Soros-Funded Group Releases 'Pandora Papers' Allegedly Exposing 'Offshore Secrets' of World Leaders
16:35 GMT 03.10.2021 (Updated: 18:32 GMT 03.10.2021)
Journalists claimed that the leaked documents from 14 offshore companies unveiled "how the rule of law has been bent and broken around the world by a system of financial secrecy enabled by the U.S. and other wealthy nations".
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has released the Pandora Papers, the largest trove of leaked offshore data, accusing world leaders, businessmen, and celebrities of engaging in offshore activities.
The consortium, which receives general support funding from the Open Society Foundations,
founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, claims that the just-published documents represent "the most expansive exposé of financial secrecy yet".
According to the ICIJ, the investigation involved more than 650 journalists from 117 countries. It reportedly includes 11.9 million leaked files "covering every corner of the globe".
The files suggested that the US is "the leading tax haven" in the world. According to the report, the state of South Dakota alone is currently sheltering billions of dollars in wealth linked to people who have been accused of financial crimes.
"There's never been anything on this scale and it shows the reality of what offshore companies can offer to help people hide dodgy cash or avoid tax", Fergus Shiel from the ICIJ said.
The explosive findings of the international probe were published five years after the ICIJ's Panama Papers
, which cited documents allegedly belonging to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to assert that some national leaders and their confidants had used offshore banking to conceal their fortunes.
The investigators claim they have discovered secret dealings and hidden assets of around 35 current and former national leaders and over 300 high-ranking officials.
At the same time, the authenticity of the data has not been confirmed, with Mossack Fonseca refusing to do so and accusing the journalists of having committed a crime.
King of Jordan's Alleged Property
According to the investigation, King of Jordan Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein used companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore territories to buy property in the UK and US worth more than $100 million. The reports claimed that he bought mansions in Malibu, California, and properties in London and Ascot in the UK.
In total, the papers claim that the king has purchased 15 houses since he assumed power in 1999.
The monarch's lawyers stressed, however, that there is nothing illegal about the king owning the houses, noting that all the properties were bought with his personal wealth.
"HM [His Majesty] has not at any point misused public monies or made any use whatsoever of the proceeds of aid or assistance intended for public use … HM cares deeply for Jordan and its people and acts with integrity and in the best interests of his country and its citizens at all times", an official statement read.
Tony Blair's Troubles
Ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie are also mentioned in the dossier. The documents claimed that they acquired a townhouse in Marylebone, central London in July 2017 by purchasing the offshore company that owned it.
While the deal itself (which saved them around £312,000, or $422,000 in property taxes) was perfectly in accordance with UK law, the Labour politician was a well-known opponent of tax loopholes.
According to Cherie Blair, the sellers insisted that they buy the house through the offshore firm, while she brought it back under UK rules - which means the Blairs will have to pay capital gains tax if they sell the property in the future.
Azerbaijani President's Family
The leaked documents also alleged that the family of Ilham Aliyev has purchased at least 17 properties with a total value of $540 million via offshore deals. This includes an office block in London worth $44 million, which was bought by a family friend for the president's son Heydar Aliyev, who was 11 years old at the time.
In addition, one of their properties was reportedly sold to the Queen's crown estate for around $90 million.
The documents also mentioned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian-turned-politician who won the 2019 election posing as a fighter against corruption. The files suggested that during the presidential campaign, Zelensky transferred his 25% stake in an offshore company to a close friend, who later became the president’s top adviser.
Zelensky declined to address the bombshell report and it is unclear if he remains a beneficiary.
The list of politicians in the dossier goes on and includes Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis, President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, and many others.