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Leaked records open a “Pandora” box of financial secrets


Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront properties, yachts and other assets since the last quarter, according to a review of the nearly 12 million files obtained. From 14 firms located around the world.

The report, released on Sunday 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 previously hidden dealings of the elite and corrupt, and how they have collectively used offshore accounts to shield trillions of dollars of wealth.

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 former allies of both are included. Pakistani 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 Gigold, 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 the pay-packets of all the extra teachers and firefighters and public servants sit. Whenever a politician or business leader claims that ‘ There is 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 is 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 elaborate, porting through 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.

Some of the initial findings released on Sunday painted a sobering picture of the key people involved.

For example, the investigation found that advisers helped Jordan’s King Abdullah II establish at least three dozen shell companies from 1995 to 2017, helping the monarch buy 14 homes in the US worth more than $106 million. Help ensued and UK One was a $23 million California Ocean. -View 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.

There was no immediate comment from the Royal Palace of Jordan.

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.

Abdullah took power in 1999 after the death of his father, King Hussein.

UK lawyers for Abdullah said he is not required to pay taxes under his country’s law and has not misappropriated public funds, adding that because of the security and privacy he has through offshore companies are, according to the report. The lawyers also said that most of the companies and properties are not associated with Raja or no longer exist, though they declined to provide 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. Both bought the company from the family of Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani, Minister of Industry and Tourism of Bahrain. The investigation found that buying shares of the company instead of the building saved Blairs more than $400,000 in property taxes.

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”. A lawyer for al-Zaynis said he complied with UK laws.

The investigation found that in 2009, Czech Prime Minister Lady Babis pumped $22 million into shell companies to buy a chateau property in a mountainous village in Mougins, France, near Cannes. According to documents obtained by Investigace.cz, the Czech partner of the journalism group, the shell companies and chateaus were not disclosed in Babis’s required asset declarations.

The investigation found that a real estate group owned indirectly by Babis bought the Monaco company, which owned the chateau, in 2018.

“I was waiting to bring something to harm me and influence the Czech election just before the election,” Babis tweeted in his first reaction to the report.

Parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic are held on Friday and Saturday.

“I’ve never done anything illegal or wrong,” Babis said.

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Liedtke reported from San Ramon, Calif., and Matisse from Nashville, Tennessee.

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