Millions of leaked documents dubbed the Pandora Papers and a worldwide journalistic partnership on Sunday claims to have uncovered financial secrets of current and former world leaders, politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories, including India.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which involved the BBC and 'The Guardian' newspaper in the UK and 'The Indian Express' in India among 150 media outlets in its investigation, claims it obtained the trove of more than 11.9 million confidential files to find secret financial dealings of many super-rich.
"People linked by the secret documents to offshore assets include India's cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar, pop music diva Shakira, supermodel Claudia Schiffer and an Italian mobster known as 'Lell the Fat One'," says ICIJ in its report. "Tendulkar's attorney said the cricket player's investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities.
Shakira's attorney said the singer declared her companies, which the attorney said do not provide tax advantages. Schiffer's representatives said the supermodel correctly pays her taxes in the UK, where she lives," it notes.
On a world map highlighting the number of politicians linked with offshore dealings, India is shown as having six and Pakistan seven. "ICIJ's latest investigation, the Pandora Papers, brings renewed attention to the use of offshore companies by Pakistani political players.
This time, the offshore holdings of people close to (Prime Minister Imran) Khan are being disclosed, including his finance minister and a top financial backer," the findings claim. Spokesperson for Khan told a press conference that if any of his ministers or advisors had offshore companies, "they will have to be held accountable".
According to the ICIJ, its secret documents expose offshore dealings of the likes 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.
The files also reveal the financial activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "unofficial minister of propaganda" and more than 130 billionaires from Russia, the US, Turkey and other nations.
The ICIJ says the leaked records come from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients often seeking to keep their financial activities in the shadows. It says the global investigation provides an "unequalled perspective" on how the rule of law has been "bent and broken" around the world by a system of financial secrecy enabled by wealthy nations.
"The findings by ICIJ and its media partners spotlight how deeply secretive finance has infiltrated global politics – and offer insights into why governments and global organizations have made little headway in ending offshore financial abuses," it notes.
The ICIJ analysis of the secret documents identified 956 companies in offshore havens tied to 336 high-level politicians and public officials, including country leaders, cabinet ministers, ambassadors and others.