This week’s headlines are ablaze with news of the Pandora Papers, the biggest ever leak of offshore financial secrets that detail hidden assets of the world’s richest individuals. While other scandalous data leaks have happened before, most notably the Panama Papers in 2016 and the Paradise Papers in ’17, none matches the scale of the Pandora Papers, in which 11.9 million files of confidential documents have become public knowledge via the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and thanks to anonymous tipsters. The documents expose secret deals made by dozens of world leaders and billionaires, revealing staggering statistics: namely, that a whopping $32 trillion of “secret” shadow wealth may be hidden in global tax havens, safely out of reach from Uncle Sam and his global peers.
To nobody’s surprise, much of that hidden money has wound up being funneled into luxury real estate. Some of the more sensational highlights include revelations that Vladimir Putin’s Monte Carlo-based mistress has quietly built up a $100 million net worth over the years, a number that includes ownership of posh properties in Monaco and St. Petersburg, and that the Czech Republic’s prime minister secretly paid $22 million for an estate in the south of France. And though much of that shadow wealth is tucked away up in long-infamous tax shelters — the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, for example — a substantial portion of it is now in America, thanks to states with favorable trust and secrecy laws. More than $360 billion has landed In the sparsely-populated state of South Dakota, of all the unlikely places, which has become a global destination for wealth.
But for West Coasters, surely one of the more interesting revelations was that over the last decade, Jordan’s King Abdullah II — together with his wife, the media-friendly Queen Rania of Jordan — has secretly spent approximately $70 million buying up luxury property in California’s coastal city of Malibu. From 2014-2017, Abdullah acquired three separate but contiguous estates, all located on celebrity-favored Point Dume, and all of them with mesmerizing views of the Malibu coastline. Three different sellers, none of them famous, sold Abdullah the homes on swanky Cliffside Drive.
Over the last 18 years, the king has spent $106 million on 14 homes around the globe, including luxe residences in Washington, D.C. and London. But the purchases went unreported for years because his ownership was carefully shielded behind offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, and controlled by Switzerland-based attorneys and tax advisors. One of the Malibu properties was acquired by a shell company called “Nabisco Holdings SA,” another is owned by “Timara Limited,” and the third went to something called “Setara Limited.”
Jordan, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, is a big recipient of foreign benefactors. In 2020 alone, the U.S. gave Jordan $1.5 billion in aid and military funding, while the European Union chipped in another $218 million. Reports of a luxury property buying spree might anger both foreign powers and his own constituents, the ICIJ noted, with whom King Abdullah is already a controversial figure.
Let’s take a closer look at the homes, which were also chronicled in The Real Deal and include a $33.5 million main mansion and a $12.2 million secondary property next door that’s been repurposed into housing for security staff and estate managers. The third estate, acquired for $23 million in 2017, lies on the opposite of the main house and is currently being rebuilt and repurposed. All three homes, which totaled more than 24,000 square feet to begin, have been enlarged and extensively renovated by King Abdullah in recent years, with many millions likely being dumped into the work. Altogether, the three estates span more than 3.6 acres of prime blufftop land.