The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a nonprofit newsroom and network of journalists, has just published its Pandora Papers investigation.
This investigation highlights secretive offshore finance and accounts of world’s wealthiest.
It includes revelations about the secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-level public officials in more than 90 countries and territories.
ICIJ shared the files with 150 media partners, that includes more than 600 journalists in 117 countries and territories.
This is claimed to be the broadest collaboration in journalism history with nearly 3 terabytes of leaked data.
Even bigger than the Panama Papers investigation conducted five years ago, which was based on a leak from a single law firm.
The data include spreadsheets, tax declarations, invoices, PowerPoint presentations, emails and company records listing directors and shareholders.
It also include suspicious activity reports, sanctions lists, due diligence reports, know-your-customer forms, passports, utility bills and photos.
According to ICIJ, experts say owning an offshore company is legal but can give rise to other illegalities.
“While owning an offshore company is legal, the secrecy it provides can give cover to illicit money flows, enabling bribery, money laundering, tax evasion, terrorism financing and human trafficking and other human rights abuses.”
Not surprisingly, the Pandora Papers contain names of over 300 Indians and 700 Pakistanis.
This includes many former Indian Member of Parliaments as well as names of former associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
According to a Guardian, prominent Pakistani politicians named in the expose include both civilian government and military leaders such as Wagar Masood Khan and Chaudhry Moonis Elahi among others.
A spokesperson for PM Imran Khan told media that if any of his ministers or advisors had offshore companies, “they will have to be held accountable.”
For these rich South Asians, Samoa, Belize or the Cook Islands are some of the preferred tax havens, apart from larger tax havens like the British Virgin Islands or Panama.
According to Indian Express that was part of the investigation, Anil Ambani who had declared bankruptcy in a UK court has 18 asset holding offshore companies.
The report states that Sachin Tendulkar asked for the liquidation of his entity in the British Virgin Islands three months after Panama Papers.
Tendulkar’s attorney told ICIJ:
“the cricket player’s investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities.”
The Pandora papers have also revealed that Bollywood star Jackie Shroff was the prime beneficiary of a trust set up in New Zealand by his mother-in-law.
The report added that Nirav Modi’s sister also set up a trust a month before he fled India.
Further, Biocon promoter Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s husband set up a trust with keys to a person who has been banned by the SEBI for insider trading.
I appears that the revelations from Pandora Papers would once again help restart debate over the fairness of the Indian and international tax system.
WATCH VIDEO: Pandora Papers: An unprecedented leak exposes the inner workings of a shadow economy – ICIJ