A massive leak dubbed the “Pandora Papers” exposed the secret offshore investments dozens of world leaders and billionaires have used to hide their wealth, The Washington Post reports.
The leak, which included more than 11.9 million financial records, was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with news outlets around the world.
The leak revealed that Jordan’s King Abdullah has bought more than $100 million worth of luxury homes in California and other places and a Monaco home bought by a Russian woman believed to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mistress. The leak included records tied to at least 14 current world leaders, including properties and cash owned by the leaders of the Czech Republican, Ecuador, and Kenya.
The files detail more than 29,000 offshore accounts, more than twice as many as revealed in the Panama Papers, including those belonging to 130 people on the Forbes billionaires list and 330 public officials from more than 90 different countries.
“The offshore financial system is a problem that should concern every law-abiding person around the world,” Sherine Ebadi, a former FBI agent who led dozens of financial crimes cases, told the Post. "These systems don't just allow tax cheats to avoid paying their fair share. They undermine the fabric of a good society.”
Elites rely on trusts:
Many of the rich and powerful exposed in the leak relied on trust, in which a third party places an asset in the hands of a trustee to benefit a beneficiary, like if a grandparent sets up a trust for a relative that will ultimately benefit their grandchild.
The assets in the trust “exist in a kind of limbo” since the person who put them in the trust has no ownership and a trustee has no right to use them and the beneficiary has yet to receive them. In other words, all three parties can deny that they control the assets.
Some rich and powerful set up trusts that hold shell companies in tax havens, which hide the true extent of their holdings from tax officials.
Most of the financial records detail trusts and accounts set up between 1996 and 2020, but some date back to the 1970s. Along with financial records, the Posts obtained dozens of memos and messaging detailing ways to beat back transparency laws and keep assets hidden.
World leaders exposed:
Dominican President Luis Abinader co-owns a Panamanian company and at least a half-dozen others that are held in an offshore trust, according to the report.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis used a shell company to buy a $22 million chateau in France.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta with his relatives set up at least seven offshore entities worth more than $30 million.
Other world leaders included in the leak were Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, and Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.