MK Nir Barkat
MK Nir BarkatMiriam Alster/Flash90

Likud MK Nir Barkat is the wealthiest member of the Knesset and also widely viewed as a potential successor to former premier Benjamin Netanyahu as head of the Likud party and also, eventually, prime minister.

According to his office staffers, that is the reason why Barkat’s name appears in a massive leaked trove of documents detailing the financial activities of various international and Israeli figures who are holders of offshore bank accounts.

The “Pandora Papers” were first published on Sunday, compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which include several reporters from prominent sources such as The Washington Post and The Guardian. The Papers are based on almost 12 million documents obtained from 14 financial services companies based in various locations around the world.

Around 565 Israelis are listed in the documents. Barkat himself is featured as someone who has holdings in the eToro company which is registered in the Virgin Islands, even though the bulk of its activities are based in Israel. While this is not in itself illegal, it is possible that it violates the Knesset’s Ethics Committee’s guidelines.

According to Barkat’s office, the former mayor of Jerusalem “transferred all of his business activity to his brother when he entered the public sphere some 18 years ago, and when he was elected to the Knesset, he filed blind trust documents alongside a full declaration of capital to the Ethics Committee,” as is the practice of most politicians.

His office added that, “It is hard to disconnect the political interests at play in the publication of this ridiculous ‘investigation.’”

According to Shomrim, however, one of the organizations that worked on the Pandora Papers, the data they uncovered reveal that much of Barkat’s wealth – estimated at around NIS 500 million ($139 million) – was still registered under his own name as late as 2019.