Pandora Papers: Leaks Lead to Investigations in Some Countries, Denials in Others
Days after the Washington Post and partner news organizations published a series of articles based on the Pandora Papers, a mine of more than 11.9 million documents exposing the secret financial transactions of the global elite, more than eight countries have promised investigations.
But not all have been so keen to examine the results. Some governments whose nationals and politicians feature prominently in the archives have instead gone the other way, doubling down on denials, dismissing the revelations or ignoring them altogether.
Jordan: The authorities appear to have tried to restrict the examination in some places, such as Jordan. One of the key revelations included in the documents was the more than $ 100 million King Abdullah II spent on luxury homes in London, California and other places, hiding transactions through a network of accounts. offshore. Jordan, with limited resources, relies heavily on US funds.
Most of the media there avoided covering the leaks and whoever did ended up receiving a quick call from Jordanian intelligence asking for the story to be removed from the site, according to the journalist who wrote it. .
The royal court castigated media reports on the newspapers as “a threat to the safety of Her Majesty and her family”. His statement added that the king had bought the residences with his own money, calling them “unusual or inappropriate”.
“None of these expenses were funded from the state budget or treasury,” he said. And the king told tribal leaders at a rally that he had nothing to hide.
Russia: Several Russian media covered the leaks, but the Kremlin was quick to dismiss the reports as “baseless.” Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the allegations were “difficult to understand” and did not merit investigation.
The cache revealed assets hidden by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his relatives, including the purchase of a waterfront apartment in Monaco by a Russian woman who is believed to have had a child with the longtime leader.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which obtained the files, identified hundreds of offshore companies with 4,400 beneficial owners who were Russian – more than any other nationality. They include 46 Russian oligarchs.
Despite the evidence, however, the Kremlin insisted that no secret wealth was discovered.
“We saw no hidden wealth in Putin’s inner circle,” Peskov said. “We haven’t seen anything special so far.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took to the Pandora Papers to highlight reports that South Dakota now rivals some of the world’s most notorious tax havens as a port. foreign money.
Ukraine: The Pandora Papers have named 38 Ukrainian politicians – the most of any country – but President Volodymyr Zelensky, who campaigned as an anti-corruption candidate, has yet to respond to the inquiry.
The leaks revealed that Zelensky, a former comedian, and his partners in show business owned several offshore companies, at least one of which was involved in the purchase of several properties in central London.
Just before his election, Zelensky transferred his stake in one of the companies registered in the British Virgin Islands to a partner who later became the president’s chief adviser.
An adviser to Zelensky’s chief of staff said on Monday that the Ukrainian leader created the offshore network in 2012 to “protect” the income generated by him and his associates in the entertainment industry under the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.
“Journalists have confirmed de facto the president’s absolute respect for the standards of anti-corruption legislation,” adviser Mykhailo Podoliak told Agence France-Presse.
Lebanon: In Lebanon, the newspapers fueled the belief that the ruling elite got richer as the rest of the nation sank into its worst economic crisis.
Six Lebanese nationals were named in the leaks, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, his predecessor and the governor of the central bank. But few are convinced that the government, whose corruption and negligence led to a deadly ammonium nitrate explosion at the Port of Beirut last year, will pursue allegations of financial irregularities.
The investigation revealed that billionaire Mikati, now one of the richest men in Lebanon, used a Panama-based company to buy property in Monaco for more than $ 10 million in 2008. He recently formed a government in desperate need of foreign aid.
“All wealth is not necessarily accumulated at the expense of the public interest and the needy,” he said in a statement, adding that he had disclosed his offshore assets to the authorities.
Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab also denied wrongdoing after records showed he had established an offshore shell company in the British Virgin Islands.
“Is starting a business illegal? Diab said, adding that he reserves the right to prosecute anyone who tries to defame him.
Brittany : British officials have so far sought to play down the revelations – or have hit back at criticisms calling for further investigation.
The cache has raised questions about London’s role as a global hub for tax evasion. He also named a number of Conservative Party donors who have been linked to corruption schemes in other countries.
UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said the Revenue and Customs Department would review the information “to see if there is anything we can learn”, but defended Britain as having a case ” very strong “in the eradication of tax evasion.
Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, scoffed at questions about whether his party planned to return funds from potentially corrupt donors, saying all donations were checked according to the rules.
“I’ll take a look if I have time,” Johnson said when asked to comment on the Pandora Papers by a reporter. He then searched former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was also named in the documents.
Blair and his wife, Cherie, have defended their 2017 decision to buy an $ 8.8 million townhouse through the acquisition of an offshore company that was partly owned by a Bahraini minister.
The move saved the couple no more than $ 400,000 in taxes.
Sarah Dadouch of the Washington Post in Beirut contributed to this report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, seated next to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, second from left, during Russian Navy Day in St. Petersburg, Russia July 28, 2019 (Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg)