Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

Pandora Papers: Czech PM secretly bought French chateau

  • Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš denied wrongdoing
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Czech billionaire-prime minister Andrej Babiš and Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades are facing questions after their shady dealings came to light in the latest financial data-leak.

Babiš bought a €20m castle in the south of France a few years ago using four obscure companies - Alcogal in Panama, Blakey Finance in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Boyne Holding in the US, and SCP Bigaud in Monaco, according to 'Pandora Papers', a cache of files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an NGO in Washington.

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The Chateau Bigaud, in the village of Mougins on the Côte d'Azur, came with 9.4 acres of gardens.

And he has "not disclosed the shell companies and the chateau in the asset declarations he's required to file as a public official," the ICIJ said.

"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," Babiš tweeted on Sunday (3 October), referring to Czech elections due on Friday.

Meanwhile, Anastasiades' law firm, Nicos Chr. Anastasiades and Partners, for which two of his daughters work, was named as "a key offshore go-between for wealthy Russians".

It helped Leonid Lebedev, a Russian oil-tycoon on the run from corruption charges, to hide ownership of four companies in 2015 and it tried to help Alexander Abramov, a Russian steel baron, in US deliberations on potential sanctions, the ICIJ said.

Anastasiades said he had had nothing to do with the company since 1997.

And the Cypriot law firm denied wrongdoing.

The Pandora Papers are said to contain 12m documents from 14 financial-services firms in tax-haven type jurisdictions, including Cyprus, Panama, and Switzerland.

They name 35 current and former world leaders and 300 or so officials and are the latest in a line of revelations, including Offshore Leaks in 2013, Panama Papers in 2016, and Paradise Papers in 2017.

They show how Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev ran rings round British regulators by investing more than £400m (€460m) of shady family money in the London real-estate market.

He sold one property to the Queen for a profit of £31m and registered a £33m office block in the name of his 17-year old son, Heydar.

And they show Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky secretly transferred his quarter-share of a Cyprus-held, but BVI-registered firm called Maltex to his confidante, Serhiy Shefir, shortly before he ran for election in 2019.

The revelations are an embarrassment for Anastasiades and Zelensky, both of whom have pledged to clean up corruption.

And they come on top of earlier revelations that Babiš secretly retained control of his Agrofert conglomerate even as it applied for EU funds, in a conflict-of-interest case that may see EU structures try to claw back money.

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