The World Today for October 13, 2021


Box Opened


Svetlana Krivonogikh grew up working odd jobs in St. Petersburg, Russia. Today, however, she lives in Monaco near a Monte Carlo casino with a view of the Mediterranean that one might expect in a James Bond movie, reported the Washington Post. Architectural Digest ran a photo of the amazing place.

Krivonogikh’s lavish lifestyle is newsworthy because the 46-year-old became the owner of her luxury apartment soon after she allegedly gave birth to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s child. Experts have estimated she is worth $100 million in assets she has acquired largely because of her personal connections to Putin and the oligarchs who dominate Russia’s economy.

Revelations about Krivonogikh were part of the Pandora Papers, an investigation launched by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its affiliated news partners. As the Washington Post explained, the Consortium obtained almost 12 million legal and financial records that illustrate how the world’s elite launder, shield and hide their assets to skirt the law, avoid taxes and bypass public scrutiny.

The documents implicate 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 politicians and a “global lineup of fugitives, con artists and murderers” in 91 countries, wrote the Consortium. Other cohorts include more than 100 billionaires and “celebrities, rock stars and business leaders,” reported the Guardian, another Consortium partner. The papers show how these rich folks use shell companies within shell companies to conceal properties, boats, art, stolen antiquities and secret bank accounts.

Some of these leaders included those from struggling countries such as Jordan’s King Abdullah who bought 14 homes in the US and Britain totaling $106 million while his subjects wrestled with their poor economy.

The journalists’ work shamed leaders in the West, too, noted CNN. Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis secretly bought a $22 million property on the French Riviera, according to the papers. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair avoided paying more than $400,000 in taxes when purchasing a London townhouse. The Queen of England bought a $91 million London property from the corrupt rulers of Azerbaijan.

Many leaders pushed back. “The Congolese government denies with the utmost firmness any involvement by President Sassou in the Pandora Papers, either personally or in his official capacity,” a spokesman for Republic of the Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso told Agence France-Presse. Nguesso, in power for 37 years and reelected in March after the opposition boycotted the vote, has had an offshore account in the British Virgin Islands for nearly 20 years, the inquiry wrote.

Other leaders used the release of the papers to call for investigations to determine the extent to which people showcased in the papers are breaking laws. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has asked regulators to look into the 3,000 Mexican citizens mentioned in the documents, for example, Reuters wrote.

It’s not generally illegal to move money around internationally. But it can be. And when it is hidden in a complex system that some liken to Matryoshka dolls, it usually is.

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