King of Jordan among rulers accused of amassing secret property empire

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GAZA CITY – King Abdullah II of Jordan came under increased surveillance on Sunday after an alliance of international news agencies reported that he was among several world leaders using offshore secret accounts to raise money properties abroad and hide their wealth.

The King has been accused of using shell companies registered in the Caribbean to purchase 15 properties, collectively worth more than $ 100 million, in South East England, Washington, DC and Malibu, California. The purchases were not illegal, but their display sparked accusations of double standards: the Jordanian Prime Minister, who was appointed by the king, announced in 2020 a crackdown on corruption that targeted particularly citizens who used companies screens to conceal their investments abroad.

The Jordanian royal court declined to comment on the New York Times, but lawyers for King Abdullah told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which published the report, that his foreign properties were purchased exclusively with his personal fortune and not with public funds.

The allegations against King Abdullah were part of a major investigation, known as the Pandora Papers, conducted by the ICIJ in partnership with more than a dozen international media outlets, including The Washington Post and The Guardian. Based on the leaks of nearly 12 million files from 14 offshore companies, the investigation revealed that King Abdullah was among 35 current and former leaders, as well as more than 300 public officials, who used offshore shell companies. to conceal their wealth and hide the transfer of that wealth abroad.

The documents do not necessarily show wrongdoing, but are considered newsworthy because they reveal the extent to which some political leaders have been able to avoid paying taxes on their wealth and evade public accountability and scrutiny.

Moments after the report was released, Jordanians said the ICIJ website appeared to have been blocked in the country, an indication that the monarchy was concerned about the fallout of the revelations at a delicate time for the country and its king. .

Although the kingdom is seen by Western allies as a key partner in the campaign against extremist groups, a mainstay of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an island of stability in a troubled region, it has been rocked by internal strife in recent months. .

Embezzlement of public funds, high unemployment and the perceived mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic have angered the population and increased frustration with the royal family.

“There have been big problems in recent months – a crisis in the bureaucratic system, deaths from the coronavirus, the crisis in the royal family,” said Amer Al Sabaileh, a Jordanian political analyst. “Now comes this very delicate issue that affects all Jordanians. “

Six months ago, King Abdullah placed his half-brother Prince Hamzah under house arrest after accusing the prince of conspiring against him. The king forgave the prince, who previously embarrassed the king by exposing government corruption, but a court later jailed two of the prince’s alleged accomplices.

In recent months, King Abdullah has tried to consolidate his position by emphasizing his reliability as a Western ally and a major player in Middle Eastern diplomacy; he recently met President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, after several years of strained relations with their predecessors.

But just as King Abdullah appeared to have turned a corner, the new revelations “could be a trigger for people to return to the streets,” Al Sabaileh said.

King Abdullah is among dozens of current and former leaders whose overseas investments have been exposed. Other leaders included Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, whose alleged former lover allegedly bought an apartment in Monaco; Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who allegedly bought property in the south of France using a complex offshore structure; President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, who sold a London mansion to the Crown Estate, a real estate trust officially owned by Queen Elizabeth II; and Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, who avoided paying taxes worth over $ 400,000 when he and his wife Cherie secured property in London by buying the offshore company that owned it.

The mechanism was legal and Ms Blair, who used the property as an office for her legal advice, told the BBC the Blairs only bought the building through the offshore company at the behest of the sellers.


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