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Monday, October 4, 2021

Tsamina mina, eh eh Waka waka, eh eh !! - Pandora leaks !!!

Claudia Maria Schiffer  is not exactly young but still is famous -  the German  model, actress, and fashion designer now in UK,  rose to fame in the 1990s as one of the world's most successful models, quickly attaining supermodel status. She has appeared on more than 1000 magazine covers  and holds the record for the model with the most magazine covers, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

You may still remember - Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),  released in May  2010 by Epic Records as the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup  held in South Africa. It was sung by Shakira .. .. and made headlines big.  In case you wish to hear it again – here is a link to You tube :  


In Greek mythology, Pandora  was the first human woman created by Hephaestus on the instructions of Zeus.  As Hesiod related it, each God cooperated by giving her unique gifts.  .. .. .. the Pandora myth is a kind of theodicy, addressing the question of why there is evil in the world, according to which, Pandora opened a jar (pithos) (commonly referred to as "Pandora's box") releasing all the evils of humanity.  

On the evening of October 3, a shock awaited several current and past leaders of state, as well as more than 130 billionaires. Their offshore banking dealings, which were typically kept confidential, were public overnight, dominating world news headlines for days. They'd been caught up in the Pandora Papers, the world's greatest data breach.  A  2.94 terabyte data trove exposed the offshore secrets of wealthy elites from more than 200 countries and territories. These are people who use tax and secrecy havens to buy property and hide assets; many avoid taxes and worse. They include more than 330 politicians and 130 Forbes billionaires, as well as celebrities, fraudsters, drug dealers, royal family members and leaders of religious groups around the world. 

                                    Pandora Papers are documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ). It exposed the offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the Presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair among others.   The Pandora Papers reveal how the rich, the famous and the notorious, many of whom were already on the radar of investigative agencies, set up complex multi-layered trust structures for estate planning, in jurisdictions which are loosely regulated for tax purposes, but characterised by air-tight secrecy laws. 

A Russian oil and gas magnate whose companies bankrolled 34 Tory MPs and gave the party £700,000 was today accused of making a fortune from an allegedly corrupt Russian pipeline deal as the Conservatives were further dragged into the Pandora Papers scandal because of their cosy relationship with oligarchs. Viktor Fedotov is accused of secretly benefitting from an alleged $4billion fraud in Russia and may have bought a Hampshire estate with the proceeds - but his lawyers insist 'there is no evidence whatsoever' he behaved improperly. It came as eight more British politicians could be named in the Pandora Papers within hours after Tony Blair, a millionaire Tory donor and Jacob Rees-Mogg's wife were exposed in the devastating leak laying bare the network of secret offshore companies protecting the wealth of more than 300 world leaders and billionaires. The group of nine includes former Labour prime minister, who with his wife Cherie avoided paying £321,000 ($434,000) in stamp duty when they bought an office in London by purchasing the offshore company that owned it.

The BBC claims to have seen documents leaked as part of the Pandora Papers cache that show Mr Fedotov is the secret owner of VNIIST, which earned hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from Transneft, the Russian state-owned oil and gas pipeline company.   The Pandora files allegedly show millions of dollars went into Mr Fedotov's offshore trust, which held $97million in assets in 2007. The BBC claims this may have paid for the £7million Aragon Hall near Hook, Hampshire, his country home in the UK. The Russian President is not personally named in the leaked data but several of those closest to him are, including Svetlana Krivonogikh, a former cleaner from St. Petersburg who is thought to have given birth to Putin's love-child - a daughter, Elizaveta - in 2003. The papers reveal that Krivonogikh - who suddenly came into a vast fortune around the time of her daughter's birth - is the owner of a $4million apartment at the Monte Carlo Star, located underneath Monte Carlo's famed casino.

The files showed a global cast of fugitives, criminals, celebrities, football players, and others, as well as secret assets, clandestine agreements, and hidden riches of the super-rich, including judges, tax authorities, intelligence chiefs, and mayors. .. .. so how would India react, if some of its superheroes were to be part of the leak !! 

Although some documents dating back to the 1970s, the majority of the businesses, trusts, and foundations were formed between 1996 and 2010.  They cover a wide range of topics, including the formation of shell companies, foundations, and trusts, the use of such entities to buy real estate, yachts, and jets, the use of such entities to make investments and transfer money between bank accounts, and tax evasion through complex financial schemes. Some papers have been linked to money laundering and other financial crimes.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was founded in 1997 by the US Center for Public Integrity in Washington, although it has been autonomous since 2017.  As many as 380 Indians are reported to be  on the list of the global elite who have been exposed for ringfencing their wealth through shadowy financial transactions and using offshore tax havens to hide assets worth millions of dollars.  According to the Indian Express, cricket star Sachin Tendulkar was among those who requested the dissolution of his offshore firm following the Panama leak.

Tendulkar's attorney, according to DW News, claimed the cricketer's investment is lawful and has been reported to tax authorities. Shakira, a Colombian artist, is another name tied to offshore assets. Shakira's lawyer claimed that her offshore accounts had been disclosed and that they provided no tax benefits. Despite declaring bankruptcy in a UK court, billionaire Anil Ambani owns 18 asset holding offshore entities, according to the Indian Express, which was part of the consortium.  The papers indicate that Jordan's King Abdullah II covertly acquired $100 million in property in the US and UK, including luxurious beach view houses in Malibu, according to the Guardian.

Back home, the Govt has directed that investigations to be carried out in relation to 'Pandora Paper' leaks.  The investigation will be monitored by a multi-agency group headed by central board of direct taxes (CBDT) chairman. It will also comprise having representatives from CBDT, enforcement directorate, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Financial Intelligence Unit, the official spokesperson of the tax authority said. Overseas trusts offer remarkable secrecy because of stringent privacy laws in the jurisdiction they operate in. A lot depends on the intention behind setting up an offshore trust — and if the taxman can provide evidence that suggests mala fide intent by the trust, then the courts tend to back the tax department in their attempt to recover the taxes due.

So, what is cooking-up – and who (if at all some !!) would be caught and end up in disgrace ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th Oct 2021. 

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