Pandora Papers Reveals Offshore Finances of Global Elite’s Influence on US Curry • OpenSecrets
A treasure trove of 11.9 million documents released last week has exposed the offshore financial secrets of hundreds of politicians, billionaires, celebrities, royals and other wealthy people in more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
Pandora Papers records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shed light on how the world’s wealthy elites are using offshore shell companies to avoid disclosure of their assets, and the companies that help them do so.
Many big names in the Pandora Papers have also sought to influence American policy and public opinion in the United States, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.
One law firm mentioned in more than 7,500 documents in the data breach is Baker McKenzie.
Although Baker McKenzie’s internal files are not included among the leaked files, the firm is mentioned more than any other major US law firm.
Pandora Papers files highlight the law firm’s role in lobbying to shape laws and regulations around the world in countries like Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The documents show that the company attempted to influence policies regarding money laundering and tax shelters.
Many Pandora Papers documents mentioning Baker McKenzie come from three offshore suppliers: Trident Trust in the British Virgin Islands, Alcogal in Panama and Asiaciti Trust in Singapore.
Baker McKenzie has also represented foreign governments seeking to influence politics and public opinion in the United States.
In 2020, Baker & McKenzie registered as a foreign agent for the first time since 1992 as part of their work for the Republic of Congo. In the past year, the company received nearly $ 1.3 million for foreign influence transactions reported in the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
Issues related to tax evasion and businesses operating outside of the United States have also been at the heart of Baker McKenzie’s recent lobbying for domestic clients.
The law firm’s lobbying for the Fair Credit Coalition and the Global Business Alliance, a trade association that represents US subsidiaries of companies headquartered abroad, has focused on eroding the base of imposition and an anti-abuse tax designed to prevent multinational companies operating in the United States from avoiding tax liability by transferring profits abroad.
The company’s recent lobbying for Boeing has focused on foreign-sourced intangible income, the portion of a U.S. company’s intangible income from assets such as patents, trademarks and copyrights that comes from serving foreign markets.
In the first half of 2021, Baker McKenzie reported $ 220,000 from domestic lobbying clients, following $ 860,000 from domestic clients for lobbying throughout 2020.
In addition to lobbying clients, Baker McKenzie has worked for a range of clients in other capacities that are not required to be disclosed in connection with lobbying or FARA disclosures.
These clients include Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky and runaway Malaysian financier Jho Low, who is suspected of embezzling billions of dollars that have disappeared from a Malaysian state investment fund known as 1MDB.
American law firms aren’t the only big names taken from the Pandora Papers. The world leaders mentioned in the data have also taken extreme measures to maintain and hide their wealth.
Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader is among the world leaders with assets in opaque financial systems that protect them from taxes. The ICIJ, however, denounced him for having at least seven offshore companies grouped together under a revocable trust upon his election.
Abinader was elected in 2020 and has been in the habit of hiring foreign agents in the United States since at least 2013. In 2013, he hired a foreign agent for $ 17,000 per month to help him “alert decision makers and US media interested in democracy in the Dominican Republic on issues related to sustaining democratic reforms. FARA records show that the representation was paid for through an entity referenced as “IDEACOM, Inc.”
Abinader then hired former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani as a consultant ahead of Abinader’s 2020 presidential election. He is now the richest public official in the world. the Dominican Republic.
The Pandora Papers show that Bulgarian oligarch and former member of parliament Delyan Peevski owned Verum International Ltd., incorporated in January 2016 in Seychelles. Its sole shareholder was Dubai-based Peevski company IGWT Ltd. In 2018, Peevski transferred his shares in Verum International and IGWT to his longtime partner and lawyer, Aleksandar Paraskevov Angelov.
Angelov incorporated a new company, Aviora Consult EAD, in 2009. According to FARA records, the company started paying BGR Government Affairs for foreign influence operations in the United States on behalf of Peevski in 2017.
In December 2020, Aviora Consult EAD signed a new $ 30,000 per month contract with BGR Government Affairs on behalf of Peevski for “strategic advice and advice on public relations activities in the United States”, show the FARA files.
Because foreign agents are paid through Aviora Consult EAD, it is impossible to tell if the funding comes from Peevsky directly, through shell companies or other sources.
In June, the Treasury Department sanctioned Peevski for “significant acts of corruption in Bulgaria”. The sanctions freeze all of Peevski’s property or assets in the United States and prohibit anyone in the United States from doing business with Peevski. Sanctioned individuals sometimes use shell companies to disguise transactions and evade sanctions.
Aviora Consult EAD allegedly funneled millions of dollars from Peevski’s personal account to pay US lobbyists and media support, according to an investigation by Bivol, a Bulgarian-based investigative media site that is part of the project reporting on organized crime and corruption. network.
Angelov is also the beneficiary of two other offshore companies linked to Peevski’s interests which were also exposed in the Panama Papers: Viafot Ltd. and Doreco Limited.
The Bulgarian Anti-Corruption Commission has announced that it has started reviewing wealth statements filed by Peevski after ICIJ’s media partner in Bulgaria, BIRD, revealed that Peevski is linked to offshore companies not listed in the statements that Bulgarian politicians are required to file. Peevski was summoned for questioning by the commission on Wednesday.
The Pandora Papers also revealed two secret offshore trusts that a notorious art dealer, Douglas Latchford, used to hold money and art. The Skanda and Siva Trusts were created by Latchford and his family in the Jersey country shortly after US investigators began to link him to looted Cambodian artifacts.
The FARA files filed in June 2021 provided additional context and indicated that the Cambodian government had worked with a duo of foreign agents on “communications and research on issues relating to the repatriation and use of Khmer cultural property ”, Including those handled by Latchford.
FARA records indicate that the Cambodian government has been in “active discussions with many parties around the world with the aim of obtaining Khmer antiques,” including a list with photos of statues that the Latchford family agreed to remove. return to Cambodia after his death.
The services of the two foreign agents have been provided pro bono so far, according to FARA records. But the Cambodian government said it paid other foreign agents for influence operations in the United States with $ 360,000 in spending going to Brownstein Hyatt in 2021 for government relations services, according to a FARA filing filed on the 30th. September. In September, the Cambodian Embassy signed a contract for $ 69,300 per month with Qorvis LLC.
FARA records also show Jordan’s King Abdullah II hired US law firm DLA Piper days before the Pandora Papers investigation was made public. The contract says that a $ 1,335 an hour lawyer would provide “advice on potential defamation and other legal remedies associated with inquiries and / or articles regarding His Majesty King Abdullah II to the media,” reported Reuters. Public relations firm Stripe Services also registered as a foreign agent for the King of Jordan days after the investigation was released and FARA records show it is paid as a DLA subcontractor. Piper.
The Pandora Papers have shown that King Abdullah has spent more than $ 100 million on a real estate empire in the United States and the United Kingdom using a network of secret companies. DLA Piper defended its use of shell companies and told the Washington Post that it was “necessary for security reasons.”
In the fallout from the leak, FARA files could reveal even more people hiring public relations firms to help clean up their images.
Isabel dos Santos, once Africa’s richest woman, hired an American lobbying firm a day after learning that journalists were investigating her empire as part of the Luanda Leaks. In August, an international tribunal ruled that it had to divest one of its last major assets, a stake in the Portuguese energy company valued at $ 500 million.
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Anna is the OpenSecrets researcher-investigator. She researches foreign influence as part of the Foreign Lobby Watch Project, tracks political advertising data, and investigates “black money.” She holds degrees in political science and psychology from North Carolina State University and a JD from District University of Columbia Law School.