Jordan says Pandora Papers claims 'distorted', security threat

Published October 4, 2021
In this May 26 file photo, Jordan's King Abdullah II listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Amman. — AP
In this May 26 file photo, Jordan's King Abdullah II listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Amman. — AP

Jordan's royal court on Monday rejected as “distorted” claims made in the Pandora Papers that King Abdullah II created a network of offshore companies to build a $100 million overseas property empire.

It said that the reports “included inaccuracies and distorted and exaggerated the facts”, and that revealing the properties' addresses was “a flagrant security breach and a threat to His Majesty's and his family's safety”.

The statement also said that the king had “personally funded” the properties and all related expenses.

The investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), involving some 600 journalists from media worldwide, is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies.

While not alleging criminal wrongdoing by Abdullah II, the reports allege he created a network of offshore companies to quietly purchase luxury residences from Malibu and California to Washington and London.

Jordan's Royal Hashemite Court said in its statement that “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 statement said.

“His Majesty uses these properties during official visits and hosts officials and foreign dignitaries there. The King and his family members also stay in some of these properties during private visits.”

The statement said the location of the properties was not publicised “out of security and privacy concerns, and not out of secrecy or an attempt to hide them, as these reports have claimed”.

“As such, the act of revealing these addresses by some media outlets is a flagrant security breach and a threat to His Majesty's and his family's safety.”

“Any allegations that link these private properties to public funds or assistance are baseless and deliberate attempts to distort facts,” it added.

The palace also stressed that “all public finances and international assistance are subject to professional audits, and their allocations are fully accounted for by the government and donor entities”.

Economic woes

The dump of millions of records, tying various world leaders to secret stores of wealth, comes 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 leaked documents have come as Jordanians grow increasingly disenchanted with their rulers. The country has witnessed street protests against economic hardship, high youth unemployment and a lack of progress on political reforms.

Opposition politicians say King Abdullah has not done enough to tackle corruption in state agencies, where nepotism is rife.

They also accused the authorities last year of using draconian emergency laws to help curb the coronavirus pandemic to suppress civil liberties and erode public freedoms, a charge the government denies. The laws have now mostly been lifted.

Jordan is one of the biggest recipients of US and Western aid per capita.

Its image as an island of relative stability in the turbulent Middle East has long endeared it to international donors, and the kingdom is also following IMF-guided reforms.

The palace statement said the allegations made in the leaked documents were designed to target King Abdullah's “credibility and the critical role he plays regionally and internationally”.

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