Over the last seven years, there has been a series of leaks focused on the world’s richest and most powerful people.
These include the FinCen Files, the Paradise Papers, the Panama Papers, and LuxLeaks.
The most recent of these is the Pandora Papers.
Here’s all you need to know about the latest leaks and what they say about financial dealings around the world.
What are the Pandora Papers?
The Pandora Papers are almost 12 million files coming from 14 sources, revealing the tax avoidance and sometimes money laundering of the world’s richest.
The data was first obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington DC, who then partnered up with over 140 media global organisations to disseminate the information.
The leak includes 6.4 million documents, just under three million images, over a million emails, and roughly 500,000 spreadsheets.
In terms of data size, the Pandora Papers contain 2.94TB of information, in comparison to 2.6TB in the Panama Papers back in 2016, for context.
When were the Pandora Papers released?
Over 600 journalists across 117 countries have been sifting through the information for months, led by BBC Panorama and the Guardian in the UK.
The information is being published this week, unearthing stories from around the world.
What have the Pandora Papers revealed?
So far, the Pandora Papers have revealed various stories of tax avoidance and money laundering.
In the UK, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife have been shown to save £312,000 in stamp duty when buying their London office.
They did so by buying an offshore firm that owned the building.
Another key revelation in the UK is that 95,000 offshore firms have been set up to secretly buy property in the UK.
This has caused concerns to be raised about the UK government’s failure to create a register of offshore property owners, despite previously promising to do so.
One example of using an offshore firm to buy UK property is the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who have secretly bought more than £400 million worth of properties.
Other prominent figures highlighted so far include Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is connected to secret assets in Monaco, and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who has failed to declare ownership of an offshore investment company.
As a result, prominent figures around the world are now facing various allegations of money laundering, corruption, and global tax avoidance.
Is it illegal to buy property via an offshore company?
Buying property via an offshore company is often done to avoid paying tax or to pay reduced amounts of tax, as the companies are set up in so-called tax havens, where there is low or no corporation tax.
In the UK, this is not technically illegal a lot of the time, as it can be done through loopholes.
However it is thought to be unethical, with the UK government stating that is is “operating within the letter, but not the spirit, of the law”.
There are legitimate reasons to hold money offshore, such as to protect one’s self from criminal attacks or unstable domestic conditions.
While the act in itself is illegal, it’s often used to hide more explicitly criminal activity.