 23% stake in a real estate deal in which 39 Soviet-era cinemas and properties were bought in Moscow, after taking a loan from a bank in Cyprus that is partially owned by VTB Bank, a state-owned Russian bank which is known to be Putin's piggy bank, The Indian Express reported.
This happened nine months after the 2014 Sochi Olympics, for which Ernst was given the responsibility to organise ceremonies that would stun audiences across the globe and improve Putin's global reputation.
While emailing the ICIJ, Ernst said that the real-estate deal was never a secret and it was not at all compensation for his work during the 2014 Olympics.
But he also refused to answer the consortium's questions, branding it as "an organisation commissioned by the US secret services”, according to the ICIJ report .
Moonis Elahi (Water Resources Minister of Pakistan)
Moonis Elahi has been a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan since 2018, and the Federal Minister for Water Resources since July 2021 under Prime Minister Imran Khan.
While Elahi has been implicated in the past for misusing public funds, corruption, and even attempted murder, he has never been convicted, as per the ICIJ report.
in 2016, according to the Pandora Papers, Elahi registered with Asiaciti (an offshore company based in Singapore), with the intention of investing $5.6 million.
When Asiaciti told him that it is obligated to report the investment to Elahi's country's tax authorities, the latter terminated the deal and instead maintained the investment in a UK-registered trust.
This was because his wife is a UK resident, and Elahi "obtained advice from his legal advisers and as a consequence established a structure in the UK", which "would not be subject to the same disclosure requirements", The Guardian and the ICIJ reported.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy (President of Ukraine)
The ICIJ investigation shows that President Zelenskyy quietly transferred his shares of a company called Maltex Multicapital Corp (owing shares in film-production and distribution companies) to his close friend and business associate who would eventually become one one his closest aides.
Even after he officially became a part of Zelenskyy's administration, Sergiy Shefir, the friend and aide in question, continued to hold his stake in Maltex, the ICIJ report added.
Neither responded to the consortium's requests for a comment.
Andrej Babiš (Prime Minister of The Czech Republic)
In 2009, the current the Czech prime minister secretly bought a villa in France for $22 million.
He organised the purchase via shell companies in the British Virgin Islands, Washington DC, and even a real estate company in Monaco, as revealed in the ICIJ report.
When Babiš entered the Czech political arena in 2013, he was obligated, as a public official, to submit his financial disclosures. Even thought the companies were still active at that point of time, his disclosures did not reveal his possession of the French villa or of the Moroccan company mentioned above.
Tony Blair (Former Prime Minister of Great Britain)
Tony Blair was the British prime minister between 1997 and 2007. Along with his wife Cherie Blair, who is a lawyer, he bought 38 properties in the UK with a combined worth of nearly $50 million, according to investigations published by the Daily Mail in 2017.
The Papers show how the couple managed to save more than $400,000 in taxes. They registered with a British company named Harcourt Ventures Ltd, a property rental firm, which in turn bought an entity called Romanstone International Ltd.
Romanstone owned a building in London valued at around $9 million. But when the entity got dissolved in 2018, the Blairs got ownership of the building, which now hosts the headquarters of the law firm run by Cherie Blair, according to The Guardian and the ICIJ report.
By buying a company that owns property, instead of directly owing the property, the Blairs avoided paying taxes.
The arrangement is legal according to experts, but is morally questionable.
More Heads of States, Celebrities, and Sportspeople
Some of the other Heads of States whose names have appeared in the long list of leaks are Najib Mikati (prime minister of Lebanon), and Ilham Aliyev (President of Azerbaijan).
Shakira, Elton John, and Ringo Starr (the drummer of the Beatles) are some of the prominent celebrities to feature on the list.
From the world of sports, the names that appear are of Pep Guardiola (manager of Manchester City), Carlo Ancelotti (manger of Real Madrid), and Ángel Di María (Argentine footballer) among others.
(With inputs from ICIJ, The Guardian, and The Washington Post.)
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