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Tory chairman Ben Elliot is outed in Pandora Papers

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives were today further dragged into the Pandora Papers scandal after the party’s co-chairman was accused of jointly owning a secret offshore film company in a tax haven amid growing calls for the Tories to hand back cash from oligarchs and millionaires named in the bombshell leak.  

At the centre of the new revelations is a BVI company E&G Productions, said to be co-owned by Ben Elliot, the nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, and his friend Ben Goldsmith, the financier and Tory advisor brother of environment minister Lord Zac Goldsmith.

Today it was claimed that Pandora Papers reveal E&G indirectly benefitted from £121,000 of UK tax credits, which are funded by the taxpayer via HMRC. 

Mr Elliot is the under-pressure co-chairman of the Conservatives who was dragged into the party’s ‘cash for access’ affair and accused of getting donors access to ministers as well as arranging a private dinner between Prince Charles and telecoms millionaire Mohamed Amersi. Last month Elliot was cleared of breaking lobbying rules – but was also urged to keep a ‘clear distinction’ between his party role and any business interests.

It came after a Russian oil and gas magnate whose companies bankrolled 34 Tory MPs and gave the party £700,000 was accused of making a fortune from an allegedly corrupt Russian pipeline deal as the Conservatives were further dragged into the Pandora Papers scandal because of their cosy relationship with oligarchs.  Labour want all the donations paid back – but Boris Johnson has said all donations are ‘properly vetted’.

The Guardian reports Elliot and Goldsmith financed the acclaimed Fire in Babylon documentary about the great West Indies cricket team of the 1970s and 80s using a £600,000 loan from its BVI parent company, E&G Productions, in 2008.

The film made a £70,000 loss and the £600,000 loan was paid back in 2011 by WIB Productions Ltd, a UK business of which Elliot and Goldsmith were ‘persons of significant control’. Between 2009 and 2011 WIB claimed £121,000 in tax credits offered to the film industry. Experts have said that without the cash from HMRC, it appears WIB would not have been able to fully repay the loan to the BVI company ten years ago. It is not know how much of the cash went to Goldsmith and Elliot, or any other investors.

One former HMRC tax inspector, who reviewed the structure for the Guardian, said: ‘In practice, I cannot see that the use of the BVI company by two UK residents could be anything other than tax motivated.’ MailOnline has approached Mr Elliot and Mr Goldsmith to comment.

A BVI-based company owned by Tory co-chairman Ben Elliot, left at part conference in Manchester on Sunday, and his friend Ben Goldsmith, right, the financier and Tory advisor brother of environment minister Lord Zac Goldsmith, has been unmasked in the Pandora Papers

A BVI-based company owned by Tory co-chairman Ben Elliot, left at part conference in Manchester on Sunday, and his friend Ben Goldsmith, right, the financier and Tory advisor brother of environment minister Lord Zac Goldsmith, has been unmasked in the Pandora Papers

Today it was claimed that Pandora Papers reveal their company indirectly benefited from £121,000 of UK tax credits, which are funded by the taxpayer via HMRC, when a loan was repaid to them as part of a loan to make the cricket documentary Fire in Babylon

Today it was claimed that Pandora Papers reveal their company indirectly benefited from £121,000 of UK tax credits, which are funded by the taxpayer via HMRC, when a loan was repaid to them as part of a loan to make the cricket documentary Fire in Babylon

Cash from ‘world’s biggest bribe scandal was invested in UK property including a Sunderland multiplex and a Humberside business park’

A British-Iranian family accused of being part of the ‘world’s biggest bribery scandal’ were today accused of pumping proceeds from their company Unaoil into UK property.  

BBC and Guardian journalists studying the Pandora Papers say cash from Ata Ahsani, the British Iranian founder of Unaoil, was paid into large funds used to invest in UK property including a cinema complex in Sunderland and a business park near Hull.

In 2019 his sons Cyrus and Saman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act brought in the US.

This was for their roles in a scheme to corruptly facilitate millions of dollars in bribe payments to officials in multiple countries. These included Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria.  

Ata Ahsani’s lawyers told  The Guardian he has not been convicted of any crime and said there is ‘no evidence’ money generated by Unaoil came from the proceeds of crime.  

Leaked confidential documents from 2016 alleged that government contracts worth billions were awarded on the basis of bribes, many organised by ‘fixer’ company known as Unaoil.

The report said that bribes were paid on behalf of many major international companies across Asia, Europe, the United States and Australia.

In one case, the report said, money was paid to middlemen in a bid to influence senior Iraqi officials – including the deputy prime minister – in order to win more than $1.3billion in oil contracts.

Ten years ago, it is believed those running Unaoil, the family business said to be responsible for providing the bribery services, had €190m between them in cash, shares and property.  

Mohamed Amersi, the Tory donor who was caught up in a cash-for-access row in August after claiming that the Ben Elliot — whose aunt is the Duchess of Cornwall — had arranged an audience for him with Prince Charles, was also named in the Pandora Papers yesterday.

He was revealed to have been working as a consultant for a Swedish telecoms firm called Telia in 2010, helping to advise on a deal that saw it arrange to pay £162 million to a secretive offshore company in order to secure a lucrative contract in Uzbekistan.

The payment was later found to have been a bribe to the pop star daughter of the former Soviet country’s then president, Islam Karimov, and Telia was fined £700 million by U.S. prosecutors.

Mr Amersi, who has given some £525,000 to the Tories since 2018, issued a statement last night denying wrongdoing. It said he had been ‘unaware’ the payment was a bribe and was ‘not responsible for the day-to-day negotiation’ of the transaction, in which he described his role as ‘limited’.

