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From Tony Blair to the King of Jordan. Pandora Papers Uncover Secret Fortunes of World Leaders

You Pandora Papers revealed, this Sunday, the secret business of 35 current or former prime ministers or heads of state.

The secret deals of some of the richest, most influential and most powerful people in the world were revealed this Sunday, one of the biggest revelations in history regarding offshore and the largest-ever investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), conducted by 600 journalists in 117 countries and territories.

The revealed documents are part of the Pandora Papers, a set of more than 11.9 million secret files. They come from 14 law firms and service companies specializing in offshore.

The “people man” and his castle on the French Riviera

Information obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reveals that Andrew Babis, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, transferred 19 million euros through companies offshore to buy a luxury property on the French Riviera in 2009, keeping the property a secret.

The Expresso indicates that, until recently, the palace appeared in public registers as owned by a shell company, incorporated in Monaco, a subsidiary of one of the ruler’s Czech companies.

There is no mention in the declaration of assets that Andrej Babis had to present when he entered politics. Experts interviewed by the ICIJ say the scheme offshore used by the Czech Prime Minister may have reduced the amount of taxes, by hiding property from the public.

Andrej Babis, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

The investigation reveals another shell company that has been used to buy more seven properties in the vicinity of the first, and in 2018, everything was transferred to the company in Monaco controlled by the prime minister.

The Czech politician is known for opposing the elites and has announced himself as a business manager capable of mending the economy, increasing government transparency and tax revenue. The confidential documents now revealed show that Babis, the “man of the people”, has been involved in financial schemes that he himself accuses other members of the elites of doing.

The purchase of Chateau Bigaud (the name of the 9.4-hectare complex) contrasts with the cultivated image of Babis as the prime minister who led a crackdown on tax evasion and is proof that the system offshore it can help even the most prominent public officials to circumvent public scrutiny.

Abdullah II. The luxury empire in a country mired in crisis

O king of jordan figure another example. Documents obtained by the ICIJ show that the king Abdullah II secretly owns 14 luxury homes in the UK and US, acquired between 2003 and 2017 through shell companies registered in tax havens, worth more than US$106 million (€91 million).

Many of these purchases were made shortly after the Arab Spring, when thousands of Jordanians took to the streets to protest corruption and unemployment. The country’s citizens face harsh austerity measures imposed to combat the economic crisis.

According to the investigation, the monarch’s advisers strove to hide their real estate holdings: accountants and lawyers in Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands created shell companies in Abdullah’s name and invented plans to protect their name from public records and confidential government records.

Abdullah II, King of Jordan

Expresso states that, in two documents, administrators of the Alcogal law firm declared that no one connected to the king’s companies was involved in politics, and that the monarch has the power to appoint governments, dissolve parliament and pass legislation.

On behalf of the king, the lawyers denied any illegality in owning real estate through companies offshore and they said that under Jordanian law, the king is not required to pay taxes.

It should be noted that Jordan is one of the poorest countries in that region, with almost no oil of its own and very little water. The kingdom depends on foreign aid.

“If the Jordanian monarch were to show his wealth more publicly, he would not only antagonize his people, he would infuriate the Western donors who gave him money,” said Anelle Sheline, an expert on religious and political authority in the Middle East, in an interview with ICIJ .

Last year, the United States gave Jordan more than US$1,500 million (€1,300 million) in military aid and financing, and the European Union (EU) more than US$218 million (€188 million) for alleviate the effects of the covid-19 pandemic.

Tony Blair and the €7.6 million property

Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, and Cherie Blair, his wife, are also mentioned in the Pandora Papers, for the purchase of a building in London for a value of 6.5 million pounds (7.6 million euros).

According to Expresso, the wife of the former government official explained that the seller from whom they bought the building was only available to sell the company offshore owner of the property, not the property itself.

As there was no deed, the Blairs did not pay the UK equivalent of IMT and stamp duty, which meant a savings of 345,000 euros in taxes.

Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister

The couple also admitted that they did not know the real owner of the building was a Bahrain minister: Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani, Minister of Industry and Tourism. Cherie assured that her husband was not involved in the transaction and that, after the purchase, the British Virgin Islands company that owned the property was closed.

Kenyatta: anti-corruption campaign and secret fortune

Last fall, in his annual State of the Nation address, Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged that many Kenyans live in poverty, in a national landscape where many officials steal Kenya’s public resources.

The President asked the deputies to join him in the fight against corruption, but the documents obtained under the Pandora Papers they now reveal that the ruler has secretly amassed a personal fortune.

According to the ICIJ, Kenyatta hides its wealth from public scrutiny, through foundations and companies in tax havens, including Panama, with assets worth nearly 30 million euros.

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya

Kenya’s head of state and his family owned seven such entities, two anonymously registered in Panama and five in the British Virgin Islands. The richness offshore represents part of a family fortune estimated at 500 million dollars (431 million euros). In this country, the average annual income is less than 6,900 euros.

The companies offshore they contrast with Kenyatta’s image as an advocate of transparency.

Putin escapes but the inner circle does not

the russian president Vladimir Putin is not mentioned in this investigation, but several figures who are close to him did not miss the call.

It is the case of Svetlana Krivonogikh, a Russian of humble origins, who bought a luxury apartment in Monaco for 3.6 million euros. The purchase was made in 2003 and there is nothing to indicate that, at the time, the young woman had the means to acquire the property.

The investigation revealed that the apartment was acquired by Brockville Development Ltd, a offshore headquartered in the British Virgin Islands. In the year he bought the property, Krivonogikh had a daughter and the investigation site Proekt it says the child’s father could be Putin.

The child was born at a time when, according to the Russian press, he had a secret relationship with the country’s President for many years. It remains, however, to explain the origin of the money.

The President of Russia Vladimir Putin

Konstantin Ernst, businessman and television producer, also appears in the documents. The one who is singled out as one of the main responsible for the creation of Putin’s image abroad has become the “silent partner” by the President after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The documents show, for example, that Ernst has taken a stake in a lucrative real estate business. The project involved converting Soviet-era cinema complexes, which are still owned by the state, into apartment developments and private shops. Business exceeded the 140 million dollars.

In a statement, Ernst confirmed his participation in the real estate project, but denied that it was “compensation for the 2014 Olympic Games”.

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