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Pandora Papers: Leaked documents reveal secret offshore financial dealings of world leaders and billionaires

·3-min read
Pandora Papers: Leaked documents reveal secret offshore financial dealings of world leaders and billionaires

The secret offshore wealth of more than 300 world leaders, politicians and influential figures in the business world has been revealed in one of the largest ever leaks of financial data.

The Pandora Papers investigation, which involved a consortium of some 600 journalists from a variety of global media outlets, is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the globe.

Some 35 world leaders and more than 100 billionaires are implicated in the leaked documents. Among those named in the files are British prime minister Tony Blair, associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah of Jordan, and Czech prime minister Andrej Babis.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained the documents, which were then passed on to media outlets including the BBC’s Panorama programme and The Guardian. The leaked documents lay bare how the global elite use offshore tax havens to store and move their money.

The documents link Mr Putin to secret assets in Monaco. A woman who was reported to be in a relationship with the Russian leader became the owner of a luxury fourth-floor apartment in Monte Carlo in 2003 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 back to Svetlana Krivonogikh, who is alleged to have been Mr Putin's lover. The Kremlin did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Czech prime minister Andrej Babis was revealed to have injected £12m into several shell companies to buy a large property, known as Chateau Bigaud, in a hilltop village in Mougins, France.

Mr Babis did not disclose the shell companies and the chateau in the asset declarations he is obligated to file as a public official, according to the ICIJ. On Twitter, Mr Babis said he had done nothing “illegal or wrong" and suggested the leaks were an attempt to "influence the Czech election", which takes place next week.

The leaked documents also claim that the King of Jordan secretly spent more than £70m on a property empire in the UK and US. Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein is alleged to have used a network of secretly owned firms in the British Virgin Islands to purchase 15 homes since coming to power in 1999, including properties in California and London.

Lawyers for King Abdullah denied any wrongdoing and told the BBC he had used his personal wealth to purchase the properties.

Elsewhere, the leaked documents reveal that Tony and Cherie Blair saved around £312,000 in tax on the purchase of a London property by acquiring an offshore company named named Romanstone International Limited, which was based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The Blairs bought the £6.45m townhouse on Harcourt Street in Marylebone by establishing a British company named Harcourt Ventures to acquire the shares in Romanstone. The manner of the deal allowed the Blairs to avoid having to pay stamp duty, as the tax is not paid when the holding company of a property is acquired rather than the building directly.

In a statement, the couple stressed they had purchased the property “in a normal way through reputable estate agents” and had “nothing whatever to do with the original company nor those behind it”. They said they had “never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax” .

Cabinet ministers in Imran Khan's government in Pakistan are also named in the documents. The files reveal that a string of government officials have secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth.

The documents contain no suggestion that Mr Khan owns offshore companies.

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