Another donor in the firing line is Viktor Fedotov, a Russian oil and gas magnate who has given the Conservatives £700,000 and made donations to 34 Tory MPs.

He is revealed to be the secret owner of VNIIST, a firm which has been accused of corruptly earning vast sums by defrauding Transneft, the Russian state-owned oil and gas company.    

Mr Fedotov is accused of secretly benefitting from an alleged $4billion fraud in Russia and may have bought a Hampshire estate  – but his lawyers insist ‘there is no evidence whatsoever’ he behaved improperly.

Eight more British politicians could be named in the Pandora Papers after Tony Blair, a millionaire Tory donor and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s wife were exposed in the devastating leak laying bare the network of secret offshore companies protecting the wealth of more than 300 world leaders and billionaires. 

The group of nine includes former Labour prime minister, who with his wife Cherie avoided paying £321,000 ($434,000) in stamp duty when they bought an office in London by purchasing the offshore company that owned it.

Mr Fedotov is currently pushing to win a £1.2billion project to build a subsea power cable between Britain and France and owns the company behind it, Aquind, alongside Alexander Temerko, a vocal Tory supporter. Both men are British citizens.

Mr Temerko is a tennis partner of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Ukrainian-born oligarch Tory donor recently gave a public backing to his ‘friend’ David Cameron over the Greensill scandal. He has personally donated more than £700,000 to the Tories.

Mr Fedotov’s businesses have also donated a further £700,000 to 34 MPs and their local parties. 

The BBC claims to have seen documents leaked as part of the Pandora Papers cache that show Mr Fedotov is the secret owner of VNIIST, which earned hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from Transneft, the Russian state-owned oil and gas pipeline company. 

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny received a 2008 audit report that claimed Transneft lost millions to corruption and VNIIST was one of the businesses that made money from it. Mr Navalny said the fraud amounted to $4billion – although no figure was ever made official and no arrests have ever been made.

Viktor Fedotov is accused of secretly benefitting from an alleged $4billion fraud in Russia and may have bought a Hampshire estate with the proceeds - but his lawyers insist 'there is no evidence whatsoever' he behaved improperly

Viktor Fedotov is accused of secretly benefitting from an alleged $4billion fraud in Russia and may have bought a Hampshire estate with the proceeds – but his lawyers insist ‘there is no evidence whatsoever’ he behaved improperly

Mr Fedotov is currently pushing to win a £1.2billion project to build a subsea power cable between Britain and France and owns the company behind it, Aquind, alongside Alexander Temerko (centre, with Boris Johnson), a vocal Tory supporter

Mr Fedotov is currently pushing to win a £1.2billion project to build a subsea power cable between Britain and France and owns the company behind it, Aquind, alongside Alexander Temerko (centre, with Boris Johnson), a vocal Tory supporter

The Russian born oil chief accused of secretly benefitting from an alleged $4billion fraud in Russia

Born in the city of Ufa in August 1947, Viktor Mikhailovich Fedotov has risen to become one of the major players in the Russian oil industry. 

He was brought up in Ufa, a city 700 miles east of Moscow – but still very much in the south west corner of Russia.

The city was one of the Soviet Union’s industrial heartlands and it was here he studied at the Ufa State Aviation Technical University, graduating as an engineer mechanic.

His skill in engineering earned him a managerial role int he local communist body in the city, having posts in the transport, timber and oil sectors.

This put him in a prime position to land a top job in Russia’s booming oil industry and in 1990 he became head of a subsidiary of Russia’s largest independent oil firm – Lukoil.

The firm was founded by billionaire Vagit Alekperov – ranked earlier this year as the 94th richest man in the world with an estimated wealth of almost £20billion.

Fedatov later become vice-president of the company under Alekperov.  

He then went on to become general director of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) between 1998 and 2000.

The firm were behind an ambitious project to build a 1,000-mile connection from the Tengiz oilfield in Kazakhstan to Novorossiysk on Russia’s Black Sea coast.

It is believed Fedatov and Alekperov met Russian leader Vladimir Putin during this time.

Fedatov later moved on to pipeline construction firm Vniist, where he mingled with Alexander Temerko.

A BBC investigation shows Fedotov secretly benefitted from the alleged $4bn fraud in Russia – though lawyers said ‘there is no evidence whatsoever’ he behaved improperly.

Last year Fedotov was revealed to be the owner of Aquind, the company behind a £1.24bn project to build an electricity cable linking the UK to France. 

Aquind is currently seeking UK government approval for the project and a decision will be made in weeks. 

Fedatov’s company is alleged to have bankrolled 34 Tory MPs and is said to have given the party £700,000. 

Mr Temerko, meanwhile, is a Conservative Party activist and personal friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has personally donated more than £700,000 to the party.

Lawyers for Aquind and Mr Temerko said all their donations to the party were ‘entirely lawful, properly declared and have not been made in return for any special treatment’, adding there is ‘no evidence that funds were embezzled’ from Transneft.

Mr Fedotov ‘denies any allegation of wrongdoing’ and told the BBC ‘has never had any interest in British politics and has operated in an open and transparent manner throughout the course of his career.’

The Pandora files allegedly show millions of dollars went into Mr Fedotov’s offshore trust, which held $97million in assets in 2007. The BBC claims this may have paid for the £7million Aragon Hall near Hook, Hampshire, his country home in the UK.

