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ICIJ: Pandora Papers Treasure for EU Politicians

by Oui Sun Oct 3rd, 2021 at 08:29:22 PM EST

While foreign aid poured in, Jordan's King Abdullah funnelled $100m through secret companies to buy luxury homes


Crown estate bought Ł67m London property from family of Azerbaijan ruler | The Guardian |

No laws were broken in buying the Harcourt Street office but Mr Blair had previously been critical of tax loopholes, once saying "the tax system is a haven of scams, perks, City deals and profits".

In his first speech as Labour leader in 1994, Mr Blair said: "Millionaires with the right accountant pay nothing while pensioners pay VAT on fuel.

"Offshore trusts get tax relief while homeowners pay VAT on insurance premiums. We will create a tax system that is fair which is related to ability to pay."

Robert Palmer from campaign group Tax Justice UK told Panorama: "It partly doesn't look great because most people cannot do the same thing... even if what the Blairs did was perfectly legal, perfectly legitimate in the business world ...

Andrej Babiš has campaigned on an anti-graft platform. Now, investigace.cz and OCCRP have found that he secretively loaned millions of euros between opaque offshore vehicles as he acquired luxury French real estate, including the purchase of a chateau.

Known as a populist who rails against elites and the establishment, the billionaire politician has advertised himself as a business manager eager to fix the country's economy, and to increase government transparency and tax revenues. And he has dismissed allegations that he himself has been involved in fraud and tax evasion.

Now a leak of confidential documents shows that the self-styled man of the people has been involved in the kind of sleight-of-hand financial dealings that he accuses other members of the elites of engaging in. Records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveal that Babis moved $22 million through offshore companies to buy a lavish estate on the French Riviera in 2009 while keeping his ownership secret.

The five-bedroom Chateau Bigaud, with its 9.4 acres, is nestled between medieval ruins and lush forests. It is a hidden gem of Mougins, the hilltop village where Picasso spent the last 12 years of his life.  As of January, public records showed that the chateau belonged to a subsidiary of one of the Czech companies indirectly owned by Babis.

At the time Babis acquired the property, the Czech press was beginning to report that his giant conglomerate was the secret owner of a luxury resort south of Prague that may have improperly obtained millions of dollars in European Union subsidies intended for small businesses. EU authorities would later find "irregularities" in the way Babis' company had obtained the funds.

The need to combat corruption in Ukraine was high on the agenda when US President Joe Biden hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House on September 1. (REUTERS)

From the diaries ...


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More on Wopke Hoekstra ...

Investing with the group of friends | The Green Amsterdammer |

Just been asked to become Minister of Finance in the Rutte III cabinet. Hoekstra has to get rid of his shares in Asilia, a safari company in Kenya and Tanzania that his friend Bas Hochstenbach had set up at the beginning of this century. Since 2009, Hoekstra had invested 26,500 euros to help the company get started, but a minister is not allowed to have shares in his personal portfolio.

"The state attorney said, "Of course I can see that this is an award-winning ecotourism company that is doing a terrible job. But the following applies to ministers: no shares."' Hochstenbach and Hoekstra quickly put together a three-line document with which Hoekstra sells the shares to his friend, 'and a little later Wopke was on the steps of palace Noordeinde,' says Hochstenbach . "A most entertaining episode in our friendship."

Hoekstra called again recently in September, Hochstenbach says. "Just for the record, can you send me proof that the entire share transaction has been completed? And how come Asilia suddenly ends up in such a Panama Papers-like traffic jam?" asked Wopke.'

Dutch Finance Minister held stake in Virgin Islands letterbox firm for years: Report |  NL Times |

That failure is "unacceptable" and "below all international standards," said Professor Christoph Demmke to the newspaper. "Strictly speaking [he did not have to make the disclosure], but it would have been more ethical to report it," the European Parliament advisor said.

