Opening Up Pandora’s Tax Box

Cayetana Jaramillo, Opinion Editor

On Monday, Oct. 4, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the latest details on the Pandora Papers investigation. The investigation exposed the tax evasion and illegal financial activity of hundreds of public officials, celebrities and world leaders. 

Tax evasions and illegal activity have plagued the international financial scene for generations. Some of the wealthiest world leaders discover loopholes, offshore accounts and tax havens to invest their assets and avoid forms of taxation. The 11.9 million files exposed in the Pandora papers unveiled the secret properties of King Abdullah II, the offshore investment company of the prime minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babiš, Tony Blair’s €312,000 savings in property tax evasion and Elton John’s post office box companies in tax havens. 

The ICIJ released millions of email communications, share certificates, memos and compliance records to select media outlets, including the Guardian and the Washington Post, as part of a global investigation. Although setting up offshore accounts comes as a result of legitimate reasons, such as security, these tax havens usually attract tax evaders and financial misconduct. These documents encompass the largest investigative release on global tax evaders, closely followed by the 2016 Panama papers and 2017 Paradise papers

Not only do the Pandora papers highlight individual tax evaders and offshore companies, but it reveals leading global tax havens. For example, the investigation revealed the U.S., specifically South Dakota, as a leading tax haven in connection to billions of dollars of hidden wealth. 

Additionally, the Pandora papers offer insight on the effects of former offshore leaks. The British Virgin Islands established a strict record of registered companies on the island after a previous leak. Yet, the recently released records suggest the continuation of offshore accounts in the area.

Gerald Ryle, the director of the ICIJ, planned the timely release of the Pandora papers during the COVID-19 pandemic to emphasize the exacerbated inequities between the wealthy and ordinary taxpayers during a financial crisis. Court cases against individuals and companies may soon pile up as the ICIJ releases more and more investigative information.