Czech, Cypriot leaders named in massive offshore data leak – POLITICO
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades are among those named in the so-called Pandora Papers, a massive leak of documents that reveals how the rich and powerful are using offshore companies to hide their wealth.
The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in conjunction with a number of major media outlets, and revealed on Sunday.
According to data, in 2009 Babiš, who faces general elections this week, “injected $ 22 million [€19 million] in a series of front companies to buy a sprawling property, known as Chateau Bigaud, in a hilltop village of Mougins, France, near Cannes. “
The ICIJ adds that Babiš “did not disclose the shell companies and the castle in the asset declarations that he is required to file as a public official, according to documents obtained by the Czech partner of the ICIJ, Investigace.cz. In 2018, a real estate conglomerate indirectly owned by Babiš quietly bought the Monegasque company that owned the castle. “
According to the report, the Czech prime minister did not respond to requests for comment. Buyers of real estate can sometimes use offshore companies for purchases for legitimate security or privacy reasons. It is not illegal to do so.
After publication, it tweeted an apparent response to reports: “I have never done anything illegal or wrong, but that does not prevent them from trying to denigrate me again and influence the Czech parliamentary elections.
There have long been concerns in Brussels that Babiš may have inappropriately benefited from EU funds.
In 2017, Babiš placed its huge agricultural and chemical conglomerate Agrofert in two trust funds. But in a 2019 audit, released earlier this year, the European Commission found that the prime minister still had “direct” and “indirect” influence over those trust funds. As a result, he said, “all grants” given to Agrofert since February 2017 have violated a conflict of interest law.
Cypriot President Anastasiades is also named in the Pandora Papers investigation. According to the investigation, a law firm called Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners “appears in the Pandora Papers as a key offshore intermediary for wealthy Russians. The company retains the name of its founder, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, and the president’s two daughters are partners there.”
According to the Guardian article on the investigation, the Cypriot law firm “denies any wrongdoing, while the Cypriot president claims he ceased to play an active role in his affairs after becoming leader of the opposition in 1997 “.