The members of the closed group of investors include Tom de Swaan, the supervisory board chair at ABN Amro. As Minister of Finance, Hoekstra was instrumental in appointing De Swaan to his role at ABN Amro. Hoekstra told the journalists reporting the story that he was unaware De Swaan was part of the investment group, and said he never saw the list of investors the group regularly shared with its members.

WRR - Studies by the Netherlands Council for Government Policy

Money and Debt: The Public Role of Banks

by Oui on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 01:34:05 PM EST
Quite something ... the wealthiest and top corporate leaders listening to the same tax consultant. Resign now!

De Swaan immediately divested the investment and apologized in an email to his colleagues at ABN Amro on Monday for underestimating the consequences of the tax construction.

De Swaan explains in his published e-mail that he has "invested in the company of a friend, former ABN AMRO colleague Jeroen Harderwijk, out of sincere intentions" and has always declared his investments to the tax authorities. He also writes that "the investment is not for tax avoidance or worse."

According to a spokesperson for ABN, there is 'technically nothing wrong' with the private investment. But the board of the company, which concerns the safari park project Asilia in East Africa, could have 'opted for a foundation in the Netherlands when it was founded', instead of a letterbox company in the British Virgin Islands.

De Swaan says that he will donate the investment to the founders of Asilia, so that it is once more clear what the intention of this investment was.

Up until his appointment as minister in October 2017, outgoing Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra was also co-owner of the letterbox company. Furthermore, the names of financial directors Maarten Muller, supervisory director at Van Lanschot Kempen, and Alexandra Schaapveld, supervisory director at the French bank Société Générale and, until mid-2020, supervisor at development bank FMO are mentioned.

Tourism Captured by the Poor - Evaluation of Aid Investments in the Tourism Sector of Kenya's ASALs

    In the last ten years, despite the increasing focus on tourism and poverty reduction, there have been very few reported interventions where any attempt has been made to measure beneficiary impact (Goodwin, 2007, p. 74)
by Oui on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 01:36:08 PM EST

Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra in a conflict of interest | Dutch News |

"Unbelievable", says Leen Paape, professor of corporate governance at Nyenrode University, in the newspaper. "You can't hide in that position behind: I haven't read it. These people know better."

And that certainly applies to investors with top positions in the Dutch financial sector. "It's clear and obvious: if you have an interest in a tax haven and you have to decide on the bank's policy on tax havens, then there is the (appearance of) a conflict of interest," said Leo Huberts, emeritus professor of public administration. FD.

'The British Virgin Islands have an aura of tax avoidance,' Leen Paape, professor of corporate governance at Nyenrode business university in Breukelen, told the FD. 'Even if it's allowed, it's not desirable. This is primarily about what is socially acceptable.'

by Oui on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 06:29:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geez Wopke ... don't like Dutch taxes? Income and McKinsey stocks superfluous and need help from Guernsey tax haven. Just stay away, you are serving your good friends and haven't got a notion of living and income viability of the vast majority of the Dutch, building the economy and paying their share of taxes. You are a loser ... call yourself a Christian Democrat? You love the British sunny islands in the Caribbean and offshore from the UK. Please remove yourself from the pleasant surroundings of The Netherlands ... you do not intend to pay your fair share.

Wopke Hoekstra's pension entitlement has also gone through a tax haven

Hoekstra stated that he made a full disclosure of his portfolio of assets, prior to taking office as Finance Minister in 2017. He listed in the House of Representatives the assets he was involved in at the time.

Sold

This includes his owner-occupied home, his stock he had to buy as a partner in McKinsey, and his supplemental pension for the same company through a Guernsey investment fund. Hoekstra says he chose to provide the pension because his employer offered it at the time. He asserts that 30,000 ex-colleagues worldwide use it. Partners in McKinsey are not allowed to invest in publicly traded companies themselves, "specifically to avoid conflicts of interest."

He said he gave up all these things when he took office, except for the family property in Drenthe. He can't sell it to common property and it's run by his uncle.
On Sunday, research by Trouw, Het Financial Dagblad and research platform Investico revealed that Hoekstra has had an interest in letterbox in the BVI for many years.

