By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) -King Abdullah of Jordan said on Monday he had nothing to hide following leaks of financial documents that showed he used offshore accounts to buy expensive properties abroad.
Earlier, a palace statement reacting to the leak of what major news outlets called a secret trove of documents about offshore finance, said the properties were not a secret but were not disclosed for reasons of privacy and security.
In the data dump collectively called the “Pandora Papers”, published on Sunday, 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.”
In a previously scheduled visit to an outlying provincial area where he met tribal leaders, Abdullah attacked those whom he accused of seeking to “sow discord and ferment doubt among us.”
Without explicitly mentioning the leak, Abdullah said: “There is nothing I have to hide from anyone but we are stronger than this and this is not the first time people target Jordan.”
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 coincide with increasing disenchantment among Jordanians. The country has witnessed street protests against economic hardship, high youth unemployment and a lack of progress on political reforms.
Opposition politicians say Abdullah has not done enough to tackle corruption in state agencies, where nepotism and poor governance has shaken popular confidence in the ruling elite.
“Any allegations that link these private properties to public funds are baseless and deliberate attempts to distort facts,” the palace statement said.
(Reeporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Gareth Jones and Grant McCool)