5 Oct, 2021 @ 16:15
3 mins read

The Pandora Papers: Secret files put big names in Spain in the spotlight for offshore funds

Pandora Papers

SPAIN’S King Juan Carlos, football club manager Pep Guardiola, crooner Julio Iglesias, and at least five politicians are among around 600 Spaniards under scrutiny after being named in a secret trove of documents about offshore finance known as the ‘Pandora Papers’.

The papers also put the spotlight on Russian oligarchs and at least one Italian mobster who used offshore companies to amass wealth and assets in Spain as well as 133 multi-millionaires across the globe who appear on the Forbes rich list.

The Pandora Papers also named well-known personalities who have adopted Spain as their home, such as pop star Shakira and Nobel-Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, both of whom have fallen foul of the Spanish taxman for tax evasion.

The use of off-shore companies is not illegal or by itself evidence of wrongdoing, indeed many of those named in the papers may have perfectly legitimate reasons for being there.

But the papers do show how the super-rich can amass wealth and carry out dealings in ways that are not easy for governments, tax agencies or law enforcement to detect.

On Monday Spain’s tax agency said it would investigate cases linked to the data dump comprising more than 11.9 million records.

The latest investigation comes five years after the leak known as the “Panama Papers” which led to the Spanish tax agency recovering at least €140 million after auditing 244 people named in Spain.

But the latest haul promises to be even more extensive.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington, D.C.-based network of reporters and media organizations, which is behind the investigation said the latest files are linked to about 35 current and former national leaders, and more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories.

Among them are former British prime minister Tony Blair as well as five Spanish politicians, although their names have yet not been released but are expected to come to light in the coming days.

However, dozens of other high-profile names from across Spain have already emerged.

It comes as little surprise to many to see former head of state King Juan Carlos mentioned in the papers.

The 83-year-old, who abdicated as monarch in 2014 following a series of scandals and is now living in exile in Abu Dhabi is named as beneficiary in a trust set up by his former mistress Corinna Larsen.

Algunas De Las Mujeres Con Las Que Se Relaciona A Juan Carlos I
King Juan Carlos and Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. Laureus Award 2006, Barcelona. Archive image: Cordon Press

The secret papers purport to show that 30% of income generated by something called the Spanish-Saudi Investment Fund be left to the former monarch in the case of Larsen’s death, adding further fuel to allegations that she was involved in laundering money from commissions given to the King from the Saudi royal family.

The papers also show that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola held cash in an offshore account in Andorra where he deposited wages from when he played for Al Ahli in Qatar before taking a management job in Barcelona.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the 50-year-old took advantage of a tax amnesty in Spain to regularise his finances but had not declared the funds held in the account to the Spanish Tax Agency.

The papers claim Colombian pop star Shakira, who lives in Barcelona with her footballer partner Gerard Pique, set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands to conceal assets.

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Shakira already has a tax evasion case pending in Spain. Photo: Cordon Press

This is unlikely to help her case with the Spanish taxman who is already pursuing her for evading €12 million in taxes.

Documents show that the Italian Camorra mafia boss, Raffaele Amato, who has been tied to at least a dozen killings and whose story inspired “Gomorrah” used offshore funds to build up a property empire in Spain. He was arrested in Malaga in 2009 and is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence.

At least one Russian oligarch, Sergei Chemezov, a close pal of Vladimir Putin and CEO of Russian state defense conglomerate Rostec,  is revealed in the Pandora Papers to have built up a vast property portfolio in Spain, including a 85-metre luxury yacht and a hacienda worth €15million.

He is one of 46 Russian oligarchs found to use offshore companies in the investigation.

News Archive May 30, 2000
Archive photo of Julia Iglesias, Cordon Press.

Also named in the papers is Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias, 78, who according to Forbes has a fortune of €800million. The Pandora Papers reveal that he is linked to 20 off-shore companies in the British Virgin Islands some of which he used to accumulate property on a Miami island known as ‘Billionaire Bunker’.


Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

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