The secrets of the rich, the famous and the downright criminal have been uncovered in the largest ever collaboration by international journalists.
Titled the Pandora Papers, the lid has been lifted on a figurative box containing 11.9 million records exposing the offshore secrets of wealthy elites from more than 200 countries.
These are people who use tax and secrecy havens to buy property and hide assets; many avoid taxes and worse. They include more than 330 politicians, 130 billionaires, celebrities, fraudsters, drug dealers, royal family members and leaders of religious groups around the world.
Journalists from 1News and NZME are the only New Zealand media involved in the project, which has seen more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets break down and analyse the data for over a year. It’s run by the International Consortium of Journalists, based in Washington D.C.
It’s the most expansive tax leak in history. The leaked documents include information on more than 29,000 beneficial owners, the ultimate owners of offshore assets.
That is more than twice the number of owners found five years ago in the Panama Papers investigation, which was based on a leak from a single law firm. In New Zealand, our laws were tightened up following the Panama Papers revelations.
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, experts say. The Pandora Papers offer fresh insights into international corruption scandals.
Current and former leaders who have owned secret companies and trusts, as revealed by the Pandora Papers investigation, include King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the Presidents of Ecuador, Kenya and Gabon. Also revealed are the financial dealings of fugitives, gang leaders, neo-Nazis, a Bitcoin czar, and those who finance terrorism.
Over the coming days, 1News will reveal across our platforms further details of foreigners who use offshore trusts here in New Zealand as well as just how the trusts are used in everything from shady real estate deals to laundering looted art work.
This story was produced in conjunction with the International consortium for Investigative Journalists.