Who are the Pandora Papers? A look at how global leaders are reacting

Who are the Pandora Papers?

The Canadian government has asked ICIJ to hand over more than 30 files containing personal tax information on around 2,800 offshore entities being used to hide tens of billions of dollars.

The papers are called the Canadian Pandora Papers because they include “information on individuals and businesses who have used tax havens to shield from taxation their offshore income,” the Canadian department of finance said in a statement.

The papers are estimated to contain data covering more than 4,000 offshore companies and trusts, and on more than 200,000 people.

Who are the individuals named in the papers?

The list includes prominent figures including Peter Mackay, Canada’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, and former Defence Minister Rona Ambrose. It’s also included former MPs held to account by taxpayers, including Marjory LeBreton, who resigned as government leader in the Senate after declaring her assets in 2005. In 1990, she pleaded guilty to 11 charges of fraud and tax evasion.

Are the names of more than 2,800 people in the papers?

In short, yes, but details about individual people in the papers have not been released to the public.

What are the implications of these leaks?

International legal experts said the collection of papers, in theory, could expose people to billions of dollars in unpaid taxes, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.

The investigation showed that “more than 16,000 of these shadowy companies, trusts and shell entities, which use fake names and often circumvent court orders, were registered in British Virgin Islands (BVI),” the Globe and Mail reported.

The names of the people who were alleged to have been tax evaders or “criminals,” a British-based organization, Global Witness, said, added that the leak was more than a breach of privacy; it revealed “a critical defect in the world’s international tax system” that deprives countries and the world’s poorest people of billions of dollars in revenues every year.

The revelations raised the possibility that more than 5 million BVI residents, including many individuals who are British citizens, may be engaged in tax evasion, Global Witness said.

How have global leaders reacted?

The Canadian finance department said it has “requested ICIJ and partners to provide information on the identification of specific individuals using offshore entities for income management, which they will transfer to Canada in the near future.”

Some leaders, including US President Donald Trump, have taken a tough line on tax havens, according to Vox.

But Canada is in a different position than other countries because its tax systems are relatively close to the United States, the Guardian reports.

However, some Canadian politicians have criticized those countries for playing a key role in preventing greater progress in tax transparency.

Tough talk from a Trump official has prompted Canada to cancel a planned meeting between finance ministers from both countries, The Guardian reports.

The list of 6,863 offshore entities in the BVI provided by the Guardian “leaves taxpayers at risk” according to a spokesman for the BVI government, the Guardian reported.

Can Canada lay a charge on offshore tax havens?

Yes, if it decides to do so.

Canadian law says Ottawa can lay charges against anyone who has breached tax law, on “behalf of another.” That offence is a criminal one.

According to the Globe and Mail, a secret Canadian Justice Department memo said the federal government could require offshore companies to hand over details of their accounts in response to requests, without need for due process.


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