The secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires has been exposed in one of the biggest leaks of financial documents.
The exposé dubbed the “Pandora Papers,” shows how the world’s wealthy hide their money and assets from authorities, their creditors and the public using a network of lawyers and financial institutions that promise secrecy.
A massive investigation from more than 600 journalists across the globe sheds new light on the shadowy world of offshore banking — and the high-powered elites who use the system to their benefit.
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 to help conduct the large-scale investigation.
Among the other revelations in the Pandora Papers:
- Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and six members of his family secretly owned a network of offshore companies. They have been linked to 11 firms – one of which was valued as holding assets of $30m
- Members of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers and their families, secretly own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars
- The law firm founded by President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus appears to have provided fake owners to disguise the real owner of a series of offshore companies – a former Russian politician who had been accused of embezzlement. However, the law firm denies this
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky transferred his stake in a secret offshore company just before he won the 2019 election
- Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso, a former banker, replaced a Panamanian foundation that made monthly payments to his close family members with a trust-based in South Dakota in the US
Some figures are facing allegations of corruption, money laundering and global tax avoidance.
But one of the biggest revelations is how prominent and wealthy people have been legally setting up companies to secretly buy property in the UK.
The documents reveal the owners of some of the 95,000 offshore firms behind the purchases.
It highlights the UK government’s failure to introduce a register of offshore property owners despite repeated promises to do so, amid concerns some property buyers could be hiding money-laundering activities.
The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family, who have been accused of looting their own country, are one example.
The investigation found the Aliyevs and their close associates have secretly been involved in property deals in the UK worth more than £400m.