Guernsey: Tax on pensions

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 05:16:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Wopke Hoekstra should seek a job elsewhere ...

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 05:17:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Pandora Papers : Dominique Strauss-Kahn empêtré dans une nouvelle affaire

by Oui on Mon Oct 4th, 2021 at 08:16:15 PM EST
by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 06:34:37 AM EST
by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 06:48:00 AM EST
by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 06:53:51 AM EST

EU Approval Czechia's €7 billion recovery and resilience plan

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 09:58:14 AM EST

Czech interest rate hike, biggest in 24 years, aims to tackle rising inflation

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 09:59:50 AM EST
Nice distraction, Czech Republic and its leaders a solid partnership in America's orbit. Same Middle East policy and allies finding a sound business case in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Profoundly pro-Israel fighting Palestinian terrorists. A disfunctional EU-27 on human rights.

Lukashenko is not only a threat to his own people but neighbouring #EU countries as well

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 10:04:11 AM EST

Haunted by the past instead of joining the aspirations of the EU and its Four Freedoms.

"Operation Kulak": Memorial to Czech victims of collectivisation erected below Mount Říp

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 10:09:33 AM EST

Earlier writing ...

Ukraine: President Zelenskiy A Servant of Trump

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 10:20:14 AM EST

The global corporate tax deal doesn't add up - we're about to be ripped off again | The Guardian Opinion |

Representatives of 140 countries meeting at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are expected to sign off on a package of reforms designed to change the way in which the world's largest multinational companies are taxed. The deal is supposed to ensure that "the largest multinational tech giants will pay their fair share of tax in the countries in which they operate".

But sadly, this will not be the "huge prize for the British taxpayer" that was promised by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, earlier this year. We are about to get ripped off - big time.

To understand why, you need to understand how we got here. It is no accident that the majority of big tech is based in the US, which for decades has operated a tax system designed to exploit overseas markets.

US companies have put in place structures that see profits and taxes minimised in places like the UK through the payment of large fees and royalties for the use of intellectual property (IP). These payments end up in shell companies in tax havens with no staff, no offices and no observable economic activity. The result is that profits accumulate in the offshore subsidiaries tax-free. Under US tax rules, as long as those profits were not brought home, they could remain untaxed for ever.

...
In the meantime, US companies continued to hoard cash in tax havens. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), by 2017 companies on the Fortune 500 list had managed to stockpile more than $2.6tn in profits offshore, where it wasn't subject to tax - all of which will have derived from revenues made from customers based outside the United States.

Pandemic Crisis and Financial Stability

by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 06:29:15 PM EST
by Oui on Fri Oct 8th, 2021 at 07:53:25 PM EST

Kurz: "Anschuldigungen sind falsch"

by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 06:11:22 PM EST
by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 06:12:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Czech-Russian Relations Headed for `Beyond Catastrophic'

Babis election loss another loss of an US ally in Old Europe ...

by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 06:27:22 PM EST
Czech PM set to lose power after weak showing in general election | The Guardian |

In a poll overshadowed by intense speculation about the health of the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, the prime minister's Action for Dissatisfied Citizens party (ANO) was tied with an opposition faction to be the largest grouping after its share of the vote fell from its victorious 2017 election. With nearly all the votes counted, Spolu (Together) had 27.7% of the vote compared with ANO's 27.2%, a result that sparked celebrations at Spolu's headquarters.

The electoral blow followed disclosures in the Pandora Papers that Babiš - a former oligarch and owner of a giant industrial conglomerate, Agrofert - set up offshore companies to buy a chateau for £13m in the French Riviera, a move at odds with his political message of anti-corruption and financial transparency.

ANO's loss was compounded by the failure of both the Czech social democrats (ČSSD), its junior coalition partner, and the Communist party (KSČM) - whose votes have kept Babiš's government in power - to pass the 5% electoral threshold needed to enter parliament, all but cutting off Babiš's route to a new coalition.

