Pandora Papers: Andrej Babiš Named In Vast Leak of Offshore Finance Information
According to a new vast data leak, known as the Pandora Papers, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš used a highly complex system of shell companies to purchase a $15 million chateau in the south of France in 2009, a method often used to conceal the true ownership of assets. Credit: Vlada.cz.
Czech Rep, Oct 4 (BD) – Less than one week before the election of a new Chamber of Deputies in the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) is facing more uncomfortable questions about his financial affairs. A vast leak of data from various sources within the offshore finance industry, known as the Pandora Papers, indicates that Babiš used a complex system of shell companies when purchasing a $15 million chateau in the south of France in 2009, passing the funds used to buy the property through three separate companies.
Although the purchase was made before Babiš entered politics, questions are now being asked about why he went to such lengths to conceal his ownership of the property. Although offshore finance is often said to have legitimate uses, such as security and privacy, its opacity and anonymity are also used by organised crime figures to hide their money, government officials to siphon off public funds, and wealthy individuals to avoid tax.
The investigation, run by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in cooperation with partners in many countries including Czech outlet investigace.cz, found that in 2009, Babiš used the law firm Alcogal, registered in Panama, to establish three companies: Blakey Finance Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands, Boyne Holding LLC in Washington DC, and its subsidiary SCP Bigaud in Monaco. The loans were passed through each of the companies, before being used to purchase a chateau and neighbouring villa in Mougins, near the Côte d’Azur.
The property was later acquired by a Czech company with links to Babiš, though neither the companies nor property are listed on his declared interests to the Czech Minister of Justice. According to The Guardian newspaper, the property is equipped with a private cinema, swimming pool, billiard room and wine cellar, as well as a master bedroom with two en suite bathrooms.
The original source of the money is not known, nor the reason that Babiš used such a complicated financial structure for the purchase. The Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing related to the leaked information, and suggested that the timing is designed to disrupt the election campaign. He refused to answer questions from ICIJ and BBC journalists who attempted to engage him while campaigning on Saturday.
The leaks are the largest ever of their kind related to the offshore finance industry, and contain over 11.9 million papers from various companies in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. The papers detail the financial affairs of hundreds of billionaires, dozens of current and former world leaders, and many other powerful and wealthy officials. More than 300 Czech individuals and 178 offshore companies with Czech links are also mentioned.
The revelations in the Pandora Papers come on top of a long-running dispute between Babiš and the European Union over alleged subsidy fraud, which saw the EU suspending some subsidies to the Czech Republic earlier this year.