The secret deals and hidden assets of the world’s most powerful politicians and billionaires have been revealed in the biggest leak of financial offshore data in history — dubbed the Pandora Papers.
The New Diplomat gathered that among those who have their offshore financial dealings exposed are ex-UK prime minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, King of Jordan, Abdullah II and the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis – who is facing a re-election this week.
According to the BBC, the pandora leaks revealed that Tony Blair and his wife saved £312,000 in property taxes when they bought a £6.5m office in Marylebone by acquiring a British Virgin Islands offshore company.
Documents show how the property in Harcourt Street, Marylebone, acquired in July 2017 saved the Blairs a bill for stamp duty.
The previous owner of Harcourt Street is listed in UK Land Registry records as Romanstone International Limited – a British Virgin Islands firm.
Documents further showed the Blairs bought the building by setting up a UK company to acquire Romanstone. Blair and wife each held a 50% stake in the British company. They closed the offshore company after the purchase.
According to UK tax laws, buying the property in this way meant the Blairs did not have to pay stamp duty.
Stamp duty is paid by the purchasers of a property or land over a certain price.
But a spokesperson on behalf of Tony and Cherie Blair denied any wrongdoing and said: “The Blairs bought the premises mentioned for the legal business and Foundation of Cherie Blair in a normal way through reputable estate agents. The transactions are all registered publicly. The vendor was an offshore company. The Blairs had nothing whatever to do with the original company nor those behind it.”
In the Pandora leaks, more than 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders and 300 public officials’ undercover dealings were exposed. The BBC Panorama with the Guardian and other media outlets around the world joined in the investigation.
Almost 12 million leaked files reveal some figures are accused of money laundering, corruption and international tax avoidance.
Following the leaks, it is expected that prime minister Boris Johnson will now face tricky questions at the Conservative party conference after the files also revealed the ins and outs of major Tory party donors’ dealings.
It’s even more awkward for UK lawmakers as the documents also revealed that the Queen’s Crown Estate – the monarch’s property empire that falls under the Treasury’s wing to manage – appears to have bought a £67m London property from Azerbaijan’s multimillionaire ruling family the Aliyevs, which has been accused of corruption multiple times.
Also, Russian President and strongman, Vladimir Putin is revealed to have secret assets in Monaco. Papers show Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis – who is facing a national election later this week – failed to declare an offshore investment company that he leveraged to buy two villas for £12m in the south of France.
Meanwhile, the King of Jordan, Abdullah II has been on a secret spending spree of £70m, amassing a property empire in the UK and US through offshore companies.
Leaked documents reveal Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein has bought 15 opulent homes in locations like London, Ascot and Malibu, in the 22 years he has been in power.
But in all, the most striking revelation from the papers is just how many world leaders and wealthy individuals have been legally acquiring offshore companies in order to secretly buy property in the UK – some 95,000 offshore firms, in fact.
All exposed deals point to just how grave the government’s lack of oversight of offshore property owners is – and therefore how vast the potential for money laundering is.