A figure skating champion, racing driver, Haitian businessmen and fraudulent billionaires were all featured in reports by North American journalists working on the Pandora Papers, a journalistic collaboration covering the entire world. The project was led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which obtained the treasure of more than 11.9 million confidential files. Key to the effort have been hundreds of journalists from 150 news organizations in dozens of countries who have partnered with the ICIJ for two years to cover the cases.
The Pandora Papers are the largest document leak ever from offshore havens, and the project had an immediate impact around the world, where national leaders and tax agencies have pledged investigations and other action. In many cases, it was the ICIJ’s reporting partners who dug the deepest in their own countries.
Here are some of the most notable stories from ICIJ partners in North America:
In Canada, a figure skating champion and a Formula 1 driver
CBC News reported off the links of two major sports figures: racing driver Jacques Villeneuve and figure skating champion Elvis Stojko.
The only Canadian to ever win a Formula 1 championship, Villeneuve has lived lavishly in Monaco and Switzerland for most of his career. He lived in Quebec in the 1990s and from 2007 to 2013, according to CBC News. A review of the Pandora Papers shows that he had “offshore companies established in zero-tax jurisdictions since the start of his career in 1992,” according to CBC News. These companies were created to receive income from racing and sponsorship, according to the report.
CBC News also reported on the offshore connections of Stojko, who gained a reputation for his brilliant performances at the Olympics and became one of the world’s top champions. CBC News reports that his Canadian assets were in some cases transferred to an offshore trust in the Caribbean in 2007, while he was living in Mexico. âSkate Canada, an organization that receives public funding, signed the deal,â according to CBC News.
In response to questions from CBC News, Stojko said he relied on his lawyer to manage his finances and had âno real involvement or interestâ in any of this. âWhen my longtime lawyer recommended that I create a trustâ¦ I did not question his advice and trusted him to act in a way that was both in my best interests and within the law, “Stojko told CBC News. Skate Canada declined to comment to CBC News.
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“30,000 explosive mortar shells”
Reporters from the Toronto Star deepened business relationships with Chadi Chaarani, a Lebanese-Canadian who says he has an impeccable reputation earned by doing business in Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The Star used the Pandora Papers files to help unravel a complex and dramatic story around Chaarani – involving an offshore company linked to a Saudi military official and a US defense contractor, a Serbian arms maker and a Bulgarian whistleblower. – which is still happening.
This company, Larkmont Holdings Ltd., “played a key role in transporting around 30,000 explosive mortar shells from a Serbian arms manufacturer in 2018,” according to the Star, which cited a review of the files of ‘shipping. The final destination of these weapons remains a matter of contention and the case has been taken to Bulgarian courts, facing Chaarani with growing international scrutiny. Bulgarian media previously reported that the weapons ended up “in the hands of ISIS fighters in Yemen rather than their legally declared end user, the Saudi army,” the Star reported.
Charani told The Star he could not comment on the allegations as they are before Bulgarian courts. In a lawsuit against the Bulgarian journalist who first published ISIS’s allegations, Charani vigorously denied any involvement in the alleged arms trafficking.
Washington Post shines a light on billionaires in data
The ICIJ has found that 130 billionaires on the Forbes Billionaire List are listed as âowners or beneficiaries of offshore assetsâ in the Pandora Papers. At least a dozen other figures classified as billionaires by various media have also appeared in the files, according to the Washington Post.
The documents shed new light on the financial maneuvers of “exceptionally wealthy people, their yachts and jets, their estate planning and other ways in which businesses set up in tax havens or secret havens benefit them,” the Post reported.
The Pandora Papers files examined by the Post shed new light on the offshore activities of American billionaires Robert Brockman and Robert F. Smith. The two men are accused of involvement in a massive tax scheme. Last year, prosecutors indicted Brockman for allegedly hiding $ 2 billion in revenue using a series of shell companies. He pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Smith signed a deal with prosecutors admitting he had hidden profits in offshore accounts and filed false income tax returns for a decade, according to the Post. Smith declined to comment on the Post.
The Post also examined Pandora Papers documents relating to Bernard Arnault, one of the richest men in the world and the head of LVMH, a luxury goods company. His company owned Symphony Yachting Ltd., a British Virgin Islands company, according to the Washington Post review of the Pandora Papers. Renault is of French nationality. Symphony Yachting owned a $ 50 million yacht, according to the Post report. The boat “fits the description of the Amadeus, a 230-foot vessel described as having a jacuzzi, gym and cinema,” according to the Post. âArnault would then be upgraded to another even more luxurious yacht, the Symphony, a six-deck, 300-foot with a glass-bottom pool,â according to the Post. LVMH did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.
The Miami Herald explores Haiti’s richest people
Miami Herald reporters delved deeper into the use of offshore shell companies by some of Haiti’s wealthiest and most powerful citizens. The report provides new details on the far-reaching business empire of Gilbert Bigio, a Haitian business mogul living in Florida who recently bought Jeffrey Epstien’s Mercedes sedan for $ 132,000 in a real estate sale, according to the Herald .
Reports from the Herald show that the Bigios family have used different offshore vendors over the years. Pandora documents show the formation in 2001 of a Bigios-controlled company called Lockver Investment Inc. in the British Virgin Islands, administered with help from Panamanian company ALCOGAL, according to the Herald. “In 2006, the documents show ALCOGAL lawyers working on Bigio’s behalf with the Miami office of the Spanish institution Banco Santander,” according to the Herald. Another document from 2010 gives Gilbert’s wife and son a power of attorney to open an account in a Swiss bank, according to the Herald.
Bigio did not respond to requests for comment from the Herald.
The Herald also looked at another Haitian businessman, Rudolph Boulos, whose “pharmaceutical company Pharval in 1996 was involved in a business transaction which led to the inadvertent poisoning of Haitian children with drugs. against coughs contaminated with a solvent used in the antifreeze â. At least 30 children have died as a result, according to the Herald.
Boulos did not respond to requests for comment emailed by the Herald.
Pandora Papers programs to broadcast
PBS’s investigative documentary program FRONTLINE takes American viewers to a shore filled with yachts in Monaco, to immerse themselves in the Pandora Papers’ exploration of the enormous wealth of people in the orbit near Russian President Vladimir Putin. The program examines Washington Post and Guardian reports on the apparent riches of Putin’s alleged former romantic partner, Svetlana Krivonogikh, who within a few years “acquired an apartment in a prestigious complex in her hometown of St. Petersburg.” , properties in Moscow, a yacht and other assets, âaccording to the report. Krivonogikh’s net worth is estimated at $ 100 million, according to The Guardian.
FRONTLINE also featured Will Fitzgibbon of the ICIJ and Debbie Cenziper of the Post to delve into their reporting on the trust industry in South Dakota. The ICIJ’s joint reporting with the Washington Post on America as a tax haven and the religious artifacts looted in Cambodia were also featured in episodes of the Post Reports podcast.
âUn Poco de Contexto,â an original podcast from Spotify de Mexico, produced an eight-part series in Spanish containing interviews with ICIJ’s Latin American partners on their Pandora Papers reporting.
See more stories from Pandora Papers from North America and stories from your country here.