ICIJ & Liberal Donors: Why Pandora Papers Look Like a Distraction From the West's Acute Problems
The Pandora Papers, a 2.94 terabyte data trove exposing the offshore secrets of wealthy elites, were leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), an independent Washington DC-based non-profit. Who could be behind the recent leak and what goals does the dump pursue?
The recent leak followed the 2016 Panama Papers exposure and the 2017 Paradise Papers, exceeding both in terms of the number of sources and beneficial owners identified in the documents. In general, the Pandora Papers connected offshore activity to more than 330 politicians and public officials, including 35 current and former national leaders from more than 90 countries and territories.
America's Politicians and Uber-Rich Absent From ICIJ List
Judging from the ICIJ charts, American politicians were notably absent from the list
. Similarly, America's wealthiest, like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett do not appear in the Pandora Papers. The Daily Mail suggested
that the aforementioned "uber-rich" "have less incentive to use offshore havens due to the low tax rates they pay". Indeed, in June 2021, ProPublica revealed
that American billionaires "pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth": the true tax rate of Buffet, Bezos and Musk amounts to 0.10%, 0.98%, and 3.27%, respectively.
"There are zero US politicians in the Pandora Papers," tweeted
Ben Norton of The Greyzone, an independent investigative journalism website. "What a coincidence! ICIJ had an enormous team of nearly 100 US-based journalists, but couldn't find any corrupt US politicians. I guess only foreign countries are corrupt."
Donors List a Key to Understanding ICIJ Bias
One should bear in mind that the ICIJ is by no means a politically neutral organisation, explains Alex Krainer, a political analyst and author. According to him, this makes the data dumps from ICIJ "something that needs to be treated with a grain of salt
To understand the entity's political bias, one should look at its list of donors, notes Adriel Kasonta, a London-based foreign affairs analyst and former chairman of the International Affairs Committee at Bow Group, a conservative think tank in the UK.
The list includes the Open Society Foundations (OSF), the Ford Foundation, the Bertha Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), and the Swedish Postcode Foundation, to name but a few. Meanwhile, George Soros' OSF and Ford Foundation have long been known for peddling a liberal agenda
, the London-based analyst points out.
For his part, Alex Krainer recollects that in 2017, the ICIJ was funded by French-American billionaire technology entrepreneur Pierre Morad Omidyar, who also supports The Intercept, a left-leaning media outlet.
"The journalist who founded The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, was recently forced out of the Intercept because their editorial policy dovetails almost precisely with the agenda of the Democratic Party in the United States," the political analyst remarks.
There is more to Omidyar's activities than meets the eye, echoes Kasonta. The British scholar cites the Greyzone's 20 February 2019 research
, which suggested that the French-American magnate was allegedly bankrolling a "massive network of regime-change organisations" which "work[ed] closely" with American government agencies USAID and the NED. According to the Greyzone, Omidyar "ponied up" millions of dollars to the ICIJ in 2017 in order to "address [the] trust deficit" by helping the group host the Panama and Paradise Papers.
Could One Call ICIJ's Leaks a Political 'Hit Job'?
One cannot rule out that the ICIJ could at least partially conduct its work in the interests of their donors, according to the observers.
To illustrate his point, Kasonta refers to Inderjeet Parmar's book "Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power," which alleges that the Ford Foundation and other American non-profits played a substantial role in advancing the US interests at the expense of third world countries. They have also participated in "shaping liberal tendencies in China" and "forming the new Chinese globalising elites".
According to the London-based analyst, it is hardly a coincidence that in 2019 and 2021, the ICIJ was involved in investigating the situation of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. At that time, ICIJ reports subjected Beijing to harsh criticism.
For his part, The Greyzone's Ben Norton recalled
in his Twitter posts that even the influential Brookings Institution in the US acknowledged several years ago that the Panama Papers released by the ICIJ in 2016 were a likely tool in the Western information warfare against Moscow: "Journalists are targeting [Vladimir Putin] far out of proportion to the evidence they present," Brookings admitted at the time. "As soon as one delves below the headlines, it's a non-story."
When it comes to the Pandora Papers, they appear to disproportionately concentrate on the global Southern politicians and business people, including Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and to a lesser extent on Europe and the US, according to Kasonta.
At the same time, similarly to the ICIJ's previous leaks, the latest dump has again brought focus to Russia, which prompted the Atlantic Council, an American think tank founded in the Cold War-era
, to accuse
Moscow of "strategically deploying corruption" to shatter global development. The Atlantic Council's article, eloquently titled "The Pandora Papers should reinvigorate Biden’s anti-corruption push",
calls upon the American president to go after both Moscow and Beijing
"Further confirming my point that the US gov't increasingly uses 'anti-corruption' efforts as a weapon of lawfare, here is NATO's de facto think tank the Atlantic Council admitting this openly, saying the Biden admin should use it to attack Russia and China," tweeted Ben Norton.
It's Up to Authorities to Decide Whether the Law Was Violated
Although the Pandora Papers spotlighted tax avoidance schemes and secret deals, it does not necessarily mean that all those activities were illegal, notes David Marchant, investigative journalist and founder of OffshoreAlert.
"It's important to remember that a lot of these structures often are legal," Marchant highlights. "There is a difference between something being legal and something being illegal. There's nothing illegal about having structures in any jurisdiction in the world, offshore or onshore, if you've structured your affairs legally. If they're illegal, if they were set up with the proceeds of corruption, for example, if politicians have these sorts of structures, it would certainly suggest corruption. You'd need further evidence to conclusively determine that, but that's another story."
Adriel Kasonta appears to share this stance: although offshore companies can facilitate tax evasions and money laundering, they don’t necessarily have to, according to him. "Therefore, the judicial authorities must decide if the law was violated, not attention-seeking journalists or the public," he underscores.
Assessing the ICIJ's leak, Kasonta concludes that the Pandora Papers "looks like yet another exercise in smoke and mirrors to cover the real economic problems in the US, the UK, and the Western world."