Lebanon tops the list of offshore companies named in the Pandora Papers, a revelation that many people have found to be unsurprising.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati has denied any wrongdoing regarding his appointment in the Pandora Papers [Getty]
Lebanese political and business leaders have the most offshore accounts revealed in the Pandora Papers, a mine of financial data released on Sunday that details the financial holdings of the rich and powerful around the world.
The Pandora Papers are one of the biggest financial data leaks on record, consisting of 11.9 million documents from 14 different offshore service companies.
According to the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ), the leaks reveal “a system of enabling crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secret offshore companies”.
Lebanon tops the list with more than 346 offshore companies established, more than double the number of companies founded by individuals from the next country, the UK.
The Lebanese expressed their anger at the revelations, although many were not surprised that their politicians engaged in offshore accounting practices.
“It is sad, but expected, in light of the corruption and collapse that is happening because of the ruling parties and organizations,” said Khodor Eido, a Lebanese political activist. The New Arabic.
Among those implicated in the leaks are Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and Central Bank of Lebanon (BDL) director Riad Salameh.
Mikati and Diab both released statements, the former highlighting that his fortune had accumulated before he took office, and the latter claiming that he had already sold his shares in the company cited in the leaks.
There is nothing illegal about offshore tax corporations and by themselves the Pandora Papers provide no evidence of wrongdoing.
However, the riches they reveal contrast sharply with the unprecedented economic crisis that Lebanon is going through.
Over 80 percent of the country has been plunged into poverty and life has become almost unlivable for most.
“While the Prime Minister has accumulated billions, his city [Tripoli], the poorest in the Mediterranean, suffers from extreme poverty, ”said Dana Abed, OXFAM researcher and policy advisor in Beirut. The New Arabic.
“The money is not needed in offshore accounts, but rather in the country to support the population, infrastructure and service delivery,” Abed added.
When Lebanon’s financial crisis began in the fall of 2019, BDL officials urged the Lebanese not to panic and to keep their deposits in the country’s banks.
Soon after, banks began to severely restrict access to accounts and the amount small and medium depositors could withdraw. The restrictions were imposed unilaterally by Lebanese banks, despite the absence of any official government capital controls.
Indeed, ordinary Lebanese have seen their economies become inaccessible. At the same time, Lebanese officials and elites were swiftly transferring their money out of the country before its impending economic collapse.
“My father is in great pain to take the money he got through years of hard work and exhaustion,” Eido said.
“They were telling the Lebanese that everything would be fine and that the reading would be fine – at the same time, they were channeling their money and buying businesses. Where did they get that money from?”
The international consortium of journalists who worked on the Pandora Papers will continue to publish information over the coming week.