5 big leaks of tax-haven records before the Pandora Papers

News·Pandora Papers

The Pandora Papers, revealed last week, aren't the first big leak of records to expose secret bank accounts and wealth hidden offshore. Such files have found their way into the hands of journalists and governments repeatedly in recent years.

Countries around the world have used records from previous tax-haven data leaks to go after people who hid money in offshore havens and didn't pay tax on it.(Radio-Canada)

The Pandora Papers, a huge cache of data containing secret details of offshore bank accounts and shell companies, is thought to be the largest ever leak of tax-haven financial information. The files, stemming from 14 offshore-services firms, were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which shared them with its partner media outlets (including CBC/Radio-Canada) and began publishing stories on Oct. 3.

But the Pandora Papers isn't the first such leak. Confidential lists of offshore account-holders have found their way into the hands of journalists and governments a number of times over the last decade and a half. Here are five important previous leaks of records from various tax havens:

Paradise Papers – 2017

What: Records from several dozen jurisdictions held by the global offshore law firm Appleby, which is headquartered in Bermuda, as well as a Singapore-based offshore services provider. The leak also included the corporate registries from 19 countries and territories.

Number of people in data: More than 120,000.

Canadians: 3,000-plus.

Records leaked: 13.4 million.

Who leaked: The records were leaked to the same German journalists who received 2016's Panama Papers (see below). Their source has not been identified.

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Panamanian lawyers Juergen Mossack, left, and Ramon Fonseca founded the firm that bore their name until its undoing in the fallout from the Panama Papers. (ICIJ/Reuters)

Panama Papers – 2016

What: Records from 21 offshore jurisdictions held by a single Panama-based global law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

Entities affected: 214,000 offshore companies, trusts and other entities.

Canadians: 900-plus individuals, corporations and trusts.

Records leaked: 11.5 million.

Who leaked: Journalists from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung received the leak from an anonymous source who called themself John Doe. The German reporters shared the records with the ICIJ and its global media partners.

Taxes recouped: The Canada Revenue Agency says it's assessed $29 million in additional tax but won't say how much of that it has collected.

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Offshore Leaks – 2013

What: Records on 10 different offshore tax havens came mostly from two firms providing offshore services.

Number of people in data: More than 100,000 people's closely guarded investment information was in the leak.

Canadians: About 450.

Records leaked: 2.5 million.

Who leaked: Australian-based Irish journalist Gerard Ryle received 260 gigabytes of files from a source and brought them to the ICIJ. Ryle subsequently became the ICIJ's director.

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HSBC's branch in Jersey was hit by a document leak in 2012.(Chris Helgren/Reuters)

HSBC Jersey – 2012

What: Records on British account holders at global bank HSBC's branch in the Channel Island of Jersey were leaked to U.K. tax authorities

Number of people in data: At least 4,388 clients, with accounts totalling $1.1 billion.

No. of Canadians: Unknown.

Who leaked: A whistleblower who has not been publicly identified.

Tax recouped: 170 HSBC customers were assessed for the equivalent of $34 million by the U.K.'s tax agency.


Hervé Falciani gathered account data from HSBC's private bank in Geneva, where he worked. The records were subsequently obtained by global tax authorities and, eventually, journalists.(Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

HSBC Geneva – 2009

What: Records on clients of HSBC's private bank in Geneva

Number of people in data: At least 106,000 account-holders from more than 200 countries, with accounts totalling $255 billion.

Canadians: 1,859 Canadian individuals and companies, with accounts worth $4 billion in total.

Who leaked: Hervé Falciani, a French-Italian IT systems engineer who worked in computer security at HSBC's private bank, amassed the records in the course of his job. The French government got its hands on the account list in 2009 after seizing Falciani's computer. Portions of the leak were later obtained by tax authorities around the world and, eventually, shared with journalists. A Swiss court sentenced Falciani in absentia in 2015 to five years in prison for economic espionage, but has been living in Spain since then and has not been extradited.

Tax recouped: The CRA said in 2015 that 264 Canadians had come forward to make voluntary declarations of previously undeclared income, paying $28.4 million in tax. Revenu Québec said it recovered $34.4 million from 88 individuals who hadn't declared all their income.

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