Business lawyer and 2014 presidential candidate Samir Abdelli is prominent throughout numerous documents in the Panama Papers, according to Inkyfada. In the report, released early this morning, Abdelli’s name appears on documents regarding a wide variety of different offshore financial dealings. Abdelli is now the second Tunisian to be named in the Panama Papers.
Unlike Mohsen Marzouk, the Tunisian politician who vehemently denied the claims of Inkyfada and threatened a lawsuit for defamation, Samir Abdelli, who specializes in the oil industry, willingly sat down with journalists from the Tunisian webzine in order to answer their queries. In the interview with Inkyfada, he expressed “forgetfulness” regarding the specifics of his financial transactions, even though many of them have been over the past few years.
After the release of the Inkyfada report, Samir Abdelli took to Facebook in order to clarify certain points. He wrote, “I only operated within the law. The speed of financial institutions in Panama is one of the main reasons I sought out opportunities there. Everything I did was as a legal representative of my clients.” His types of clients vary widely and many of them are looking to make international transactions, so such a claim is not farfetched. He also claims former residence in Dubai, which gave him cover in order to not violate Tunisian financial laws regarding currency flow outside of the country.
“In the world of tax havens and offshore companies, Samir Abdelli swims like a fish in water,” Inkyfada writes.
What is potentially concerning is whether or not Abdelli used his status as a business lawyer as a front to make deals abroad for his own financial gain. Even if Abdelli’s transactions do not fall under the category of money laundering or tax evasion, the fact that he ran for president in 2014 in order to serve the Tunisian people and would invest his money abroad and not within Tunisia and then claim to only be involved as a legal representative is morally suspect.
Samir Abdelli voting in 2014 presidential election
In one of the documents, Abdelli appears to have sought out a proxy in order to open an offshore account with Bahamas based Edmond de Rothschild bank. This bank also proposed a five-year development plan for Tunisia’s economy, which sparked controversy on social media at the thought of having a Rothschild institution intimately involved in the Tunisian economy.
This is not the first time Abdelli’s name has come up in an investigative piece about offshore financial activities. In February 2015, his name showed up in the Swiss Leaks release, a tranche of documents revealing a tax evasion scheme with encouragement from HSBC.