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Transparency over “who really owns property” would help to solve the “UK’s dirty money problem”, an anti-corruption group has said following a bombshell leak of financial documents.
Legislation that would unmask property owners using offshore companies should be tabled before Christmas, Transparency International UK has said.
The call comes amid the “Pandora Papers” investigation, which has shed light on how world leaders, billionaires and others have used offshore accounts to keep money out of government treasuries over the past quarter-century.
‘A closer look at Tony Blair’s tarnished reputation’
Tony Blair and his wife have been named in the Panama Papers investigation, with the couple denying any wrongdoing.
“He’s portrayed as now being part of that rich globalist elite that he once seemed to want to at least restrain,” Sean O’Grady writes, as he takes a closer look at the former UK prime minister’s reputation:
Once regarded as something of a sun king and one of ‘us’, he’s portrayed as now being part of that rich globalist elite that he once seemed to want to at least restrain, writes Sean O’Grady
Transparency over property ownership
Transparency International UK has called for legislation that would unmask property owners using offshore companies to be tabled before Christmas.
Duncan Hames from the anti-corruption group said: “Transparency over who really owns property here would go a long way to help solve the UK’s £100billion-a-year dirty money problem.”
He added: “The government has already done much of the hard work on legislation that would lift the veil of secrecy provided by offshore companies, with a bill drafted and MPs and peers having already provided positive feedback.
“If ministers are serious about tackling the flow of corrupt and criminal wealth into the property market, we see no reason why this could not be tabled before Christmas.”
‘These are not victimless scams’
And on the links to the UK, here is what former shadow chancellor John McDonnell says:
Pandora Papers and the UK
In the UK, the government is facing calls to tighten the country’s defences against “dirty money” after the leak of offshore data.
The Pandora Papers showed how London, in particular, is the destination of choice for some of the world’s richest and most powerful people to conceal their cash. Duncan Hames, policy director at the campaign group Transparency International UK, said the disclosures should act as a “wake up call” for the government to deliver on long-overdue measures to strengthen the UK’s defences against tax avoidance and money laundering. “These leaks show that there is one system for corrupt elites who can buy access to prime property and enjoy luxury lifestyles and another for honest hard-working people,” he said.
Rishi Sunak has said the UK’s tax authorities will inspect the Pandora Papers and defended the country’s record on tackling tax avoidance.
Additional reporting by AP
What will the impact of the Pandora Papers be?
“In films, the crusading journalist spends 90 minutes exposing corruption before police lead the bad guy away in shackles, just as the credits roll,” Borzou Daragahi writes.
“The real world is never as simple, especially at a time when publics have grown almost immune to official misconduct and dysfunction and often vote for or acquiesce to autocrats appealing to vague notions of national or ethnic pride.”
Our international correspondent looks at whether the Pandora Papers will lead to any major changes:
The revelations are eye-catching, but the test will be whether they lead to major reform, writes Borzou Daragahi
Current and former world leaders deny wrongdoing
Current and former world leaders have denied wrongdoing after being named or linked to figures in the Pandora Papers.
To run through a few:
Czech prime minister
Andrej Babis is accused of passing money through three separate companies in order to buy luxury properties including a £13m chateau on the French Riviera.
He used a television debate to protest his innocence, saying the allegations are part of a conspiracy to remove him from power, and that the events in question took place long before he entered politics.
Read more on the Czech PM – who is days away from a parliamentary election – here:
The Czech Republic goes to the polls at the weekend, just as its billionaire PM stands accused in the Pandora Papers’ leak, reports William Nattrass in Prague
King of Jordan
King Abdullah II has said claims he used offshore accounts to disguise a £70m hidden property empire were “defamatory and designed to target Jordan’s reputation”.
Bel Trew, our middle east correspondent, has more:
Damning reports come just months after coup plot, reports Middle East correspondent, Bel Trew
Kremlin on Vladimir Putin’s inner circle
The Kremlin’s spokesperson has dismissed the Pandora papers – which purport to link Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco – as “a set of largely unsubstantiated claims”.
Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin failed to discern what all the fuss was about in the case of the alleged Putin associates.
“Honestly speaking, we didn’t see any hidden wealth of Putin’s inner circle in there,” he said.
Tony and Cherie Blair avoided paying £312,000 in tax on the purchase of a London property by acquiring an offshore company, according to a trove of leaked documents.
The couple’s spokesperson said “the Blairs pay full tax on all their earnings” and have “never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax”.
Daniel Keane has more:
Deal meant couple did not pay stamp duty on London townhouse bought in 2017 as an office for Ms Blair’s legal advisory firm
Additional reporting by agencies
What do the Pandora Papers show?
The Pandora Papers investigation has revealed the secret offshore wealth of the rich and powerful in one of the largest ever leaks of financial data.
Some 35 world leaders and more than 100 billionaires are implicated in the leaked documents, which lay bare how the global elite use offshore tax havens to store and move their money.
Daniel Keane has more on the findings and who is implicated:
Massive leak of financial documents links world leaders including Vladimir Putin and King Abdullah of Jordan to secret stores of wealth
Why are there no big American names in Pandora Papers?
Prominent Americans largely escaped the investigation’s gaze. But the United States itself did not, as researchers found the US now serves as an overseas tax haven for many.
John Bowden takes a look at the absence of big American names in the Pandora Papers:
Laws in Nevada, South Dakota now rival most lax offshore tax havens
US reviewing findings from Pandora Papers
A US state department spokesperson has been asked about the Pandora Papers at a news conference.
“We’ve of course seen the reporting on the Pandora Papers and we are not in a position to comment specifically on the findings, which we are reviewing,” he said.
Ned Price, the spokesperson, added the US government actively focuses on strengthening financial transparency and investigating possible illicit activity.
Additional reporting by Reuters
Good morning and welcome to our coverage of the Pandora Papers investigation.