TNS Explainer: What are the Pandora Papers and what they have revealed?

The blue world is being hit by the revelations of black chambers for the past few years and such lights had exhumed the mountain of wealth amassed by the world leaders. These revelations had exposed some of the powerful faces and their covert dealings to mankind and sparked a global call over putting such figures under scrutiny. In what has become the biggest revelation in recent times, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has exposed a ringfence of the current and former world leaders. 

Dubbed as 'Pandora Papers', the revelations had stunned the globe and triggered an outrage among the people after learning about the secret pile of the wealth of the leaders they elected. The Pandora Papers had shaken across and beyond the directions and unearthed the investments of some of the notable global figures, besides the world leaders. The leak has revealed the offshore financial assets of world leaders, celebrities, and entrepreneurs from Asia, the Middle East, to Latin America. Let's delve into what the Pandora Papers have revealed. 

The ICIJ, a US-based journalism body, has claimed that the Pandora Papers are the largest investigation in journalism history that had exposed a shadow financial system that benefits the world's most rich and powerful. The ICIJ had obtained 11.9 million confidential documents from 14 separate legal and financial services firms, which the group said offered a sweeping look at an industry that helps the world's ultrawealthy, powerful government officials, and other elites conceal trillions of dollars from tax authorities, prosecutors, and others.

These were the firms hired by wealthy individuals to create offshore structures and trusts on the land of tax havens such as Monaco, Panama, Dubai, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands. Besides exposing the secret offshore business of 35 world leaders including the current and former presidents, prime ministers, and heads of state, the Pandora Papers had also unearthed the secret financial empire that was held by more than 300 other public officials such as government ministers, mayors, judges, and military generals in more than 90 countries. 

These figures had created offshore companies and won in their attempts of being staying away directly from such financial empires and evading taxes in their countries as these piles of wealth were buried from the eyes of taxation and rule of law. The 11.9 million documents, that made Pandora Papers, had unequivocally shown that these empires have been under construction behind the screens by the world leaders and there are emails, records, share certificates, memos, and compliance reports that strongly supported such empires to escape the radar of taxations. The files were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington.

The ICIJ had then shared access to the leaked data with global media partners including BBC Panorama, the Guardian, the Washington Post, and Le Monde. Over 600 journalists in 117 countries had involved in this operation of the Pandora Papers. The journalists and the news outlets had spent two years delving into the investigation and eventually released the Pandora Papers by unearthing the financial empires reigned by the rich and powerful. According to ICIJ, the leaked records had come from 14 offshore service firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshores for clients often seeking to keep their financial activities in the shadows. 

What is an offshore company? 

For the defaulters, such a fashion of entities is a boon. An offshore company is defined as a company that is incorporated in a jurisdiction that is other than where the beneficial owner resides. This kind of company can be incorporated overseas and being a non-resident entity, it is not liable to local taxation, as all of its financial transactions are made outside the boundaries of the jurisdiction where it is located.

The offshore financial system offers privacy, which provides an opportunity to conceal assets from authorities, creditors, and other claimants, as well as from public scrutiny. In simpler terms, such companies offer a tax haven for the rich and powerful. The target of the rich to build their financial empire would be the archipelagos. The Pandora Papers had shown that the world leaders, celebrities, and businessmen had built a secret financial empire in the islands of the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, and Seychelles and in the countries including Vietnam, Belize, and Singapore.

The findings by ICIJ and its media partners spotlight how deeply secretive finance has infiltrated global politics and offer insights into why governments and global organizations have made little headway in ending offshore financial abuses. The ICIJ had reported that the Pandora Papers investigation had uncovered the covert owners of offshore companies, incognito bank accounts, private jets, mansions, yachts, and even artworks by Picasso. 

The history of leaks: 

Before the Pandora Papers, the world had seen several leaks that were in the fashion of uncovering the iceberg of the hidden financial empire. In 2013, Offshore Leaks had exposed the covert wealth and dealings of the global bigheads with 2.5 million files. Three years later, in 2016, the Panama Papers had shaken the world through its findings with 11.5 million files. Panama Papers were called the most significant offshore leak, which consisted of 2.6 terabytes of data leaked from the law firm Mossack Fonseca. 

In 2017, the Paradise Papers were released with 13.4 million files, most of which were from the offshore provider Appleby, which was founded in Bermuda. In total, the Paradise Papers had consisted of 1.4 terabytes of data. Now, four years later, the Pandora Papers were made global by throwing more weight to its preceding leaks. Containing 2.94 terabytes and 11.9 million files, the Pandora Papers is the largest of the three leaks. Of these 11.9 million files, 6,406,119 were documents, 2,937,513 were images, 1,205,716 were emails, 4,67,405 were spreadsheets, and 8,86,923 were other files.