King Abdullah of Jordan ‘spent over $100m on luxury homes in U.S. and UK’

King Abdullah of Jordan. Editorial credit: Alexandros Michailidis

King Abdullah II of Jordan has spent more than $100 million on luxury homes in the United States and the United Kingdom and has used secret, offshore accounts for the transactions, according to a document leak. 

The massive leak of 12 million documents was published by a group of news organisations that have revealed the hidden wealth and tax evasion of some of the world’s top politicians, media moguls, celebrities and businesspeople.

The leak, known as Pandora Papers, involved more than 600 journalists in 117 countries. It was organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington-based network of reporters and media organisations.

According to the leak: “King Abdullah II has secretly owned 14 luxury homes in the United Kingdom and the United States, purchased between 2003 and 2017 through front companies registered in tax havens. Their value totals more than $106 million.

“The homes include a house in Ascot, one of England’s most expensive towns; multimillion-dollar apartments in central London and three luxury apartments in a complex in Washington, D.C., with panoramic views of the Potomac River.”

The leak further reads that the King owns “three adjoining beachfront homes under reconstruction at Point Dume, a posh enclave near Los Angeles. One, a seven-bedroom mansion on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, was bought in 2014  through one of the king’s shell companies, Nabisco Holdings (no connection to the cookie company),  for $33.5 million.

“Accountants and lawyers in Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands formed shell companies on the king’s behalf and concocted plans to shield his name from public and even confidential government registries.”

Jordan is one of the poorest countries in the region plagued with corruption and depends on foreign aid to manage its affairs. Last year alone, the United States gave Jordan more than  $1.5 billion in aid and military funding, and the European Union agreed to provide the kingdom with more than $218 million to soften the blow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against rising unemployment, poverty, corruption and growing public debt, Jordanians took to the streets in 2018 demanding reforms. According to the then Prime Minister, Omar al-Razzaz, “Jordan would track every last dinar that citizens have hidden in tax havens, no offshore wealth was beyond scrutiny.”

When the King’s office was contacted by the ICIJ, the attorneys, speaking on behalf of King said: “The king is not required to pay taxes under Jordanian law.”

Imran Khan’s circle

Among other top figures exposed in the leaks are several key figures in Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, their families and military leaders who own millions of dollars of hidden wealth in a group of offshore companies and trust holdings.

According to the leak: “Among those whose holdings have been exposed are Khan’s finance minister, Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin, and his family, and the son of Khan’s former adviser for finance and revenue, Waqar Masood Khan. The records also reveal the offshore dealings of a top PTI donor, Arif Naqvi, who is facing fraud charges in the United States.”

The files show how Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, a key political ally of Imran Khan’s, planned to put the proceeds from an allegedly corrupt business deal into a secret trust, concealing them from Pakistan’s tax authorities.

The papers also reveal that the wife of one of the country’s leading generals during Pervez Musharraf’s rule, Gen. Shafaat Ullah Shah, in 2007 bought an apartment in London through a discreet offshore transaction. The cost of the apartment, according to the leak, was $1.2million.

The Pandora Papers also reveal that “Raja Nadir Pervez, a retired army lieutenant colonel, and former government minister, owned International Finance & Equipment Ltd, a BVI-registered company. In the leaked files, the firm is involved in machinery and related businesses in India, Thailand, Russia, and China. Records show that in 2003, Pervez transferred his shares in the company to a trust that controls several offshore companies.”

Similarly, sons of the former head of Pakistan’s air force, Umar and Ahad Khattak, registered a British Virgin Island company in 2010 and invested millions in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate via the same company.

And the son of Waqar Masood Khan, Khan’s chief adviser for finance and revenue between 2019 and 2020, co-owned a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

“Khan’s former minister for water resources, Faisal Vawda, set up an offshore company in 2012 to invest in U.K. properties, the Pandora Papers show. He resigned in March amid a controversy over his status as a dual U.S.-Pakistan national. Vawda told ICIJ that he has declared all worldwide assets held in his name to Pakistani tax authorities,” the papers reveal.

Tariq Shafi, a leading businessman, and another PTI donor held $215 million through offshore companies, the records show.

Although, according to Imran Khan’s spokesperson, PM had “passed an executive order requiring unelected members of his cabinet to declare their assets, in addition to the asset disclosures already required of members of the National Assembly under Pakistani law.”

Similarly, Moonis Elahi, whose father founded the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, along with her family members has reportedly multiple offshore companies and trusts that allegedly hold trade millions of dollars.

According to the leak: “a key political ally of Imran Khan’s, planned to put the proceeds from an allegedly corrupt business deal into a secret trust, concealing them from Pakistan’s tax authorities.”

A family spokesman for the Elahi family told the consortium that “due to political victimisation misleading interpretations and data have been circulated in files for nefarious reasons.” He said that family assess are declared as per applicable law.

Among those who have links with offshore companies, the leak also names of Senator Faisal Vawda, former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s son, PPP’s Sharjeel Memon, PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh. There are around 700 Pakistani citizens named in the papers.

Similarly, the owners of different media groups have also been named in the leaks. Those who hold offshore accounts include the publisher of Jang group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, CEO Dawn media group Hamid Haroon, Publisher of Express Media Group Sultan Ahmed Lakhani, the Gourmet Group which also owns a TV channel GNN, and publisher of Pakistan Today the late Arif Nizami.

Meanwhile, according to Pandora Papers over the past 15 years, Azerbaijan President, Ilham Aliyev’s family, has traded close to $550 million of UK property. One of the properties that were purchased in 2009 by an offshore company was owned by Aliyev’s son, Heydar, costs around $455million. His son was 11 at the time of the purchase of this property.

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