The Pandora Papers have shown how hundreds of politicians use letterbox companies to hide their wealth. In previously secret documents from 14 financial service providers who analyzed media around the world – including SZ, NDR and WDR – 35 current and former heads of state and government also emerged. It’s been a month since the releases, and a lot has happened since then.
A lost choice
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In 2009 Andrej BabiÅ¡ bought a castle in the south of France. The purchase price of 15 million euros went through the letterbox companies.
(Photo: MICHAL CIZEK / AFP)
In the Czech Republic, a new parliament was elected just days after the revelations of the Pandora Papers. The party of former Prime Minister Andrej BabiÅ¡ surprisingly missed a majority. According to research by Pandora Papers, BabiÅ¡ had acquired a castle in the south of France for around 15 million euros in 2009 thanks to a strange construction by letterbox companies in Washington, Monaco and the British Virgin Islands. Experts who examined the construction saw evidence of money laundering. BabiÅ¡ denied all the allegations and claimed that the Mafia was behind the posts. The Czech Republic’s National Organized Crime Center said it would review publications and check them for violations of the law.
Dirty Money Act
In the United States, Democratic and Republican MPs introduced a new law called the Enablers Act. The law requires financial services companies, art dealers, and lawyers to monitor clients who invest their wealth in the United States. “If we force the banks to report dirty money but allow lawyers, real estate companies and accountants to look the other way, it creates a loophole through which crooks and kleptocrats can navigate an entire yacht,” said Democrat MP Tom Malinowski. The European Parliament has, however, denounced several American states – namely South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Delaware and Nevada – as tax havens.
Presidents in the sights of investigators
Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators have announced that they will investigate the affairs of President Volodimir Zelensky. According to the Pandora Papers, Zelensky and his entourage could have benefited from a gigantic swindle accused of a Ukrainian oligarch. The president denied the allegations. It’s an “old story”. Zelensky has denied laundering money, but admitted to using letterbox companies.
The Ecuadorian parliament has decided to investigate President Guillermo Lasso. The Pandora Papers had put the former banker in contact with ten letterbox and trust companies in Panama as well as in the US states of Delaware and South Dakota. Lasso said he has always adhered to Ecuadorian law.
In Azerbaijan, an opposition group is calling for an investigation into the affairs of autocrat Ilham Aliyev and his family. Several of Aliyev’s children appear in the Pandora Papers. They own several luxury properties through letterbox companies, notably in London. âNo one doubts that dirty money from corruption is at the root of this affair,â said the Movement for Democracy and Prosperity.
Impeachment proceedings against SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±era
Impeachment proceedings have been launched against President SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±era in Chile. Immediately after the Pandora Papers revelations, thousands of protesters demonstrated against the PiÃ±era government. In the meantime, the prosecution has also opened an investigation. PiÃ±era is accused of corruption, bribery and tax offenses in connection with the sale of the âMinera Domingaâ mine in northern Chile. The billionaire allegedly sold the mine, which belonged to his children, to a friend through an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands. He allegedly bought it on condition that no environmental protection zone was created around the mine – and PiÃ±era’s government would in fact not have created this protected zone, which has been requested by environmental activists. . PiÃ±era denies all the allegations.
The Kremlin is outraged
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The Pandora Papers suggest that friends and ex-lover of Vladimir Putin manage part of their fortune from Monaco.
(Photo: Imago / Patrick Semansky, dpa / screenshot / collage: Joan Wong)
The Pandora Papers have given a glimpse into the secret fortunes of two close friends and the alleged ex-lover of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The mother of an alleged daughter of President Vladimir Putin was from a letterbox company that bought an apartment in Monaco for 3.6 million euros – a few months after the birth of her daughter. A Kremlin spokesman called the Pandora Papers research “baseless” and “difficult to understand.” “We didn’t see any wealth hidden in Putin’s inner circle there.”
Looted art debate
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Collector Douglas Latchford, long courted by museums, donated hundreds of Khmer works of art, which he had obtained through theft and smuggling.
(Photo: imago / Tang Chhin Sothy, dpa / collage: Joan Wong)
The revelations of Pandora’s papers on art dealer Douglas Latchford dull several museums. According to US investigators, Latchford has had Khmer statues looted in Cambodia for decades. He ran two offshore trusts, presumably to hide his ownership of some of the works.
The Denver Art Museum has now announced that it will be returning four statues received from Latchford in Cambodia. The Metropolitan Museum in New York has contacted the prosecutor to explain his willingness to help him with his investigation. The Metropolitan received at least twelve pieces directly from Latchford, according to research by Pandora Papers. A few days ago, however, Cambodia presented the Metropolitan with a list of 45 stolen objects.
Governments want Pandora papers
Governments or authorities in several countries require access to Pandora Papers. According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which coordinated the research, representatives from Pakistan, Ireland, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, Norway, Ecuador, from Colombia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Chile contacted us. In Germany, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz asked the SÃ¼ddeutsche Zeitung, NDR and WDR to publish the Pandora Papers. SZ will not comply with such requests. “We are not the extended arm of the prosecution or the tax investigation service,” said the editor of SZ. The ICIJ has also announced that it does not cooperate with governments or authorities.