Panama Papers: The Middle East Players

The Panama Papers released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on April 3 set out previously unknown details of the financial dealings of more than 140 politicians from more than 50 countries. Among them are former prime ministers of Iraq, Jordan and Qatar, a former emir of Qatar and the current Saudi king.

The papers come from 11.5 million financial and legal records leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. It’s worth noting that there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and while they may be used to avoid taxes this is less of an issue in places such as the Gulf where personal taxes are not levied. Even so, the information sheds some rare light on the private financial dealings of some of the richest and most powerful people in the Middle East.

Here are some of the key findings released to date, in alphabetical order based on country, along with the responses given to the ICIJ. Mossack Fonseca has itself issued a response to the data publicised by the ICIJ.

Algeria – Abdeslam Bouchouareb, minister of industry and mines

Since July 2015, Bouchouareb has been the sole owner of the Panamanian company Royal Arrival Corp, which is managed via a Luxembourg company, Compagnie d’Etude et de Conseil (CEC). In emails sent to Mossack Fonseca, CEC said Royal Arrival Corp was active in Turkey, the UK and Algeria.

Response: A Luxembourg financial firm that set up the company for Bouchouareb confirmed his ownership, noting that it “was constituted in all transparency” and set up to own and manage inherited property. Because of his ministerial role, “We, with his agreement, decided to delay any use of the company… Mr. Bouchouareb asked us to freeze this company for the duration of his public mandates.”

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