Starting from the King, the President to the Prime Minister Made Fascinated

A new report called the “Pandora Papers” highlights how over the past quarter century world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires and others have used offshore accounts to protect their assets that are collectively worth trillions of dollars.

The report, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, featured promises of tax reform, resignation demands, and research, as well as explanations and objections from those targeted in the report.

The report, called the “Pandora Papers”, was published on Sunday (3/10) evening and involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.

Hundreds of politicians, celebrities, religious leaders and even drug dealers have hidden their investments in luxury homes, exclusive beachfront properties, yachts and other assets; according to a study of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 companies worldwide. Most of these activities do not appear to be illegal.

Over 330 Politicians & Former Politicians Named

More than 330 current and former politicians are named in the report. Among them were Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and former British prime minister Tony Blair.

The billionaires named in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Illicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.

According to the report, many of the accounts created were designed to evade taxes and hide the assets of their owners for various reasons.

However, some of the names targeted in the report, on Monday (4/10) denied the report.

“This information (in the Pandora Papers) should serve as a warning,” said Sven Giegold, a German politician who is also a member of the Green Party in the European parliament. “Global tax evasion fuels inequality. We need to expand and sharpen preventive measures (against tax evasion.red),” he stressed.

Praise pours in from all sides

Oxfam International, an international charitable organization based in the UK, credits the “Pandora Papers” for revealing examples of greed robbing countries of tax revenue that could be used to finance programs and projects for the greater good.

“This is where our hospital is missing,” Oxfam said in a statement. “This is where the salary packages of all the additional teachers, firefighters and civil servants we need are in.”

European Commission Prepares Bill To Increase Tax Transparency

In response to the revelations, the European Commission, the executive body of the 27-nation European Union, said it was preparing new legislative proposals to increase tax transparency and strengthen the fight against tax evasion.

“Pandora Papers” is a follow-up to a similar project released in 2016 called “Panama Papers” which was compiled by the same group of journalists.

These “Pandora Papers” are even more expansive as they rely on leaked data from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions. The records are from the 1970s, but most are from 1996-2020.

The investigation was carried out by digging up registered accounts in locations known to be havens for tax evaders, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong and Belize, among others. But some classified accounts are also scattered in trusts established in America, including 81 trusts in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.

The King of Jordan Denies Taking Illegal Actions

The investigation found that the advisers who assisted Jordan’s King Abdullah formed at least three dozen “shell companies” – a type of intermediary company that is difficult to track and often perform financial maneuvers – from 1995-2017 to help the king buy 14 houses worth more of 106 million dollars in America and England.

Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks during a meeting with tribal leaders in Al-Qasta, Amman, on October 4, 2021. He rejects allegations of abuse in the purchase of his property as stated in the Pandora Papers report.  (Photo: AP)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II speaks during a meeting with tribal leaders in Al-Qasta, Amman, on October 4, 2021. He rejects allegations of abuse in the purchase of his property as stated in the Pandora Papers report. (Photo: AP)

One of them is a property off the coast of California worth 23 million dollars, which was purchased in 2017 through a company in the British Virgin Islands. The adviser identified in the report is said to be a British accountant based in Switzerland and several lawyers in the British Virgin Islands.

In a statement by the Jordanian Presidential Palace on Monday, King Abdullah denied any irregularities in the purchase of the property, citing the need for security and maintaining the confidentiality of the transaction, and stressed that no public funds were used.

Abdullah’s lawyer in Britain said under the law in his country he was not required to pay taxes and had not misused public funds. The lawyer also said most of the companies and properties had nothing to do with the king, or no longer existed. But they declined to give further details.

Tony & Cherie Blair Don’t Pay Property Tax?

Tony Blair, who served as Britain’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007, became the owner of the $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017 by buying a company in the British Virgin Islands that had control of the property. According to a “Pandora Papers” investigation, the property now houses his wife, Cherie Blair’s law firm.

Former British Prime Minister on an occasion in London in December 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

Former British Prime Minister on an occasion in London in December 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

Tony and Cherie Blair bought the company from the family of Bahrain’s Minister of Industry and Tourism Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani.

The Pandora Papers investigation found that buying the company’s shares in the Virgin Islands – and not in London – gave Tony and Cherie Blair the opportunity to avoid paying $400,000 in property taxes.

The Pandora Papers said that initially Tony and Cherie Blair, as well as Al Zayani’s family, were not aware of any other parties involved in the deal. Cherie Blair said her husband was not involved in the purchase of the property which she said was meant to bring “the company and the building back into the UK tax and regulatory regime.”

He also said he did not want to own a company in the British Virgin Islands and that the seller of the property only wanted to “sell the company” for personal gain. The company has now closed.

A lawyer for the Al Zayani family said they complied with British law in carrying out the sale and purchase process.

The report also analyzes transactions involving the British monarchy. Britain’s Crown Estate, the property business owned by Queen Elizabeth II, said it would review the purchase of a London building worth $91 million from a company that was reportedly a cover for the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

A view of the building located at 56-60 Conduit Street in the Mayfair District, London.  in this photo taken on October 4, 2021. The property is allegedly owned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as stated in the Pandora Papers report.  (Photo: AP)

A view of the building located at 56-60 Conduit Street in the Mayfair District, London. in this photo taken on October 4, 2021. The property is allegedly owned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as stated in the Pandora Papers report. (Photo: AP)

The Guardian said the deal raised questions about whether the transaction should be investigated for money laundering. Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, has been accused of corruption and human rights abuses.

The Crown Estates said it had carried out an inspection prior to making the purchase, but given the current concerns it would return to “check it out.”

PM Imran Khan Orders Research

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is not accused of wrongdoing, but members of his inner circle – including Finance Minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin – are accused of hiding millions of dollars in wealth in secret companies or trusts.

In a tease, Khan vowed to return “profits obtained illegally,” and said his government would check all citizens mentioned in the document. He added, if necessary he is ready to take action.

Russian Executive Mentioned

The consortium of journalists also revealed that Putin’s sketcher and chief executive of Russia’s leading TV station, Konstantin Ernst, received a discount on buying and developing a Soviet-era cinema and property around it, in the Moscow region, after he directed events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Moscow. Sochi.

Ernst told the organization that the deal was not a secret, and rejected claims he was getting special treatment.

In 2009, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis put $22 million into a shell company to buy property in a hilltop village in Mougins, near Cannes, in France.

According to documents obtained by a partner of the Czech journalist group, Investigace.cz, the shell and property companies were not named in the Babis asset declaration, which is a requirement in the Czech Republic.

Illustration of the Pandora Papers report logo.  (Photo: AFP)

Illustration of the Pandora Papers report logo. (Photo: AFP)

A real estate group indirectly owned by Babis bought a Monaco company that has a palace in it in 2018.

Babis has denied wrongdoing. He said the report aimed to harm him ahead of the Czech Republic’s parliamentary elections to be held on Friday (8/10) and Saturday (9/10).

But the Organized Crime Eradication Unit in the Czech police said it would launch an investigation.

Montenegro president asked to step down

Meanwhile, Montenegrin President Milo Djukovic was called to resign after he was listed as one of the world’s leaders who used secret accounts to hide their property.

The Office of the Presidency of Montenegro has denied reports Montenegrin Network for the Affirmation of the Non-Governmental Sector who accused him and his son of setting up a trust to hide their wealth behind a complex network of companies. (em / jm)

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