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Pandora Papers

Who has been implicated in the Pandora Papers leak?

World leaders such as the King of Jordan and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have been implicated in a huge leak of offshore tax avoidance schemes.

The "Pandora Papers" investigation involving some 600 journalists from media including The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian is based on a leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.
Loic VenanceAFP

It is an open secret that the world's rich use offshore accounts to circumvent tax laws and line their own pockets. So the release of another leak, dubbed the Pandora Papers, detailing how the rich keep their money away from prying eyes should come as no surprise.

The leak is massive. 12 million documents being collated by more than 600 journalists shows just how widespread the problem is. Every continent is implicated and, over time, most if not all countries will have some link to the leak. This does not purport to be an extensive list as more than 330 politicians are involved. Both the US and UK have emerged as tax haven playgrounds for the wealthy of the world, with London coming out especially poorly from the findings.

World leaders implicated

King Abdullah II, Jordan

Since becoming king in 1999, Abdullah II has a $100 million property empire in the UK and US. He has countered saying it his is own money and there is nothing improper in Jordanian law preventing him from storing it abroad.

The Jordanian authorities announced a crackdown in June 2020 to target money being sent abroad by its citizens but the king is exempt from this. All the properties bought are not in the king's name, but by private equity firms based in Panama.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, United Kingdom

While what he did is not illegal under UK law, Blair used a tax loophole by buying an offshore company to then acquire an $8 million office in London. Normaly Britons would pay tax on purchasing property, but this loophole means Blair paid nothing. It should have cost him more than $400,000.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Czechia

The papers show that in 2009 the then tycoon passed €15m through three overseas companies: from the British Virgin Islands-based Blakey Finance Limited through a business called Boyne Holding LLC in Washington DC to its subsidiary SCP Bigaud in Monaco. This money was then used to buy villas and mansions in the south of France.

Babis is also dealing with upcoming elections as well as an ongoing fraud case which has brought the Prime Minister into arguments with the European Union. The video below shows Babis in a debate where the audience can be heard laughing at his explanation of why all these dealings are supposedly above-board.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya

Along with six members of his family, Kenyatta has links to 13 offshore companies. The Kenyatta family has long dominated Kenyan politics since the nation won independence from the United Kingdom.

Kenyatta had staked his legacy as president on shaking up corruption in the East African country. In 2018, Kenyatta told the BBC: “Every public servant’s assets must be declared publicly so that people can question and ask: what is legitimate?” Him and his close relatives have more than $30 million stored abroad.

President Sebastián Piñera, Chile

Piñera is accused of selling a mine on what was supposed to be protected land to his childhood friend Carlos Alberto Délano. In Chile the deed cost just $12 million, but another one from the British Virgin Islands shows the true value of $138 million.

South America in general has many links to the leaks, with other people such as Brazil's economic minister and president of the central bank not declaring their offshore activities. Paulo Guedes, the economy minister, recently pushed through a law making it easier for Brazilians to put money in offshore accounts.

El Pais has a long read dedicated to exposing South America's elite and their dodgy deals at the expense of the people they should be representing.

President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan

Aliyev stands as the person who has benefited the most from the schemes. He has bought nearly $550 million of property in the UK. The property purchases include one building acquired for $46m in 2009 by an offshore company beneficially owned by President Aliyev’s son, Heydar, who was then only 11 years old.

Azerbaijan has long been criticized for its miserable human rights record, which has seen the oil-rich nation partake in 'sports-washing' in events such as the European football championship and Formula 1 to try and improve its global image.

Outcome unlikely to affect big players

There was some fallout from the Panama papers leak in 2016. According to a University of Oxford study in 2019, nearly a fifth of countries tracked saw at least one instance of concrete reform, such as a new law or policy designed to address problems exposed in the Panama papers.

However, the study found less than 1 in 10 officials implicated lost their power. Many are exploiting laws that are already in place in their respective countries, making further investigation difficult. Many of the people implicated in those findings have faced little to no consequences for their actions. In authoritarian nations, there is no chance of repercussions.

At least $11.3tn in wealth is held offshore, according to a 2020 study by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “This is money that is being lost to treasuries around the world and money that could be used to recover from Covid,” Gerard Ryle, the director of the ICIJ, the group that published the leak, said.

We’re losing out because some people are gaining. It’s as simple as that. It’s a very simple transaction that’s going on here.”


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