One of the most significant financial document leaks exposed secret riches and transactions of politicians, world leaders and billionaires.
The files of offshore corporations, known as the Pandora Papers, contain the records of more than 350 public officials and 35 former leaders.
They reveal the King of Jordan secretly amassed £70m of UK and US property.
They also show how ex-UK PM Tony Blair and his wife saved £312,000 in stamp duty when they bought a London office.
A couple purchased an offshore business that was the owner of the property.
The leak also links Russian President Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco, and shows the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis – facing an election later this week – failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for £12m in the south of France.
The latest in a long line of leaks that has occurred over the last seven years. This includes the FinCen Files.
The largest organisation for the examination of files is by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists More than 650 journalists participated.
BBC Panorama, together with Guardian, and other media partners, had access to more than 12 million documents from 14 international financial service companies, including those in Panama, Belize and Cyprus.
Some individuals are being accused of corruption, money laundering, and tax avoidance.
The biggest surprise is the fact that prominent, wealthy individuals have set up law firms to purchase property in the UK.
Some of the 95,000 companies behind these purchases are revealed in the documents.
The UK government failed to create a list of off-shore property owners despite multiple promises. This was in response to concerns that some property buyers might be concealing money-laundering activities.
Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani president, and his family have been accused in a series of accusations for looting their country.
The investigation found the Aliyevs and their close associates have secretly been involved in property deals in the UK worth more than £400m.
The revelations could prove embarrassing for the UK government, as the Aliyevs appear to have made a £31m profit after selling one of their London properties to the Crown Estate – the Queen’s property empire that is managed by The Treasury and raises cash for the nation.
Most transactions described in these documents are not illegal.
Fergus Shiel from the ICIJ said that there’s nothing like it and that this shows what offshore companies have to offer people in order to hide cash or dodge tax.
He said, “They use those offshore accounts and those offshore trusts to purchase hundreds of million dollars worth of property in foreign countries, as well as to enrich themselves, at the cost of their citizens.”
According to the ICIJ, the investigation “opens a box about a lot many things”, hence the Pandora Papers.
These leaked financial documents demonstrate how the The King of Jordan secretly acquired a vast property empire in the UK and US worth more than £70m (over $100m).
They identified an offshore network of companies in British Virgin Islands, as well as other tax havens that Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein used in buying 15 homes in his reign.
They include £50m on three adjacent ocean view properties in Malibu, California, and properties in London and Ascot in the UK.
As King Abdullah is accused of preside over an authoritarian regime with protests occurring in the recent years, amid tax increases and austerity measures, his property assets have been accumulated.
According to King Abdullah’s lawyers, all of the property was purchased with his personal wealth. He also funds projects in Jordan for Jordanian citizens.
It was a common practice, they said, for people with high-profile careers to acquire properties from offshore companies.
Other revelations from the Pandora Papers include:
- Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, and six of his relativesSecretly, they owned an offshore network of companies. The 11 companies they were linked to had assets worth $30 million.
- In secret, members of Imran Khan’s circle including cabinet ministers, their families and other officials, own trusts and companies that hold millions of dollars.
- President Nicos Anastasiades’ law firm in Cyprus may have used fake owners to conceal the true owner of many offshore companies. This was a former Russian politician, who has been charged with embezzlement. But, this is not the case.
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky resigned from his shares in a private offshore company before he was elected to the presidency.
- Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador, an ex-banker, has replaced the Panamanian foundation which made monthly payments for his family with a trust that is based in South Dakota.
The Pandora Papers do not suggest that Tony or Cherie Blair tried to hide their wealth.
But documents show why stamp duty was not payable when the couple bought a £6.45m property.
Former Labour Prime Minister and Cherie, his barrister-wife The building was acquired in Marylebone (central London).It was purchased by an offshore company in July 2017.
This is legal and does not require stamp duty. However, Mr Blair was critical of loopholes in tax laws.
Marylebone’s townhouse is home to the legal consulting firm of Mrs Blair, who advises countries around the globe, and her foundation for women.
Blair claimed that the sellers insisted on buying the home through an offshore company.
According to her, they brought back the property under UK laws and they will have to pay capital gains taxes if they decide to sell it.
Although the ultimate property owners were identified as a Bahraini family with strong political connections, both sides claim they didn’t know at first who they were dealing.
Additional documents reveal how Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev clan secretly purchased UK property through offshore companies.
The files show how the family – long accused of corruption in the European nation – bought 17 properties, including a £33m office block in London for the president’s 11-year-old son Heydar Aliyev.
A front company, owned by President Ilham Aliyev’s family in 2009 purchased Mayfair.
The transfer was made to Hedyar one month later.
The research also reveals how another office block owned by the family nearby was sold to the Crown Estate for £66m in 2018.
According to the Crown Estate, it performed the legal checks at purchase. However, the Crown Estate is currently investigating the matter.
The UK government claims it will crack down on money laundering by enforcing stricter laws. When parliamentary time permits, the registry of UK-based companies that own UK property will be created.
Nearly 12,000,000 documents and files were leaked in the Pandora Papers leak, which exposes secret riches and deals of politicians, world leaders and billionaires. This data was obtained in Washington DC by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalismists. It has been the basis of one of the largest ever global investigations. The hidden fortunes and positions of powerful individuals have been examined by more than 600 journalists across 117 countries. In the UK, the BBC Panorama and Guardian led the investigation.
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