Part of the treasure trove of leaked documents that make up the Pandora Papers has revealed a network of secretly owned firms used by Jordanian King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein to buy 15 luxury mansions and create a $100 million property empire across the west. King Abdullah II claims there was nothing improper about the hidden transactions, despite his country receiving substantial international aid.
The Documents Reveal High Price Purchases
The files, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, reveal the Middle East’s longest-serving current monarch has spent the past decades creating an international luxury property portfolio worth well over $100 million. King Abdullah II allegedly used a network of hidden shell companies to hide the purchase of properties from the Pacific cliffs of Malibu, California, a complex in Washington DC, and on to central London’s most exclusive areas.
Abdullah II first entered the US real estate market in 2012 when he purchased three luxury apartments in a complex in Washington D.C. The apartments, located in the Georgetown neighborhood, have panoramic views of the Potomac River. The king purchased the properties for $13.8 million just before his son, the crown prince, enrolled at nearby Georgetown University.
The most expensive of the king’s purchases revealed in the Pandora papers is a vast clifftop property on California’s Malibu coast. It is described as a “resort hotel-like mega-mansion”, which contains 26 rooms.
According to The Washington Post, a company called Nabisco Holdings SA bought a seven-bedroom home in the Point Dume peninsula of Malibu for $33.5 million, a record for the area. The company was based in the British Virgin Islands, and they report that it was secretly owned by Abdullah II.
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According to the Pandora Papers: “Three beachfront mansions in Malibu were purchased through three offshore companies for $68 million by the King of Jordan in the years after Jordanians filled the streets during Arab Spring to protest joblessness and corruption.”
Abdullah II has also acquired a portfolio of seven luxury properties in the United Kingdom, including three in Belgravia, London. The UK properties are estimated to have a current market value of about $38 million.
A Country Propped Up By Aid
Jordan is one of the most impoverished countries in the Middle East. Unlike its neighbors, there is almost no oil to export and very little water. The kingdom depends on foreign aid to support its own people and to house and care for millions of refugees. Last year the United States gave Jordan more than $1.5 billion in aid and military funding, and the European Union agreed to provide aid of $218 million to help the kingdom through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The purchases are sure to be raising eyebrows from political leaders in the United Kingdom as well. According The Guardian the UK government is one of the regime’s biggest financial backers and they might begin to wonder why they were pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in bilateral aid into the country at a time the reporting says the King was shelling out a fortune on luxury mansions.
The King Claims Innocence, But Others Are Skeptical
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“Jordan doesn’t have the kind of money that other Middle Eastern monarchies, like Saudi Arabia, have to allow a king to flaunt his wealth,” Dr. Annelle Sheline, an expert on religious and political authority in the Middle East, said in an interview with ICIJ.
Furthermore, the attorneys for the king reached out to ICIJ to deny anything improper about Abdullah II purchasing the luxury properties through offshore companies. The monarch says he owns his property in a personal capacity, but while there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, the king’s net worth and source of his income remain closely guarded. The king is not required to pay taxes under Jordanian law, the attorneys said.
Attorneys claim King Abdullah II has crucial legitimate security and privacy reasons for holding property in offshore corporations that have nothing to do with tax evasion or any other inappropriate purpose. They claim the king has never misused public funds or foreign aid, adding that the king’s wealth comes from personal sources.
The Royal Court published a statement echoing these statements, “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. His Majesty uses these properties during official visits and hosts officials and foreign dignitaries there.”
The investigation about offshore accounts is the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration, involving more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries, the ICIJ says on its website. The reaction to its publication has drawn outrage from the public.
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Sources: ICIJ, The Washington Post, The Guardian
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