Impoverished Jordan holds $3bn of foreign aid in offshore accounts
20 May 2020

Jordan has come first in a list of countries that appear to have siphoned huge amounts of foreign aid into offshore bank accounts.

The resource-poor Middle Eastern country, which is hosting about two million Syrian refugees, received £2.13 billion in foreign aid in 2018-19 including £110 million from Britain, one of its biggest donors.

An analysis by the World Bank, however, found that $3.13 billion was moved out of the country and into offshore accounts, mostly in tax havens such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands, over a ten-year period that coincided with a rise in foreign donations. The report’s authors estimated that an average of 7.5 per cent of the aid handed to any given country was stolen by its elites and that the amount embezzled tends to rise as the ratio of aid to GDP increases.

Jordan’s debt burden hit 96 per cent of GDP last year and its economic woes have been compounded by the lockdown. Dima Tahboub, an MP with the opposition Islah bloc, said: “This paper comes in a sensitive time when we need new loans to face the Covid-19 impact.”

Ms Tahboub has issued nine questions to the Jordanian cabinet about the origin of the $3 billion, whether it was siphoned to offshore accounts and why the government did not investigate the transfers.

However, the Jordanian media circulated statements by Merza Hasan, a senior World Bank official, who has questioned the veracity of the paper.

Amjad Adaileh, the media affairs minister, said that the report “does not include conclusive evidence of imbalances or practices that require launching investigations or efforts to recover funds”. He said: “The Jordanian economy is a free economy, which permits the freedom to transfer money and the movement of trade and investment.

By Jassar al Tahat and Hannah Lucinda Smith, The Times, 19 May 2020

Read more at The Times

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