This October 4, a day after one of the largest journalistic investigations exposed a tax evasion network that would link at least 35 world leaders, several presidents and leaders rejected the accusations. From Latin America and even the Kremlin, those allegedly implicated called the accusations false. But the investigation’s findings indicate that some of those involved hid billions of dollars of fortunes to avoid paying taxes.
Thousands of leaked records open a ‘Pandora’s box’ on the financial secrets of the world’s political elite. And after the revelations come the rejections. What would the irregular activities have been?
According to the findings of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – which involved 600 reporters from 150 media outlets in 117 countries – presidents, ex-presidents, powerful politicians and billionaires used bank accounts abroad to protect assets of collective value. billions of dollars over the last quarter century.
The report, dubbed ‘Pandora Papers’ or ‘Pandora’s Documents’, highlights corruption practices such as money laundering and concealment of assets, even by those leaders who campaigned against this scourge and imposed anti-corruption regimes. austerity in their countries.
At least 35 leaders and former heads of state are on the lists, but there are more than 330 politicians and public officials splattered by the scandal in around 90 countries and territories. Among the alleged beneficiaries are the king Abdullah II of Jordan, the former British Prime Minister Tony blair, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, the president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and the leaders of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, and that of Ecuador Guillermo Lasso.
This Monday, October 4, the defendants’ voices of rejection were felt from Latin America to Europe, Asia and Africa, in an attempt to dissociate themselves from the broadest financial investigation in history.
Chile: Piñera denies links with the sale of a mine in a tax haven
One of the first to refute the allegations was current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera. The president assured that he did not participate in the Dominga mining megaproject, an operation in which he would have used an offshore account during a transaction that took place partially in the British Virgin Islands.
“It is reiterated that the President of the Republic has not participated in the administration of any company for more than 12 years, before assuming his first presidency,” in March 2010, his office affirmed.
However, according to the journalistic investigation center CIPER and the portal ‘LaBot’, months after Piñera returned to the Executive, his family, the largest shareholder at that time of the controversial mining project, sold it to his friend and businessman Carlos Alberto Délano for a total of 152 million dollars. 138 million of them in an act signed in the Virgin Islands.
For this, in the tax haven a contract was signed that established a payment in three installments and, in order to comply with the last one, there had to be no regulatory changes that would hinder the installation of the mine and its port. But the decision would fall precisely on the Government of Piñera.
“The aforementioned events were already investigated by the Public Ministry and the Courts of Justice during 2017 and the Prosecutor’s Office recommended ending the case due to the lack of crime (…) and the lack of participation of the president,” the President’s note refuted. .
The president of Ecuador assures that he does not have properties in tax havens
The president of the Ecuadorians, Guillermo Lasso, tried to confront the accusations by stating that his assets are the product of his work at the Bank of Guayaquil and that he does not have assets in tax havens.
“I comply with and have complied at all times with the Organic Law for the application of the Popular Consultation carried out on February 19, 2017, which prohibits popularly elected candidates and public servants from having properties in tax havens,” declared the president through of a statement.
To the Ecuadorians, in relation to Pandora Papers.
I comply with the provisions of the law, all my income has been declared and I have paid the corresponding taxes in Ecuador. Always with transparency and frontality before the Ecuadorian people. pic.twitter.com/1oN5nuXNpj
– Guillermo Lasso (@LassoGuillermo) October 4, 2021
Although the ‘Pandora Papers’ highlight that Lasso got rid of companies registered in tax havens in 2017 before running for elections, the former banker would have been directly involved in those associated practices in at least 14 entities.
“All my income has been declared and the corresponding taxes have been paid in Ecuador, having become one of the largest personal contributors in the country,” defended the president.
The Dominican Government says there is transparency in Abinader’s assets
The investigation indicates that the president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, owned offshore companies in tax havens, with the alleged objective of not paying taxes.
The documents of the consortium of journalists show that the president created, together with his brothers, two companies in Panama, Littlecot and Padreso, founded in 2011 and 2014, respectively. These entities in turn control properties of his family.
However, the Dominican Presidency responded that the head of state disassociated himself from the businesses of his relatives before reaching the Executive, for which he affirmed that in his campaign against corruption he has “led by example.”
“It is in the interest of President Abinader that every day the efforts to benefit transparency, democracy, the fight against impunity and corruption are stronger. Leading by example, like no one before, he declared all his assets, acting without screens and without hiding properties. All their investments are in the country and pay their tax obligations according to national laws, “said a statement issued by his office.
In the region, the scandal also splashes the former presidents of Colombia, Cesar Gaviria and Andres Pastrana, as well as several ministers from Brazil.
The Kremlin: “We don’t understand how that information can be trusted”
“We know well the work of that organization, we know where they get the information from, how they get it (…) they raise questions, so we do not understand how that information can be trusted,” said the spokesman for the Russian Presidency, Dmitri Peskov, in an attempt to dismiss the investigation that is based on 11.9 million files from 14 financial services companies around the world.
The investigation found that the general director of the First Channel of Russian television, Konstantin Ernst, known as the “propaganda minister” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, would have benefited from a deal to privatize 39 former Russian cinemas.
The Post is publishing eight articles based on material in the Pandora trove in addition to video and audio pieces.
– The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 3, 2021
The operation would have been financed by the Russian state to demolish them and build shopping centers, the profits of which it managed through offshore companies. Ernst’s stake in these real estate properties exceeded $ 140 million.
Other people close to the Russian leader’s circle also appear in questionable financial activities. Among them, Svetlana Krivonoguij, friend of the president and relatives of Sergei Chemezov, director of Rostec, a Russian state corporation to promote the development, production and export of high-tech industrial products.
Properties of the King of Jordan abroad “are not a secret”
It is no secret that King Abdullah of Jordan owns property abroad, but the information was not disclosed for privacy and security reasons. This was pointed out by the royal palace, this Monday, October 4, after the massive leak of financial documents.
In files released on Sunday, it is alleged that King Abdullah II, a close ally of the United States, used overseas accounts to divert more than $ 100 million in luxury homes in the United States and the United Kingdom, but to Haman simply the information, which had been hidden, there is nothing extraordinary.
“It is no secret that Her Majesty owns several apartments and residences in the United States and the United Kingdom. This is not unusual or inappropriate (…) These properties are not advertised for security and privacy reasons, they are not an attempt to conceal them, as these reports state. Measures to maintain privacy are crucial for a head of state in Her Majesty’s office, “the palace said in a statement.
Pandora Papers: A massive leak of financial documents was published by several major news organizations that allegedly tie world leaders to secret stores of wealth, including King Abdullah of Jordan, and associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin https://t.co/aBvxIGkhUz
– Reuters (@Reuters) October 4, 2021
Opposition politicians say King Abdullah has not done enough to combat corruption in state agencies, where nepotism is rife.
The explosive record revelations, which link several world leaders to secret deposits of wealth, come five years after the leak known as the ‘Panama Papers’ exposed how the most powerful hid the money in such a way that the authorities did not they could detect.
The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts also link Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Imran Khan, among others.
With Reuters, AP and EFE