Where do the rich and powerful put their money? There have been a number of revelations in recent years showing that for leaders in politics and business, moving their money outside their home countries is often what they choose. In some cases, this is simply a legal way to avoid taxes. In others, it is an illegal method of hiding money. In still other cases, particularly those involving political leaders, it can be a way of concealing money that was gained nefariously—perhaps by stealing the sovereign wealth of the country over which they preside.
One of the most well-known sources of such information came in 2016 with the Panama Papers, a massive leak of information from a law firm in Panama.
Now an international consortium of journalists has released an even wider set of data. Calling them the Pandora Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its partner publications—including the BBC, The Guardian, PBS Frontline and The Washington Post—released information they gleaned from leaked records of 14 different offshore law firms, wealth-management firms and other entities.
(The term “offshore” originally referred to the island nations that had pioneered this service. These days, however, many of these locations are landlocked, and “offshore” simply means a place other than the country in which the individual lives.)
These documents chronicle the movement of money by thousands of individuals, including more than 330 politicians from 90 countries, and some of it has political or legal consequences. Here are some of the most interesting and important things that have been discovered.
The Jordanian King’s Houses
King Abdullah II of Jordan is a king, of course, and finding out that he has a network of homes around the world isn’t all that surprising. But economic conditions in Jordan have created the need for austerity measures, and in 2020, the government also started cracking down on Jordanians sending money abroad.
That makes the Pandora Papers’ revelation that since 1999, the king has spent about $100 million on 15 homes in cities including London and Miami something of interest.
The story was quashed in Jordan, with intelligence services calling one media outlet that ran it and telling them to take it down. But a spokesperson for the king said that the purchases were made with the king’s personal wealth and not government funds, and were neither “unusual nor improper.”