Twelve million leaked documents about the hidden offshore tax haven assets of 30 of the world's leaders, 300 public officials and over 100 billionaires and much more, known as the Pandora Papers, were leaked last night by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). This was the biggest-ever such leak of documents. The leaders included King Abdullah of Jordan and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The 40,000 documents mention 565 Israelis as beneficiaries of companies, making Israel the 16th most cited country in the Pandora Papers. Russia is top with 4,000 beneficiaries named followed by the UK with 3,500. Only 617 of the beneficiaries were from the US. Among the Israelis mentioned are Likud MK and former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, former Labor party Justice Minister Haim Ramon, and the Steinmetz family.
In addition to the Israeli businesspeople, many small Israeli businesses are mentioned including restaurants, which are registered businesses in the British Virgin Islands 9,817 kilometers from here.
Barkat's holdings in the Virgin Islands
An investigation by the Israeli organization "Shomrim" based on the Pandora Papers raises questions about the conduct of Barkat, who holds a stake in social trading capital market platform eToro, which is registered in the Virgin islands and is set to be listed on Nasdaq through a SPAC merger with a valuation of $10 billion, and which will make MK Nir Barkat a billionaire.
When he was Jerusalem Mayor, Barkat held the shares himself despite his declaration that they were with a trustee, and even when he transferred them after he was elected to the Knesset in 2019, he transferred them to his brother and partner Eli Barkat, even though the guidelines of the Knesset Ethics Committee prohibit transferring assets to a trustee who is a close relative.
Nir Barkat's spokesperson said, "Nir Barkat has not been involved in business affairs since he was elected as a public representative. His shares are held by a trustee meaning that Nir Barkat takes no part and no involvement in matters regarding these shares - in global tech companies, and on more than one occasion he has been required by the international authorities to confirm technical details regarding his identity as one of the shareholders."
"Nir Barkat transferred his overall holdings to a trustee 17 years ago. When he was elected to Knesset and his appointment was being considered for a role in government, the trustee agreement was renewed and expanded to add potential conflicts of interest. This agreement has been updated in the relevant lists as required. We stress that the previous agreement was carried out as part of his public activities for a municipal authority and all according to the law and more."
In addition to MK Nir Barkat, the Steinmetz family was mentioned in the Pandor Papers for transferring a billion dollars from Lichtenstein to the Cook Islands and former Minister of Justice Haim Ramon's business dealings with Austrian billionaire Martin Schlaff in Montenegro are also examined.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 4, 2021
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