Offshore financial activities linked to prominent politicians, state-owned companies, trade deals with the government, and lucrative real estate all featured prominently in Pandora Papers reporting by journalists from Eastern Europe. – a region which faces some of the most serious threats to press freedom in the world.
The Pandora Papers are the largest document leak on record from offshore havens, consisting of nearly 12 million documents from law firms and financial advisers that facilitate the creation of offshore shell companies. It is also the largest collaboration ever for the ICIJ, with more than 600 journalists from 117 participating countries.
Here are some highlights from Pandora Papers from journalists in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The Central Asia Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project exposed an extensive network of offshore companies who helped three children and two close associates of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev acquire luxury penthouses and commercial offices in the heart of London. Pandora Papers documents reveal how these properties were owned by an interconnected network of 84 offshore companies.
Belsat journalists in Belarus, directly targeted by pro-government propagandists, lucrative relationships exposed between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and a close ally in Zimbabwe. The son of Lukashenko’s right-hand man Viktor Sheiman made trade deals with the Zimbabwean government through a company he owned and another well-connected figure who stood to gain from a controversial gold venture .
In Bulgaria, BIRD exposed three offshore companies who belonged to a former lawmaker and media mogul Delyan peevski, who failed to report them in their property declarations. BIRD also discovered two BVI companies formed by peevski’s mother, and explained how former Bulgarian minister Nikolay Mladenov registered an offshore company in Seychelles, not all of which were reported.
The new partners of the ICIJ at MANS exposed how Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and his son Blazo created secret contracts that helped them manage their assets by hiding them behind a network of companies in five different countries: UK, Switzerland, British Virgin Islands, Panama and Gibraltar. Djukanovic is one of 35 current and former presidents and prime ministers whose offshore transactions have been exposed in the Pandora Papers.
Russian investigative media IStories, in collaboration with ICIJ and other Pandora Papers partners, investigation how the director of a state television network, Constantin Ernst, was the beneficiary of an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands which participated in a grandiose project to demolish Soviet cinemas in Moscow and build shopping centers in their place. Russian state banks provided tens of billions of rubles for the project.
IStories also discovered how the daughter and former son-in-law of Nikolai Tokarev, the head of the Transneft pipeline, became Cypriot citizens the same year, the company fell under European Union sanctions. Over the years, the secret societies of Tokarev’s son-in-law received several billion rubles under contracts with Transneft and its companies.
Amid their reporting on the offshore deals of powerful Russian businessmen, the ICIJ partners have been named “foreign agents,” a designation used by Russian authorities to pressure journalists and subject them to reports. expensive financials.
Serbian Minister of Finance and former Mayor of Belgrade Sinisa Mali, has already been exposed for the purchase of 24 apartments by the sea in “Sveti Nikola” in Bulgaria. Serbian journalists from KRIK, another investigative center constantly under attack by pro-government media, confirmed by Pandora Papers that Mali owned the two offshore companies that bought the apartments.
The Slovenian store Oštro has established a new center in Croatia to publish the country’s Pandora Papers articles. Together they exposed the beneficial owners of a leading real estate developer, Jadranka. They revealed the involvement of the Perenčević brothers, directors of Velesstroy, a Russian pipeline construction company working with the Transneft monopoly, and how they transferred millions of euros to Croatia via offshore entities. The investigation also revealed how a dividend of 3.1 million euros to the shareholder of Velestroy was sent to Croatia for urgent repairs in the event of a fire at the most luxurious hotel on the island, but the actual damage was officially assessed at less than 27,000 euros.
Ukrainian journalists from Slidstvo published a series of articles on Pandora Papers which reveal hidden offshore business activities of President Volodymyr ZelenskyyZelenskyy’s entourage and his close associates may have been involved in the transfer of $ 40 million from structures linked to the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky and others.