Lawyers for Aquind and Mr Temerko said all their donations to the party were ‘entirely lawful, properly declared and have not been made in return for any special treatment’, adding there is ‘no evidence that funds were embezzled’ from Transneft.

Mr Fedotov ‘denies any allegation of wrongdoing’ and told the BBC ‘has never had any interest in British politics and has operated in an open and transparent manner throughout the course of his career.’

Last year a Tory MP was ordered to apologise for breaking parliamentary rules by asking a question in the Commons that ‘sought to benefit’ a company that had given him £10,000.

David Morris asked the question and sent a follow-up email to the Business Secretary relating to energy firm Aquind. It came shortly after the company had donated the five-figure sum to Mr Morris.

In the July it emerged that 14 Conservative ministers including six in the Cabinet had accepted tens of thousands of pounds in donations from Russian oligarchs including the wife of one of Vladimir Putin’s ex-ministers who played tennis with Boris Johnson, it was revealed today.

The donations, all legal under electoral rules and properly declared, emerged just a day after the intelligence and security committee (ISC) published its long-delayed Russia report which warned the UK is at risk of being exploited by Moscow because of the cosy relationship with its oligarchs.  

A Tory spokesman said today: ‘Fund raising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. Government policy is in no way influenced by the donations the Party receives’ and that the party is ‘motivated by the priorities of the British public, acting in the national interest’. 

It comes amid revelations about the Blairs, who have denied any wrongdoing. They have built a £35m property empire of 39 homes, flats and offices since he left Downing Street.

The remaining eight politicians, rumoured to include MPs past and present, face a nervous wait before they are named in the coming days including details about how they have used offshore companies to avoid tax or hide cash and assets. 

Although he is not named himself, the wife of Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s wife is. Helena de Chair is the beneficiary of a holding company and trust to manage ‘pictures and paintings’ worth $3.5million. 

And major Tory donor Mohamed Amersi, who helped bankroll Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, was dragged into the scandal amid claims he was allegedly involved in one of Europe’s biggest corruption scandals involving a $220m bung with the glamorous daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan at its heart. The telecoms millionaire has given nearly £525,000 to the Tories since 2018 and enjoys access to senior Conservative figures including ministers at the party’s elite dining club. This summer he said he was also invited to a private meal with Prince Charles. 

The leaked Pandora Papers exposing the secret financial dealings of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people also reveals other links to Britain. The King of Jordan was allegedly able to secretly add £70million worth of property to his portfolios, including in London and Ascot. He denies these claims.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, his family and close associates also snapped up more than £400million worth of property in the UK using offshore accounts, the papers reveal.

The documents show how 35 current and former world leaders – including associates of Vladimir Putin – used accounts in tax havens to accrue huge amounts of wealth and carry out transactions.  They were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) before being studied by more than 650 reporters from BBC Panorama, the Guardian and more than 100 other news outlets who will publish more stories over the coming days.  

The Pandora Papers show how Tony and Cherie Blair avoided paying stamp duty on their purchase of an office in London. The transaction was not illegal and couple said it was at the insistence of those selling it.

Although he is not named himself, the wife of Tory MP Jacob Rees_Mogg's wife is. Helena de Chair is the beneficiary of a holding company and trust to manage 'pictures and paintings' worth $3.5million.

The Pandora Papers show how Tony and Cherie Blair avoided paying stamp duty on their purchase of an office in London. The transaction was not illegal and couple said it was at the insistence of those selling it. Although he is not named himself, the wife of Tory MP Jacob Rees_Mogg’s wife is. Helena de Chair is the beneficiary of a holding company and trust to manage ‘pictures and paintings’ worth $3.5million.

While the Blairs' purchase of the London office (pictured) was not illegal, its revelation comes after the former Labour leader has been critical of tax loopholes, once saying that 'the tax system is a haven of scams, perks, City deals and profits'

While the Blairs’ purchase of the London office (pictured) was not illegal, its revelation comes after the former Labour leader has been critical of tax loopholes, once saying that ‘the tax system is a haven of scams, perks, City deals and profits’

Mohamed Amersi and his Russian partner Nadezhda Rodicheva have between them given £793,000 to the Tory party and senior MPs in recent years. Mr Amersi had been named in today's Pandora Papers as being involved in one of Europe's biggest corruption scandals

Telia, who Mr Amersi worked for as a consultant, was later fined $965m (£700m) in a US prosecution and the $220m payment was found to be a bribe for Gulnara Karimova (pictured), the eldest daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov

Mohamed Amersi and his Russian partner Nadezhda Rodicheva (left) have between them given £793,000 to the Tory party and senior MPs in recent years. Mr Amersi had been named in today’s Pandora Papers as being involved in one of Europe’s biggest corruption scandals. Telia, who Mr Amersi worked for as a consultant, was later fined $965m (£700m) in a US prosecution and the $220m payment was found to be a bribe for Gulnara Karimova (pictured right), the eldest daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov

The team behind the Pandora Papers has tallied the names of politicians mentioned - but is yet to reveal all their identities

The team behind the Pandora Papers has tallied the names of politicians mentioned – but is yet to reveal all their identities

Revealed: Son of a Merseyside PC who worked for Littlewoods before looking after the staggering wealth of Putin’s alleged former lover and his oligarch friend in Monaco

A Merseyside-born accountant who started at Littlewoods has been named in the Pandora Papers as the man managing companies for Russians in Monaco including Putin’s best friend and the Russian President’s alleged lover and mother of his child.

Eamonn McGregor (right) is managing director of Moores Rowland, an accountancy and tax firm based close to principality’s famous casino and the five-star Hôtel de Paris.

