For a second week, findings drawn from the largest-ever leak of offshore data are roiling parliaments, tax authorities and transparency groups.
And in a remarkable coincidence, U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, this Thursday, Oct. 14, to discuss “the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems”.
The Associated Press reported that the Pandora Papers revelations are expected to be brought up during the Oval Office meeting.
Since the weekend, new countries joined more than a dozen nations that had already vowed investigations stemming from the Pandora Papers, a groundbreaking investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 150 media partners in more than 110 countries around the world.
On Sunday, Ecuador’s legislature voted to launch an investigation into the offshore finances of President Guillermo Lasso to determine whether the head-of-state may have broken the law by moving money into tax havens, according to news reports.
Reporting by ICIJ and its partners showed that Lasso has had ties to 10 offshore companies and trusts in Panama, South Dakota and Delaware.
In response, Lasso told ICIJ that “all past use of any international entity” was legitimate and none of the offshore entities were related to his public service. Lasso also reportedly said that he dissolved his offshore entities in order to enter the presidential election.
The legislature said that the investigation of Lasso’s offshore activity would examine whether Lasso went against the norm that “prohibits candidates and public officials from having their resources or assets in tax havens,” according to AFP. The investigation will reportedly occur over the next 30 days.
In Ukraine, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption is examining declarations by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the head of Ukraine’s Security Service, Ivan Bakanov. NAPC Chairman Oleksandr Novikov said the agency would take into account information published as part of the Pandora Papers investigation.
The Pandora Papers revealed that Zelenskyy and some of his close associates owned shares in an anonymous offshore entity. Documents show that Zelenskyy owned a stake in a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands called Maltex Multicapital Corp, which is described in leaked records as holding shares in film-production and distribution companies. Zelenskyy did not respond to ICIJ partners’ repeated requests for comment during the reporting of the Pandora Papers.
In Canada, national tax authorities announced they were examining Pandora Papers information about local taxpayers. The Canada Revenue Agency said it was currently “identifying how to integrate Pandora Papers information” with the agency’s data and was “working with our international partners to pool resources and share information to develop an accurate picture of what the data is telling us,” according to Canada’s CTV News.
Last week, the Toronto Star, one of ICIJ’s partners in Canada, revealed the offshore holdings of numerous high-profile Canadians, including billionaires, an Olympian, and a pornography magnate. The CRA’s announcement follows calls from Ottawa legislators for investigations in response to those reports.
“According to the parliamentary budget officer, we lose over $25 billion each and every year to overseas tax havens,” said finance critic Peter Julian of the New Democratic Party, according to the Toronto Star. “It’s simply an untenable situation when you have the ultra-rich getting away with so much, and so many Canadians struggling with so little.
In Costa Rica, authorities announced that the local tax agency will address the involvement of Costa Rican taxpayers using offshore maneuvers revealed in the Pandora Papers.In authoritarian Azerbaijan, where elections are rigged and political opponents repressed, an opposition party is demanding an explanation from the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, over the naming of Aliyev and some of his family members in the Pandora Papers.
According to the website JAMnews, the Movement for Democracy and Prosperity, an Azerbaijani opposition group led by a U.S. based activist, has called on the Aliyevs to publicly explain significant real estate deals with offshore connections.
“No one doubts that dirty corruption money is the source of this business. For the reason that it would take Ilham Aliyev 3,070 years to accumulate such an amount, given his average salary for the reporting period,” said the statement from the group. By Spencer Woodman, Jelena Cosic and Brenda Medina, ICIJ