What Are The Pandora Papers

What Are The Pandora Papers

Where Do The Global Wealthy Hide Their Money

NY Times article on where the wealthy hide their money

Revelations from nearly 12 million leaked confidential financial records have thrown light on the concealed wealth of powerful public figures around the world. How do they hide their money, and why is this information important?

 
 
Credit…Luis Acosta/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The headlines thundered: Jordan’s king amassed $100 million in concealed property including homes in Malibu, London and Washington. An alleged mistress of Russia’s leader managed to covertly buy a luxury residence in Monaco. The Czech Republic’s prime minister, an anticorruption crusader, secretly acquired a French Riviera estate.

Revelations from the Pandora Papers report, a collaboration by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and media partners that include The Washington Post and The Guardian, began reverberating through and beyond the financial world of the rich and powerful almost immediately after the authors started releasing them on Sunday.

The report (the name Pandora comes from the Greek myth about a sealed jar containing the world’s evils) was based on what its authors described as 11.9 million records leaked from 14 firms in the offshore financial services industry, depicting how the wealthy hide their assets. More than 600 journalists in 117 countries worked on it.

The Pandora Papers established links of offshore activity to more than twice as many politicians and public officials as did the Panama Papers, an incriminating report about the offshore banking industry released by the journalism consortium five years ago. The Pandora Papers include information on more than 330 politicians and public officials from over 90 countries and territories, including 35 current and former country leaders.

 
 
How do the wealthy hide money?

A thriving sector of the financial services industry specializes in helping affluent clients obscure their assets and legally minimize the taxes they would otherwise owe. These advantages are achieved through a couple of basic methods, built around the principles of disguised ownership and low regulation. Hiding wealth is a specialty offered by tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, as well as some American states like South Dakota and Delaware.

 

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Credit…Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Secret ownership of homes and other assets can be cloaked by anonymous companies — companies that are not required to identify their owners. In some countries, there are no regulatory requirements to identify and register the so-called beneficial owners of property — the people who directly benefit from a property even if someone else’s name is listed as the owner. The use of this beneficial ownership loophole enables the true owners to hide behind layers of legal records that can be difficult or impossible to disentangle: The owner of company A can be identified as company B, and the owner of company B can be identified as company C, and so on.

Many wealthy individuals may have valid reasons to legally protect disclosures about their assets — to shield them from unscrupulous associates or extortion attempts, for example, or to ensure inheritance for their descendants. But advocates of greater financial transparency say the system is abused, vulnerable to corruption and built for greed. Much of the offshore financial services industry is unregulated or self-regulated. Some of the bankers, auditors and accountants who work in the industry are former officials who know the gaps in the system.

“The Pandora Papers reveal the inner workings of what is a shadow financial world, providing a window into the hidden operations of a global offshore economy,” said the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation, a Paris-based advocacy group that welcomed the report. It said the system “enables some of the world’s richest people and multinationals to hide their wealth and in some cases pay little or no tax.”

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What Are The Pandora Papers

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