600 journalists were involved in the report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It was released Sundayby 150 media outlets from 117 countries. The "Pandora Papers", as it is commonly known, sheds light on the past dealings of elite and corrupt officials and how they used offshore accounts to protect assets totalling trillions of dollars.
More than 330 former and current politicians were identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts. They include King Abdullah II of Jordan, Tony Blair, Andrej Babis, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador.
The report names Erman Ilicak, a Turkish construction mogul, and Robert T. Brockman as billionaires. He is also the former CEO at software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.
According to the report, many of these accounts were created to hide assets and evade taxes.
Sven Giegold (Green party lawmaker in European Parliament) said that "the new data leak must serve as a wake-up call." "Global tax evasion fuels global inequality. We must now expand and sharpen our countermeasures."
Oxfam International, a British charity consortium, applauded Pandora Papers' revelations of brazen greed that deprive countries of tax revenue that could have been used to fund programs and projects for the greater Good.
"This is the location of our missing hospitals," Oxfam stated in a statement. It is also where the pay-packets for all the additional teachers, firefighters, and public servants are located. When a politician or business leader says there is no money to pay for climate damages and innovation, for better jobs and a fair recovery post-COVID, they know where to find it.
The Pandora Papers follow a similar project, the "Panama Papers", which was released in 2016. It was compiled by the same journalistic organization.
This latest bombshell contains more data than the previous one. It includes nearly 3 Terabytes of data, which is roughly the equivalent of approximately 750,000 photos on a smartphone. The data was leaked by 14 service providers operating in 38 jurisdictions around the globe. Although the records date back to 1970s, most files are from 1996 to 2020.
The Panama Papers, however, analyzed 2.6 Terabytes of data that were leaked by a law firm called Mossack Fonseca. This was the same country that gave the project its nickname.
The most recent investigation focused on accounts that were registered in offshore havens such as the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles. Some of the secrets accounts were also found in trusts in the U.S.A, including 81 in South Dakota as well as 37 in Florida.
Sunday's initial findings paint a grim picture of the prominent individuals involved.
The investigation revealed that King Abdullah II, Jordan's second son, had at least three dozen shell companies set up between 1995 and 2017, which allowed him to buy 14 homes in the U.S. and U.K. for more than $106million. One of these was a $23 million California ocean view property purchased in 2017 through a British Virgin Islands company. They were identified as an English accountant based in Switzerland and British Virgin Islands lawyers.
Jordan's Royal Palace did not immediately comment.
These details are a humiliating blow for Abdullah, whose government was embroiled in scandal when his half-brother, the former Crown Prince Hamzah accused the "ruling systems" of corruption. The king claimed that he was the victim in a "malicious plan", placed his half-brother under house arrest, and brought two of his close aides to trial.
U.K. attorneys for Abdullah stated that he doesn't have to pay taxes under the law of his country and has not misused public money. According to the report, there are privacy and security reasons for him holdings through offshore businesses. They also stated that most of the properties and companies aren't connected to the monarch or no longer exist. However, they declined to give details.
Blair, the U.K's prime minister, was a purchaser of a British Virgin Islands property worth $8.8 million in 2017. The building is now home to Cherie Blair's law firm, according to the investigation. They purchased the company from Zayed bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Bahrain's tourism and industry minister. The investigation revealed that the Blairs were able to save more than $400,000 on property taxes by buying shares of the company instead of the London building.
Both the Blairs and al-Zayanis claimed they didn't know that the other party was involved in this deal at first, according to the probe. Cherie Blair claimed her husband was not involved in the purchase. She stated that it was intended to bring "the building and company back into the U.K tax and regulatory regime."
Al-Zayanis' lawyer stated that they had complied with U.K. laws.
Khan, Pakistan's prime minister, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. According to journalists' findings, however, members of Khan's inner circle, including Shaukat Fayaz Ahmad Tarin, Finance Minister, are accused of concealing millions of dollars of wealth in secret trusts or companies.
Khan tweeted that he would recover "ill-gotten gains" by tweeting that his government would investigate the documents and take appropriate action if necessary.
The investigation revealed that Andrej Babis, Czech Prime Minister, invested $22 million in shell companies in 2009 to purchase a chateau property in Mougins, France, which is near Cannes. According to documents obtained from Investigace.cz, the journalist group's Czech partner Investigace.cz, the shell companies and chateau weren't disclosed in Babis’ required asset declarations.
The probe revealed that Babis indirectly owned the Monaco-based real estate company that had the chateau's ownership in 2018.
Babis' first reaction to the report was to tweet, "I was waiting to them bring something right before my election to harm me"
On Friday and Saturday, the Czech Republic's parliamentary elections will be held.
Babis said, "I have never done anything illegal or unjust."