2021-10-04 00:35:54 Jordan’s King Among Leaders Accused of Amassing Secret Property Empire

Jordan’s King Among Leaders Accused of Amassing Secret Property Empire

GAZA CITY (AP) — Jordan’s King Abdullah II came under increased scrutiny on Sunday after an alliance of international news organizations reported that he was one of several world leaders who used secret offshore accounts to amass overseas properties and conceal their wealth.

The king was accused of using shell companies registered in the Caribbean to purchase 15 properties in southeast England, Washington, D.C., and Malibu, Calif., totaling more than $100 million. Although the purchases were not illegal, their disclosure prompted accusations of double standards: Jordan’s prime minister, appointed by the king, announced a crackdown on corruption in 2020, including targeting citizens who used shell companies to conceal their overseas investments.

The Jordanian royal court declined to comment to 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 with his personal fortune rather than public funds.

The allegations against King Abdullah were part of the Pandora Papers investigation, which was conducted by the ICIJ in collaboration with more than a dozen international news outlets, including The Washington Post and The Guardian. The investigation discovered 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 the transfer of that wealth overseas, based on leaks of nearly 12 million files from 14 offshore companies.

The documents do not necessarily demonstrate wrongdoing, but they are significant 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.

Jordanians reported that the ICIJ’s website appeared to have been blocked in the country shortly after the report’s release, indicating that the monarchy was concerned about the fallout from the revelations at a sensitive time for the country and its king.

Though Western allies regard the kingdom as a key partner in the fight against extremist groups, a linchpin in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and an island of stability in a volatile region, it has recently been roiled by internal conflicts.

Mismanagement of public funds, high unemployment, and perceived mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic have enraged the populace and increased frustration with the royal family.

“There have been major issues in recent months — a crisis in the bureaucratic system, coronavirus deaths, and a crisis in the royal family,” said Amer Al Sabaileh, a Jordanian political analyst. “Now comes this extremely sensitive issue that affects all Jordanians.”

Six months ago, King Abdullah placed his half brother, Prince Hamzah, under house arrest, accusing him of plotting against him. The king pardoned the prince, who had previously humiliated the king by speaking out against government corruption, but a court later imprisoned two of the prince’s alleged accomplices.

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

However, just as King Abdullah appeared to be making progress, the new revelations “might be a trigger for people to return to the streets,” according to Mr. Al Sabaileh.

Hundreds of current and former leaders’ overseas investments have been revealed, including King Abdullah. Other leaders included Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, whose alleged former lover was discovered to have purchased an apartment in Monaco; Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who is said to have purchased property in the south of France using a complicated offshore structure; and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, who sold a London mansion to the Crown Estate, a property trust formall

Mrs. Blair, who used the property as an office for her legal consultancy, told the BBC that the Blairs had only purchased the building through the offshore company at the sellers’ request.

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Jordan’s King Among Leaders Accused of Amassing Secret Property Empire