Monday, April 4, 2016

The offshore Arabs

A guide to prominent figures named in the Panama Papers 
By Brian Whitaker

Prominent figures from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates are named in the leaked Panama Papers.
Below is a summary of their financial dealings, as reported on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Egypt
Alaa Mubarak
Son of former president Hosni Mubarak
Offshore company triggered investigations by financial authorities. Alaa Mubarak owned the British Virgin Islands firm Pan World Investments Inc., managed by Credit Suisse. In 2011, the year in which his father resigned the Egyptian presidency and was arrested along with Alaa and another son, BVI authorities told Mossack Fonseca to freeze Pan World's assets, an order prompted by a European Union law. In 2013, Mossack Fonseca was fined $37,500 for failing to properly check into Alaa Mubarak, "a high risk customer." Internally, Mossack Fonseca admitted its procedures were "seriously flawed" as Mubarak hadn't been identified early enough. Credit Suisse, however, wrote Mossack Fonseca that Pan World's activities – "one investment with HIG Venture Fund" and a cash account with the bank – did not contravene Switzerland's freeze on Mubarak's assets. In 2014, a second BVI agency started investigating Mossack Fonseca and Pan World. Company employees admitted internally that they could be found "in further breaches." Noting they had "very little control" over Mubarak's company, they resigned as its agent in April 2015.
Response: Mubarak did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Iraq 
Ayad Allawi
Vice-President of Iraq (2014-2015); Interim Prime Minister of Iraq (2004-2005)


Firms created in Panama held property in London. Mossack Fonseca supplied his 1985 Panama-registered company I.M.F. Holdings Inc. with people who stood in for Allawi as directors. He was listed as the sole shareholder in 2000. Until its dissolution in 2013, I.M.F. owned a house in Kingston upon Thames, England . As of April 2013 the property appeared under the name of Allawi and had an estimated value of about $1.5 million . Allawi’s other offshore company, Moonlight Estates Limited, also held a property in London on his behalf . Documents for this BVI-registered entity identify the source of funds as personal savings.
Response: Allawi's media office confirmed that he "is the sole director and shareholder of Foxwood Estates Limited, Moonlight Estates Limited and IMF Holdings Inc." The email noted that IMF was established to own residential property purchased with Allawi's personal assets based on security and legal advice "in light of an assassination attempt on him." It also said that "any income generated in the United Kingdom from the properties owned by the companies has been properly accounted for" and "taxes have been paid promptly and on time."

Jordan
Ali Abu al-Ragheb
Prime Minister of Jordan and Minister of Defence (2000-2003); Member, Senate (2003-2010)


Al-Ragheb was director of offshore companies in British Virgin Islands, owned others in Seychelles. In July 2003, just months before he resigned as prime minister, Ali Abu al-Ragheb and his wife Yusra became directors of the British Virgin Islands company Jaar Investment Ltd., which held an account with Arab Bank in Geneva, Switzerland. The company was inactivated in August 2008. Earlier in 2008 they became directors of Jay Investment Holdings Ltd also based in the British Virgin Islands. In neither case were the companies' activities identified. Until December 2014 al-Ragheb also owned three Seychelles companies. His children were involved as directors in several additional BVI companies, including Desertstar Investment Capital Ltd., which also held an account at Arab Bank in Geneva that was used to invest in Jordan.
Response: Al-Ragheb did not respond to repeated requests for comment. 

Morocco
Mounir Majidi
Personal secretary to King Mohammed VI 
British Virgin Islands company was used to purchase luxury 1930s schooner used by Morocco's king. In March 2006, Mounir Majidi received power of attorney privileges for SMCD Limited, which was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2005. In January 2006, SMCD Limited authorized the purchase of a luxury 1930s schooner “Aquarius W” and put Majidi in charge of handling the transaction. After the purchase, the vessel was registered in Morocco. Renamed “El Boughaz I,” the schooner is now owned by King Mohammed VI. SMCD Limited was also used to make a loan for an unknown purpose to a Luxembourg-based company, Logimed Investments Co., Sàrl. SMCD Limited was liquidated in 2013. Majidi was also administrator of a Luxembourg company called Immobiliere Orion S.A., which borrowed $42 million in 2003 from a Mossack Fonseca-incorporated company to buy and renovate a luxury Paris apartment. It is unclear who owned the company that lent the money.
Response: A lawyer for Majidi said, "The two companies to which you refer were created in strict accordance with laws in place and their existence is available from public registers."

Qatar
Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani
Prime Minister of Qatar (2007-2013); Foreign Minister of Qatar (1992-2013)


Offshore company used to manage $300 million yacht
In 2002 , Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani acquired a company in the British Virgin Islands and three additional companies in the Bahamas. Through these companies, Al Thani held shares and mooring spaces in the Spanish port of Palma, Mallorca, and managed his super-yacht, the $300 million Al Mirqab. Al Thani took over management of these companies in 2004, dissolving them a few years later. In 2011, when Qatar started investing in Luxembourg companies, Al Thani acquired four Panamanian companies to hold bank accounts in the Grand Duchy, two of which he owned with the then-Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, according to documents from July 2013.
Response: An attorney for Al Thani said in a phone interview that he doesn't "have the right" to answer questions posed because he is "bound by professional secrecy."

