The secret offshore assets of more than 300 world leaders, politicians and influential figures in the business world have been exposed in one of the biggest leaks of financial data ever.
The Pandora Papers investigation, which involved a consortium of nearly 600 journalists from various global media outlets, is based on the leaking of approximately 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.
About 35 world leaders and more than 100 billionaires are included in the leaked documents. Those named in the files include British Prime Minister Tony Blair, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Czech Prime Minister Lady Babis.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained the documents, which were later passed on to media outlets including the BBC. panorama program and Guardian. Leaked documents reveal how global elites use offshore tax havens to store and move their money.
Documents link Mr Putin to secret assets in Monaco. A woman who was reported to be in a relationship with a Russian leader became the owner of a luxury fourth-floor apartment in Monte Carlo in 2003, a few weeks after giving birth.
The £3.1m property was purchased by Brockville Development Ltd, a firm based in the British Virgin Islands, which was eventually traced to Svetlana Krivonogikh, who was reportedly Mr Putin’s lover. The Kremlin did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Czech Prime Minister Lady Babis was revealed to have injected £12 million into several shell companies to buy a large estate in a mountainous village in Mougins, France, known as Chateau Bigaud.
According to the ICIJ, Mr Babis did not disclose shell companies and chateaus in the asset declaration, which he is obliged to file as a public official. On Twitter, Babis said he had done nothing “illegal or wrong” and suggested the leak was an attempt to “influence the Czech election”, which takes place next week.
Leaked documents also claim that the Jordanian king secretly spent more than £70m on a property empire in Britain and the US. Abdullah II bin al-Hussein is accused of using a network of firms secretly owned in the BVI to buy 15 homes, including properties in California and London, since coming to power in 1999.
King Abdullah’s lawyers denied any wrongdoing and told the BBC he had used his personal wealth to buy the property.
Elsewhere, leaked documents show that Tony and Cheri Blair saved around £312,000 on the purchase of a London property by acquiring an offshore company called Romanstone International Ltd, which was located in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) .
Blairs bought a £6.45m townhouse on Harcourt Street in Marylebone and founded a British company called Harcourt Ventures to acquire shares in Romanstone. The manner of the deal allowed Blair to avoid paying stamp duty, as the tax is not paid when the holding company of the property is directly acquired instead of the building.
In a statement, the couple insisted that they had purchased the property “in the usual manner through reputable property agents” and had “nothing to do with the parent company nor those behind it”. He added that he “never used offshore schemes to hide transactions or evade tax”.
The names of cabinet ministers in Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan are also in the documents. The files reveal that a group of government officials secretly owned several companies and trusts with millions of dollars in hidden assets.
There is no suggestion in the documents that the mines are owners of offshore companies.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /