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Pandora Papers: Massive data leak exposes world leaders’ offshore millions

There is a saying that states "Truth will out" which means truth will eventually and inevitably be discovered. No matter how well criminal forces think that they have hidden the trail of illicit proceeds, there is always a trace. Pandora Papers is a leaked database of approximately 12 million financial documents that reveal some of the world's wealthiest and most influential people's have secret deals and hidden holdings

Dozens of current and former world leaders, billionaires, rockstars, and government officials have stashed billions of dollars in secret offshore accounts, according to an investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The trove of documents, called the Pandora Papers, is a collection of nearly 12 million financial records that detail the existence of over 29,000 offshore accounts, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the BBC, and other outlets reported on Sunday. That's twice as many as the collection uncovered by the Panama Papers, a leak that exposed millions of financial and legal records and revealed the offshore holdings of powerful and influential people worldwide.

The findings of the documents, which will be rolled out in a series of stories over the next week, expose the secret offshore finances of about three dozen world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers, and heads of state. The finances of about 100 billionaires and people of extreme wealth are also included in the trove. "Many use shell companies to hold luxury items such as property and yachts, as well as incognito bank accounts," the Guardian reported.

Offshore accounts operate in various countries around the world like Switzerland, Belize, and Singapore, according to the Post.

Dozens of powerful people who've made Forbes list of billionaires and public officials from more than 90 countries and territories have these offshore accounts and investments. King Abdullah II of Jordan, for example, spent $100 million on luxury homes in Malibu, California, the documents show. The leaked documents also links Russian President Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco, the BBC reported. Records reveal that a woman who comes from a modest financial background but is allegedly tied to Putin purchased a $4.1 million apartment in Monaco. That purchase occurred while the woman, Svetlana Krivonogikh, was believed to be in a relationship with Putin.

Included among these financial and legal records are memos and strategies to bypass transparency laws and keep the existence of the offshore accounts a secret.

Notably, the richest people in the United States — like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla founder Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett — are not in the documents, the Post said.

But there are several prominent figures involved whose offshore accounts have been discovered in the investigation. That list includes pop star Shakira and members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia, according to the Post.

Offshore accounts and asset-shielding trusts often play a role in grisly crimes like drug trafficking and ransomware attacks, experts say.

"The offshore financial system is a problem that should concern every law-abiding person around the world," former FBI officer Sherine Ebadi told the Post. "These systems don't just allow tax cheats to avoid paying their fair share. They undermine the fabric of a good society."

In the United States, South Dakota — in part because of the state's financial secrecy laws — has become a hub for foreigners looking to conceal and protect their assets. Documents unveiled Sunday reveal that about $360 billion in customer assets are located in South Dakota.




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