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Former Emir of the State of Qatar (1995–2013)

Offshore company held a bank account; South African companies' shares. In March 2014, less than a year after Al Thani resigned as Qatar’s ruler, a Luxembourg lawyer contacted Mossack Fonseca to convey Al Thani's interest in buying an off-the-shelf company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The company the former emir acquired, Afrodille S.A., would hold a bank account in Luxembourg and shares in two South African companies, according to the lawyer. From September 2013, Al Thani was also the majority shareholder of Rienne S.A. and of Yalis S.A., which held a term deposit with the Bank of China in Luxembourg, according to the files. While Al Thani held majority ownership in both companies, a 25 percent stake in each was held by another family member, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s former prime minister and foreign minister.
Response: The ex-Emir did not respond to a request for comment

Saudi Arabia
King Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud
King of Saudi Arabia (2015-present); Crown Prince (2012-2015)
British Virgin Islands company used for mortgages on luxury homes in London and to hold yacht. King Salman held an unspecific role in Luxembourg company Safason Corporation SPF S.A., which was the shareholder of Verse Development Corporation, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 1999, and Inrow Corporation, incorporated in 2002. Inrow took out a mortgage in 2009 worth up to $26 million and Verse took out a second mortgage worth more than $8 million both of which were for luxury homes in central London. While King Salman's precise role is not specified, both mortgages are mentioned "in relation to" him and his assets. King Salman was also described as "the principal user" of a motor yacht, Erga, named after the King’s palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and registered in London by the BVI company Crassus Limited, incorporated in 2004. The records of another BVI company, Park Property Limited, incorporated in 2005 and of which Safason Corporation was the sole shareholder, were kept at Erga Palace.
Response: King Salman did not respond to repeated requests made through the Saudi Embassy in the United States for comment.

Sudan
Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani [deceased]
President of Sudan (1986-1989)


Offshore company owned a London apartment. Al-Mirghani was the owner of the British Virgin Islands company Orange Star Corporation, created in 1995. That same year, Orange Star Corporation purchased a long lease of an apartment in an expensive area of London north of Hyde Park for more than $600,000 . At the time of al-Mirghani’s death, he held assets through the company worth $2.72 million.
Response: Al-Mirghani's estate did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Al-Mirghani died in 2008.

Syria
Rami and Hafez Makhlouf
Relatives of President Assad
Companies held large variety of business interests for brothers
In 1998 Rami Makhlouf used Polter Investments Inc. to invest in Syrian telecommunications with Jordanian investors. In 2002, Makhlouf co-founded Syriatel, a Syrian mobile telecom company. He held 10 percent of the shares personally and another 63 percent through his British Virgin Island company Drex Technologies S.A. The same year, Makhlouf's co-investors in Syriatel sued him in Vienna where his Drex Technologies bank account held $2.6 million. He had also opened an account for Drex at HSBC in Geneva, Switzerland. Makhlouf also held accounts at HSBC for Lorie Limited, Dorling International Limited, and Ramak Ltd., named after Makhlouf's company in Syria, Ramak Contracting & Trading. HSBC handled Cara Corporation, where he was a director; Seadale International Corporation, which he owned with his brothers, Eagle Trading & Contracting Limited owned by Hafez and Hoxim Lane Management Corp. for another brother. Beginning in February 2011, employees at Mossack Fonseca discussed via email allegations of bribery and corruption made against members of the Makhlouf family and sanctions that had previously been imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department. In June the same year, the BVI Financial Services Commission wrote to Mossack Fonseca regarding an investigation under anti-money laundering laws into Drex Technologies S.A., prompting Mossack Fonseca to cut ties with the Makhlouf family's companies.
Response: Hafez and Rami Makhlouf did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

United Arab Emirates
Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
President of the United Arab Emirates and emir of Abu Dhabi (2000-present)


British Virgin Islands companies used to buy luxury real estate and other properties. Sheikh Khalifa was the beneficial owner of at least 30 companies established in the British Virgin Islands by Mossack Fonseca, through which he held commercial and residential properties in pricey areas of London such as Kensington and Mayfair, worth at least $1.7 billion. The Sheikh financed his acquisitions through loans from the London branch of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Until 2007, Mossack Fonseca provided companies that acted as directors and shareholders of the Sheikh's BVI companies. By December 2015, nearly all the shares in those companies were held by Mossack Fonseca through trust structures, but the true beneficiary remained the Sheikh, as well as his wife, son and daughter. In 2011 Mossack Fonseca wrote that the law firm handling Sheikh Al Nahyan's affairs was "usually hesitant" in providing information about his identity.
Response: A UK law firm representing Al Nahyan, contacted by phone, said it was "unable to help" with comments.
 
   
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Monday, 4 April 2016

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