Pandora Papers show how tax havens are part of the global inequity problem

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The Pandora Papers cites a number of leaders from lower income countries or countries with great levels of inequality, among them Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Bloomberg, Ludovic Marin/Gettty Images

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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Bloomberg, Ludovic Marin/Gettty Images

What the ‘Pandora Papers’ show about how the powerful hide money from public view

«We literally have countries where people are starving, queuing for food, while their leaders are living lavish lifestyles abroad,» says Maira Martini, a money laundering expert with Transparency International based in Berlin. Martini and Transparency International were not part of the investigative team that released the Pandora Papers.

«The impact is devastating,» she says. «You have money that should be used to finance public service such as health, education and housing that ends up financing luxury homes and yachts and other luxury goods abroad. That’s very, very concerning.»

The financial records come from 14 law firms. ICIJ isn’t disclosing the exact origins of the leaks to protect its sources. The documents include bank statements and ownership records of assets held in the British Virgin Islands, Belize, Panama, South Dakota, Samoa, the Seychelles and other jurisdictions that actively cater to investors seeking secrecy.

Among the current heads of state implicated in the Pandora papers is Kenya’s resident Uhuru Kenyatta along with six members of his family. The papers allege that they control a network of offshore companies and foundations in Panama and the British Virgin Islands worth more than $30 million dollars.

Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev’s family is alleged to have been involved in property deals in Britain worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His son, Heydar, now a young adult, was just 11 years old when he became the shareholder in a company based in the British Virgin Islands that purchased a building in the upscale London neighborhood of Mayfair for $49 million dollars.

«If you look at the individuals on the list most come from countries that have the highest inequality levels,» says Martini of Transparency International.

One example is Chile; the documents link current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (who made a fortune in the credit card business before entering politics) to more than $100 million parked in shell companies in the British Virgin Islands.

The former head of the Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Good Government is on the list as well.

Most of the individuals accused of hiding assets in the Pandora Papers either declined to discuss the matters with ICIJ or stated that their offshore accounts were legal.

Within hours of the publication of the Pandora Papers several countries tax authorities, including in India, say they plan to investigate any potential criminal activity.

  • Pandora Papers
  • Azerbaijan
  • Kenya
  • Chile

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