A massive investigation from more than 600 journalists across the globe sheds new light into the shadowy world of offshore banking and the high-powered elites who use the system to their benefit.
The exposé, dubbed the “Pandora Papers,” shows how the world’s wealthy hide their money and assets from authorities, their creditors and the public by using a network of lawyers and financial institutions that promise secrecy. It’s built on a trove of 11.9 million records leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which in turn shared them with partner media outlets such as The Washington Post and The Guardian for help conducting the large-scale investigation.
“These are secretive, confidential documents from offshore tax havens and offshore specialists who work to help rich, powerful and sometimes criminal individuals create shell companies or trusts in a way that often helps either obscure assets or in some cases even help avoid paying taxes,” senior ICIJ reporter Will Fitzgibbon told NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered. Pandora Papers, the most voluminous leak of offshore financial records ever, reveal how individuals and businesses set up complex multi-layered trust structures for estate planning, in jurisdictions that are loosely regulated for tax purposes, but characterized by air-tight secrecy laws.
King Abdullah II, who rules Jordan, spent more than $100 million on lavish properties in the U.S. and Europe while his country fell deeper into political turmoil, The Washington Post reported. A woman suspected of being in a years-long relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin became the owner of a pricey Monaco apartment days after reportedly giving birth to his child, the paper also found.
Those are two of more than 300 current or former politicians who appear in the Pandora Papers, the journalists said. Among them are 14 sitting country leaders, including President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to reports, there are at least 380 persons of Indian nationality in the Pandora Papers. Of these, The Indian Express has so far verified and corroborated documents related to about 60 prominent individuals and companies. These will be revealed in the coming days.
In February 2020, following a dispute with three Chinese state-controlled banks, Anil Ambani told a London court that his net worth was zero. Records in the Pandora Papers investigated by The Indian Express reveal that the chairman of Reliance ADA Group and his representatives own at least 18 offshore companies. Set up between 2007 and 2010, seven of these companies have borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion.
A financial advisor and his company were barred by SEBI from trading in the stock market for a year and fined for insider trading in Biocon Ltd shares. What the marker regulator did not know is that the same advisor is the ‘Protector’ of a trust set up by a company owned by Biocon Executive Chairperson’s husband. Indian cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar, along with members of his family, figures in the Pandora Papers as Beneficial Owners of an offshore entity in the British Virgin Islands which was liquidated in 2016. Sachin, with wife Anjali Tendulkar and father-in-law Anand Mehta are named as BOs and Directors of a BVI-based company.
Captain Satish Sharma, Congress leader, friend of the Gandhi family, and a former Union Minister who passed away in February this year, had offshore entities and properties abroad, the Pandora Papers show. At least 10 members of Sharma’s family including his wife Sterre, children and grandchildren are among the beneficiaries of a trust, the Jan Zegers Trust — a declaration Sharma never made to the Election Commission while filing poll nomination papers.
A month before fugitive diamond jeweller Nirav Modi fled India in January 2018, his sister Purvi Modi set up a firm in the British Virgin Islands to act as a corporate protector of a trust formed through the Trident Trust Company, Singapore. Records investigated by The Indian Express show that the firm, Brookton Management Ltd, was set up in December 2017 to act as the corporate protector of The Deposit Trust. These documents of the new firm and the trust set up by Purvi are part of the Pandora Papers.
Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff was the prime beneficiary of a trust set up in New Zealand by his mother-in-law, records in the Pandora Papers investigated by The Indian Express reveal. He also made “substantial contributions” to this trust, which had a Swiss bank account and owned an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands, records show. According to the memorandum concerning the trust, Shroff’s son Jai Shroff (Tiger Shroff) and daughter Krishna Shroff were the beneficiaries, besides Claudia Dutt, the mother of Shroff’s wife Ayesha