Panama Papers’ Leak Leads to Flood of Questions for these MENA Figures

The [Panama Papers] are:

11.5m documents were obtained by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The ICIJ then worked with journalists from 107 media organisations in 76 countries, including UK newspaper the Guardian, to analyse the documents over a year.

In all, the details of 214,000 entities, including companies, trusts and foundations, were leaked.

The information in the documents dates back to 1977, and goes up to December last year. Emails make up the largest type of document leaked, but images of contracts and passports were also released.~BBC News

BBC graphic comparing size of Panama Papers data leak to other recent leaks

If we pushed fast forward on the events from Noah’s Flood, and brought them to the 21st century, we would be drowning in a sea of names, numbers, currencies, and banking entities in what we will, henceforth, refer to as the “Panama Leaks…and the Kitchen Sink”.  On April 1st, the “Panama Papers” linked names with “shell companies”–businesses set up outside the owners’ countries of origin to hide dark money in offshore tax havens through some of our biggest banks, which include HSBC, UBS, Credit Suisse, and Societe General. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists received the data– which PITAPOLICY used to search for the people listed below — from the German Newspaper, Sueddeutsche.

The Panama Leaks and the Kitchen Sink give credence to what many warned about in the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, and continue to argue: politicians, and their close associates, will hide their largest financial holdings away from the watchful eyes of tax collectors–and may engage in more nefarious activities.  For example, associates of deposed Libyan leader, Muammar Ghaddafi, are also listed with secret offshore holdings.  Given the wealth that Ghaddafi’s sons accrued from Libya’s Sovereign Wealth Fund–money that was supposed to be invested on behalf of the Libyan people– billions of dollars from that fund float in and around the United Kingdom, Dubai banks, and maybe with other entities listed in the Panama Papers.

Where the Gaddafis have hidden their vast funds is anybody’s guess, although Niblock expects that most of it is “in bank accounts and liquid assets in Dubai, the Gulf and south-east Asia” rather than in relatively transparent countries such as the UK, where the Libyan state has invested in London properties and in companies such as Pearson Group, owner of the Financial Times.~The Guardian UK

One wonders about the origin of these secret offshore holdings belonging to Libyan officials…and other countries’ political and business elite.

Panama Papers’ Implications

The names listed below do not necessarily equate with criminal activity, but, these individuals do represent the political and business elite in Middle Eastern and North African countries who chose not to keep all their wealth in their home country’s banks for legitimate or illegitimate reasons.  Legitimacy is not the only factor in the financial review.  Storing money offshore–even when legitimately earned–raises issues about whether the money will ever return to the country of origin for local investment or consumption.  For example, Arab Gulf countries store 57 percent of their national wealth offshore, according to finance expert, Gabriel Zucman. In which countries will that stored money be spent?

In other countries, the political figures are not listed in the Panama Paper, but rather, their the larger business conglomerates–in one case: 600 companies and two banks.

Remember the impact Wikileaks had on the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia?  He was ousted after mass protests in Tunisia followed revelations of his regime’s kleptocracy.

Algeria: Abdeslam Bouchouareb, Member of Parliament & Minister of industry and mines

Egypt: Alaa Mubarak, Son of Former Authoritarian Leader, Hosni Mubarak

Mubarak and his brother, Gamal, were released from jail in October 2015.  They were indicted for embezzling millions of dollars from the state.  However, they still face trial for insider trading.  Meanwhile, Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm, was fined $37,500 in 2013 for failing to properly carry out checks on Alaa Mubarak who was defined as a “high-risk customer”.

Iraq: Ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (2004-2005)

Allawi is a former Baath Party member who opposed Saddam Hussein, which led to his exile and prompted a working relationship with the U.S. intelligence agencies.  Allawi is the sole director and shareholder of Foxwood Estates Limited, Moonlight Estates Limited and IMF Holdings Inc.  According to ICIJ, Allawi’s office emailed this response:

any income generated in the United Kingdom from the properties owned by the companies has been properly accounted for” and “taxes have been paid promptly and on time.

Jordan: Former Prime Minister, Ali Abu Ragheb

Ragheb resigned from his shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Morocco: Mounir Madidi, Personal Secretary to King Mohamed VI

 

Pakistan: Children of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan

Maryam, Hasan and Hussain run their family businesses in the sugar and textile industries from overseas.  Their family has been scrutinized for corruption, tax evasion, and money laundering in the past.  They faced trial and were acquitted during their exile in Saudi Arabia.

Palestine: Tareq Abbas, the son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Tareq Abbas invested $982,000 (£695,265) in the Arab Palestinian Investment Company.  Currently, over 40 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line.

Qatar: Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Former Emir &  Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, Former Prime Minister

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani served as Qatar’s Prime Minister between 2007 until 2013, when a new Emir took power.  His business deals earned him a spot on Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People” in 2012.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani seized power from his father in a bloodless takeover and ruled as Qatar’s Emir from 1996 until 2013.

Saudi Arabia: King Salman of Saudi Arabia & Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif bin Adbulaziz Al-Saud

King Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud began his reign in January 2015. He served in key positions of Defense Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and as the Governor of Riyadh.

King Salman did not respond to repeated requests made through the Saudi Embassy in the United States for comment.

Mohammad bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud serves as Saudi Arabia’s interior minister and counterterrorism chief.

Syria: Bashar the Butcher’s Entourage

Syria’s authoritarian butcher, Bashar Al-Assad is connected to others named in the “Panama Leaks”: his   cousins, Rami Makhlouf  The Makhlouf brothers, appear on the Panama Papers with offshore holdings under the guise of shell companies, to avoid the sanctions directed at them with the Assad regime’s brutal reprisals against civilian protesters, reports Democracy Now.   They monopolize Syria’s oil (to fuel Syria’s airforce in bombing its citizens)–yes, this lower-middle income country has enough oil for an authoritarian to capitalize on it, but not enough for Syrian citizens to benefit as well– and telecommunications company.

United Arab Emirates: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Al Nahyan currently serves as the Emir of Abu Dhabi and the President of the Emirates.  PITAPOLICY counted 31 companies that he is affiliated with regarding offshore holdings.  In the U.S., he financed one of the healthcare facilities in Johns Hopkins Hospital.


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