Billionaires and world leaders, including Putin and King Abdullah, stashed vast amounts of money in secretive offshore systems, leaked documents find

Money
A pool of $US400 ($AU551) million contributed by taxpayers is waiting for Congress to decide how best to use it. Getty Images
  • An investigation exposes the secret finances and offshore assets of presidents, rock stars, government officials and CEOs.
  • The trove of documents, called the Pandora Papers, is a collection of nearly 12 million financial records.
  • These records, obtained by journalists, detail the existence of over 29,000 offshore accounts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dozens of current and former world leaders, billionaires, rockstars and government officials have stashed billions of dollars in secret offshore accounts, according to an investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The trove of documents, called the Pandora Papers, is a collection of nearly 12 million financial records that detail the existence of over 29,000 offshore accounts, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the BBC, and other outlets reported on Sunday. That’s twice as many as the collection uncovered by the Panama Papers, a leak that exposed millions of financial and legal records and revealed the offshore holdings of powerful and influential people worldwide.

The findings of the documents, which will be rolled out in a series of stories over the next week, expose the secret secret offshore finances of about 3 dozen world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state. The finances of about 100 billionaires and people of extreme wealth are also included in the trove. “Many use shell companies to hold luxury items such as property and yachts, as well as incognito bank accounts,” the Guardian reported.

Offshore accounts operate in various countries around the world like Switzerland, Belize, and Singapore, according to the Post.

Dozens of powerful people who’ve made Forbes list of billionaires and public officials from more than 90 countries and territories have these offshore accounts and investments. King Abdullah II of Jordan, for example, spent $US100 ($AU138) million on luxury homes in Malibu, California, the documents show. The leaked documents also links Russian President Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco, the BBC reported.

Included among these financial and legal records are memos and strategies to bypass transparency laws and keep the existence of the offshore accounts a secret.

Notably, the richest people in the United States – like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla founder Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett – are not in the documents, the Post said.

But there are several prominent figures involved whose offshore accounts have been discovered in the investigation. That list includes pop star Shakira and members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, according to the Post.

Offshore accounts and asset-shielding trusts often play a role in grisly crimes like drug trafficking and ransomware attacks, experts say.

“The offshore financial system is a problem that should concern every law-abiding person around the world,” former FBI officer Sherine Ebadi told the Post. “These systems don’t just allow tax cheats to avoid paying their fair share. They undermine the fabric of a good society.”