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Panama Papers: 12 world leaders linked to offshore dealings - and the full allegations against them

The King of Saudi Arabia, the ex-vice president of Iraq and the daughter of China's former premier are also named in the tax haven leak

Adam Lusher
Tuesday 05 April 2016 07:33 BST
(Creative Commons)

Amid the millions of confidential documents leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca are reference to some of the most powerful world leaders of the last 40 years and their relatives.

According to the ICIJ, notable figures mentioned in the leak range from cousins of the Syrian President Bashar Assad to the deomcratically elected prime minister of Iceland.

All those named in the Panama Papers have denied any wrongdoing and there is no evidence many named as clients of the firm were involved in anything illegal or improper. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has published what it claims is files revealing the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials from around the world.

Current and former world leaders in the data include prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia

Below is a list of serving or former world leaders or their relatives mentioned in the "Panama Papers" - and what is said about them:

President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko

On Sunday, in response to a New York Times editorial criticising Ukraine's "unyielding corruption," Mr Poroshenko posted on Facebook: “I agree that in Ukraine we still have much to deliver, including on eroding corruption.

“However I will keep defending Ukraine at every possible stand."

The Panama Papers allege that: “In August 2014, as Russian troops rolled into Eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko became the sole shareholder of Prime Asset Partners Limited, which Mossack Fonseca set up in the British Virgin Islands.

“A Cyprus law firm representing the newly acquired company described it as a ‘holding company of Cyprus and Ukrainian companies of the Roshen Group, one of the largest European manufacturers of confectionery products.’ The firm wrote that, though Prime Assets Partners was for ‘a person involved in politics,’ it had ‘nothing to do with his political activities.’ During his 2015 presidential campaign, Poroshenko had pledged to sell most of his assets, all of which were transferred to Prime Assets Capital, according to a news account.”

Alaa Mubarak, son of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

Alaa Mubarak, his brother Gamal and father were detained in April 2011, two months after Hosni Mubarak resigned the presidency in the face of a popular uprising were sentenced in May 2015 to three years in jail for embezzling millions of dollars in state funds intended for the renovation of palaces. A Cairo criminal court released Alaa and his brother in October 2015, acknowledging the time they served in jail since their arrests. The brothers still face trial on charges of insider trading. Their father remains in custody in a military hospital.

The Panama Papers say: "Alaa Mubarak owned the British Virgin Islands firm Pan World Investments Inc. In 2011, the year in which his father resigned the Egyptian presidency and was arrested along with Alaa and another son, BVI authorities told Mossack Fonseca to freeze Pan World's assets, an order prompted by a European Union law. In 2013, Mossack Fonseca was fined $37,500 for failing to properly check into Alaa Mubarak, "a high risk customer." Internally, Mossack Fonseca admitted its procedures were "seriously flawed" as Mubarak hadn't been identified early enough.

"Noting they had "very little control" over Mubarak's company, they resigned as its agent in April 2015."

Ex-Vice-President of Iraq, Ayad Allawi

Mr Allawi was Iraq’s Vice-President between 2014 and 2015, and the country’s interim prime minister from 2004 to 2005. During 30 years in exile from Iraq, he headed the Iraqi National Accord (INA). In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the INA was involved in passing intelligence to Britain’s MI6.

Appointed interim prime minister of Iraq in June 2004, Mr Allawi’s time in the post was reported to have been marked by allegations of widespread corruption in the country, as well as collaboration with the US and a hardline security stance that led some Iraqis to label him “Saddam without a moustache”.

The Panama Papers allege: “Mossack Fonseca supplied his 1985 Panama-registered company I.M.F. Holdings Inc. with people who stood in for Allawi as directors. He was listed as the sole shareholder in 2000. Until its dissolution in 2013, I.M.F. owned a house in Kingston upon Thames, [Surrey]. As of April 2013 the property appeared under the name of Allawi and had an estimated value of about $1.5 million . Allawi’s other offshore company, Moonlight Estates Limited, also held a property in London on his behalf . Documents for this British Virgin Islands-registered entity identify the source of funds as personal savings.”

