10/04/2021, 13.20
JORDAN
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Pandora papers: King Abdullah owner of hidden properties worth 100 million

Since his accession to the throne he has bought luxury homes in California, London and Washington. A network of companies with offices in tax havens used to hide the real estate transactions . Lawyers defend legality and deny us eof public money. Fears of a new escalation of protests in the Hashemite kingdom. 

 

Amman (AsiaNews) - Luxury residences in California and London, purchased through offshore properties for a total value of about 100 million euros. King of Jordan, Abdullah II, is also on the long list of 35 heads (or former) heads of government and 400 high-level officials, in addition to celebrities scattered in 100 countries, who over the years have accumulated large amounts of money or assets through investments and companies in tax havens.

The Hashemite monarch joins the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the President of Chile Sebastián Piñera, the President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a woman "close" to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The "Pandora papers" investigation, which is reminiscent of the 2016 "Panama Papers" investigation, is the result of a long process of research and analysis of documents by the investigative reporters of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (Icij), which led, in these hours, to the publication of the first articles.

In the documents - more than 11.9 million tax and financial reports, for a total of 2.9 terabytes (TB) of data - so far released, almost a hundred billionaires and about 30 thousand offshore accounts emerge; the analysis concerns only bank accounts, excluding other real estate, jewelry and other valuables. 

As far as the Jordanian monarch is concerned, the documents reveal a network of companies attributable to King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and used to purchase 15 luxury homes since his rise to power in 1999. They include properties in Malibu in the U.S., London and Ascot in the United Kingdom.

The lawyers have stressed in a note that the purchases were made without violating the laws and, above all, without using public funds. However, the affair will certainly not help to calm the spirits of a population that has taken to the streets several times in the recent past against poverty and corruption, ending up by attacking not only the government and prime minister, but the monarchical institution itself and the king. 

In recent years Jordan, thanks also to the solid relations between the king and the West, of which it is an ally in a Middle Eastern area of precarious equilibrium, has received substantial international aid, especially from the United States and the United Kingdom.

In 2019, the  London government prepared a five-year aid plan worth about 760 million euros for the Hashemite kingdom. In addition, Abdullah is accused of building his fortunes between 2003 and 2017 while at home fueling an authoritarian regime that suppressed popular protests, imposed austerity and raised taxes. And in June 2020, he enacted a law aimed at targeting citizens who send money abroad. 

Among the disputed properties at least four apartments in Georgetown, a wealthy suburb of Washington, purchased between 2012 and 2016. An investment according to experts made to allow his son - and crown prince - Hussein to benefit from all the comforts during his years of study at Georgetown University, attended in the same years.

There is also a seven-room villa in Malibu, in a neighborhood for multi-millionaires overlooking the Pacific in which Anthony Hopkins, Julia Roberts, Simon Cowell, Gwyneth Paltrow and Barbra Streisand live (or have lived) just to name a few of the most famous. The property was purchased in 2014 by Nabisco Holdings SA, a British Virgin Islands company, for a sum of 29 million euros. 

The revelations contained in the papers risk fueling new protests against the Hashemite kingdom's top leadership. A dissident, interviewed by the BBC, says that King Abdullah governs the nation from outside thanks to a "remote control", while a former government official says that the monarch spends four to six months a year away from his country.

Annelle Sheline, an expert on the Middle East, adds that for a citizen who struggles to support his family and is out of work to know that the monarch has invested money abroad for a long time is a huge blow to his image and credibility. 

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