New press investigation reveals 14 world leaders hid billions to avoid taxes

Washington, Oct 3 (EFE).- A new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed Sunday that 14 current world leaders have hidden billions of dollars in wealth to avoid paying taxes.

Another 21 leaders who have already left office also have hidden property and assets, according to the new ICIJ probe known as the “Pandora Papers,” which focuses on the secret finances of more than 300 public officials, including government ministers, judges, mayors and military generals in more than 90 countries all around the world.

Among the leaders the report profiles is King Abdullah II of Jordan, who the ICIJ claims spent $100 million on luxury homes in California and elsewhere, as well as Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, Chilean leader Sebastian Piñera and the Dominican Republic’s Luis Abinader, The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian – some of the media outlets that published the leaks – reported.

According to the BBC, Lasso, who was a businessman and banker before becoming Ecuador’s president, stopped using a Panamanian entity to make monthly payments to his relatives and began using another entity in South Dakota, a US state that has transformed itself into a tax haven on a par with other such jurisdictions in Europe and the Caribbean.

Piñera allegedly had secret business interests in the British Virgin Islands and Abinader, along with other relatives, owns an offshore entity in Panama, according to The Post.

Another 11 former Latin American leaders also figure in the archives, including Peru’s Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Honduras’ Porfirio Lobo, Colombia’s Cesar Gaviria and Andres Pastrana, Paraguay’s Horacio Cartes, and Panama’s Juan Carlos Varela, Ricardo Martinelli and Ernest Perez Balladares.

The investigation also reveals new details about important foreign donors to the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to both the BBC and The Guardian.

In addition, according to Mexico’s Proceso magazine, which participated in the investigation, the documents analyzed show that one of the most powerful families in Guatemala has hidden wealth of more than $13 million in an opaque trust located in the US.

The files also detail questionable financial activities on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unofficial minister of propaganda.”

In addition, according to the ICIJ, the close circle around Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan – including members of his cabinet and their families – has hidden millions of dollars in companies and other entities outside that country.

According to the files and the BBC, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and six members of his family also secretly own at least 11 companies abroad, one of them valued at $30 million.

The Panamanian Alcogal law firm is the new protagonist at the center of the international press probe and has been called a “magnet” for the rich and powerful seeking to hide their wealth abroad.

From the law firm of Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal) come “more than two million” of the total 11.9 million confidential files from law offices and foreign service providers gathered and examined by the ICIJ to prepare the Pandora Papers.

The ICIJ, based in Washington DC, gained worldwide fame for publishing the so-called “Pamana Papers.”

That leak of 11.5 million documents from the office of Panama’s Mossack Fonseca law office, in April 2016 revealed that prominent figures around the world hired the now-defunct firm to create corporations abroad, presumably to evade taxes in their home countries.

According to the ICIJ, “at least 113″ firms changes their registered agent from Mossack Fonseca to Alcogal” after the Panama Papers investigation was made public in 2016.

Participating in the new Pandora Papers investigation were some 600 journalists.

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