In a world where the rich prospers daily and the poor become poorer, no wonder corruption is a major obstacle in the growth and development of several countries. We have always heard, “Honesty is the best policy,” but we have also heard, “Actions speak louder than words.” Ironically, the people who preach about honesty and mention their strive for a corruption-free world are the very people who are unscrupulous, masking their deceit behind their white lies. Indeed, there are various loopholes in the systems of the law that immediately need various corrections by the administrations. One such modification came into action in the latest circumstances. Recently, one of the biggest Journalism collaborations between 140 media organizations throughout the world exposed what is now being called the Pandora Papers Leak. The investigation team consists of over six hundred journalists from approximately 117 individual countries. As many as 11.9 million files which are accumulated over the last 14 months are being looked into. The data mentioned is obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington, DC.
An enormous collection of data, including around 6.4 million documents, 3 million images, over a million emails, and half a million spreadsheets, have been leaked. The secret accounts and successful attempts of authoritarian individuals to hide their amassed wealth 0ff-shores have come clear into the picture. These figures are none other than government ministers, judges, mayors, and military generals from 90 different countries. It might be extremely shocking to know that almost more than 100 billionaires have shown up in the leaked data. The billionaires and the leaked data also consist of celebrities, rock stars, and well-renowned business leaders. The leak even holds information about Cambodian antiquities’ strategic loot and paintings by Picasso and Murals by Banksy. This leak is proving to be very significant and throws light onto the hidden operations of the global offshore economy. The leaks revealed the method by which the richest of the rich people exempt themselves from paying taxes by smartly hiding their wealth. It is a sort of a community that executes detailed plans. It enables unethical individuals to do what they do. Such communities manage to do a great job of hiding from the authorities, staying low so that they can operate without hurdles. For demonstration purposes, let’s consider that an individual has acquired a property in the US but not directly. With the help of a cycle including companies located in other countries, such destinations are often referred to as tax havens. Though a specific list of such tax havens is not handy, here are some known names: British Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Countries like Switzerland and Singapore are also present in this vicious cycle. In the administration of law, Loopholes allow people or groups to carry out unethical implementations and hide behind their lies. Tax havens are, needless to say, morally bad, but unfortunately, they’re still very much into existence.
According to a 2020 study by an economic cooperation and development organization, a minimum of 11.3 Tn wealth is hiding in offshores. Let’s take a glance at some of the most influential figures who have been exposed.
- Ruler of Jordan, King Abdullah II: 100 million pounds across Malibu, Washington and London, acquired through shell corporations.
- Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family: 400 million pounds of UK properties in recent years. Recently one of their properties worth 67 million pounds was sold to the Queen’s Crown estate by them.
- Prime Minister of Czech Republic, Andrej Babis: 22-million-dollar chateau in South of France
- President of Cyprus, Nico Anastasiadis: hidden assets of controversial Russian billionaires. The president has stated firmly that he has not been actively nor passively involved in the firm since his political career began in 1997.
- Qatari Family: Purchased two of the UK’s most expensive properties. With the help of tax havens, they managed to dodge paying a massive 18.5 million pounds as tax property.
- Tory Donor, Mohomed Amersi: Leaked documents disclosed the way in which he worked on a series of controversial deals for a Swedish telecoms company that was later fined $965m (£700m) in a US prosecution. America denies any wrongdoing.
- Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta: has held the ownership of a network of undisclosed offshore companies for decades. The Kenyattas’ offshore investments include a company with stocks and bonds worth $30m (£22m), were revealed midst hundreds of thousands of pages of administrative paperwork from the archives of 14 law firms and other service providers in Panama and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and other tax havens. Documents reveal that a foundation called Varies was set up in 2003 in Panama, naming Mr. Kenyatta’s mother, Nagina, 88, as the first benefactor – and Kenya’s leader as the second benefactor, who would inherit it after her death. The core of the foundation and the value of its assets are yet unknown. However, the Pandora Papers disclose absolutely no evidence that the Kenyatta family stole or hid state assets in their offshore companies.
- Vladimir Putin: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin’s numerous close associates do show up in the lists, including his best friend from childhood – the late Petr Kolbin – whom critics have called a “wallet” for Putin’s wealth, and apparently a woman the Russian leader was once romantically tangled with. (reference)
- Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy: he was elected in 2019 on a pledge to freshen up his country’s scandalously corrupt and oligarch-influenced economy, is ironically also named in the leak.
- Former British PM Tony Blaire: He holds the ownership of an $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017 by buying a British Virgin Islands company that held the property, and the building now hosts the law firm of his wife, Cherie Blair. Buying the company shares as a substitute for the London building saved the Blairs more than $400,000 in property taxes, the investigation found. (reference)
And many more.
Paradoxically Biden’s pledge to emerge clean internationally and harbor absolute transparency to the global financial system, the US has come out to be a leading tax haven. According to the data, the state of South Dakota is home to billions of dollars which are in fact linked to criminals.
Speaking about India, the leaked files comprise over 380 Indians, out of which sixty have been verified and have had their documents attested. According to the Ministry, a multi-agency group will lead further investigations. It hits as a nerve-wracking shock that some of the most famous names including Anil Ambani, Vinod Adani, Jackie Shroff, Kiran-Mazumdar-Shaw, Nira Radia, Sachin Tendulkar, and Satish Sharma, have shown up. In the Ministry’s words, “The government will also proactively engage with foreign jurisdictions to obtain information regarding relevant taxpayers and entities.” The multi-agency group includes the Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman, Enforcement Directorate, the financial intelligence unit, and India’s reserve bank. Let’s take a look at our nation’s list of individuals who have shamelessly participated in this morally wrong chaos.
- John Shaw: Bitcoin promoter Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw’s husband set up a trust with keys to a person who has been banned by the Securities and Exchange Board of India for insider trading, The Indian Express reported. (reference)
- Nirav Modi: who fled India in January 2018, after the Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, had his sister Purvi set up a firm in the British Virgin Islands to behave as a corporate guardian of a trust created through the Trident Trust Company, Singapore.
- Anil Ambani: who had declared bankruptcy in a United Kingdom court after being asked to pay over $700 million to three Chinese state-controlled banks, has 18 asset holding offshore companies.(reference)
- Sachin Tendulkar: Indian cricket superhero and a member of the upper house of Parliament; Sachin Tendulkar, with family members, is also present in the Pandora Papers as an advantageous owner of an offshore entity in the British Virgin Islands, which was settled in 2016. Tendulkar’s attorney, however, has appealed that Tendulkar’s investment is sincere and has been professed to tax authorities.
Corruption is like cancer. It spreads slowly, affecting different organs of a fine-working society. Corruption-free is not an omnipresent ideology, but it is a method that needs to be undertaken at an individual level. The worst kind of cheating is cheating oneself. As responsible citizens and dutiful human beings, it is under our control to manifest a truly corruption-free world.
by Harshita Kirnalli