Over 300 Indians and 700 Pakistanis in hot water . . .
It has been ten days since the Pandora Papers revealed a shadow economy, raising concerns about tax evasion and corruption worldwide. The 11.9 million documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a coalition of 150 media organizations, have revealed the secret offshore accounts of hundreds of South Asians. The list includes several prominent names, such as Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, former Indian billionaire Anil Ambani who declared bankruptcy in 2020, and Nepal’s only billionaire Binod Chaudhary. The papers identify 16 South Asian politicians, including seven from Pakistan and six from India, causing governments to take note and set up multi-agency probes, such as in India.
Pandora brings together politicians, corporates, criminals in India . . .
The papers reveal how the rich and influential set up complex, multi-layered trust structures in jurisdictions that do not have stringent tax regulations to evade taxes. ICIJ’s local media partner, The Indian Express, has been publishing revealing investigations about India’s prominent figures, including real estate bigwig Niranjan Hiranandani, bankrupt billionaire B.R. Shetty, pharma billionaire Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s husband, diamantaire and fugitive Nirav Modi’s sister, Congress leader Satish Sharma and his family, among various others. While the investigations are still ongoing, Pandora reveals a need for better tax transparency and anti-avoidance measures. Following the 2016 Panama Papers, at least 16 out of the 88 countries named undertook measures to track and recover taxes – the Indian government has identified about C$3.3 billion in undeclared assets.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s political test . . .
The 2016 Panama Papers prompted then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign following public protests and subsequent disqualification by the Supreme Court. Current Prime Minister Imran Khan had applauded the impacts of the papers in 2016, and later made anti-corruption a primary agenda of his government. While the 2021 Pandora Papers do not directly implicate Prime Minister Khan, they mention his cabinet ministers and allies Shaukat Tarin (finance) and Chaudhry Moonis Elahi (water resources), prompting the PM to promise investigation and swift action against wrongdoers. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ordered a probe into his niece, Nirupama, and her husband’s overseas wealth after the Pandora Papers named the couple. Nirupama served as a legislator and later a junior minister under Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government.
- Al Jazeera: Pandora Papers expose wealth of Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s allies
- European Foundation for South Asian Studies: The Pandora Papers reflect a deep-seated malaise in South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular
- International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: Offshore havens and hidden riches of world leaders and billionaires exposed in unprecedented leak