Unboxing the contents of the Pandora Papers: NPR
A wealth of documents, known as the Pandora Papers, have been leaked that reveal how the world’s most powerful and wealthy are hiding huge sums of money abroad.
STEVE INSKEEP, HTE:
How do some of the richest and most powerful people in the world hide their money? Nearly 12 million financial documents provide answers. The documents are collectively referred to as the Pandora documents. A group of news agencies obtained them. Their work was coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
An early Washington Post article reveals how some world leaders are withdrawing money from their own countries. The King of Jordan bought luxury homes in California for $ 100 million, for example. And other strengths are tied to the rulers of Kenya and Russia, among other countries.
Greg Miller of the Washington Post is one of the reporters who reviewed the documents and is with us. Greg, hello.
GREG MILLER: Hello.
INSKEEP: Why would world leaders ship so much money from their own country?
MILLER: There are a lot of reasons for that. In some cases, I think the leaders are in countries where they can feel vulnerable. They don’t feel secure in their assets. They want to move their money to safe places – perceived to be safe overseas, where they could access it if they lost electricity. Another big reason, I think, is simply the desire to hide where – their wealth from their own people and put it in places where they hope it will not be seen. And if it weren’t for stories and surveys like Pandora Diaries, it would probably be true in most cases.
INSKEEP: How do you find nearly 12 million documents?
MILLER: (Laughs) Well, these are documents that come from financial services companies in 14 different locations around the world. So they really represent a cross section of businesses that are setting up shell companies, setting up private trusts, bidding on the world’s elite to try and hide their money. As to how we obtained these documents, this is something the partnership is keeping a secret to protect the sources here.
INSKEEP: You just referred to how this happens. People have created shell companies. It’s not as if the King of Jordan has real estate in his name in California. But you point out that through these companies he controls $ 100 million worth of homes in Malibu alone. But I have to note that in response to this story, there is a statement from the palace in Jordan, and they say King Abdullah owns apartments and houses in the US and UK, basically confirming your story. But they go on to say that it is neither a secret nor a novelty. What about your new report?
MILLER: Yeah. I found this comment from the kingdom confusing this morning because if it’s no secret his financial advisers have certainly gone to great lengths. They used shell companies – dozens of them. They – we have emails showing them fighting each other internally over how to avoid and get around disclosure requirements. In an email we received in the docs, his senior financial advisor doesn’t even use his name and calls him you know who.
INSKEEP: The person who should not be named.
INSKEEP: Is it illegal, however, for the King of Jordan to go abroad and buy a bunch of real estate elsewhere?
MILLER: No, it’s not illegal. And that’s one of the things we highlight in our story on Abdullah. I mean, here he’s a king. He’s a royal. He is royal in Jordan. He could presumably argue that, I am a royal; I have the right to have lavish properties around the world. But he did not do it. He hid them in multiple fictitious societies in faraway places without ever revealing any of these to the inhabitants of his kingdom, where, by the way, the economy has really deteriorated over the past 10 years. Unemployment has increased. Wages have gone down. It is a stark contrast.
INSKEEP: What strengths have you found related to another national leader, Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya?
MILLER: So Kenyatta is interesting because he’s sort of positioned himself as a champion of transparency and even said publicly a year or two ago that any public official should identify all of their strengths. And in Pandora, we see that he and members of his immediate family have set up at least seven overseas companies and trusts in which they parked tens of millions of dollars that were never disclosed.
INSKEEP: Although you mentioned that he seems to have made a lot of money before he became President of Kenya. Is this an important distinction?
MILLER: Well, maybe it’s because, I mean, he still hasn’t disclosed it in a way that he’s publicly stated that officials should. But if it is money that his family acquired beforehand, it may not be a sign of corruption during his tenure.
INSKEEP: Although you just pointed out why some of this money is of interest. It might not be illegal to park your money overseas, but how did you get it?
INSKEEP: And that brings us to another person whose finances have already been exposed – Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia. What new have you learned about their finances?
MILLER: So Putin manages to surface in so many of these offshore finance investigations. And it is – and it tells us a lot about how the Russian economy and the Russian economic system work. In our case, what we found was a – initially was just a mystery. There is a woman who is in St. Petersburg who allegedly had a relationship with Vladimir Putin and then had a child with him in 2003. And lo and behold, she appears in the archives as having acquired a multi-million dollar apartment in Monte. -Carlo. shortly after. And it took a while to piece it all together. But again, this is an example of someone close to Putin getting very wealthy without any other alternate explanation for how it happens.
INSKEEP: In a few seconds, I just want to note, we were talking about the King of Jordan’s houses in California. These are offshore assets often stationed in the United States. Are the Americans encouraging this?
MILLER: The Americans are taking advantage of it. In some ways, we encourage it. There are many states in the United States, including South Dakota, that we’ll be posting about today, that now function as sort of onshore offshore havens. They have secrecy laws, much like these overseas destinations.
INSKEEP: Greg Miller, Washington Post National Security Correspondent. Thank you so much.
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