Despite the growing fuss about tax evasion, there is still a lot that can be done for the wealthy

What is remarkable about the Pandora Papers is that it contains many former politicians and politicians. Exactly from them is expected to take measures against tax havens – or at least lead by example.

In addition to Dutch Christian Democratic Party leader Wopke Hoekstra and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the presidents of Kenya, Ecuador and Ukraine, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis are also mentioned. The latter, often criticizing the financial misconduct of the elite, turns out to have bought a castle on the French Riviera through mailbox companies. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, often accused of corruption, has sold a luxury office and retail property to the British Crown.

Moreover, Putin’s mistress, a Neapolitan gangster, rogue art dealer and international stars like Shakira, Elton John and Claudia Schiffer appear in the newspapers. Moral of the story: Despite the growing interest and hype around overseas tax avoidance scams, there is still a lot that can be done for the world’s rich, famous and/or fraudsters.

Elton John also appears in Pandora Papers.Environmental Protection Agency’s photo

under the radar

Tax structures, across tax havens that may or may not be tropical – as well as less sunny places like the Netherlands, South Dakota and the UK do what they can – help the wealthy stay under the radar. This is exactly what politicians often wish, for example to be able to maintain their public disguise of the man of the people. The French castle bought by the Czech Prime Minister Babis is hidden in three mailbox companies, in the Virgin Islands, in the United States and Monaco, where he himself is only indirectly involved. He did not respond to questions from three ICIJ investigative journalists. However, their press accreditation was revoked.

Shakira.  Brunopress's photo

Shakira.Brunopress’s photo

It turns out that the mysterious leaders of highly undemocratic countries are still able to make good use of the elegant structures of the Western world. For example, Azerbaijani President Aliyev has managed to trade more than half a billion in real estate in London over the past 15 years, including with the Crown Estate, a government fund officially subordinate to the Queen. This is despite the fact that British law requires investigations into possible money laundering in such transactions.

Alijiev, who has been repeatedly accused of corruption and human rights abuses in recent years, appears to have done business across the British Virgin Islands and thus has remained behind the scenes himself. A property he bought in 2009 for £35.5 million went to the Crown Estate in 2015 for £66.5 million.

Money laundering

“Reselling properties that were originally purchased with dirty money completes the money laundering process,” financial researcher Dylan Kennedy told IPS. Watchman. “It generates a new paper trail that gives the proceeds a legitimate source. In this case, with such a questionable origin of money, selling to the crown is the height of legitimacy.” In other words: you can’t wash away the detergent.

A spokesperson for Crown Estate said it will now investigate the transactions following the disclosures in Pandora’s Papers Watchman I know. Before purchasing the building, we carried out the checks required by law. At that time there was no reason to abandon the deal. Given the concerns raised, we will now look into the matter closely.”

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Megan Vasquez

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