On Sunday, Oct. 3, the Pandora Papers, which are about 12 million documents exposing tax sheltering and money laundering schemes by the world’s most wealthy and powerful, were leaked.
These documents and data were collected by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ identifies themselves as “a U.S.-based nonprofit, as well as a global network of reporters and media organizations who work together to investigate the most important stories in the world.”
The information was compiled over two years, and was obtained with the help of more than 600 journalists. It was given the name “Pandora” because it’s expected that this leak of documents will lead to an explosion of legal cases and further investigations, much like the opening of Pandora’s box.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the documents revealed “hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering” of politicians, entertainers, and other public figures.
Most of the evidence had to do with offshore ownership of money and assets. Offshore countries and territories were utilized by these powerful people because it’s easy to set up businesses, there are little to no taxes and there are laws set in place that can protect the identity of the owner.
The BBC states that “the use of tax havens costs governments worldwide up to $600 billion in lost taxes each year.”
This means that many influential and rich people have been avoiding taxes on their money, contributing to this loss in money. This leak is also important because since government officials are involved, they could lose their positions if wrongdoing is found.
Some of the famous entertainers that were named in the papers include Shakira, Ringo Starr, Jackie Chan and Elton John. However, many of their lawyers rejected these claims.
Although these celebrities are interesting to investigate, what’s scarier is the number of politicians and world leaders named in the papers.
For example, according to the ICIJ, “Jordan’s King Abdullah II secretly owned 14 luxury homes in the U.K. and U.S. worth more than $106 million total.”
Additionally, “the prime minister of the Czech Republic failed to disclose an offshore investment company used to purchase two French villas for $16.3 million.”
The Pandora Papers have also named someone with ties to Tampa. According to the Miami Herald, the Ibrahim family had been secretly buying land in Florida through offshore companies. It included seven apartment complexes, one being located in Tampa. The Ibrahims are “among the most influential families in Saudi Arabia,” and “one member, Jawhara Al-Ibrahim was the wife of King Fahd, who ruled the country from 1982 until his death in 2005.”
Understandably, the public is enraged with the leak of these documents. The fact that rich people can get away with hiding and illegally expanding their money is infuriating. They get to skimp out on taxes that are supposed to be going to low-income families and helping to build the community just because they want an eighth house or another million dollars
What’s more absurd is that the government missed all of this shady business. We know that more than 330 politicians are involved, but that’s just what the ICIJ could find print evidence of. The negligence of this tax avoidance raises many questions about just how many people in the government are involved, and how wide this issue expands.
The release of the papers shows how many holes there are in the system, and confirms that if you have enough money, you can pretty much get away with anything.