The secret assets of the family of the Kenyan president revealed
The family of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who have dominated the country’s politics since independence, have secretly owned a network of offshore companies for decades, according to a huge financial document leak.
The Pandora Papers – 12 million files – are the biggest such leak in history.
Mr. Kenyatta and six members of his family are linked to 13 offshore companies.
They have yet to respond to requests for comment.
The Kenyatta’s offshore investments, including a company with stocks and bonds worth $ 30million (£ 22million), have been discovered among hundreds of thousands of pages of administrative documents from the archives of 14 law firms and service providers in Panama and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and other tax havens. The secret holdings were uncovered by an investigation, released earlier Sunday, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Finance Uncovered, Finance Uncovered, Africa Uncensored and other news organizations. Documents show that a foundation called Varies was established in 2003 in Panama, naming Mr Kenyatta’s mother, Ngina, 88, as the first benefactor – and the ruler of Kenya as the second benefactor, who will inherit it after his death.
The purpose of the foundation and the value of its assets are unknown.
Panamanian foundations are in high demand because the true owners of the assets are known only to their lawyers and they do not have to register their names with the Panamanian government, reports the ICIJ. Assets can also be designed to be transferred tax-free to a successor.
There is no reliable estimate of the Kenyatta family’s net worth, but their broad business interests cover transport, insurance, hotels, agriculture, land ownership, and the media industry in Kenya. In 2018, Mr Kenyatta told the BBC Hardtalk program that his family’s wealth was known to the public, and as president he had declared his assets as required by law.
“As I have always said, what we own – what we have – is open to the public. As a public servant, I am supposed to make my wealth known and we declare it every year,” My Kenyatta said.
“If there is a case where someone can say that what we have done or obtained was not legitimate, say so – we are ready to face any court,” he said. -he adds.
In the same interview, Mr. Kenyatta said he wanted the fight against corruption and the promotion of transparency to be his legacy. He promised to work with parliament to create a law that would require public officials to declare their wealth, but MPs have yet to pass the bill. Other world leaders named in the Pandora Papers include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba and Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
It is not known if President Kenyatta, who is retiring next year after 10 years in power, was aware of the Varies Foundation, but the timing of its opening may be instructive. Seven months earlier, he had lost the 2002 presidential election to opposition candidate Mwai Kibaki, who pledged to right historic crimes as well as launch a war on corruption. At the time, the family of outgoing president Daniel arap Moi, a friend of the Kenyattas, allegedly moved money out of the country, according to a report leaked in 2014 by the international risk consultancy firm Kroll. The Kenyatta family established their political and business interests during the reign of Kenya’s first president, Uhuru’s father, Jomo. He was accused of using his position to amass wealth.
After her death in 1978, Ngina Kenyatta, his fourth wife, played a central role in expanding the family’s business interests. In documents seen by the BBC, the Pandora Papers reveal that in 1999, Ms Kenyatta and her two daughters, Kristina and Anna, established an offshore company – Milrun Internatinal Limited – which was incorporated in BVI. According to the ICIJ, Ms Kenyatta and her daughters were advised by experienced international wealth experts at Swiss bank Union Bancaire Privée (UBP), which recruited Alcogal, a Panamanian law firm specializing in establishment and administration. offshore companies. The consortium claims that Alcogal’s invoices to the bank show that Swiss advisers referred to the Kenyatta with the code “client 13173”.
Alcogal provided a head office for Milrun on the largest of the BVI Islands, Tortola, and provided staff to act as official directors of the company. The result was a completely anonymous business that could not be traced back to the Kenyatta family. The company was used by Ms Kenyatta and her daughters to buy an apartment in central London, which she still owns, according to documents filed with the UK land register and viewed by Finance Uncovered.
The main property, which was until recently leased by British Labor MP Emma Ann Hardy, is now estimated at nearly $ 1.3 million. “She is shocked by what this investigation has uncovered and believes it shows why more transparency is urgently needed,” her statement said. According to Finance Uncovered, the Kenyatta family used other offshore companies to buy two more properties in the UK. $ 30 million in stocks and bonds
UBP’s private wealth advisers also helped Mr. Kenyatta’s brother, Muhoho, set up a Panamanian entity called Criselle Foundation in 2003.
The foundation was registered with Alcogal’s offices in Panama City and was nominally run by members of the board of directors of the Panamanian law firm. It was created for the benefit of Muhoho Kenyatta, with his son Jomo Kamau Muhoho, as successor. Another BVI company owned by Mr. Muhoho had a valuation of $ 30 million in stocks and bonds as of November 2016.
A search of the public records of BVI and Panama revealed that most of the businesses linked to the Kenyatta are now inactive, some of them due to non-payment of regulatory fees. It is not illegal to run secret societies, but some have been used as a front to embezzle money, avoid taxes, and launder money. The Pandora Papers, however, show no evidence that the Kenyatta family stole or concealed state assets in their offshore companies.
The Pandora Papers are a leak of nearly 12 million documents and files exposing the secret wealth and transactions of world leaders, politicians and billionaires. The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington DC, which conducted one of the largest global surveys ever. More than 600 journalists from 117 countries have examined the hidden fortunes of some of the most powerful people on the planet. BBC Panorama and the Guardian carried out the investigation in the UK.Pandora Papers Cover: Follow the reactions on Twitter using #PandoraPapers, in the BBC News app, or watch Panorama on BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)