New Delhi: One of the biggest leaks of financial documents has exposed how the elite stash away their wealth in offshore accounts to avoid scrutiny at home, several media reports said on Sunday. ‘The Pandora Papers’, as the expose is being called, reveal the secret wealth and dealings of politicians, billionaires, businessmen, film personalities and sportspersons across the world, including many from India.
The Pandora Papers investigation involves 600 journalists from different news organisations across the world, including The Indian Express, and is based on over 11.9 million documents that reveal the flows of money and other assets hidden in the offshore financial system.
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The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) two years ago, and the findings are being made public after a year-long investigation, IE reported.
The documents expose pertinent financial details such as hidden wealth, tax avoidance, and other such practices by some of the richest and most powerful in India and worldwide.
The Indian Express, in its first report on The Pandora Papers, shared “distinct patterns” emerging from studying the documents.
Here are some key points:
- The leaked documents unearth many power players who can play a role in ending the offshore system but they chose to benefit from “stashing assets in covert companies and trusts”.
“The confidential data of the 14 offshore service providers, for instance, shows offshore entities set up by a former Revenue Service officer, a former tax commissioner, a former senior Army officer, a former top law officer and so on,” the IE reported.
- The expose mentions Politically Exposed Persons, saying among the Indian PEPs are “former Members of Parliament; those who have held public office in India; others who either deal in sensitive trades or trade in sensitive countries or even those who have been previously booked by Indian investigating agencies”.
- According to IE, offshore entity owners, including those in India, have found ways to adapt after the much-talked-about Panama Papers exposed their methods of organising their offshore assets. “Indian businessmen have been setting up a plethora of offshore Trusts to project a degree of separation from their wealth and insulate their assets from creditors,” the report states.
- Those accused under investigation for economic offences have created offshore networks in tax havens like “Samoa, Belize or the Cook Islands, besides larger tax havens like the British Virgin Islands or Panama”.
As per the report, many of these individuals/entities have been under the radar of investigating agencies in India. Without naming such offenders, it was revealed that some of them are in jail while several are out on bail.
- The IE reports that those owing thousands of crores to Indian banks have diverted sizable assets into “a maze of offshore companies”. It also hinted that an Indian economic offender, who is currently in jail, has bought a Bombardier Challenger aircraft through their offshore entity.
Among other details on the offshore system, the report says The Pandora Papers have exposed the offshore money machine as operating in every corner of the world, including some of the most powerful economies such as the United States of America.
More revelations in the series can potentially unearth new methods adopted by the rich and powerful to get away with practices like tax evasion and money laundering.
The Pandora Papers Investigation
According to the BBC, 600 journalists in 117 countries have been investigating the files and the data obtained by the ICIJ in Washington DC.
It states that the ICIJ has been working with more than 140 media organisations on the “biggest ever global investigation”.
The trove of confidential information is said to be the largest of its kind.
I’m told by the reporting team this is the biggest offshore-finance leak—and journalistic collaboration—*ever.*
They expose the intentionally concealed finances of 35 world leaders and 300+ other public officials in 90+ countries.
…and they aren’t finished. https://t.co/wbw4Gpx8jT
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 3, 2021
According to the BBC, the files mention more than 330 politicians from 90 countries who use secret offshore companies to hide their wealth.
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