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Pandora Papers document what was always suspected

To borrow a phrase from the movie “Casablanca,” we are shocked — SHOCKED! — to learn that rich, powerful and corrupt people hide trillions of dollars in secret bank accounts and holdings throughout the world.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released its Pandora Papers report over the weekend. It is a detailed analysis of documents leaked by companies showing how hundreds of world leaders, billionaires, celebrities and drug dealers — and even some religious leaders — hide their mountains of cash to avoid taxes and conceal their illegal activities. Third world politicians who have plundered their nations’ treasuries, taking money that could be used for hospitals, schools and infrastructure for personal gain. Drug lords hide their profits.

It’s no surprise. The concept of the rich and corrupt hiding assets in off-shore accounts or secret Swiss banks is almost a cliché in detective and spy thrillers. What the Pandora Papers investigation has done is put names and faces on the cash hoarders, and shed light on exactly how it is done.

What may be most shocking about the report is that South Dakota has joined Geneva, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands as a destination for hiding money. The investigation found 81 trust accounts set up in that state to hide capital.

What’s important about this report is the fact that it brings the practice out of the realm of fiction. It is real, and there should be regulations to prevent it. We hope this report will create pressure for reform.

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