More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya, and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the ICIJ media consortium.
The so-called “Pandora Papers” investigation — involving some 600 journalists from media including The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian — is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.
Some 35 current and former leaders are featured in the latest vast trove of documents analysed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — facing allegations ranging from corruption to money laundering and global tax avoidance.
In most countries, the ICIJ stresses, it is not illegal to have assets offshore or to use shell companies to do business across national borders.
But such revelations are no less of an embarrassment for leaders who may have campaigned publicly against tax avoidance and corruption, or advocated austerity measures at home.
The documents notably expose how Jordan’s King Abdullah II created a network of offshore companies and tax havens to amass a $100 million property empire from Malibu, California to Washington and London.
The Jordanian embassy in Washington declined to comment, but the BBC cited lawyers for the king saying all the properties were bought with personal wealth, and that it was common practice for high profile individuals to purchase properties via offshore companies for privacy and security reasons.
Family and associates of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev — long accused of corruption in the central Asian nation — are alleged to have been secretly involved in property deals in Britain worth hundreds of millions.
And the documents also show how Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis — who faces an election later this week — failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase a chateau worth $22 million in the south of France.
“I have never done anything illegal or wrong,” Babis hit back in a tweet, calling the revelations a smear attempt aimed at influencing the election.