AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s foreign minister on Thursday pushed back against a report that the country’s monarch, King Abdullah II, went out of his way to hide the purchase of more than a dozen luxury homes worth more than $106 million, saying there was “nothing secretive” about the transactions.
Ayman Safadi also told The Associated Press that none of the billions of dollars of international aid the kingdom has received over the years were used to fund the purchases, and that strict safeguards are in place to prevent any abuses.
“Any insinuation that the financing of those properties came through illegal manners is also baseless, because his majesty paid from his personal funds for this,” he said. “Any attempt to link between these and donor money is again baseless because every cent in donor money is accounted for and audited by us and by the donors themselves.”
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, citing information from a trove of leaked documents, reported earlier this week that Abdullah obtained the properties through offshore shell companies.
Advisers to the king “spared no effort to conceal his real estate holdings,” the report alleged. It said that accountants and lawyers for the king “concocted plans to shield his name from public and even confidential government registries.”
The consortium said it has reviewed close to 12 million leaked documents about offshore transactions, dubbed the “Pandora Papers.” Abdullah was one of scores of public figures from countries around the world who were identified as holders of hidden offshore accounts.
Abdullah’s offshore dealings drew particular attention, along with those of several other bold-faced names. This may have been, in part, because of the contrast between his luxury real estate holdings and Jordan’s heavy dependence on international aid and the nation’s continued economic crisis.
The Royal Hashemite Court issued a statement earlier this week denying any impropriety. The king bought the properties in the United States and Britain from his own funds and details about them were being kept quiet for security and privacy reasons, the statement said.
Safadi, who is also deputy prime minister, said Thursday that “there is nothing secretive” about the purchases, which according to ICIJ took place over the past decade. He said that “accusations of secrecy that somehow insinuate wrongdoing are baseless.”
When asked about the optics of the ruler of one of the region’s poorest countries owning multi-million-dollar homes, Safadi suggested the focus on the king was disproportionate.
Daoud Kuttab, an independent Jordanian journalist, said he believes it’s all about perception.
“There isn’t any claim of corruption here,” he said. “There is a claim that the optics don’t look good, in a country that depends on foreign aid, has high unemployment and at the same time the monarch has all these luxurious houses throughout the world.”
Kuttab, founder of the news site Amman Net, said that Jordan’s security forces ordered him to remove a story about the ICIJ report on Sunday, about three hours after he had published it.
He said Amman Net had been the only Jordanian outlet to report the story at that time. Most Jordanian media are either state-run, state-controlled or run by journalists engaged in self-censorship, he said.
In the wake of the royal court statement Monday, Amman Net had a new story, other outlets published some details and commentary, and there was limited discussion on social media.
Safadi, a former journalist, denied the story had been suppressed, citing the detailed court statement.
Karin Laub, The Associated Press
Real estate secrets; Family blindsided after others profit off obituary; CBC's Marketplace Cheat Sheet – CBC.ca
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Real estate agents caught on hidden camera breaking the law, steering buyers from low-commission homes
Marketplace’s latest investigation is uncovering some shady real estate practices.
Posing as homebuyers and sellers, Marketplace tested if real estate agents are engaging in steering, an anti-competitive practice that steers potential homebuyers away from properties that offer agents lower commission. The team’s hidden cameras found some agents deceiving the buyers they are supposed to represent in an effort to pad their own bottom line.
Experts and industry insiders say what Marketplace has uncovered is indicative of an industry working for the benefit of real estate agents at a cost to home sellers and buyers.
“There’s a huge inertia, and maintaining the status quo, it absolutely benefits existing realtors 100 per cent,” said broker and real estate agent Michael Walsh, one of the few speaking out on this issue.
After learning about our findings, the Real Estate Council of Ontario issued a notice about steering to more than 93,000 real estate agents, brokers and brokerages under its purview, noting that such behaviour breaches their code of ethics. Read more
Family blindsided after marketing company, funeral home cash in on father’s obituary
Before pancreatic cancer took his life in April, John Rothwell made his dying wishes clear: if mourners wanted to donate to a cause in his name, the money should go to an educational fund he and his family set up.
Instead, family and friends unwittingly paid for a product that puts money into the pockets of companies profiting from grief, says son Nathan Rothwell
Rothwell told Go Public that while he knew the obituary would be on the website of the Mackey Funeral Home in Lindsay, Ont., he made sure it included a request for mourners to consider donating to the educational fund, in lieu of flowers.
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The obituary included links that said, “Plant a tree in the memory of John Rothwell” and led to a different website where mourners paid for products the family knew nothing about, said Rothwell.
“Family and friends spent money out of their own pockets for what they thought were my dad’s wishes,” Rothwell said.
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The U.S. land border is reopening, but Canadians with mixed vaccines are still in limbo
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That’s because at the same time the U.S. reopens the land border, it will start requiring that foreign land and air travellers entering the country be fully vaccinated.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently doesn’t recognize mixed COVID-19 vaccines — such as one dose of AstraZeneca and one dose of Pfizer or Moderna — and hasn’t yet said if travellers with two different doses will be blocked from entry when the vaccine requirement kicks in.
“CDC will release additional guidance and information as the travel requirements are finalized later this month,” spokesperson Jade Fulce said in an email on Wednesday. Read more
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