World leaders, politicians and pop stars are among the thousands of individuals who have been exposed to harboring vast fortunes through a network of anonymous companies.
The documents, known as the “Pandora Papers” and published Sunday, are part of a leak of nearly 12 million law firm archives that exposed a world of financial secrets held overseas. The document is being analyzed by a team of more than 600 journalists.
Among the most shocking revelations in these “Pandora Papers” are the secret wealth of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and his family. The leak shows the Aliyevs and their partners have traded 544 million dollars in British property over the past 15 years.
“Since this family came to power in 1993, they have seized control of many of the country’s vital industries and natural resources and used them to amass wealth,” said Rachel Davies Teka, head of advocacy at the UK’s anti-corruption activist organization Transparency International. “And this was done at the expense of the people of that country. There are people who are suffering because their leader is taking away resources that should be shared among the citizens of the country,” he continued.
Kingdom property of the King of Jordan
The leaked documents show Jordan’s King Abdullah II owns a secret property empire in the US and UK worth more than $100 million, using anonymous overseas companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. In a statement, the kingdom stated that overseas properties were not disclosed for security and privacy reasons, adding that the property was purchased using the king’s personal wealth.
In a meeting with tribal elders Monday (4/10), Abdullah rejected accusations that he was trying to hide his wealth. “Unfortunately, there was a campaign against Jordan; there are still those who wish to sow discord and build doubt among us. I have nothing to hide from anyone, but we are stronger than this, and this is not the first time Jordan has been targeted,” he said.
Pakistan’s cabinet ministers and their families, including close allies of Prime Minister Imran Khan, have been revealed to own companies outside the country that are worth millions of dollars. Khan says they will be investigated.
Czech PM Andrej Babis, the country’s second-richest man, used an anonymous company abroad to finance the purchase of a $18 million property in France. Babis will compete in elections this week. In a televised debate with rival candidates, he defended his actions.
“The money was sent out of a Czech bank. The money is taxed. It was my money and it was returned to the Czech Republic,” he told television viewers in Prague on Sunday.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and six members of his family are linked to more than a dozen companies overseas, one with assets worth at least $30 million. There is no evidence that the Kenyatta family stole state assets.
In a statement issued by the president’s office, Kenyatta welcomed the publication of the “Pandora Papers”.
“These reports will help increase the transparency and financial disclosure we need in Kenya and around the world. The movement of illicit funds, proceeds of crime and corruption thrives in an environment of secrecy and darkness. The ‘Pandora Papers’ and subsequent audits will open the veil of secrecy and darkness for those who cannot explain their assets or wealth,” the statement said.
In Indonesia, the weekly magazine Tempo reports that the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan has become CEO of Petrocapital, an oil and gas company founded in Panama.
Jodi Mahardi, Luhut’s spokesman, told Mouab that during Luhut’s stay at Petrocapital, the company “did not manage to get any proper investment projects” and “there was no cooperation with state oil and gas companies.”
Music stars, including Shakira and Elton John, as well as legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, have also been revealed to have founded companies overseas. There is no indication of violations related to their financial activities.
Most of the activities disclosed in the Pandora Papers, including the use of companies overseas, are legal. Governments of relevant countries should do more to reveal hidden wealth, said Davies Teka. [uh/ab]