What are The Panama Papers?

King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud

Became king in January 2015 after the death of his brother Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Britain marked the death by flying flags at half-mast over the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.

The Panama Papers say: “King Salman held an unspecific role in Luxembourg company Safason Corporation SPF S.A., which was the shareholder of Verse Development Corporation, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 1999, and Inrow Corporation, incorporated in 2002. Inrow took out a mortgage in 2009 worth up to $26 million and Verse took out a second mortgage worth more than $8 million both of which were for luxury homes in central London. While King Salman's precise role is not specified, both mortgages are mentioned "in relation to" him and his assets. King Salman was also described as "the principal user" of a motor yacht, Erga, named after the King’s palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and registered in London by the BVI company Crassus Limited, incorporated in 2004.”

President of the United Arab Emirates, Emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,

Succeeded to the posts of president and emir upon the death of his father in 2004.

The Panama Papers say: “Sheikh Khalifa was the beneficial owner of at least 30 companies established in the British Virgin Islands by Mossack Fonseca, through which he held commercial and residential properties in pricey areas of London such as Kensington and Mayfair, worth at least $1.7 billion. By December 2015, nearly all the shares in those companies were held by Mossack Fonseca through trust structures, but the true beneficiary remained the Sheikh, as well as his wife, son and daughter. In 2011 Mossack Fonseca wrote that the law firm handling Sheikh Al Nahyan's affairs was ‘usually hesitant’ in providing information about his identity.”

Prime minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davio Gunnlaugsson

Mr Gunnlaugsson came to prominence campaigning against the demands of foreign creditors in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. His wife, Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir, is the daughter of a wealthy Toyota dealer in Iceland.

The Panama Papers claim: “Gunnlaugsson and Pálsdóttir owned a British Virgin Islands shell company called Wintris Inc., which held nearly $4 million in bonds in the three major Icelandic banks. It is unclear whether Gunnlaugsson’s political positions benefited or hurt the value of the bonds held by Wintris. In 2009, Gunnlaugsson entered parliament but failed to declare his ownership of Wintris. On the last day of 2009, he sold his 50 percent share in Wintris to Pálsdóttir for a dollar. Mossack Fonseca noted in April 2013 that Pálsdóttir was a so-called politically exposed person, but internal records suggest the firm did nothing about it.”

Close friend of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, Sergey Roldugin

Mr Roldugin, a world class professional cellist, is godfather to Mr Putin’s eldest daughter. In September 2014 he told the New York Times: “I’ve got an apartment, a car and a dacha. I don’t have millions.”

The Panama Papers allege: “Sergey Roldugin was an owner of three offshore companies: Sonnette Overseas, International Media Overseas and Raytar Limited. St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya, which the U.S government described as Russia’s “personal bank for senior officials,” created the first two. The Rossiya executive in charge of setting up Sonnette described Roldugin as being ‘assigned’ to the company. In March 2008, Sonnette Overseas and four other offshore-companies gained major influence over Kamaz , Russia's largest truckmaker, for almost a year. International Media Overseas owned Med Media Network, which in turn controlled 12.5% of Vi, Russia’s largest television advertising buyer, formerly known as Video International. Another Bank Rossiya-created company assigned International Media Overseas the rights to a $200 million loan for $1.”

Former Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Ruled Qatar from 1995 to 2013 before handing over power to his son.

The Panama Papers say: “In March 2014, less than a year after Al Thani resigned as Qatar’s ruler, a Luxembourg lawyer contacted Mossack Fonseca to convey Al Thani's interest in buying an off-the-shelf company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The company the former emir acquired, Afrodille S.A., would hold a bank account in Luxembourg and shares in two South African companies, according to the lawyer. From September 2013, Al Thani was also the majority shareholder of Rienne S.A. and of Yalis S.A., which held a term deposit with the Bank of China in Luxembourg, according to the files. While Al Thani held majority ownership in both companies, a 25 percent stake in each was held by another family member, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s former prime minister and foreign minister.”

