Pandora Papers: Lebanon PM Mikati says family wealth legal

Najib Mikati says his wealth is legal after Pandora Papers leak reveals he owns an offshore firm in Panama.

Lebanon''s Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks after the announcement of a new government
Mikati said owning property through firms was a common commercial practice that was legal [File: Reuters]

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s family wealth comes from a communications business that has been audited in the past and is legal, a statement from his office has said in response to a giant leak of financial documents.

Daraj, a Lebanese news organisation that reported on the Pandora Papers – a set of leaked documents purporting to reveal offshore transactions involving prominent global figures, said Mikati owned an offshore firm in Panama called Hessvile through which he bought a property in Monaco worth seven million euros ($8.1m).

Mikati’s son Maher was a director of at least two British Virgin Islands-based companies.

On Tuesday, Mikati said owning property through firms was a common commercial practice that was legal.

Mikati’s family wealth was audited when his communications firm was listed in London in 2005 and when it merged with South Africa’s MTN later, the statement said.

It said Mikati had disclosed his wealth and properties to the Lebanese Constitutional Council since the start of his political career.

“Wealth is not necessarily accumulated at the expense of public interest and the needy,” Mikati’s statement said.

The use of offshore companies is not illegal and not evidence of wrongdoing on its own, but the news organisations that published the trove said such arrangements could be intended to hide transactions from tax collectors or other authorities.

The Daraj report includes senior political figures and bankers in Lebanon who it said had used offshore havens.

Mikati formed a cabinet last month after more than a year of political deadlock that has compounded Lebanon’s financial crisis, which the World Bank has described as one of the deepest depressions in modern history.

His government needs to introduce reforms to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund and unlock foreign aid.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value since 2019, and according to a recent United Nations report, more than 70 percent of Lebanon’s six million people now live below the poverty line.

In March 2020, Lebanon suspended the payment of $1.2bn in loans, marking the country’s first-ever default.

Source: News Agencies