President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of his family are among global leaders and prominent public figures named in the Pandora Papers – the biggest leak yet of financial records from offshore tax havens.
The papers were released by the International Council of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to more than 600 journalists and media organizations around the world. Based on 11.9 million documents from financial services companies, they lay bare how the world’s elite hide cash and other assets through intricately linked shell companies and foundations registered in tax havens such as Panama and the British V****n Islands.
They highlight how President Uhuru Kenyatta and his relatives including his mother and siblings kept more than $30 million (Ksh3.3 Billion) stashed in the tax havens and acquired assets including houses in London, away from public scrutiny.
The documents sourced from Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal) show that the Kenyatta family owned at least seven shell companies and foundations, two registered anonymously in Panama and five in the British V****n Islands.
One of the companies had a bank account that held an investment portfolio worth $31.6 million in 2016 while another was used to buy a London home in the Westminster area where similar buildings are valued at over $1 million.
The house was rented by an English member of parliament, Emma Hardy, until July.
Apparently, Union Bancaire Privée which is one of Switzerland’s largest private banks with many powerful individuals as its clients, referred to the Kenyattas in its records as Client 13173.
With Panamanian foundations, the owners are not required to register their names with the government. The information is only disclosed to their lawyers and any breach of confidentiality laws carries a jail sentence of up to six months.
The offshore assets are believed to be a large contributor to the family’s vast fortune. Forbes in 2011 placed the Kenyattas’ net worth at $500 million, ranking President Uhuru Kenyatta the 26th wealthiest man in Africa at the time.
The Kenyatta family owns massive land holdings in Kenya as well as interests in dairy and agriculture, construction, banking, media and more.
As ICIJ highlighted, it is not i*****l in most jurisdictions to have assets offshore or to use shell companies to do business across national borders. However, for leaders such as Kenyatta who have cast themselves as advocates of financial transparency, wealth declarations by public officers, anti-c********n and tax compliance, it presents a problem.
The papers link 336 politicians and public officials, including more 12 serving heads of state and government, cabinet ministers and diplomats to over 1,000 offshore companies.
“I guess it mostly demonstrates that the people that could end the secrecy of offshore, could end what’s going on, are themselves benefiting from it…We’re looking at trillions of dollars,” stated ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle while releasing the papers.
Others named in the documents include Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former British prime minister Tony Blair, associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Colombian singer Shakira, and Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.