By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – World leaders hurried to explain their assets after millions of documents revealed their secret dealings in most extensive investigations of leaked offshore documents in history.
The leak of almost 12 million documents, dubbed the Pandora Papers, reveals hidden wealth, tax avoidance and even, money laundering the world’s rich and powerful.
Hundreds of world leaders, politicians, and billionaires have been exposed. More than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso.
Others include associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some of those targeted vehemently denied the claims.
Those involved used shell companies and offshore accounts to keep trillions of dollars out of government treasuries over the past quarter-century.
Critics say that limited the resources for helping the poor or others improving the environment.
The report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists brought promises of tax reform and demands for resignations and investigations, as well as explanations and denials from those targeted.
The investigation was published Sunday and involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.
Among the most well-known investigated leaders is King Abdullah II of Jordan. He set up at least three dozen shell companies from 1995 to 2017, helping the monarch buy 14 homes worth more than $106 million in the United States and Britain. One was a $23 million California ocean-view property purchased in 2017 through a company in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven in the Caribbean.
On Monday, Abdullah denied any impropriety in his purchase of luxury homes abroad.
The allegations come as Abdullah seeks international aid to pull his impoverished country out of recession and could unsettle Jordan’s critical relationship with the international community.
However, elsewhere Tony Blair, British prime minister from 1997 to 2007, also came under pressure to explain how he became the owner of an $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017.
The investigation revealed that he bought a British Virgin Islands company that held the property, and the building now hosts the law firm of his wife, Cherie Blair. That saved him hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.
The Blairs denied any wrongdoing, with the couple’s spokesperson saying, “the Blairs pay full tax on all their earnings. And have never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax.”
Members of the inner circle of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are also accused of hiding millions of dollars in wealth in secret companies or trusts, according to the journalists’ findings.
Khan, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, vowed to recover the “ill-gotten gains” and said his government would look into all citizens mentioned in the documents and take action if needed.
The revelations came at a difficult moment for some European leaders including, Andrej Babis, the Czech prime minister, who faced elections this week. He put $22 million into shell companies to buy a chateau property in a hilltop village in Mougins, France, near Cannes, the investigation found.
The shell companies and the chateau were not disclosed in Babis’ required asset declarations, according to documents. A real estate group owned indirectly by Babis bought the Monaco company that owned the chateau in 2018, the probe found.
Babis has denied any wrongdoing. He said the report was meant to harm him ahead of the Czech Republic’s parliamentary election held on Friday and Saturday.
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