Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Leaked ‘Pandora’ Records Show How Powerful Shield Assets

A new report sheds light on how world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires and others have used offshore accounts to collectively shield trillions of dollars of wealth over the past quarter-century.

The report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made promises of tax reform and calls for resignation and investigation, as well as clarification and denial from those targeted.

The investigation, called the Pandora Papers, was published late Sunday and involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.

Hundreds of politicians, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers are hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront properties, yachts and other assets, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world. Much of the activity did not seem illegal.

The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include King Abdullah II of Jordan, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Lady Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso. And both include Pakistani allies. Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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

According to the report, many accounts were designed to evade taxes and hide assets for other reasons. Some of those targeted vehemently denied the claims on Monday.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-nation EU, said in response to the revelations that it was preparing new legislative proposals to increase tax transparency and strengthen the fight against tax evasion.

The Pandora Papers are a follow-up to a similar project released in 2016, called the “Panama Papers,” compiled by the same journalist group.

The latest blast is even more detailed, relying on leaked data from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions. Records date back to the 1970s, but most are from 1996 to 2020.

Accounts registered in familiar offshore shelters, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong and Belize, were investigated. But some secret accounts were also scattered among trusts established in the United States, including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.

The investigation found that the advisers helped Jordan’s King Abdullah set up at least three dozen shell companies from 1995 to 2017, helping the monarch buy 14 homes in the United States and the UK worth more than $106 million. Got it. There was a $23 million California ocean-view property purchased in 2017 through a British Virgin Islands company. The consultants were identified as an English accountant in Switzerland and lawyers in the British Virgin Islands.

Abdullah denied any impropriety in a commentary by the Royal Palace on Monday, citing security needs to keep transactions quiet, saying no public funds were used.

Britain’s lawyers for Abdullah said he was not required to pay taxes under his country’s law and had not misused public funds. The lawyers also said that most of the companies and properties are not associated with Raja or no longer exist, though they declined to provide details.

Blair, Britain’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007, became the owner of the $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017 by purchasing a British Virgin Islands company that owned the property, and the building now hosts the law firm of his wife, Cheri Blair. . the inspection. The two bought the company from the family of Zayed bin Rashid al-Jayani, the Minister of Industry and Tourism of Bahrain. The investigation found that buying shares of the company instead of the London building saved Blairs more than $400,000 in property tax.

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The investigation found that both Blair and al-Zaynis said they were not initially aware that the other party was involved in the deal. Cheri Blair said her husband was not involved in the purchase, which she said was “to bring the company and the building back into the UK tax and regulatory regime”. She also stated that she did not want to own a British Virgin Islands company and that “the seller wanted to sell the company for his own purposes only,” which has now closed.

A lawyer for al-Zaynis said he complied with UK laws.

The report also analyzed a transaction involving the British monarchy.

Britain’s Crown Estate, a property business owned by Queen Elizabeth II, said it would review a £67 million ($91 million) purchase of a London building from a company for the family of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. The Guardian said the deal raised questions about whether the transaction should be investigated over money-laundering concerns. Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, has been accused of corruption and rights abuses.

Crown Estate said it had conducted an investigation prior to the purchase but was now “looking into the matter again” amid questions raised.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Khan is not accused of any wrongdoing. But according to the findings of journalists, members of his inner circle, including Finance Minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin, are accused of hiding assets worth millions of dollars in secret companies or trusts.

In a Twitter post, Khan vowed to recover “wrongful gains” and said his government would look into all citizens mentioned in the documents and take action if necessary.

The Union of Journalists revealed that Konstantin Ernst, Putin’s image-maker and chief executive officer of Russia’s leading TV station, had been forced to buy and sell Soviet-era cinemas and surrounding property in Moscow after directing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. allowed to develop. Ernst told the organization that the deal was not secret and denied the suggestion that he had been given special treatment.

The investigation found that in 2009, the Czech prime minister, Babis, invested $22 million in shell companies to buy a chateau property in a mountainous village in Mougins, France, near Cannes. According to documents obtained by Investigace.cz, the Czech partner of the journalism group, the shell companies and chateaus were not disclosed in Babis’s required asset declarations.

The investigation found that a real estate group owned indirectly by Babis bought the Monaco company, which owned the chateau, in 2018.

Babis has denied any wrongdoing. He said the report was meant to harm him ahead of the Czech Republic parliamentary election to be held on Friday and Saturday.

The organized crime unit of the Czech police said it would launch an investigation.

Montenegro’s President Milo Jukanovic has faced calls to resign after being listed as one of the world leaders who used secret accounts to hide his wealth. His office refuted a report from the local Montenegrin network to confirm the non-governmental sector, which alleged that he and his son set up a trust to hide their wealth behind a complex network of companies. .

by Michael Lidtke and Jonathan Matisse

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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