Mr McGregor, 71, hails from Southport and trained as an accountant at Liverpool’s retail giant Littlewoods. From those humble beginnings he found himself working in Monaco, becoming a tax expert fluent in French and Italian.

In 1998, Prince Rainier, the then monarch, even made McGregor a knight and Chevalier in the order of St Charles – one of the greatest honours bestowed on a citizen. 

According to the Pandora Papers, McGregor’s wealthy Monaco clients include Gennady Timchenko, a friend of Putin’s from the 1990s said to be worth in excess of £16billion.

The Guardian reports that Mr McGregor has looked after Timchenko’s assets for at least two decades, including private jets and the M/S Lena yacht, named after his client’s wife. 

A single corporate structure, called Radnor Investments, held Timchenko’s yacht, and also a flat owned by Svetlana Krivonogikh, a former cleaner from St. Petersburg who is thought to have given birth to Putin’s love-child – a daughter, Elizaveta – in 2003.

Moores Rowland has said it cannot discuss its clients and their affairs because of a ‘strict duty of confidence’, but added they always comply with ‘all applicable laws and regulations’. 

 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was asked if he has ever benefited from an offshore arrangement, Mr Sunak told Sky News: ‘No. I haven’t. I’ve seen these things overnight as well and it’s always tough for me to comment on them specifically given they’ve only just emerged, and of course HMRC will look through those to see if there’s anything we can learn.’   

The Royal Hashemite Court this morning rejected the Pandora Papers reports that the King of Jordan Abdullah spent more than £70m on a property empire in the UK and US, saying these reports ‘included inaccuracies and distorted and exaggerated the facts’.

The files consist of 12 million documents from 14 financial services companies in countries including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Switzerland. 

They were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) before being studied by more than 650 reporters from BBC Panorama, the Guardian and more than 100 other news outlets. 

They reveal Tony and Cherie Blair avoided paying £312,000 in stamp duty when they bought a £6.45million London office, explosive documents revealed last night.

The disclosure is contained in a leak of offshore papers which exposes hidden wealth and tax avoidance by some of the world’s richest and most powerful people.

The ex-Labour prime minister and his barrister wife did not have to pay the tax bill because they bought the offshore company that owned the property.

Mrs Blair, who runs a law firm and a women’s foundation from the four-storey Victorian building, said the sellers had insisted the office be sold in this way.

There is nothing illegal about the transaction, but the deal highlights a loophole that helps wealthy property owners avoid paying a tax that most UK home buyers cannot escape.

The Blairs have angrily denied any wrongdoing after the Guardian and Panorama said they were able to save more than £300,000 in stamp duty when they acquired a £6.45 million London property by buying the offshore company which owned it.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the couple said they had bought the property in ‘a normal way through reputable agents’ and should not have been ‘dragged into a story about ‘hidden’ secrets of prime ministers etc’.

‘The vendor was an offshore company. The Blairs had nothing whatever to do with the original company nor those behind it. The vendor sold the company not the property – again a decision the Blairs had nothing to with,’ the spokeswoman said.

‘Since the purchase was of a company no buyer would have had to pay UK stamp duty on that transaction. However, because the Blairs then repatriated the company and brought it onshore, they are liable for capital gains and other taxes on the resale of the property which will significantly exceed any stamp duty.

‘For the record, the Blairs pay full tax on all their earnings. And have never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax.’

Today a major Tory donor who helped bankroll Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign was dragged into the scandal amid claims he was allegedly involved in one of Europe’s biggest corruption scandals with the glamorous daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan at its heart. 

Mohamed Amersi has given nearly £525,000 to the Tories since 2018 and enjoys access to senior Conservative figures including ministers at the party’s most important donors at the party’s elite dining club.

Pandora Papers reveal world leaders and their associates avoided taxes and made huge property purchases using secret offshore companies 

  • Alleged Putin lover Svetlana Krivonogikh purchased a $4.1million apartment below Monaco’s casino via an offshore account in September 2003 – six months after allegedly giving birth to the Russian president’s child. Since becoming friends with Putin, the former cleaner seems to have amassed a luxury portfolio of assets, including a flat in a well-to-do area of St Petersburg, other properties in Moscow and a yacht, coming to a total of $100million – the Kremlin has refused to comment.
  • Former British prime minister Mr Blair and his wife Cherie saved some $434,000 (£321,000) in stamp duty when they bought an office in London by purchasing the offshore company that owned it
  • King of Jordan Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein was able to secretly add £70million worth of property to his portfolios after purchasing 15 properties in the UK and US – mainly in Malibu, California and in London and Ascot. 
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family and close associates snapped up more than $500million (£400million) worth of property in the UK – consisting of 17 properties, including an office block in London for $44.6million (£33million) for the president’s son Heydar Aliyev, aged 11. They also appeared to have made a $41.9million (£31million) profit after selling a London property to the Queen’s Crown Estate, which is managed by the Treasury
  • Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis – who is facing an election later this week – failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for $16.2million in the south of France. 
  • President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and six of his family members, who were revealed to secretly own 11 offshore companies containing $30million worth of assets.
  • Prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan’s cabinet ministers and their families were shown to own millions of dollars worth of offshore companies.
  • President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky was shown to have moved his stake in a secret offshore company just before his victory in the 2019 election.

 

Mr Amersi, who denies any wrongdoing, has now been named in leaked documents as being involved in a controversial $220m (£162m) payment to a secretive offshore company in 2010 while working for a Swedish telecoms company. Telia was later fined $965m (£700m) in a US prosecution and the $220m payment was found to be a bribe for Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov. 

