Bombshell secret research called the Pandora Papers revealed on Oct. 3 exactly who is shielding their riches to avoid paying taxes and how they're doing it. These papers shed light on how the rich are getting richer through real estate holdings, while the rest of us middle-class types play by the rules. The hidden world revealed by the Pandora Papers is one where the rich and powerful -- government leaders, billionaires, and even criminals -- get special treatment.
As Robert Silverman of Oxfam America, an antipoverty organization, said, "The Pandora Papers is a damning reminder that the United States has two separate tax systems -- one for the uber rich and well-connected, and one for everyone else." While that statement appears to be true from what the papers reveal, this system is by no means unique to the United States, as you'll see in the partial list below.
How the Pandora Papers were revealed
The Pandora Papers is the culmination of a project worked on by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a group of several news organizations -- the Washington Post, the BBC, the Guardian, and more -- that banded together to ferret out what's been happening.
Everyone's heard of offshore banking accounts, or "tax havens," used to hide assets from authorities. But what everyone might not know is that the term "offshore" refers to anywhere that isn't a customer's country of residence. These papers explain in detail who's been taking advantage of this system and to what extent.
There are more than 29,000 offshore accounts identified in the Pandora Papers. Account owners include over 130 people listed as billionaires by Forbes magazine and over 330 public officials in 90 countries and territories. Here are some of them and what they've been up to.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso
A former banker, President Lasso has about 130 properties in South Florida worth about $33 million, mostly condos and townhouses. He is also linked with two South Dakota trusts called Bretten Trust and Liberty US Trust. Ecuadorian law forbids public servants from holding offshore companies.
Singer Julio Iglesias
Julio Iglesias owns properties in South Florida worth between $100 million and $120 million through offshore services provider Trident Trust in the British Virgin Islands. This trust serves to hide ownership in those properties. Several properties are on Indian Creek Island, known as "Billionaire's Island."
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis
In 2009, he bought a $22 million chateau near Cannes, France. Babis claims that this revelation was made only to influence the Czech election.
Several members of the inner circle of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
These people have ties to offshore companies. One use for them was to buy three prime London properties.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera
He sold the Dominga mining company to a friend for $138 million.
King Abdullah II of Jordan
The king bought over $100 million in luxury real estate in the United States and Britain that he tried to keep secret. Jordanians have been arrested for asking how much land the king owns.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati
He bought property in Monaco for over $10 million through Hessville Investment. Mikati, the richest man in Lebanon, is worth $2.9 billion.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenyatta is accused of looting the country. He set up at least seven offshore entities (which breaks Kenyan law) that hold real estate and money worth over $30 million. Mainstream media in Kenya didn't (or wasn't allowed to) report the story.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle
Russians stash assets in overseas tax havens more than any other nationality. Putin loyalists grow rich by hiding assets abroad, while Putin calls on Russians to keep their money in Russia.
Financial secrecy laws in this state rival those of other offshore jurisdictions. The result is foreign officials and wealthy people are putting their assets in these U.S.-based trusts. More than $1 billion in 200 trusts were identified that are linked to companies, some with fraudulent practices.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie
Blair and his wife bought an $8.8 million London townhouse and avoided paying $400,000 in taxes by buying a British Virgin Islands company to hold the property. Although what they did wasn't illegal, in 1994, Tony Blair accused Britain's millionaires of "paying nothing" and he spoke of creating a "tax system that was fair."
Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader
He owns assets in tax havens.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Members of his government hold millions of dollars offshore.
The Millionacres bottom line
The Pandora Papers include 11.9 million documents, of which 6.4 million are text documents, 2.9 million images such as diagrams of trust schemes, 1.2 million emails, 467,000 spreadsheets, and 887,000 other file types.
The "biggest blockers to transparency are the U.S. and the U.K.," said Alex Cobham, economist and chief executive of the Tax Justice Network.