The big names whose hidden property empires and financial secrets have been exposed

One of the Conservative Party’s biggest donors is one of the world’s ten richest and most powerful people who, according to an investigation into one of the biggest financial leaks, have amassed millions of classified assets overseas.

Mohamed Amersi, who funded Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, was embroiled in one of Europe’s biggest corruption scandals after a controversial $220 million (£162 million) payment to a secret offshore company in 2010, according to leaked documents published by the global consortium studied. by journalists.

The documents show that celebrities and the wealthy legally set up businesses to secretly buy property in the UK.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said the disclosure should be a “wake-up call” for the government to take long-overdue steps to strengthen Britain’s defences.

He said the leaks showed that there was one system for “the elite who can buy access to prime real estate and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle and another for honest and hardworking people”.

Hames called on Britain to “initiate long overdue transparency reforms to uncover who really owns property here, and provide regulators and law enforcement agencies with resources to curb it”.

The files are called the Pandora Papers because their findings provide information about elite businesses that were previously hidden. Hundreds of leaders, government officials, celebrities and drug dealers have discovered they are using offshore accounts to protect assets, including villas and cruise ships worth trillions of dollars.

Mohamed Amersi
Mr Amersi, who donated nearly £525,000 to the Tories in 2018, alerted the Swedish telecommunications company to a complex transaction that was later fined in the US after it was used as a “corrupt payment” to the powerful first daughter of an authoritarian government in Uzbekistan. accepted. Ruler.

The 61-year-old is a business lawyer who worked as a consultant for the multinational telecommunications company Telia between 2007 and 2013.

His lawyers told the Guardian that any proposals he “knowingly” supported with corrupt payments were incorrect and that the main arrangements for the deal were made two years ago.

He had only worked on the project for six weeks and had “no reason” to believe it could be a bribe, the lawyer added.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherry avoided paying £312,000 in German taxes on a £6.75 million luxury office building in London in 2017 after buying the British Virgin Islands company that owns the property.

They bought the company from the family of Bahrain’s Minister of Industry and Tourism, Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani, and the Marylebone townhouse now houses Ms. Blair.

Buying company stock in lieu of the building saved Blair more than $400,000 in property taxes, according to the investigation. Their actions are not illegal.

A Blairs spokesman said the property was “usually purchased through a reputable estate agent” and all transactions were “publicly registered”.

He added that they are responsible for capital gains and other taxes for reselling the property “which far exceeds any stamp duty.”