A massive leak of financial documents was published by several major news organizations on Sunday that allegedly tie world leaders to secret stores of wealth, including King Abdullah of Jordan, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The dump of more than 11.9 million records, amounting to about 2.94 terabytes of data, came five years after the leak known as the "Panama Papers" exposed how money was hidden by the wealthy in ways that law enforcement agencies could not detect.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington, D.C.-based network of reporters and media organizations, said the files are linked to about 35 current and former national leaders, and more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories. It did not say how the files were obtained, and Reuters could not independently verify the allegations or documents detailed by the consortium.
Jordan's King Abdullah, a close U.S. ally, was alleged to have used offshore accounts to spend more than $100 million on luxury homes in the United Kingdom and the United States.
"It is no secret that His Majesty owns a number of apartments and residences in the United States and the United Kingdom. This is not unusual nor improper," the royal palace said in a statement
"The cost of these properties and all related expenditures have been personally funded by His Majesty. None of these expenses have been funded by the state budget or treasury."
DLA Piper, a London law office representing Abdullah, told the consortium of media outlets that he had "not at any point misused public monies or made any use whatsoever of the proceeds of aid or assistance intended for public use."
The Washington Post, which is part of the consortium, also reported on the case of Svetlana Krivonogikh, a Russian woman who it said became the owner of a Monaco apartment through an offshore company incorporated on the Caribbean island of Tortola in April 2003 just weeks after she gave birth to a girl. At the time, she was in a secret, years-long relationship with Putin, the newspaper said, citing Russian investigative outlet Proekt.
The Post said Krivonogikh and her daughter, who is now 18, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Kremlin said it had seen no evidence in the leak of hidden wealth among Putin's inner circle.
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"For now it is just not clear what this information is and what it is about," spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
Days ahead of the Czech Republic's Oct. 8-9 parliamentary election, the documents allegedly tied the prime minister, Babis, to a secret $22 million estate near Cannes, France.
Speaking in a television debate, Babis denied wrongdoing.
"The money left a Czech bank, was taxed, it was my money, and returned to a Czech bank," Babis said.
The documents also showed that Indian businessman Anil Ambani and his representatives owned at least 18 offshore companies in Jersey, British Virgin Islands and Cyprus, according to the Indian Express, part of the ICIJ consortium.
Set up between 2007 and 2010, seven of these companies had borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion, the report said.
In 2020, following a dispute with three Chinese state-controlled banks, Ambani - the chairman of Reliance Group - had told a London court his net worth was zero.
An unidentified lawyer, on behalf of Ambani, told the Express: “Our client is a tax resident of India and has made disclosures to Indian authorities as required to be made in compliance with law. All required considerations were taken into account when making disclosures before the London court. The Reliance Group conducts business globally and for legitimate business and regulatory requirements, companies are incorporated in different jurisdictions."
Ambani did not immediately respond to a Reuters request seeking comment.
Pakistan's opposition called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to order cabinet ministers and aides named in the leak to resign and face investigation. Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, among the Pakistanis identified, told Geo TV everyone would be investigated, including himself. He denied wrongdoing.
"If any wrongdoing is established we will take appropriate action," Khan said on Twitter.