UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires have been exposed in one of the largest-ever leaks of financial documents.
The report, which was released on Sunday, has been dubbed the ‘Pandora Papers’. The Pandora Papers is a leak of close to 12 million financial files and documents, leading to one of the biggest ever global investigations into how prominent and wealthy people have secretly set up offshore companies to purchase property in the US, UK, and Europe.
The report has exposed prominent political figures who are now facing allegations of corruption, money laundering and global tax avoidance through the property scheme.
The report names some 35 current and former leaders, and more than 300 public officials. Among them include:
- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family, who stand accused of looting their own country with secret property deals in the UK worth more than £400m (one trillion, nine hundred thirty-eight billion Ugandan Shillings). The files show the family bought 17 properties, including a £33 million (USh159 billion) office block in London for the president’s 11-year-old son Heydar Aliyev.
- King Abdullah of Jordan, who is alleged to have secretly amassed £70 million (USh339 billion) of UK and US property. Lawyers for King Abdullah have said the properties were bought with personal wealth, which he also uses to fund projects for Jordan’s citizens.
- Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and six members of his family, who stand accused of secretly owning a network of 11 offshore companies, one of which is valued as holding property assets of $30m. Kenyatta said in a statement that he would “respond comprehensively” to the leak once he returned from a state visit abroad, He added that the investigation would “go a long way in enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe”.
- Members of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers and their families, who are accused of secretly own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars.
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is said to have transferred his stake in a secret offshore company just before winning the 2019 election.
- Ex-UK PM Tony Blair and his wife allegedly saved £312,000 in stamp duty when they bought a London office by purchasing an offshore firm that owned the building.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has been linked to secret assets in Monaco.
- Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who happens to be facing an election later this week, has been named for failing to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for £12 million (USh58 billion) in the south of France.
The examination of the files is the largest organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC, with more than 650 reporters taking part. The joint investigation has had access to nearly 12 million documents and files from 14 financial services companies in countries including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Switzerland.
Many of the transactions exposed in the documents are, in fact, perfectly legal. However, Fergus Shiel, from ICIJ, said: “There’s never been anything on this scale, and it shows the reality of what offshore companies can offer to help people hide dodgy cash or avoid tax.”
He added: “They are using those offshore accounts, those offshore trusts, to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of property in other countries and to enrich their own families, at the expense of their citizens.”
The report highlights the UK government’s failure to introduce a register of offshore property owners, despite the government’s repeated promises to do so, amid concerns some property buyers could be hiding money-laundering activities.
However, the practice is not limited to real estate sectors in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the US. Last year, Sentry published an advisory detailing how kleptocrats and their networks have increasingly been using African real estate to launder the proceeds of corruption.
The advisory, titled “Looted Funds Used to Buy Real Estate,” focuses primarily on the real estate sectors of Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Namibia. These African nations provide comparative political and monetary stability, making them attractive to corrupt actors laundering their ill-gotten gains.
The advisory describes several methods used by politically exposed persons to purchase real estate in these African nations, detaining related red flags. In a pattern similar to those outlined in the Pandora Papers, the activities include the purchase of real estate by family members and associates, the use of shell companies and trusts to purchase property, the use of unexplained wealth to purchase properties, as well as the purchase of properties in foreign countries by individuals subject to international sanctions.
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