A review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world, has revealed the secret offshore wealth of more than 300 world leaders, politicians and influential figures in the business world.
Dubbed one of the largest ever leaks of financial data, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained the documents, which were then passed on to media outlets including 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 report released on Sunday October 3, involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries. It sheds light on the previously hidden dealings of the elite and the corrupt, and how they have used offshore accounts to shield assets collectively worth trillions of dollars.
The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordans King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, and associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The billionaires called out in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, have angrily denied any wrongdoing after the Guardian and Panorama said they were able to save more than £300,000 in stamp duty when they acquired a £6.45 million London property, by buying the offshore company which owned it.
The former U.K prime minister from 1997 to 2007, was said to have become the owner of an $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017 by buying a British Virgin Islands company that held the property, and the building now hosts the law firm of his wife, Cherie Blair, according to the investigation. The two bought the company from the family of Bahrains industry and tourism minister, Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani. Buying the company shares instead of the London building saved the Blairs more than $400,000 in property taxes, the investigation found.
A major donor to the Conservative Party, Mohamed Amersi’ who helped fund Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, is alleged to have advised on a deal which was later found to be a £162 million bribe to the leader of Uzbekistan’s daughter. His lawyers have also denied any suggestion that he ‘knowingly’ facilitated corrupt payments. They said the underlying arrangements for the deal had been put in place two years before.
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.
The consortium of journalists revealed Putin’s image-maker and chief executive of Russia’s leading TV station, Konstantin Ernst got a discount to buy and develop Soviet-era cinemas and surrounding property in Moscow after he directed the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ernst told the organization the deal wasn’t secret and denied suggestions he was given special treatment.
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.
It was also claimed 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.
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.