Pandora Papers: Offshore trusts and shell companies
The Identification of Beneficial Owners at the Heart of ICIJ’s Work
ICIJ’s investigation relies on the review of an “unprecedented amount of information on […] beneficial owners of entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, Belize, Panama, South Dakota and other secrecy jurisdictions.” That way, ICIJ was able to detect shell companies which are legal structures with no economic substance, their sole purpose being to avoid taxes or other laws. The journalists at ICIJ were able to demonstrate how such structures were used to avoid taxes despite progress in international tax cooperation during the recent years.
According to ICIJ, the Pandora papers gathered information on more than 27 000 companies and 29 000 ultimate beneficial owners from 11 of the providers, or more than twice the number of beneficial owners identified in the Panama papers.
Ondorse and ICIJ Have Similar Methods
At Ondorse, just like ICIJ did with other documents, we spend a lot of time exploring and analyzing the European UBO registers. These registers are structured differently from one member state to another and each register requires a different process. UBO information also comes in unstructured format, which makes automation more challenging. We use AI/ML technologies alongside humans to process unstructured content.
This way, we are able to create links between the UBO registers and the owned companies in Europe. We are also building graphic tools to generate visualizations and make them searchable. This allows our users to explore connections between people and companies across Europe in order to better detect complex legal structures used for financial crime purposes.