A massive new leak of financial documents has exposed how the presidents of Azerbaijan and Ukraine, as well as hundreds of other politicians and billionaires across the world, are linked with companies that use offshore tax havens to hide wealth.
The files from offshore companies, dubbed the Pandora Papers, involve some 35 current and former leaders and more than 300 officials.
The findings of the files’ examination — the largest organized by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – were released on October 3.
The investigation found that the family of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and their close associates have secretly been involved in property deals in Britain, almost entirely in London, worth nearly $700 million using offshore companies, according to Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which is part of the ICIJ consortium.
Most these properties were purchased in cash.
The files show how the Aliyevs, long accused of corruption in the South Caucasus country, bought a total of 17 properties, the BBC reported.
Aliyev’s son, Heydar, owned four buildings in London’s Mayfair district when he was just 11 years old.
A $44.7 million block was bought by a front company owned by a family friend of the president in 2009, and was transferred one month later to Heydar.
Aliyev’s administration did not respond to requests for comments on the allegations, nor did members of his family.
The secret records also show that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his close circle were the beneficiaries of a network of offshore companies, including some that owned expensive property in London, OCCRP reported.
It said Zelenskiy and his partners in a television production company, Kvartal 95, set up a network of offshore firms dating back to at least 2012. Among other things, the offshores were used by Zelenskiy’s associates to purchase three prime properties in the center of the British capital.
The documents also show that just before he was elected in 2019 on a wave of public anger against the country’s political class, Zelenskiy transferred his stake in a secret offshore company to his business partner who later became his top presidential aide.
And an arrangement was soon made that would allow the offshore to keep paying dividends to a company that now belongs to his wife.
A spokesman for Zelenskiy declined to comment.
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