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Pandora Papers: While foreign aid poured in, Jordan’s King Abdullah funnelled $100m through secret companies to buy luxury US, UK homes

By Will Fitzgibbon

Jordanian protesters took to the streets – once more – demanding an finish to corruption and poverty within the aid-dependent Center Japanese monarchy. Masked police broke up the demonstrations and jailed critics of the nation’s leaders.

Nonetheless, the folks chanted for change.

Lastly, in a bid to defuse the disaster, Jordanian authorities in June 2020 trumpeted a crackdown on hidden wealth, designed to assist stanch the stream of an estimated $800 million a yr in a foreign country.

Then-Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz stated the crackdown was particularly wanted to reply to COVID-19’s affect on the state’s funds. Jordan would monitor each final dinar that residents had hidden in tax havens, the prime minister stated; No offshore wealth was past scrutiny.
None, it appears, besides the king’s.

A trove of leaked paperwork obtained by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveals that the nation’s long-ruling monarch, King Abdullah II, has secretly owned 14 luxurious houses in the UK and america, bought between 2003 and 2017 by entrance firms registered in tax havens. Their worth totals greater than $106 million.

The houses embrace a home in Ascot, one among England’s most costly cities; multimillion-dollar residences in central London and three luxurious residences in a fancy in Washington, D.C., with panoramic views of the Potomac River.

Additionally included are three adjoining beachfront houses underneath reconstruction at Level Dume, a complicated enclave close to Los Angeles. One, a seven-bedroom mansion on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, was purchased in 2014 by one of many king’s shell firms, Nabisco Holdings (no connection to the cookie firm), for $33.5 million.

Advisers to the 59-year-old monarch, who awards an annual prize for transparency in his title, spared no effort to hide his actual property holdings, the data present. Accountants and legal professionals in Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands fashioned shell firms on the king’s behalf and concocted plans to protect his title from public and even confidential authorities registries.

On two paperwork, BVI company directors on the agency Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee, higher generally known as Alcogal, checked bins to declare that nobody linked to one of many king’s firms was concerned in politics – despite the fact that the king has the ability to nominate governments, dissolve Parliament and approve laws.

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Writing to ICIJ on the king’s behalf, attorneys denied something improper about proudly owning houses by offshore firms. The king shouldn’t be required to pay taxes underneath Jordanian regulation, the attorneys stated.

Specialists acquainted with the area say the timing of the purchases, if made public, would possible have alienated many Jordanians and the tribal leaders who assist preserve Abdullah in energy. Many of the U.S. and U.Okay. actual property offers – and 6 of these for greater than $5 million – passed off since 2011, after Arab Spring protests that toppled governments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and posed the primary severe menace to the Jordanian monarchy in generations.

Pandora Papers: how a lot did the King of Jordan spend on property purchases within the Pandora Papers? (Supply: icij.org)

Jordan is without doubt one of the poorest nations within the area. It has virtually no oil of its personal and valuable little water. The dominion is determined by overseas support to assist its personal folks and to deal with and look after tens of millions of refugees. Final yr alone, america gave Jordan greater than $1.5 billion in support and army funding, and the European Union agreed to offer the dominion with greater than $218 million to melt the blow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Jordan doesn’t have the sort of cash that different Center Japanese monarchies, like Saudi Arabia, have to permit a king to flaunt his wealth,” Dr. Annelle Sheline, an professional on non secular and political authority within the Center East, stated in an interview with ICIJ. Sheline, a analysis fellow with the Quincy Institute in Washington, D.C., added, “If the Jordanian monarch had been to show his wealth extra publicly, it wouldn’t solely antagonize his folks, it could piss off Western donors who’ve given him cash.”

Specialists say Abdullah, whose topics mock the best way he speaks Arabic with an English accent, has little room for error.

This yr, Jordanian police detained 16 folks, together with a member of the royal household, over an alleged plot to oust Abdullah. Prince Hamzah, the king’s youthful half brother, was briefly positioned underneath home arrest for his alleged position within the coup try. In a furtive video issued after a go to from the nation’s intelligence companies, Hamzah denied being a part of any conspiracy.

“I’m not the individual chargeable for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing construction for the final 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse by the yr,” Prince Hamzah stated. “A ruling system has determined that its private pursuits, that its monetary pursuits, that its corruption is extra vital than the lives and dignity and futures of the 10 million folks that stay right here.”

Jordanian officers accused Hamzah of a conspiracy that threatened nationwide safety. Hamzah didn’t accuse Abdullah of wrongdoing.

U.Okay. attorneys for the king stated Abdullah has essential respectable safety and privateness causes for holding property in offshore firms that don’t have anything to do with tax evasion or every other improper function. The king has by no means misused public monies or overseas support, the attorneys wrote, including Abdullah’s wealth comes from private sources. Abdullah cares deeply for Jordan and its folks and acts with integrity and in one of the best pursuits of his nation and its residents always, the attorneys stated.

The attorneys stated that a lot of the offshore firms both not exist or aren’t associated to the king and that a number of the properties recognized by ICIJ as belonging to him didn’t. Attorneys declined to elucidate what the king considers inaccurate resulting from alleged privateness and safety considerations for him and his household.

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