Among the biggest revelations from the leak is not about the names but rather how highly compensated enablers devote to helping the richest people in the world get richer and to pass on their wealth while avoiding or evading taxes. While they may not be as fortunate as their clients, but they are paid in millions to hide trillions of the ill-gotten wealth.
The well-established wealth defence industry works in collaboration with advisers, bankers, lawyers, accountants, notaries and estate agents who use anonymous shell companies, family offices, offshore accounts and trusts to help the world's richest people shield their wealth from tax collectors.
Demonstrators take part during a protest against Brazil's Economy Minister Paulo Guedes at the Ministry of Economy building in Brasilia, Brazil. REUTERS/Adriano Machado
As per the reports, a single Panamanian law firm was responsible for the creation of offshore shell companies meant to hide money for over 160 politicians and public figures.
Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee, or Alcogal, was involved in creating shell companies to move money for Jordanian King Abdullah II, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic and three former presidents from Panama, among others, according to the report.
The ICIJ noted that 14,000 offshore entities in Belize, the British Virgin Islands and Panama were created with the help of Alcogal in an effort to stash money away from public scrutiny for some 15,000 clients since 1996.
The firm rejected accusations of shady dealings in a statement, saying it was considering legal action to defend its reputation "in a vigorous manner where necessary."
"Alcogal rejects the conjecture, inaccuracies and falsehoods in the papers," the firm said as per an AFP report, offering to work with authorities to investigate any irregularities.
Secret ownership of homes and other assets can be cloaked by anonymous companies — companies that are not required to identify their owners.
In some countries, there are no regulatory requirements to identify and register the so-called beneficial owners of the property — the people who directly benefit from property even if someone else’s name is listed as the owner.
The use of this beneficial ownership loophole enables the true owners to hide behind layers of legal records that can be difficult or impossible to disentangle: The owner of company A can be identified as company B, and the owner of company B can be identified as company C, and so on.
Hiding wealth is a specialty offered by tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands.
The ICIIJ report also highlights that the United States has become a top offshore destination for the rich and powerful to hide their assets. The US has such an appeal that many have moved their money from other better-known tax havens to the United States.
South Dakota in has also emerged as a top destination for foreign assets.
“Over the past decade, South Dakota, Nevada, and more than a dozen other U.S. states have transformed themselves into leaders in the business of peddling financial secrecy,” ICIJ said.
A combo of file pictures shows portraits of Lebanese politicians whose names revealed in Pandora documents, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Makati, left, Riad Salameh the governor of Lebanon's Central Bank, center, and former Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, right. The Pandora Papers confirmed what many Lebanese had long assumed: While they battled poverty and struggled to obtain basic services like water and electricity, their politicians were transferring millions to offshore accounts and buying luxury properties abroad. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)