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Pandora Papers reveals massive leak on offshore tax havens; America’s wealthiest conspicuously absent

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A massive exposé known as the “Pandora Papers” shines the light of transparency on how wealthy elites exploit the shadowy world of offshore banking to hide their money and assets from authorities, their creditors, and the public using a network of lawyers and financial institutions that promise secrecy.

That’s how NPR described an investigation by more than 600 journalists across the globe featuring a trove of 11.9 million records leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

“These are secretive, confidential documents from offshore tax havens and offshore specialists who work to help rich, powerful and sometimes criminal individuals create shell companies or trusts in a way that often helps either obscure assets or in some cases even help avoid paying taxes,” senior ICIJ reporter Will Fitzgibbon told NPR.

But names that you might expect to be included in the Pandora Papers, wealthy Americans like billionaires Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates do not show up because they pay so little in taxes that they don’t need tax havens, according to the Daily Mail.

This surely being an indictment of the U.S. tax code created by open-handed politicians, which results in the manipulation of the many loopholes.

“The report showed how world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets for the past quarter-century. Many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and conceal assets for other suspicious reasons, according to the report,” the British tabloid reported.

“The report listed 130 alleged billionaires as account owners but did not include any of America’s wealthiest individuals,” the article noted. “Financial analysts speculate America’s uber-rich — such as Bezos, Buffet, Musk and Gates — have less incentive to use offshore havens due to the low tax rates they pay.”

Names that do appear include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who reportedly spent more than $100 million on lavish properties in the U.S. and Europe, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged mistress, Svetlana Krivonogikh, who owns an offshore company that purchased a $4.1 million apartment in Monaco below the principality’s casino. She is allegedly the mother of a lovechild with Putin and has reportedly accumulated a $100 million luxury portfolio of assets since striking a relationship with the Russian president.

Lawyers for King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein said the leaked property purchases were bought with personal wealth, the Daily Mail reported.

Former President Donald Trump is mentioned in the report as part of his involvement in a Panama hotel project, but the article said the documents “don’t appear to reveal significant new information about his accounts.”

Overall, more than 300 current and former politicians reportedly appear in the Pandora Papers. Some of the names, according to NPR, include 14 sitting heads of states including the Dominican Republic’s President Luis Abinader, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A surprising finding from the exposé is the “explosive growth of offshore banking inside the U.S.,” NPR reported, citing the journalists to say South Dakota and Nevada are among the states that have “adopted financial secrecy laws that rival those of offshore jurisdictions.” The irony here being that both states are landlocked.

Infamous NSA leaker Edward Snowden responded to the story to mock the poor security that resulted in the leaks — poor security that continues today, he charged.

“The humorous side of this very serious story is that even after two apocalyptic offshore finance/law firm leaks, those industries are still compiling vast databases of ruin, and still secure them with a Post-It Note marked “do not leak.” Hats off to the source!” Snowden tweeted.

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the responses to Snowden from Twitter:

Tom Tillison

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