Wealthiest Americans don’t appear in Pandora Papers leak because they don’t need tax havens

A leak of 11.9 million files from firms that were hired by uber-wealthy clients to create offshore trusts and structures in tax havens including Switzerland, Monaco, Dubai and Panama, among others does not contain offshore financial data on some of the richest Americans because there is little need for them to hide their wealth, according to an analysis on Monday.

The leak of what is collectively known as the Pandora Papers exposes “the secret offshore affairs of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state,” The Guardian reported. In addition, the files “shine a light on the secret finances of more than 300 other public officials such as government ministers, judges, mayors and military generals in more than 90 countries.”

And while information about former President Donald Trump is included in the leak because of a hotel project in Panama — not much else about his finances is contained in the trove of data — the country’s richest people including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft chief Bill Gates, as well as investor Warren Buffett, are not mentioned, likely because they don’t need to hide their wealth in tax havens due to U.S. tax laws that see them pay a small amount every year.

“The report listed 130 alleged billionaires as account owners but did not include any of America’s wealthiest individuals,” the Daily Mail noted Monday, explaining further that “financial analysts speculate America’s uber-rich — such as Bezos, Buffet, [Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon] Musk and Gates — have less incentive to use offshore havens due to the low tax rates they pay.”

According to a June report by Forbes, the 25 richest Americans only paid a “true tax rate” of 3.4 percent on an accumulated wealth of $401 billion between the years 2014 and 2018.

Bezos, the country’s richest man, only paid a true income tax rate of less than 1 percent, while Buffet and Musk, respectively, paid .10 percent and 3.27 percent. Gates’ true tax rate was not included in the Forbes report.

Experts looking into the Pandora Papers also speculated that the richest Americans may have used other offshore accounts and companies in various jurisdictions to hide their wealth.

Others argued that the leak of the data indicates that hiding vast amounts of wealth may impact societies big and small for decades to come as wealth disparities are widened while enabling criminal activity including drug trafficking, arms deals, and ransomware attacks.

“The offshore financial system is a problem that should concern every law-abiding person around the world,” former FBI agent Sherine Ebadi told the Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos. “These systems don’t just allow tax cheats to avoid paying their fair share. They undermine the fabric of a good society.”

Meanwhile, former NSA analyst Edward Snowden mocked the hacking of the data while praising the hacker.

“The humorous side of this very serious story is that even after two apocalyptic offshore finance/law firm leaks, those industries are still compiling vast databases of ruin, and still secure them with a Post-It Note marked ‘do not leak.’ Hats off to the source!” he tweeted Sunday.

Snowden leaked data on the U.S. government’s massive surveillance operations of its own citizens in 2013. He fled to Russia and has lived there ever since.

Jon Dougherty


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