The Prime Minister told reporters at a Network Rail site in Manchester this morning: ‘I see that story today. But all I can say on that one is all these donations are vetted in the normal way in accordance with rules that were set up under a Labour government. So, we vet them the whole time’. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also insisted the Tory party carries out the required legal checks on donors after it was reported a prominent donor was involved in one of Europe’s biggest corruption scandals.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘My understanding is we carry out compliance checks in line with the referendums and political parties legislation that was put in place by the Labour government.

‘Those are the checks that are required by law, those are the compliance checks that the party carries out.’

Other Britons named include accountant Eamonn McGregor, who is based in Monaco and is said to manage wealthy clients including Gennady Timchenko, a one-time Soviet bureaucrat and friend of Putin, as well as Putin’s alleged lover who is claimed to have had a child with the Russian President.  

Mr Putin was not named but is linked to secret assets in Monaco, while an offshore company owned by his alleged lover purchased a $4.1million apartment below the principality’s casino. 

The luxury fourth-floor flat was purchased by Brockville Development Ltd, which was eventually traced back to Svetlana Krivonogikh, reported the Guardian.

The woman, who was 28 at the time, is said by Russian investigative outlet Proekt to be the mother of Putin’s child, after giving birth to Elizaveta, or Luiza, in March of the same year.

Since becoming friends with Putin, the former cleaner seems to have amassed a luxury portfolio of assets, including a flat in a well-to-do area of St Petersburg, other properties in Moscow and a yacht, coming to a total of $100million – the Kremlin has refused to comment. 

Meanwhile, the King of Jordan was able to secretly add £70million worth of property to his portfolios in the UK and US – mainly in Malibu, California and in London and Ascot, the papers showed. 

While many of the transactions leaked in the papers – made by tens of thousands of different offshore firms -feature no legal wrongdoing, they expose how the UK Government has failed in its promise to bring in a register of offshore property owners. 

A luxury fourth-floor flat below Monaco’s casino was bought by Brockville Development Ltd, which was eventually traced back to Svetlana Krivonogikh (pictured), alleged to be a lover of Mr Putin and the mother of his child

A luxury fourth-floor flat below Monaco’s casino was bought by Brockville Development Ltd, which was eventually traced back to Svetlana Krivonogikh (pictured), alleged to be a lover of Mr Putin and the mother of his child  

The apartment bought by Ms Krivonogikh was in the exclusive Monte Carlo Star apartment complex (pictured)

The apartment bought by Ms Krivonogikh was in the exclusive Monte Carlo Star apartment complex (pictured)

Boris Johnson says all donations are ‘vetted in the normal way’ as Pandora Papers names Tory party donor

Gulnara Karimova is now in an Uzbek prison on alleged corruption charges

Gulnara Karimova is now in an Uzbek prison on alleged corruption charges

Boris Johnson today said all donations to the Tories are properly vetted after a millionaire who helped bankroll his  leadership campaign was named in the Pandora Papers and linked to a $220m bung.

Mohamed Amersi has given nearly £525,000 to the Tories since 2018 and enjoys access to senior Conservative figures including ministers at the party’s elite dining club. The telecoms millionaire previously said he was invited to a private meal with Prince Charles.

Today he was accused of being involved in one of Europe’s biggest corruption scandals with the glamorous daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan at its heart. 

Mr Amersi, who denies any wrongdoing, has now been named in leaked documents as being involved in a controversial $220m (£162m) payment to a secretive offshore company in 2010 while working for a Swedish telecoms company.

The Prime Minister told reporters at a Network Rail site in Manchester this morning: ‘I see that story today. But all I can say on that one is all these donations are vetted in the normal way in accordance with rules that were set up under a Labour government. So, we vet them the whole time’.

Telia was later fined $965m (£700m) in a US prosecution and the $220m payment was found to be a bribe for Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of the then president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov.

Ms Karimova, a former diplomat, businesswoman and pop singer famous for performing a duet with Gérard Depardieu, is now in an Uzbek jail on corruption charges.   

Mr Amersi, 61, a lawyer who worked as a consultant for Telia between 2007 and 2013.  His lawyers said the offshore company had been ‘vetted and approved by Telia’ and any claims he made ‘improper or illegal payments’, or was a conduit to for Telia to do so, were completely false.

 

There are concerns that some of the purchases could be the work of money laundering – while some of those named now face allegations of corruption and global tax avoidance.      

The release of the documents could not have come at a worse time for Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis – who is facing an election later this week – as they show how he failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for $16.2million in the south of France. 

The papers follow four other huge data leaks in the past seven years – including the FinCen Files, the Paradise Papers, Panama Papers and LuxLeaks. 

They also show how some 95,000 offshore firms were legally set up to secretly buy property in Britain.   

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family and close associates snapped up more than $500million (£400million) worth of property in the UK, the papers revealed.

They also appeared to have made a tidy $41.9million (£31million) profit after selling a London property to the Queen’s Crown Estate, which is managed by the Treasury. 

The group bought 17 properties, including an office block in London for $44.6million (£33million) for the president’s son Heydar Aliyev, aged 11. 

The building, in the exclusive Borough of Mayfair, was bought by a front company owned by a family friend of President Ilham in 2009 before being transferred a month later to young Heydar. 

According to the papers, a second nearby office block, also owned by the family, was sold to the Crown Estate for $89.3million (£66million) in 2018.

The Crown Estate is now reportedly looking into the purchase, but said it conducted the sale using all the checks required by the law at the time.   

