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Falls Park in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Over a dozen U.S. states have become "leaders" in "peddling financial secrecy," according to a global investigation of leaked documents, known as the "Pandora Papers," published this weekend.

Why it matters: "South Dakota, Nevada and other states have adopted financial secrecy laws that rival those of offshore jurisdictions," per the papers, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington, D.C., and shared with major news outlets.

  • The investigation, involving more than 600 journalists examining over 11.9 million financial records, found data showing "leaders of foreign governments, their relatives and companies moving their private fortunes into U.S.-based trusts," per the Washington Post, an investigation media partner.
  • President Biden has pledged that his administration will lead efforts to bring transparency to the U.S. and global financial systems.
  • The files suggest that the U.S. has emerged as "a leading tax haven," with South Dakota in particular allegedly "sheltering billions of dollars in wealth linked to individuals previously accused of serious financial crimes," notes the Guardian, another partner, along with the BBC and Le Monde.

Of note: The records provide "substantial new evidence" that South Dakota "now rivals notoriously opaque jurisdictions in Europe and the Caribbean in financial secrecy," per WashPost.

  • "Year after year in South Dakota, state lawmakers have approved legislation drafted by trust industry insiders, providing more and more protections and other benefits for trust customers in the U.S. and abroad," according to the ICIJ.
  • "Customer assets in South Dakota trusts have more than quadrupled over the past decade to $360 billion," the ICIJ added.

Zoom in: "Tens of millions of dollars from outside the United States are now sheltered by trust companies in Sioux Falls, some of it tied to people and companies accused of human rights abuses and other wrongdoing," WashPost reports.

  • The outlet notes records show that in 2019, "family members of the former vice president of the Dominican Republic, who once led one of the largest sugar producers in the country, finalized several trusts in South Dakota."
  • "The trusts held personal wealth and shares of the company, which has stood accused of human rights and labor abuses, including illegally bulldozing houses of impoverished families to expand plantations," WashPost adds.
  • Representatives for South Dakota and Nevada legislators and the Biden administration did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper

Oct 7, 2021 - Podcasts

New plans to help unhoused people in the nation’s capital

Washington D.C. is piloting a first-of-its-kind program that offers one-year leases to unhoused residents in the city. It could offer a solution for the more than half a million people experiencing homelessness in this community.

  • Plus, how South Dakota became a tax haven.
  • And, a game-changing new malaria vaccine.

Guests: Axios' Chelsea Cirruzzo, Felix Salmon and Bryan Walsh.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, David Toledo, Michael Hanf, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.