Tax haven leak incriminates more than 300 politicians

High-ranking politicians, oligarchs and celebrities are said to have hidden their money in tax havens. This is reported by NDR, WDR and "Süddeutsche Zeitung". The journalists, together with around 600 colleagues around the world, have evaluated a huge data leak.

The so-called "Pandora Papers" are said to contain information about offshore transactions of more than 330 politicians from 91 countries. Among them are said to be 35 current and former heads of state and government.

The dataset is said to contain some 11.9 million documents. As reported by the relevant media, the data is said to have been leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) by an anonymous source.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is said to have used this kind of dealings, largely anonymously, to purchase a country chateau in southern France for more than 15 million euros. For him, the timing of the publication is particularly explosive because a new parliament will be elected in the Czech Republic next week.

According to the research, the documents also list numerous names of close confidants of Russian President Vladimir Putin as beneficiaries of shell companies. Here, it is probably primarily a matter of concealing the origin of the often immense wealth of the offshore clients, writes the "SZ".

Also, for example, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj, Jordan's King Abdullah II and many celebrities such as the model Claudia Schiffer are or were customers of offshore companies, according to "Süddeutsche". According to the report, the president of the EU country Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiadis, was himself actively involved in the offshore business with his law firm, which is now run by his daughters.

Moscow has dismissed reports of numerous unexplained high fortunes among Putin confidants. "This is just a series of completely unfounded allegations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. According to media reports, the "Pandora Papers" include the name of an alleged mistress of the president.

According to the research, the Russian head of state himself is not listed as a client of one of the offshore providers, but numerous close confidants are, who at the same time as Putin's political rise had anonymously invested money of mostly unexplained origin in tax havens. Leonid Volkov, an associate of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, assumes, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, that a number of these people are acting as "straw men for Putin's assets.

The case of a woman named Svetlana Krivonogich, with whom Putin is said to have a daughter according to unconfirmed reports, is also striking. According to the "Süddeutsche Zeitung," which was involved in the evaluation of the "Pandora Papers," Kriwonogich is the owner of a shell company that was founded a few weeks after the birth of her daughter.

By means of the shell company, Kriwonogich acquired a 3.6 million euro apartment in Monaco. According to "Süddeutscher", the woman comes from a poor background - where the money for the apartment purchase came from is completely unclear.

Jordan's King Abdullah II is even threatening legal action. The royal court "reserves the right to take the necessary legal procedures," a statement from Amman said Monday. The court categorically rejected all reports that "distorted facts and presented misleading information and unfounded conclusions."

Jordan's monarch is said to have spent more than $100 million on estates in the United States and Britain between 2003 and 2017, according to the research. To do so, he used an "extensive network of offshore accounts that camouflaged his transactions," writes the Washington Post, which also contributed to the research. The origin of the money remains unclear. At the same time, the U.S. paid billions of dollars to its key ally in the Arab region in past years for humanitarian and development aid, among other things.

The properties would not be made public "for reasons of security and privacy, and not for the purpose of secrecy or in an attempt to hide them," the royal court announced. They would be used for private family visits or to receive government officials and foreign honored guests. They were purchased with private funds and had nothing to do with the Jordanian national budget or international aid to the kingdom, it said.

The government of Panama had warned before the publication of the Pandora Papers of serious damage to the country's image as a result of the Panama Papers in 2016. At that time, an anonymous whistleblower had leaked more than eleven million internal documents of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to the "Süddeutsche Zeitung." An analysis in cooperation with the ICIJ revealed a sophisticated system for global tax avoidance.

The "SZ" emphasized that business in tax havens is not prohibited per se and that very many of the transactions that came to light during the research appear to be "absolutely legal". However, it is illegal, for example, if taxable income in tax havens is not reported to the domestic tax office.


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