Speaking on the papers, Fergus Shiel, from the ICIJ, said: ‘There’s never been anything on this scale and it shows the reality of what offshore companies can offer to help people hide dodgy cash or avoid tax.’ 

He added: ‘They are using those offshore accounts, those offshore trusts, to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of property in other countries, and to enrich their own families, at the expense of their citizens.’ 

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, added: ‘These revelations should act as a wake up call for the Government and regulators to deliver on much-needed and long-overdue measures to strengthen Britain’s defences against dirty money. 

‘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.

‘Once again Britain’s role as an enabler of global corruption and money laundering have been exposed with the same loopholes exploited to funnel suspect wealth into the country. 

‘Not only does this damage the UK’s reputation as a country governed by the rule of law, but it enriches corrupt elites around the world at the expense of their populations. No one benefits from this system but them. 

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family and close associates snapped up more than £400million worth of property in the UK using offshore accounts, the papers revealed.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family and close associates snapped up more than £400million worth of property in the UK using offshore accounts, the papers revealed.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (pictured ) failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for £12million in the south of France

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (pictured ) failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for £12million in the south of France

The chateau and neighbouring villa in Mougins, France, bought by Mr Babis using offshore companies, which he failed to declare, according to the Pandora Papers

The chateau and neighbouring villa in Mougins, France, bought by Mr Babis using offshore companies, which he failed to declare, according to the Pandora Papers

Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) was linked to secret assets in Monaco by the Pandora Papers

Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) was linked to secret assets in Monaco by the Pandora Papers

The papers show King of Jordan Abdullah Il bin Al-Hussein (pictured) bought 15 homes since coming to power in 1999, using offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens

The papers show King of Jordan Abdullah Il bin Al-Hussein (pictured) bought 15 homes since coming to power in 1999, using offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens

Properties purchased by Mr Al-Hussein using offshore companies include three ocean-view homes in Malibu, California (pictured)

Properties purchased by Mr Al-Hussein using offshore companies include three ocean-view homes in Malibu, California (pictured)

Calls for ministers to tighten Britain’s laws against moving ‘dirty money’ – as Queen’s property managers launch probe after buying £67m home from ‘corrupt’ Azerbaijani president 

The Government is facing fresh calls to tighten Britain’s defences against ‘dirty money’ after a leak of offshore data exposed the secret financial dealings of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people.

The cache of almost 12 million files – dubbed the Pandora papers – is said to cover the activities of some 35 current or former world leaders, more than 300 public officials and 100 billionaires.

Following the release, the Crown Estate said that it was looking into the £67 million purchase of a London property from a company which reportedly acted as a ‘front’ for family of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev whose record has long been criticised by anti-corruption campaigners.

A spokesman for the Crown Estate said: ‘Before our purchase of 56-60 Conduit Street, we conducted checks including those required by UK law.

‘At the time we did not establish any reason why the transaction should not proceed.  Given the potential concerns raised, we are looking into the matter.’

‘The UK must redouble its efforts in tackling illicit finance, bringing in long overdue transparency reforms to reveal who really owns property here as well as resourcing regulators and law enforcement to clamp down on rogue professionals and corrupt cash held in the UK.’

While the Blairs’ purchase of the London office was not illegal, its revelation comes after the former Labour leader has been critical of tax loopholes, once saying that ‘the tax system is a haven of scams, perks, City deals and profits’.

The property is now used by Mrs Blair’s legal consultancy firm Omnia Strategy and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. 

Mrs Blair said the sellers had insisted they buy the house through the offshore company, reported the BBC, and that they would be liable to pay capital gains tax should they go on to sell it.  

It was purchased from a family with political connections in Bahrain. Both sides maintain they did not initially know who was involved in the deal.  

Elsewhere, lawyers for King of Jordan Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein said the leaked property purchases in the UK and US were bought with personal wealth, adding that using offshore companies to carry out such transactions was common practice for high profile individuals, citing privacy and security concerns. 

The papers show Mr Al-Hussein bought 15 homes since coming to power in 1999, using offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens.     

It comes as he has been accused of running an authoritarian regime, which has seen a rise in protests in recent years over tax hikes and austerity measures.    

A string of other world leaders have also been named in the Pandora Papers leak – which owes its name to the fact that it will be ‘opening a box on a lot of things’, according to the ICIJ. 

They include president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and six of his family members, who were revealed to secretly own 11 offshore companies containing $30million worth of assets.   

Meanwhile the prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan’s cabinet ministers and their families were shown to own millions of dollars worth of offshore companies.   

And the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky was shown to have moved his stake in a secret offshore company just before his victory in the 2019 election. 

Who’s who in the Pandora Papers? All the wealthy and powerful figures identified in the biggest leak of offshore financial data ever

Vladimir Putin

The Russian President is not personally named in the leaked data but several of those closest to him are, including Svetlana Krivonogikh, a former cleaner from St. Petersburg who is thought to have given birth to Putin’s love-child – a daughter, Elizaveta – in 2003.

The papers reveal that Krivonogikh – who suddenly came into a vast fortune around the time of her daughter’s birth – is the owner of a $4million apartment at the Monte Carlo Star, located underneath Monte Carlo’s famed casino.

Krivonogikh owns the apartment through a chain of shell companies located in the British Virgin Islands and Panama, the documents have revealed.