Li Xiaolin, daughter of Li Peng, the former Premier of China

The current vice-president of state-owned power company China Datang Gorporation and former CEO of China Power International Development, she has been nicknamed China’s “Power Queen”.

The Panama Papers say: “Li Xiaolin and her husband Liu Zhiyuan were the beneficial owners of “Fondation Silo,” a Lichtenstein foundation that was the sole shareholder of “Cofic Investments Ltd.,” a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands when her father Li Peng was prime minister of China. The couple’s Swiss lawyer told Mossack Fonseca that Cofic’s source of funds was business profits from helping other clients of his law firm export heavy machinery from Europe to China.”

Rami and Hafez Makhlouf, cousins of Bashar Assad, the President of Syria

Rami Makhlouf

The two brothers were both targeted by international sanctions following Assad’s violent repression of pro-democracy demonstrators. The ICIJ says that for years, any foreign company seeking to do business in Syria had to be cleared by Rami, and that Hafez was a general in charge of Syria’s intelligence and security apparatus. It is possible that the brothers may have fallen out of favour with Assad in the past two years.

The Panama Papers say: “In 2002, Rami Makhlouf co-founded Syriatel, a Syrian mobile telecom company. He held 10 percent of the shares personally and another 63 percent through his British Virgin Island company Drex Technologies S.A. He had also opened an account for Drex in Switzerland.”

The papers say that the Swiss bank also handled “Seadale International Corporation, which Rami owned with his brothers” and “Eagle Trading & Contracting Limited owned by Hafez.”

The papers add that “In February 2011, employees at Mossack Fonseca discussed via email allegations of bribery and corruption made against members of the Makhlouf family and sanctions that had previously been imposed by the US. In June 2011, the BVI Financial Services Commission wrote to Mossack Fonseca regarding an investigation under anti-money laundering laws into Drex Technologies S.A., prompting Mossack Fonseca to cut ties with the Makhlouf family's companies.”

Clive Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa

As well as allegedly buying his fiancée a Maserati for her birthday, Mr Khulubuse Zuma is reported by the South African press to enjoy a lifestyle of cigars, cocktails and up to 19 collectible cars.

The Panama Papers say that the South African President’s nephew was “authorized to represent Caprikat Limited, one of two offshore companies that controversially acquired oil fields in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In late summer 2010, as published reports raised questions about the acquisition, British Virgin Islands authorities ordered Mossack Fonseca to provide background information on Zuma, which the law firm had not previously obtained. That same year, Mossack Fonseca decided to end its relationship with the companies. Zuma and representatives of the companies have rejected allegations of wrongdoing and claimed the oil deals are "quite attractive" to the DRC government.”

Mariam Safdar, Hasan Nawaz Sharif and Hussain Nawaz Sharif, children of Nawaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan

The wealth of the Sharifs, reported to be the fourth wealthiest family in Pakistan has often created controversy in the country, although when allegations of corruption and tax avoidance first surfaced in 2000, a family spokesperson called them “completely wrong,” adding “This is a very religious family.”

Hasan, who moved to London over 16 years ago, and Hussain have been running family businesses from abroad, while Mariam is reportedly being groomed to take over leadership of her father’s political party.

The Panama Papers say: “Mariam Safdar was the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993. Sharif's first term as prime minister ended in 1993. The companies owned ‘a UK property each for use by the family’ of the companies' owners. Hussain and Mariam signed a document dated June 2007 that was part of a series of transactions in which Deutsche Bank Geneva lent up to $13.8 million to Nescoll, Nielsen and another company, with their London properties as collateral.In July 2014, the two companies were transferred to another agent. Mossack Fonseca knew that Mariam Safdar was Nawaz Sharif's daughter, a ‘Politically Exposed Person,’ and committed to checking her activities twice a year beginning in July 2012. Hasan Nawaz Sharif was the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Limited incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in February 2007, which acquired Liberia-based firm Cascon Holdings Establishment Limited for about $11.2 million in August 2007. Mossack Fonseca resigned as agent for Hangon because Hasan Nawaz Sharif was a ‘Politically Exposed Person.’”

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