Rabat - King Mohammed VI’s acquisition of a luxury 1930’s schooner through an offshore company was conducted "without intention of concealing the purchase or committing financial wrongdoing," Hicham Naciri, legal counsel for the secretariat of the king, told Medias24 during an interview on Wednesday regarding the recent findings of a massive document leak called the Panama Papers.
Rabat – King Mohammed VI’s acquisition of a luxury 1930’s schooner through an offshore company was conducted “without intention of concealing the purchase or committing financial wrongdoing,” Hicham Naciri, legal counsel for the secretariat of the king, told Medias24 during an interview on Wednesday regarding the recent findings of a massive document leak called the Panama Papers.
Naciri said the king’s personal secretary, Mounir Majidi purchased the schooner for the Moroccan monarch through an offshore company called SMCD Limited, because the seller wanted to ensure his privacy in the matter.
“The world of boat or car collectors is quite closed, and, in any case, very discrete,” the lawyer said. “In the case of the schooner, the buyer and seller never met. We dealt with an agent, a reputable dealer, and his law firm.”
Offshore shell companies have many legal uses, but they have been the subject of scrutiny in recent years due to concerns that the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people use the entities for tax evasion and other shady financial dealings.
The schooner, now renamed El Boughaz I, has been registered in records of the Moroccan administration since the purchase, Naciri said, adding that “there was no will of concealment.”
Last Sunday, the U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in partnership with over 107 news organizations, released details on the contents of 11.5 million documents leaked from the Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca.
The documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, named Majidi as holding the “power of attorney” for SMCD Limited, which was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2008. According to the ICIJ, his role at the time was to oversee the purchase of the schooner, then named “Aquarius W.”
In the interview, Naciri said Majidi was selected to manage the transaction because he heads SIGER, the royal family’s holding company with stakes in the mining, agricultural and telecommunications businesses.
SMCD Limited was liquidated in 2013, the papers said.
Naciri explained that companies related to the king are regularly subjected to tax audits and denied preferential treatment by the authorities.
“In Morocco, the affairs of the royal family are open and transparent as many of their companies are listed in the Casablanca Stock Exchange and subject to strict rules and wide-ranging communication,” he said.
The papers also named Majidi as the administrator for a firm incorporated in Luxembourg called Immobiliere Orion S.A., which borrowed over USD 40 million from a Mossack Fonseca-incorporated company in 2003 for the purchase and renovation of a mansion in Paris.
According to Naciri, the mansion was never owned by the king or the royal family, and its purchase was handled transparently.
“French authorities were consulted on the taxes applicable to the transaction and have been in communication regarding the name of the ultimate beneficiary,” he said. “His name was not hidden, but voluntarily communicated otherwise.”