King of Jordan Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein has been accused in the Pandora Papers of using offshore companies to anonymously purchase property in the United States. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 4 (UPI) -- An investigation into millions of confidential files has uncovered alleged underhanded financial dealings of 35 current and former heads of state, among more than 330 other politicians and public officials.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the report called the Pandora Papers on Sunday, accusing Jordan's King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of using offshore companies to purchase Malibu, Calif., beachfront property, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis of doing likewise to buy a French Riviera chateau and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of purchasing a British Virgin Islands offshore company in order to avoid paying hundreds of thousands in property taxes.
The ICIJ said the trove of 11.9 million documents from 14 offshore services firms worldwide is larger than its Panama Papers that rocked the financial world in 2016.
"The Pandora Papers investigation unmasks the covert owners of offshore companies, incognito bank accounts, private jets, yachts, mansions, even artworks by Picasso, Banksy and other masters," it said.
The consortium of 600 journalists from 150 news outlets accuse King Abdullah II of working with a Switzerland-based English accountant to anonymously purchase 14 luxury homes worth more than $106 million in the United States and Britain through the use of 36 shell companies between 1995 and 2017.
The report also states that Babis bought Chateau Bigaud in Mougins, France, in 2009 through shell companies, neither of which he declared as assets as required by Czech law.
Concerning Blair, the report alleges that he and his wife, Cherie Blair, came to own a $8.8 million Victorian building through buying the British Virgin Islands company that held its deed from Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani, Bahrain's industry and tourism minister.
The consortium said that by purchasing the company in order to buy the property, the Blairs avoided paying more than $400,000 in property taxes.
The Pandora Papers also connects the inner circle of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to offshore companies and trusts worth millions of dollars while also linking the presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador to offshore dealings.
Khan tweeted that they "welcome the Pandora Papers" and the "ill-gotten wealth of the elites" it exposed.
"My government will check all its citizens whose names appear in the Pandora Papers, and if anything goes wrong, we will take appropriate action," he said. "I urge the international community to do the same to address this blatant injustice."
The consortium said it has identified 956 offshore tax haven companies linked to 336 politicians and public officials in the Pandora Papers.
"In an era of widening authoritarianism and inequality, the Pandora Papers investigation provides an unequaled perspective on how money and power operate in the 21st century -- and how the rule of law has been bent and broken around the world by a system of financial secrecy enabled by the U.S. and other wealthy nations," it said.
Oxfam International, a British confederation of charities, cheered the reporters who published the report while calling for immediate and long-promised action from world leaders on preventing the use of offshore tax havens.
"This is where our missing hospitals are. This is where the pay-packets sit of all the extra teachers and firefighters and public servants we need," Oxfam International's tax policy lead Susana Ruiz said in a statement. "Whenever a politician or business leader claims there is 'no money' to pay for climate damage and innovation, for more and better jobs, for a fair post-COVID recovery, for more overseas aid, they know where to look."
Tax havens, Ruiz said, cost governments $472 billion a year.
"Ordinary taxpayers have to pick up the pieces. Developing countries are being hardest hit, proportionately," she said. "We cannot allow tax havens to continue to stretch global inequality to breaking point while the world experiences the largest increase in extreme poverty in decades."
The report comes years after the consortium's Panama Papers was published, implicating some of the world's rich and powerful with fortunes hidden in offshore havens.
Some of those connected included FIFA members, Russian President Vladimir Putin and movie star Jackie Chan.
Emma Watson is the latest public figure to be named in the Panama Papers
leak. The 26-year-old actress set up a holding company to handle her earnings and property purchases. Ms. Watson is pictured attending the premiere of "This Is the End" in Los Angeles on June 3, 2013. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo