BBC explains leak exposing secret wealth of world leaders and billionaires (President Piñera among them)

The Pandora Papers is the latest in a series of leaks over the past seven years, following the FinCen Files, the Paradise Papers, Panama Papers and LuxLeaks.
The investigation of the files is the largest ever organized by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), for its acronym in English), with the participation of more than 650 reporters.

The BBC’s Panorama programme in a joint investigation with the British newspaper The Guardian and other media, it has had access to 12 million documents from 14 financial services companies in countries such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Switzerland.

Some figures featured in the report face accusations of corruption, money laundering and global tax evasion.

One of the biggest revelations is how prominent and wealthy people have legally set up companies to buy properties secretly in the UK.

The documents reveal the owners of some of the 95,000 offshore companies behind the purchases.

It highlights the fact that the UK government did not introduce a register of overseas property owners, despite repeated promises to do so, amid concerns that some property buyers could be concealing money laundering activities.

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, and his family, accused of plundering their own country, are an example.

The investigation found that the Aliyevs and their close associates have been secretly involved in real estate deals in Britain worth more than $540 million.

The revelations could prove embarrassing for the UK government, as the Aliyevs appear to have made a profit of $42 million, after selling one of their London properties to the Crown Estate, the the Queen’s real estate empire which is administered by the Treasury and collects cash for the nation.

Many of the transactions in the documents do not involve any legal offence.

But FERGUS Shiel of ICIJ said: “There has never been anything on this scale and it shows the reality of what companies do. offshore can offer to help people to hide cash or avoid taxes“.

“They’re using those overseas accounts, those overseas trusts, to buy hundreds of millions of dollars in properties in other countries and to enrich their own families. expenses of its citizens“He added.

The ICIJ believes the investigation is “opening a box on many things,” hence the name Pandora Papers.

The Pandora Papers in Latin America

Three Latin American heads of state are featured in the Pandora Papers: Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador; Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile; and Luis Abinader, President of the Dominican Republic.

Research shows that Lasso, a former businessman and banker, has had ties to more than 10 companies. offshore and trusts in Panama, South Dakota and Delaware, it reveals The Washington Post.

The leak reveals that Lasso replaced a Panamanian foundation who made monthly payments to his close relatives, for a trust based in South Dakota, in the USA.

According to The Washington Post, Lasso authorized the transfer of businesses to two new trusts created in South Dakota in 2017.

The president maintains that he has “no relationship of ownership, control, benefit or interest of any kind” with those trusts, and that he has always complied with Ecuadorian law, according to statements cited by the newspaper.

As for Piñera, the investigation mentions a family business which involves the sale of Minera Dominga.

According to the portal LaBot, one of the media investigators of the Pandora Papers, the Piñera Moral family was the largest shareholder of this mining company, until in 2010 the businessman Carlos Alberto Délano, a childhood friend of Sebastián Piñera, bought the stake of all the other partners by US$152 million.

Part of this operation took place in the British Virgin Islands.

According to LaBot’s investigations, the sale of the mining company established a payment in three installments, the last of which was itsjeta that a environmental protection zone that hinder the installation and operation of the mine.

The detail, says LaBot, is that the decision on the demarcation of that environmental zone depended on the Piñera government.

A representative of Piñera’s businesses told LaBot that the president has not run his business for 12 years, that he was not informed about the process of selling Dominga and that the judicial investigation into the operation dismissed him.

Regarding Abinader, president of the Dominican Republic, the Pandora Papers show that, together with relatives, he is co-owner of a Panamanian company and is a shareholder of another.

When he took office, Abinader complied with disclosure laws and declared both companies and at least seven other offshore companies grouped into a trust, he says. The Washington Post.

Speaking to ICIJ, Abinader said he has entities. offshore because, until recently, the Dominican Republic did not have sufficient corporate laws for local companies to do business abroad.

The Pandora Papers also involve 11 former presidents of the region, including the Columbians César Gaviria and Andrés Pastrana, the Peruvian Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, as well as 90 other high-level authorities.

Original source in Spanish

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