The Pandora Papers, Zelensky and a trail of corruption all the way to New Hampshire


It was a storyline that in earlier times would have seemed impossible. For four years, the actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky entertained TV audiences in Ukraine with his starring role in the sitcom Servant of the People. Zelensky played a teacher who, outraged by his country’s chronic corruption, successfully runs for president. In 2019, Zelensky made fiction real when he contested Ukraine’s actual presidential election and won.

On the campaign trail, Zelensky pledged to clean up Ukraine’s oligarch-dominated ruling system. And he railed against politicians such as the wealthy incumbent Petro Poroshenko who hid their assets offshore.

The message worked. Zelenskiy won 73% of the vote.

The Pandora papers, leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with the Guardian as part of a global investigation however, suggest Zelensky is rather similar to his predecessors. The Pandora Papers are the most expansive leak of tax haven files in history, with nearly 12 million documents detailing the hidden assets and deals of over 330 public officials and politicians in more than 90 countries, including 35 country leaders.

The Pandora Papers comprise 11.9 million leaked documents with 2.9 terabytes of data that the ICIJ published beginning on 3 October 2021. They are based on documents leaked to the ICIJ and expose the offshore dealings of kings, presidents and prime ministers, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The huge leak of tax haven files by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed the secret offshore holdings of 336 politicians from more than 90 countries, Zelensky among them. According to its findings, two of the offshore companies belonging to Zelensky’s partners were used to buy three lavish properties in central London. The Pandora Papers showed that Zelensky and his inner circle established a web of offshore companies in 2012. They show that the president and the partners in his television company, Kvartal 95, had offshore firms when they were making regular content for TV stations owned by Ihor Kolomoisky, an oligarch accused of multibillion-dollar fraud.

Zelensky’s office has sought to justify his use of offshore companies as protecting him against pro-Russian forces. But the files obtained by the ICIJ claimed that Zelenskyy and his partners established a network of offshore companies back in 2012.

Trusts are one way money gets shielded from tax authorities and other regulators. When wealth is in a trust, it means the money is managed by a third party on behalf of a beneficiary.

In the U.S, a handful of states have trust laws that provide more advantages than other states, and New Hampshire joined that group in 2006. The Granite State is now home to $932.5 billion in assets managed through trusts.

In coverage about the Pandora Papers, New Hampshire has been mentioned as a place where it is easy to form trusts, but it is also seen as the premier place to secretly stash foreign assets, both in trusts and in relatively new and even less regulated family law foundations.