The result appeared to signal a highly symbolic final consignment to historical oblivion for the communists, who ruled the former Czechoslovakia with an iron fist for more than 40 years before being toppled in the 1989 Velvet Revolution, amid the collapse of communism throughout eastern Europe.

The outcome held the prospect of a majority coalition comprising the centre-right Spolu grouping and Pir-STAN, a liberal-left faction consisting of the Pirates and the Mayors and Independent (STAN) parties.

Czech legislative elections - 2021

by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 08:59:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Hungary: Orban signs resolution supporting Polish court ruling | DW News |

by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 09:47:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 09:48:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 09:49:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Sun Oct 10th, 2021 at 09:51:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 at 09:50:10 PM EST
The pandemic and the shield of G*d ...

Israel and the "Shield of Europe"

Austria acts in this union as the natural leader - due to economic strength, political authority and historical tradition. Sebastian Kurtz is a charismatic and energetic ruler, and he is unusually friendly to our country. Kurtz became the first head of government to congratulate Netanyahu on his victory. He thanked Netanyahu for "waking him up" and alerting him of the threat of a pandemic. He proposed a "tourist union", free from the pandemic, which includes Israel, Czech republic, Greece and Cyprus.

We can talk today (it was Ben-Gurion's dream once, wasn't it?) about the union of ancient and old great civilizations: the Jewish state, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and the revived Habsburg empire with its center in Vienna, including centers of medieval learning and tolerance such as Prague and Krakow. Other countries, like the Baltic and Ukraine, and some influential parties, primarily the Italian Northern League, adjoin this union.

The Habsburg Empire, which at one time extended from Krakow to Dalmatia, and from Northern Italy to Galicia, was once called the "shield of Europe". It is being reborn into a new modern shape and can become our reliable partner in the face of future cataclysms.

Arutz Sheva

Benjamin Netanyahu, media puppeteer | CJR - Feb. 2018 |

by Oui on Sun Oct 10th, 2021 at 06:08:07 AM EST
Orban government remains silent about 'Hungary's Watergate' | Balkan Insight |

Phones of Hungarian journalists, businessmen and activists were among those targeted by the Israeli Pegasus spyware, putting Hungary again in the company of authoritarian states which regard a free media as a source of danger.

Rise of Populism Based on Terror and Islamophobia

Poland Spinning the Shoah - Anti-semitism

by Oui on Sun Oct 10th, 2021 at 06:24:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Sun Oct 10th, 2021 at 06:47:32 PM EST
The former Soviet bloc nations tearing down the European Union doing the job for the Rightwing US Conservatives [incl. UK's impersonator of Churchill] and a helping hand to Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Slovenia: Janša accuses MEP Sophie in `t Veld of censorship, demands her resignation | Balkan EU - March 30, 2021 |

Janša urged in `t Veld to step down, accusing her of irreparably damaging the reputation and credibility of the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group.

 "The Slovenian government takes freedom of speech and media freedom very seriously, and therefore we do not accept censorship," reads a letter penned to in `t Veld by Peter Šuhel, Janša's chief of staff. Memories of times when newspaper articles had to be approved by the Communist authorities are still very vivid in Slovenia, he adds.

"Your censorship is dangerously reminiscent of that time. However, I am pleased that you did this in front of the European public... Since I believe that you have irreparably damaged the reputation and credibility of the Group with this action.

Slovenian interior minister asked to apologise for `swine' comment

A few months later as Janša represents the EU as president ...

Rutte downsized by Janša reply ...

by Oui on Thu Oct 14th, 2021 at 08:32:18 PM EST
The Slovenian Prime Minister, at the head of the rotating EU presidency, links the MEPs of the Left with "antifa terrorism"

by Oui on Thu Oct 14th, 2021 at 08:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Why PM Janša Threw A Hissy Fit

by Oui on Thu Oct 14th, 2021 at 08:33:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Thu Oct 14th, 2021 at 09:15:51 PM EST


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