Secret dealings and hidden assets of some of the world’s most powerful individuals have been exposed in the latest leak from firms based in tax havens across the world.
Millions of documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which started to publish findings from the leak yesterday in an investigation called the Pandora Papers, together with its media partners.
What are the Pandora Papers?
Described as the largest investigation in journalism history, the leak includes 2.94 terabytes of data, including documents related to offshore deals and assets of more than 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders and 300 public officials from 90 countries.
The information was obtained from 14 services providers operating in Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
While owning an offshore company is not in and of itself illegal, such structures are used by individuals seeking a lack of transparency.
Was anyone Maltese named?
Unlike the Panama Papers in 2016, the only local politician to have so far been named in the leak so far is former Nationalist MP and European Commissioner John Dalli.
Dalli, who is no stranger to controversy and scandal, was revealed to have set up an offshore structure back in the British Virgin Island in which he held shares through nominee services provided by the Panama law firm Alcogal.
No information about why the company was set up was discovered in the leak, with Dalli claiming it had been set up in relation to an investment he was thinking of making.
What are the main findings?
The investigation reveals how banks and law firms work closely with offshore service providers to design complex corporate structures intended to hide the dealings of the rich and powerful.
Among the powerful people exposed in the leak is Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family, with documents showing the family to have traded roughly £400m in UK property in recent years.
The Aliyevs were at the centre of political scandal here in Malta, after Daphne Caruana Galizia had alleged that Ilham Aliyev’s daughter Leila, had transferred $1 million to Michelle Muscat, the wife of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, has also been named in the leak in relation to an offshore investment company used to acquire a $22 million chateau in France.
The offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the presidents of countries including Ukraine and Ecuador, as well as former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have all been exposed in the leak.
How is it different to the Panama Papers?
According to the ICIJ, the Pandora Papers differs from the Panama Papers in that it contains significantly more data about the ultimate beneficial owners of offshore companies.
This is mainly the result of reports generated by providers for the BVI’s Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System, or BOSS, established in the wake of the 2016 publication of the Panama Papers.
The leak is also larger. The 2.94 terabytes of data made available to the ICIJ and its partners are more than the 2.6 terabytes included in the Panama Papers leak.
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