The Pandora Papers, a contemporary portrait of the secrets industry The Pandora Papers, a contemporary portrait of the secrets industry

The Pandora Papers, a contemporary portrait of the secrets industry

A research made by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reveals a worldwide scheme of tax evasion in hidden fortunes
PolíticaSense categoriaZPortada Izquierda 25 octubre, 2021 user2 0
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Inici » Historic » The Pandora Papers, a contemporary portrait of the secrets industry

The Pandora Papers is the name of a journalistic research performed by around 600 journalists of 117 countries. It is about opaque businesses of politicians, millionaires and artists of more than 90 countries. After the leakage of offshore providers’ confidential documents, the ICIJ coordinated different teams in charge of analyzing more than 11.9 millions of files over nearly two years. The results of the research started to be published the 3th October 2021.

EL PAÍS and La Sexta are the two Spanish media that have participated as partners in the research. According to them, among the received files there are lots of spreadsheets, text documents, images or emails. Those documents contain invoices, passports, certificates of incorporation or travel diaries, among others.

The information included in the files represents the map of the dark side of international finances. The information is about secrets of tax shelters as well as the professionals that act as links to get to them. Offshore societies are entities in a different country where the beneficiary lives. In the selected territories, in many times a trading Company is the only industrial activity of the place.

Tax havens are attractive because they offer low tax burdens to the created entities. Moreover, they are used to protect the anonymity of the true beneficiaries of the society.

Suppliers and clients in Pandora Papers

The lawyer’s offices are a key necessary point for opening one of these societies in any tax shelter. They ease its creation in a secret way, warranting anonymity of clients in official documents.

EL PAÍS details that documents of the Pandora Papers “belong to some of the biggest firms of lawyers considered worldwide suppliers in this type of operations as Alemán, Cordero, Galindo and Lee (Alcoal), Trident Trust or Asiaciti”.

As main clients, the Pandora Papers have influential and powerful people as well as wealthy. Among the more than 330 politicians and public positions there is the current president of Chile —Sebastián Piñera—, the King of Jordan —Abdala II— as well as popular international celebrities like Claudia Shiffer, Julio Iglesias or Shakira, among others. Creating an offshore society is not illegal from the start. However, it is unlawful hiding intentionally the earnings of those societies without declaring them to authorities. The reason why is the owner must do the tax return in the country where tax residence is. Main goal of most cases of the Pandora Papers research intend hiding illegal money flows in the context of tax evasion, bribery or money laundering.

Other data leaks

It is not the first time that the ICIJ leads a similar research to the Pandora Papers. This consortium leaded a close research five years ago called the Panama Papers. They included as well documents of leaks that came from offshore suppliers.

The volume of the Pandora Papers compared with other leaks.

Volume of Pandora Papers compared with other famous leaks


However, according to the ICIJ, the Pandora Papers include 400.000 files more than its counterpart research. The Pandora Papers have more detail information as well. In fact, in this occasion there are 14 lawer’s office and not only one preparing the ground for clients to create societies in tax heavens.

Wikileaks started before Pandora Papers

It is difficult not thinking about Julian Assange when it comes to talk about leaks to the press. It was 2010 when WikiLeaks shaken very powerful people worldwide by revealing on the internet very low ethical behaviors. This opened a relevant discussion among research, journalism and activism. On one hand, there are those that considere that journalists would not be necessary anymore to avoid distorting data. On the other hand, there are others who defend the key role of digital media as a tool to avoid citizens imagine their own stories on the basis of gross data.

One of the leaks with bigger impact in WikiLeaks was the Cablegate case. It included several videos and classified communications that the US State Department got from its consulates and embassies all over the world. Newspapers with worldwide greater significance like The New York Times decided to publish in 2010 images from those videos of the US army attacking civilians in Bagdad. Those images came from WikiLeaks.

Further the internal debate among the newsroom workers, information about Cablegate had a big impact on audience and journals focused essentially on monetizing it by publishing. The best global newspapers did not deal with the impact that Assange’s company had on freedom of expression or the journalistic research. The Times, The Guardian, Le Monde or EL PAÍS were only some of the newspapers that decided to publish the leaks that got in a critical moment for traditional journalism, just when newsrooms were trying to figure out what the future of journalism was because of the irruption of cyberjournalism.

Future of journalism

Beyond any analysis, it is undeniable that Assange and his company transformed journalism. What is more, organizations like the ICIJ itself encourage leaking documents to be analyzed afterwards. The goal is reporting irregularities about indictable public issues, as it happened with the Pandora or the Panama Papers. Anyway, inside the complex world of leaks it would be inappropriate omitting legal issues like protecting revelators. Its importance has been so crucial that leaks uncovered lately have given rise to existing specific legal rules. Guaranteeing anonymity of people that reveal secrets with any sort of public relevance was completely needed.  Moreover, coming agreements among some countries about exchanging financial information to fight against money laundering have its origin in leaks as well.

In any case, the debate is on the air. Questions like if everything is fair for the sake of public interest or if everybody is ready to access without limits to the worldwide secrets factory are interesting pending questions. For the good of healthy democracies, journalism must continue exerting its role of monitoring power. What is more, journalistic profession is controversial when its future depends on digital media more than ever. The reasonable doubt is on the table if nobody can assure that new media are not going to fall into the temptation aligning themselves with the rest of the powers. It is a matter of time checking if anything goes for clickbait. Until then, the last research of the ICIJ has open Pandora’s box.


Marta Jorge Vispo

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