Svetlana Krivonogikh is the owner of a Monte Carlo apartment purchased via a chain of sell companies in 2003 - the year she is thought to have given birth to Putin's love child

Svetlana Krivonogikh is the owner of a Monte Carlo apartment purchased via a chain of sell companies in 2003 – the year she is thought to have given birth to Putin’s love child

Gennady Timchenko

Petr Kolbin

Gennady Timchenko (left) and Petr Kolbin (right), who have both been accused of managing money on behalf of Putin, are also named in the papers and linked to Krivonogikh via a Monte Carlo accounting firm called Moores Rowland

The luxurious fourth-floor pad – which comes with two parking spaces, a storeroom, and the use of a pool in the Monte Carlo Star complex – was purchased for her in September 2003, shortly after Elizaveta’s birth.

It is just one piece in a portfolio of assets including exclusive properties in Russia, a yacht and shares in state-owned Russian firms that almost-overnight gave her a wealth that – thanks to the leaked documents – can now be estimated at $100million.

One of the companies through which Krivonogikh owns the apartment was created for her by a British-born accountant – Eamonn McGregor – who also has links to other super-wealthy Russians.

Gennady Timchenko – a bureaucrat-turned-oil trader worth an estimated $22billion – is also a client of McGregor via Monte Carlo-based accounting firm Moores Rowland.

McGregor has looked after Timchenko’s assets for two decades, the papers reveal, among them jets and a 130ft yacht called M/S Lena. 

Timchenko has been closely linked with Putin, and in 2014 was sanctioned by the US as part of the ‘Russian leadership’s inner circle’ which alleged that money from Timchenko’s oil trading may have been funnelled to the Russian leader. 

The oil firm that Timchenko runs and Putin have dismissed the claim as ‘ridiculous’.

Putin is not named personally in the papers, though several members of his 'inner circle' are

Putin is not named personally in the papers, though several members of his ‘inner circle’ are

Also named in the papers is Petr Kolbin, a childhood friend of Putin whose family owned a house in the village of Imenitsy that Putin’s parents rented when he was growing up.

Kolbin initially worked as a butcher, but in 2001 – shortly after Putin became president – his fortunes suddenly changed. He went into business and prospered, largely thanks to deals with some of Russia’s biggest state-owned firms.

He, too, became a client of Moores Rowland and opened several overseas bank accounts that contained a fortune of $550million.

But it is not clear that he actually had access to that money. Alexei Navalny, via his deputy Leonid Volkov, has accused Kolbin – who died in 2018 – as being a proxy for the Russian President.

‘Putin is smart. You can’t expect to find an account in his name,’ Volkov previously said. ‘But if you see ‘Kolbin’ you can be sure as hell this is Putin’s money.’

King Abdullah II of Jordan

Disguised through a series of offshore firms based in the British Virgin Islands, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has amassed a property empire worth at least $106million that spans California, London and Washington DC.

The most-expensive was a palatial home on the clifftops of Malibu – an exclusive California neighbourhood home to the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and Paris Hilton – which he bought for $33million in 2014.

Apparently unsatisfied with the seven-bed, nine-bath home equipped with its own gym, spa and infinity pool, Abdullah then acquired the two neighbouring properties at an additional cost of around $37million.  

King Abdullah II of Jordan owns a property empire worth at least $106million which is owned by shell companies taken out in his name, rather than by the royal family or Kingdom of Jordan

King Abdullah II of Jordan owns a property empire worth at least $106million which is owned by shell companies taken out in his name, rather than by the royal family or Kingdom of Jordan

In 2012 and 2013, Abdullah had made similar purchases in the exclusive Washington DC neighbourhood of Georgetown – spending $13.8million on three condos overlooking the Potomac River.

And, between 2003 and 2010, he had acquired a vast amount of property in the UK including three homes in London’s ultra-exclusive Belgravia which he combined with a fourth property he already owned to create a ‘residential monolith’ near Buckingham Palace, according to the Washington Post.

Other properties include a home in Ascot, close to Windsor Castle, and two homes in Kensington, near to Kensington Palace. All told, his UK properties are thought to have a current worth of $38million.

The king’s lawyers said: ‘His Majesty has not at any point misused public monies or made any use whatsoever of the proceeds of aid or assistance intended for public use.

‘His Majesty cares deeply for Jordan and its people and acts with integrity and in the best interests of his country and its citizens at all times.’

Andrej Babis, Czech prime minister

The billionaire leader of the Czech Republic – who this week will fight an election in his home country – used a maze of offshore firms to purchase an $18million villa in the south of France.

Babis made the purchase in 2009, when he was still a business tycoon in charge of the country’s largest holding company Agrofert Group, through a chain of shell companies based in the British Virgin Islands, Washington DC and Monaco.

The Pandora Papers reveal how money for the home passed through the chain before landing in Monaco where – devoid of any information about its origins – it was used to purchase a grand chateau and neighbouring villa in Mougins, on the Cote d’Azur.

The home includes a private cinema, swimming pool, billiard room and wine cellar.

It is not clear exactly why Babis, who is the Czech Republic’s second-richest man with a fortune of some $4billion, used the convoluted arrangement to make a purchase that he could have made directly.

Andrej Babis, the Czech Republic's second-richest man and incumbent Prime Minister, used a chain of shell companies to purchase a French chateau and neighbouring villa in 2009 before he entered politics

Andrej Babis, the Czech Republic’s second-richest man and incumbent Prime Minister, used a chain of shell companies to purchase a French chateau and neighbouring villa in 2009 before he entered politics

Shell companies are often used by the rich and powerful to hide their connection to various assets for privacy reasons. Experts who reviewed the chateau purchase for The Guardian said Babis had derived no obvious tax benefit from using the shell firms.

