Secrets of the Rich and Powerful Exposed in the Pandora Papers Met with a Weary Shrug – .

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Secrets of the Rich and Powerful Exposed in the Pandora Papers Met with a Weary Shrug – .


A Documents leaked over the weekend showed Azerbaijani strongman Ilham Aliyev secretly bought $ 540million (£ 400million) worth of goods around the world, including a house from central London registered in the name of her then 11-year-old son.
But in the streets of Baku and other cities of the 10m Caucasian nation, infamous as a kleptocracy, there were shrugs. Azerbaijanis have long been used to the idea of ​​their leader being corrupt, and they now largely support him for leading a military victory over Armenia in a war last year.

“A majority don’t really care,” said Arzu Geybulla, journalist and analyst specializing in the Caucasus and Turkey. “I don’t think they’re going to rise up. Not because they don’t care about corruption. Everyone is so used to it. Everyone knows it. People don’t care because they know there will be no punishment.

In the films, the journalist on the crusade spends 90 minutes exposing corruption before the police drag the villain in chains, just as the credits roll. The real world is never this simple, especially at a time when the public has become almost immune to official misconduct and dysfunction and often votes for or nods to autocrats appealing to vague notions of national or ethnic pride.

On Sunday, a consortium of journalists and news agencies around the world unveiled the Pandora Papers, a series of reports based on 11.9 million documents leaked by more than a dozen private companies that show the efforts of politicians and oligarchs around the world to protect their potentially ill-gotten assets. wealth in the eyes of tax collectors and the public. The treasury reveals lavish spending and outrageous attempts to hide the spoils of the world’s super-rich.

Among the main revelations: King Abdullah of Jordan secretly bought 14 luxury homes worth $ 106 million; Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, a right-wing populist currently running for reelection, transferred millions of dollars through offshore companies to secretly buy a domain on the French Riviera; and members of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle owned companies and trusts worth millions of dollars.

King Abdullah called the allegations “defamatory and designed to target Jordan’s reputation.” Babis protested his innocence on television Sunday night and Khan that any “wrongdoing” would be investigated.

But like the Panama Papers, a smaller 2016 document leak from a Panama City company, it’s doubtful that any of them will trigger political change or reform.

“Right now, as a citizen, you worry about climate change, Covid, food prices – corruption is still seen as just one problem among many,” says Max Heywood, of Elucidate, a company Berlin-based risk management specialist specializing in financial crime. . “Perhaps this is the critical issue that relates to others. But this message did not get through.

A Jordanian journalist said the people of Amman shrug their shoulders at the revelations about their king, whom they have long nicknamed Ali Baba. “Only $ 100 million? Joked a Jordanian.

Volodymyr Zelensky was part owner of a company that used the offshore banking system

(PA)

Like the Panama Papers, the Pandora Leak exposes a parallel financial system of accountants, lawyers and financial planners who use legal loopholes and accounts in sketchy offshore havens to hide wealth and lavish purchases.

Even more than the Panama Papers, the latest leak shows how powerful leaders and politicians often posing as anti-corruption figures use these mechanisms. For example, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who campaigned as an anti-corruption crusader, introduced himself in Pandora’s leaks as a part-owner of a company that took advantage of the offshore banking system.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has also campaigned on the fight against corruption, is said to have amassed $ 30 million in offshore wealth. He said he would “respond comprehensively” to the allegations in time.

Hiding wealth and circumventing the “know your customer” rules established by banks in the wake of the Panama Papers and other scandals is costly and complicated. Yet the tools to circumvent them still exist and providing them has become something of a business model for a kaleidoscope of financial services, lawyers, and consulting firms.

The revelations that this world of tax havens, offshore accounts, obscured property records and blind trusts live on despite the legal changes and political reforms of recent years add to the sense of hopelessness.

“Many politicians who campaign on anti-corruption platforms are the ones who use the system,” said Maira Martini, an anti-money laundering specialist with the anti-corruption advocacy group Transparency International. “You have a powerful lobby of people who take advantage of the status quo. How can we expect them to change the rules?

Where reform may be possible is in the west, which has emerged in the Pandora Papers as the main channel for facilitating the concealment of wealth and the proceeds of laundering through real estate investments. Among the top addresses for trusts and secret accounts were US states with lax laws like South Dakota and Nevada, which are used by oligarchs and human rights violators to hide wealth. Properties in wealthy enclaves such as London and Southern California are among the main receptacles of laundered money.

“We are seeing real estate prices rising and we are seeing threats to democracy and the rule of law in the West,” Martini said. “I hope this will create the necessary momentum. “

The fight against corruption is one of the pillars of the famous Summit for Democracies planned by the administration of US President Joe Biden in December. Among policymakers, academics and journalists, there is a growing consensus on the need to control the rise and abuse of an elite class of the super-rich and powerful who undermine democratic norms.

“Across the world, weak state capacity, precarious rule of law, high inequalities and corruption continue to erode democracy,” a White House statement said about the 9th summit. December.

Uhuru Kenyatta is said to have amassed $ 30 million in offshore wealth

(PA)

“What I hope is that some changes are already underway,” says Heywood. “There are openings and places and things are moving forward. “

But Biden himself is a beneficiary of the parallel system, even though he is not necessarily a part of it. Prior to becoming vice president in 2008, he was a senator in the state of Delaware, infamous as a place where corporations and trusts around the world registered to avoid scrutiny by regulators and tax authorities. Securities, investment, and financial firms have donated $ 25 million in political contributions to Biden since 1989. Lawyers and law firms, which also play a role in concealing wealth, have donated 61 million more dollars, according to Open Secrets, a website that tracks American political money. .

“It’s very difficult to mobilize people because there is so much cynicism and apathy,” says Martini. “It’s like, ‘Don’t tell me my politician is hiding money anymore.’ “

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