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Global investigation unveils alleged financial misdeeds by Likud MK Nir Barkat

Pandora Papers find senior politician held assets under his name in Virgin Islands, transferred them to his brother rather than blind trust; Barkat dismisses ‘ridiculous’ claims

Likud MK Nir Barkat speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Nir Barkat speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK Nir Barkat is named in a massive trove of leaked documents about financial secrecy in global tax havens, published by a group of investigative journalists on Sunday.

Some 565 Israelis are listed in the Pandora Papers, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, according to Shomrim, an investigative journalism nonprofit organization that took part in the investigation.

According to the report, the eToro company that Barkat has holdings in is registered in the Virgin Islands, despite the majority of its offices being located in Israel. While having a company registered in a tax haven is not always illegal per se, it may violate the Knesset Ethics Committee’s guidelines.

Barkat, while serving as Jerusalem’s mayor between 2008 and 2018 maintained that his wealth was under a blind trust, as most politicians do. Yet according to Shomrin, the leaked data showed that much of his wealth was still under his name until 2019.

After Barkat was elected to the Knesset in 2019, he transferred the same shares to his brother Eli Barkat, despite the Knesset Ethics Committee’s guidelines requiring a “public trust company,” Shomrim said.

Barkat’s office issued a statement on Sunday stating that “when he entered the public sphere some 18 years ago, he transferred the management of all his business activity to his brother, and when he was elected to the Knesset, he filed blind trust documents alongside a full declaration of capital to the Ethics Committee and asked for its guidance.”

“It is hard to disconnect the political interests at play in the publication of this ridiculous ‘investigation,’” the statement added.

Barkat had previously sought to be Israel’s finance minister, and last year, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would tap him for the role if he managed to form a government.

In 2019, the business magazine Forbes Israel estimated Barkat’s net worth at some NIS 500 million ($139 million), making him the wealthiest lawmaker.

More than a dozen heads of state and government, including the king of Jordan and the Czech prime minister, have amassed millions in secret offshore assets, according to the investigation.

The so-called “Pandora Papers” investigation — involving some 600 journalists from dozens of media including The Washington Post and The Guardian — is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.

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