The largest leak of offshore data, termed the Pandora Papers, has exposed the inner secrets of a lucrative elite across the globe. Millions of documents have been released that undercover the offshore deals and assets of more than 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders, and 300 public officials.
The cache of the Pandora Papers includes 11.9 million files from companies that are hired to create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens. Tax havens are areas or countries with very low tax rates for foreign investment, meaning that the wealthiest utilize these havens to avoid paying taxes. Tax havens include countries like Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands.
The files were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a global network of around 300 investigative journalists working in more than 100 countries.
Billionaires featured in the file include celebrities, business leaders, and world leaders. The Guardian reports that many of these people use shell companies to hold luxury items, like yachts, property, and bank accounts – the extent that there are antiques, paintings, and murals housed in these shell companies.
World leaders who make an appearance in the Pandora Papers include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Ivory Coast, and former prime minister of Mozambique, the presidents of Ukraine, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Kenya, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo.
The Pandora Papers shine light to a system that has been exceedingly used by the wealthy to house their assets, creating the foundation of shady financial workings.
Although using an offshore company is legal as long as the owner declares it to the tax authorities in the country they reside, offshore companies allow wealthy people to designate their wealth in secrecy. It is often also difficult for the resident company to know whether offshore accounts exist or not, as the authorities in tax havens are unwilling to cooperate.
The problem with the offshore financial system is that it is taking money from government treasuries and increasing income inequality. Many of these wealthy people generate wealth through exploitation and shady tactics of wealth accumulation.
In 2016, you may recall that the Panama Papers leaked, exposing an infrastructure of offshore tax havens – the Pandora Papers exposed more than twice as many account holders and political figures than the Panama Papers did. The Pandora Papers are extremely significant in its uncovering, and we can only hope that action will be taken to those who siphon wealth.
The Pandora Papers thus expose what many are already aware of – vast corruption across the world. The system that allows these wealthy people to put their wealth in offshore companies detracts from the tax revenues of the countries that we live in. The global order seemingly allows the wealthy to continue their shady activities – from stealing antiques from low-income countries to drug and sex trafficking to cyber attacks. It must be put to an end.