By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN -It was not a secret that Jordan’s King Abdullah owns properties abroad but the information was not disclosed for reasons of privacy and security, the royal palace said on Monday, after a massive leak of financial documents.
In the leaked files, published on Sunday, King Abdullah, a close U.S. ally, is alleged to have used offshore accounts to spend more than $100 million on luxury homes in the United States and Britain. Reuters has not been able to independently verify the files or the allegations made in them.
“It is no secret that His Majesty owns a number of apartments and residences in the United States and the United Kingdom. This is not unusual nor improper,” Jordan’s royal palace said in a statement.
It said the king had personally purchased the properties and no funds from the state budget or treasury had been used. The king uses the properties during official visits and sometimes while on private visits, the palace added.
“These properties are not publicised out of security and privacy concerns, and not out of secrecy or an attempt to hide them, as these reports have claimed. Measures to maintain privacy are crucial for a head of state of His Majesty’s position,” the English language statement.
The dump of millions of records, tying various world leaders to secret stores of wealth, comes five years after the leak known as the “Panama Papers” exposed how money was hidden by the wealthy in ways that law enforcement agencies could not detect.
The leaked documents have come as Jordanians grow increasingly disenchanted with their rulers. The country has witnessed street protests against economic hardship, high youth unemployment and a lack of progress on political reforms.
Opposition politicians say King Abdullah has not done enough to tackle corruption in state agencies, where nepotism is rife.
They also accused the authorities last year of using draconian emergency laws to help curb the coronavirus pandemic to suppress civil liberties and erode public freedoms, a charge the government denies. The laws have now mostly been lifted.
Jordan is one of the biggest recipients of U.S and Western aid per capita. Its image as an island of relative stability in the turbulent Middle East has long endeared it to international donors, and the kingdom is also following IMF-guided reforms.
The palace statement said the allegations made in the leaked documents were designed to target King Abdullah’s “credibility and the critical role he plays regionally and internationally”.
The documents were leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington D.C.-based network of reporters and media organisations. It has not said how it obtained the files.