Babis went into politics in 2012 after founding the populist ANO party and in 2013 won the second-largest number of seats, campaigning on an anti-corruption and anti-establishment manifesto. He has previously spoken out against offshore companies of the kind used to purchase the chateau.

He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, before being dismissed in 2017 after being accused of dodging taxes during his time at Agrofert. At the subsequent election, Babis’s party emerged the largest and went on to form a minority government with him as Prime Minister.

Babis appears not to have disclosed his ownership of the French chateau or the shell companies to the Czech ministry of justice. The source of the $18million used to purchase the home is also unclear.

His office did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment on his offshore companies, while he refused to talk to the BBC when questioned on the Czech election campaign trail.

Claudia Schiffer, Shakira and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar are named in Pandora Papers leak revealing offshore fortunes

  • Shakira accused of using offshore companies in British Virgin Islands to conceal assets
  • Lawyers of Colombian star, 44, said she declared all of her offshore companies 
  • Representatives for Ms Schiffer, 51,  said she correctly pays her taxes in the UK
  • Mr Tendulkar’s lawyers said his investment is legitimate and has been declared

Claudia Schiffer and Shakira are among the famous faces linked to the unprecedented Pandora Papers leak – which has revealed how the super wealthy used offshore companies to accrue wealth and make transactions. 

They are joined by Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar – as well as associates of Vladimir Putin and 35 world leaders – after they were all found to have companies set up in tax havens.

The papers claim Colombian pop star Shakira set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands to conceal assets. 

But lawyers of the 44-year-old said the singer declared the offshore companies, adding that they did not provide tax advantages. 

It comes as the Hips Don’t Lie hitmaker is already in a legal wrangle with the Spanish Government, which has accused her of failing to pay taxes in Spain in the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

In response to their client being named in the report, representatives of German supermodel Ms Schiffer, 51, said the mother-of-three correctly pays her taxes in the UK, where she lives. 

Meanwhile Mr Tendulkar’s lawyers said his investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities. 

The cricket star is also reported to have dissolved an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands three months after the release of the Panama Papers in 2016.  

The papers claim Colombian pop star Shakira (pictured) set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands to conceal assets

The papers claim Colombian pop star Shakira (pictured) set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands to conceal assets

In response to their client being named in the report, representatives of German supermodel Claudia Schiffer (pictured), 51, said the mother-of-three correctly pays her taxes in the UK, where she lives

In response to their client being named in the report, representatives of German supermodel Claudia Schiffer (pictured), 51, said the mother-of-three correctly pays her taxes in the UK, where she lives

The Pandora Papers consist of 12 million documents from 14 financial services companies in countries including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Switzerland. 

They were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) before being studied by more than 650 reporters from BBC Panorama, the Guardian and more than 100 other news outlets.      

Italian mobster Raffaele Amato is also named in the leak, which shows how he used a shell company in the UK to buy land in Spain, where he fled to to set up his own crime gang. 

Mr Amato, who has been tied to at least a dozen killings, is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence. His lawyers declined to comment. 

While many of the transactions leaked in the papers – made by tens of thousands of different offshore firms – feature no legal wrongdoing, they expose how the UK Government has failed in its promise to bring in a register of offshore property owners.

There are concerns that some of the purchases could be the work of money laundering – while some of those named now face allegations of corruption and global tax avoidance.      

The papers also exposed how current and former world leaders used offshore companies to carry out transactions.  

They revealed that former British prime minister Mr Blair and his wife Cherie saved some $434,000 (£321,000) in stamp duty when they bought an office in London by purchasing the offshore company that owned it.

Sachin Tendulkar's (pictured) lawyers said his investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities

Sachin Tendulkar’s (pictured) lawyers said his investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities 

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the couple said they had bought the property in ‘a normal way through reputable agents’ and should not have been ‘dragged into a story about ‘hidden’ secrets of prime ministers etc’. 

The spokeswoman said: ‘The vendor was an offshore company. The Blairs had nothing whatsoever to do with the original company nor those behind it. 

‘The vendor sold the company not the property – again a decision the Blairs had nothing to with.

‘Since the purchase was of a company no buyer would have had to pay UK stamp duty on that transaction. 

‘However, because the Blairs then repatriated the company and brought it onshore, they are liable for capital gains and other taxes on the resale of the property which will significantly exceed any stamp duty.

‘For the record, the Blairs pay full tax on all their earnings. And have never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax.’

Meanwhile Russian President Mr Putin was linked to secret assets in Monaco, while an offshore company owned by his alleged lover purchased a $4.1million apartment below the principality’s casino. 

The luxury fourth-floor flat was purchased by Brockville Development Ltd, which was eventually traced back to Svetlana Krivonogikh, reported the Guardian.

The woman, who was 28 at the time, is said by Russian investigative outlet Proekt to be the mother of Putin’s child, after giving birth to Elizaveta, or Luiza, in March of the same year.

The King of Jordan was able to secretly add £70million worth of property to his portfolios in the UK and US – mainly in Malibu, California and in London and Ascot, the papers showed, and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis – who is facing an election later this week – failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for $16.2million in the south of France.  

The Pandora Papers probe is much larger than the landmark Panama Papers investigation, which rocked the world in 2016, spawning police raids and new laws in dozens of countries and the fall of prime ministers in Iceland and Pakistan, reported the ICIJ.

This time around, the papers also shine a light on the lawyers and middlemen who are at the heart of the offshore industry, with the owners of more than 29,000 companies revealed from more than 200 countries and territories – mostly from Russia, the UK, Argentina and China. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk