Tuesday, October 19

Pandora’s Papers Shake Europe: Donors to Boris Johnson, the Dutch Minister Attacking the South, and Orbán’s Czech Leader Ally

This weekend the legislative elections are held in the Czech Republic. And its prime minister, Andrej Babis, has just appeared in the Pandora papers: according to journalistic information, Babis had part of his fortune hidden in tax havens. The response of the ally of Viktor Orbán’s Hungary and Mateusz Morawiecki’s Poland? That everything is a campaign against him, that he leads the polls, although the revelations speak of hundreds of people, some of them much better known than the Czech prime minister.

The case of Babis – a member of the European liberal family – who this Tuesday sat at the informal European Council dinner in Brdo (Slovenia) is not the only one. The President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades (of the European popular family) also appears in the Pandora papers. Like the Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra, who unleashed the ire of Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa after the Dutch accused the South of wasting money in the middle of the pandemic. Hoekstra has not appeared this week for Luxembourg for the Eurogroup or Ecofin, arguing that he is negotiating the future government of the Netherlands. Not surprisingly, Hoekstra is the leader of the CDA, the sister party of the PP in the Netherlands, and will host the next congress of the popular Europeans in Rotterdam (17-18 November).

Of course, for the moment, the European institutions avoid giving opinions in public on proper names. The European Commission has taken the opportunity to recall that it will soon present a proposal against “the misuse of shell companies for tax reasons.” Tax department spokesman Daniel Ferrie stated that Brussels has been “extremely proactive in recent years in addressing these issues and has set an agenda to increase transparency and fight aggressive tax planning.”

“As a result, we have a robust legislative framework in the EU with some of the highest tax standards in the world. However, this is not to say that we should be complacent and we will continue to work to strengthen our arsenal against tax abuses,” the spokesperson added. : “The Commission is preparing new legislative proposals that will strengthen tax transparency and the fight against tax evasion. This includes a proposal before the end of the year to address the misuse of shell companies for tax reasons.”

Prime minister with hidden money

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is one of the political leaders who would have hidden part of his fortunes abroad to avoid paying taxes, according to research published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. According to that report, Babis, one of the richest people in the Czech Republic, would have anonymously acquired a mansion in the south of France.

Babis denies that he has hidden money abroad to evade taxes and assures that his appearance on a list of leaders who would have acted like this only seeks to harm him in the parliamentary elections next weekend. “I was waiting for them to be removed just before the elections to harm me and influence the Czech elections,” said the head of the Government in statements published by the CTK agency.

Babis affirmed that the operation of which he is accused occurred 12 years ago, before he entered politics, and that his publication now only seeks to discredit him in the face of the elections on Friday and Saturday, in which his party ANO (Alianza Dissatisfied Citizens) founded in 2001, is a favorite in the polls.

“In this case it is clear that I have not done anything illegal or wrong, but that does not prevent them from trying again to denigrate me and influence the Czech parliamentary elections,” he said. Babis has long had problems with the Justice of his country for the alleged irregular use of European funds dedicated to helping small and mediated companies in his agribusiness consortium.

On the 21st, the Czech Republic police requested the Prosecutor’s Office to start the trial against Babis, who also owns several media outlets through trust funds.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), to which several European media are affiliated, including the Czech portal investigace.cz, they assure that they have identified real estate investments of Babis for 16 million euros through opaque companies, reports Efe.

“Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, one of the richest men in the country, came to power with the promise of landing a severe blow to tax evasion and corruption,” says the ICIJ: “In 2011, entering politics, Babis told voters that he wanted to create a country where entrepreneurs do business and are happy to pay taxes. ”

Although the so-called Pandora papers do not mention the taxes that Agrofert, Babis’s agro-industrial consortium, has evaded, they detail an investment of 22 million dollars, made in 2009, through a chain of companies offshore to acquire, among other 16 properties, a castle on the French Côte d’Azur.

“Babis has not declared these societies offshore nor the castle in its declarations of assets, which is required as a public official “, affirms the ICIJ.

Dutch “disgusting” attitude

Wopke Hoekstra is the Netherlands Finance Minister who at the beginning of the pandemic asked the European Commission for an investigation into the fiscal situation of southern countries in discussions on the European response to COVID-19. Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa called the Dutch attitude “disgusting”, and did not hide his irritation at Hoekstra’s “repulsive”, “nonsensical” and “totally unacceptable” statements regarding the coronavirus crisis. “That recurring pettiness threatens the future of the EU,” Costa said. Hoekstra, at Ecofin, asked the Commission to “investigate” why some Member States did not have fiscal space to face the coronavirus crisis.

In an interview with the Lusa agencyCosta added: “More than an economic or financial issue, it is a political issue that is on the table. We need to know if we can follow 27 in the European Union or 19 [en la zona euro], or if there is someone who wants to stay out. “” I mean the Netherlands, “stressed Costa, who said:” This is the moment of political clarification in Europe.

Hoekstra did not come to Luxembourg this week, where the Eurogroup and Ecofin met. The Spanish economic vice-president, Nadia Calviño, has chosen not to comment on the fact that the Minister of Finance of the Netherlands, Wopke Hoekstra, appears in the Pandora Papers: “I prefer not to comment on the content of information that has been disclosed until that the corresponding analysis be made by the tax authorities “.

Hoekstra appears in the information published this Sunday, which reveals that he held about 27,000 euros in shares in a letterbox company in the British Virgin Islands, although he sold his stake a week before his appointment as minister in 2017.

The Dutch minister, leader of the PP sister party in the Netherlands, was one of the toughest in the first months of the pandemic, when the EU debated and then agreed to launch the recovery fund of 800,000 million, even reaching accuse southern partners such as Spain and Italy of not having budgetary space to deal with the crisis due to their previous waste.

Dotted the president of cyprus

Cypriot President Anastasiades is also mentioned in the Pandora Papers investigation. According to the investigation, a law firm named Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners “appears on the Pandora Papers as a key overseas broker for Russian millionaires. The firm retains the name of its founder, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, and the two daughters of the president are partners “.

As reported by The Guardian, the Cypriot law firm “denies any wrongdoing, while the Cypriot president says he ceased to take an active role in its affairs after he became leader of the opposition in 1997.”

Boris Johnson Donors

According to information published by The Guardian, Pandora’s roles include donors to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

For example, Mohamed Amersi, a major donor who funded Johnson’s campaign to become prime minister, advised on a telecommunications deal that was found to be a $ 220 million bribe for the daughter of the then Uzbek president.

His lawyers have denied any wrongdoing, saying that any accusation that he “knowingly” facilitated corrupt payments was false. They added that all of their donations were derived from work done for legitimate clients.

Another example: Lubov Chernukhin’s wealth, who has donated £ 2.1 million to the Conservatives since 2012, appears to come in part from the business structures of her husband, Vladimir, a former Russian banker and Vladimir Putin’s finance minister. The reports also reveal the extent to which the family has a vast network of businesses to finance their lifestyle. His lawyers denied that Lubov Chernukhin’s donations had been improperly financed.

The reports also point to Viktor Fedotov, a Russian-born oil magnate whose firm has made large donations to the British Conservative Party. Fedotov was the secret co-owner of a company accused of participating in a massive corruption scheme.

Aquind, Fedotov’s British company, has donated more than 1.1 million pounds to the Conservatives, according to published information. Attorneys for Fedotov and Aquind denied all allegations of fraud. Aquind’s lawyers emphasized that Fedotov did not personally donate to the Conservative Party, did not participate in the management of the company and “had no influence” on their donations. Fedotov’s lawyers said that “he has never had any interest in British politics and has operated openly and transparently throughout his career.”

Johnson had hoped that his first in-person Conservative conference since his 2019 election victory would be dominated by his agenda to level up, but he was forced to answer questions about Conservative donors while visiting a construction site in Manchester. He insisted that all donations were properly analyzed, but the Labor Party has asked the Conservatives to return the £ 750,000 donated by Amersi and his partner since 2018.


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