A new report sheds light on how world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires and others have used offshore accounts to collectively save trillions of dollars in wealth over the past quarter-century.
The report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists included 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries. It is being dubbed the “Pandora Papers” because the findings shed light on the previously hidden behavior of the elite and the corrupt.
Hundreds of politicians, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers are hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront properties, yachts and other assets, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world.
The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include King Abdullah II of Jordan, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Lady Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso. And both include Pakistani allies. Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The billionaires named in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicac and former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds Robert T. Brockman included.
According to the report, many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and hide assets for other shady reasons.
“The new data leak should be a wake-up call,” said Sven Giegold, Green Party MP in the European Parliament. “Global tax evasion fuels global inequality. We now need to expand and intensify countermeasures.”
Oxfam International, a British consortium of charities, commended the Pandora Papers for highlighting brazen examples of greed that deprive countries of tax revenues that can be used to fund programs and projects for the greater good. could.
Oxfam said in a statement, “This is where our missing hospitals are. This is where we find all the extra teachers and pay-packs of firefighters and public servants. Whenever a politician or business leader claims that ‘No money.’ For more foreign aid, for a fair post-COVID recovery, for more and better jobs, to pay for climate damage and innovation, they know where to look .
The Pandora Papers are a follow-up to a similar project released in 2016, called the “Panama Papers” compiled by the same journalist group.
The latest blast is even more detailed, relying on nearly 3 terabytes of data – the equivalent of about 750,000 photos on a smartphone – leaked from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions around the world. The records date back to the 1970s, but most of the files date from 1996 to 2020.
In contrast, the Panama Papers sifted through 2.6 terabytes of data leaked by a now-defunct law firm based in the country called Mossack Fonseca that inspired that project’s nickname.
The latest investigation discovered accounts registered in familiar offshore shelters, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong and Belize. But some secret accounts were also scattered among trusts established in the US, including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.
The investigation found that the advisers helped Jordan’s King Abdullah set up at least three dozen shell companies from 1995 to 2017, helping the monarch buy 14 homes worth more than $106 million in the US and the UK. One was a $23 million California ocean-see property purchased in 2017 through a British Virgin Islands company. The consultants were identified as an English accountant in Switzerland and lawyers in the British Virgin Islands.
Abdullah denied any impropriety in a commentary by the Royal Palace on Monday, citing security needs to keep transactions quiet, saying no public funds were used.
The details deal a shameful blow to Abdullah, whose government was embroiled in scandal this year when his half-brother, former Crown Prince Hamza, accused the “ruling system” of corruption and incompetence. King claimed he was the victim of a “malicious conspiracy”, put his half-brother under house arrest and prosecuted two former close associates.
Britain’s lawyers for Abdullah said he was not required to pay taxes under his country’s law and had not misused public funds. The lawyers also said that most of the companies and properties are not associated with Raja or no longer exist, though he declined to give details.
Blair, Britain’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007, became the owner of the $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017 by purchasing a British Virgin Islands company that owned the property, and the building now hosts the law firm of his wife, Cheri Blair. . the inspection. The two bought the company from the family of Zayed bin Rashid al-Jayani, the Minister of Industry and Tourism of Bahrain. The investigation found that buying shares of the company instead of the London building saved Blairs more than $400,000 in property tax.
The investigation found that both Blair and al-Zaynis said they were not initially aware that the other party was involved in the deal. Cheri Blair said her husband was not involved in the purchase, which she said was “to bring the company and the building back into the UK tax and regulatory regime”. She also stated that she did not want to own a British Virgin Islands company and that “the seller wanted to sell the company for his own purposes only,” which has now closed.
A lawyer for al-Zaynis said he complied with UK laws.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Khan is not accused of any wrongdoing. But members of his inner circle, including Finance Minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin, are accused of hiding assets worth millions of dollars in secret companies or trusts, according to journalists’ findings.
In a tweet, Khan vowed to recover “wrongful gains” and said his government would look into all citizens mentioned in the documents and take action if necessary.
The Union of Journalists revealed that Konstantin Ernst, Putin’s image-maker and chief executive officer of Russia’s leading TV station, had been forced to buy and sell Soviet-era cinemas and surrounding property in Moscow after directing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. allowed to develop. Ernst told the organization that the deal was not secret and denied the suggestion that he had been given special treatment.
The investigation found that in 2009, the Czech prime minister, Babis, invested $22 million in shell companies to buy a chateau property in a mountainous village in Mougins, France, near Cannes. Shell companies and chateaus were not disclosed in Babis’ required asset declarations, according to documents obtained by Investigace.cz, the Czech partner of the journalism group.
The investigation found that a real estate group owned indirectly by Babis had bought the Monaco company, which owned the chateau, in 2018.
Babis has denied any wrongdoing.
“I don’t have any offshore, I don’t have any assets in France, and I got back the money I borrowed,” he told Czech public television on Monday. “Let the police investigate this.”
Babis said the reports were meant to harm him ahead of the Czech Republic parliamentary election due on Friday and Saturday.
“These are shoddy, false allegations which are meant to influence elections. That’s all,” he said.
The organized crime unit of the Czech police said it would launch an investigation into the report.
Liedtke reported from San Ramon, Calif., and Matisse from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press writers Karel Janicek in the Czech Republic, Frank Jordan in Berlin, Joseph Federman in Jerusalem, John Rice in Mexico City, Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan and Felicia Fonseca in Phoenix contributed to this report.