Monday October 4, 2021
Nairobi (HOL) - Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is amongst 35 global leaders and business people who have invested mainly in offshore assets.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed the secret deals and hidden assets of some of the world's richest and powerful individuals over the weekend in the largest trove of leaked offshore data in history.
Known as Pandora papers, they include 11.9 million files from companies hired by the clients who create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens in Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. Most of these individuals use shell companies to hold luxury items such as property and yachts, as well as incognito bank accounts.
Six family members of President Kenyatta are also said to have invested heavily in offshore accounts.
President Kenyatta, who is serving his second and final term as the head of state, has positioned himself as the vanguard against institutional corruption.
Several politicians, government officials and Cabinet Ministers have been charged in court over corruption, others even losing the positions they once held.
In 2018, President Kenyatta said that every public servant must declare their wealth publicly so that people can know whether they earned it legitimately.
According to Gerard Ryle, the director of the ICIJ, leading politicians who organized their finances in tax havens had a stake in the status quo and were likely to be an obstacle to reform the offshore economy.
"When you have world leaders, politicians and public officials, all using secrecy and all using this world, then I don't think we're going to see an end to it," Ryle said.
Other leaders whose names have been listed alongside Kenyatta include; the ruler of Jordan, King Abdullah, who leaked documents that show that he has amassed a secret Sh1 billion (USD 9 million) property empire spanning Malibu, London and Washington.
Asked by journalists over his link to the property, he did not answer some questions and instead said there was nothing wrong about him owning property via offshore companies.
Currently, several websites that have exposed the Pandora papers have been blocked in Jordan.
Others are the Azerbaijan ruling Aliyev family, which has traded close to Sh40 billion (USD 361.9 million) of United Kingdom property.
One of the family's properties was sold to the Queen's crown estate and is now being questioned how it came to pay Sh6.7 billion (USD 60.6 million).
The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, is also facing questions about using an offshore investment company to acquire a Sh2.2 billion (USD 19.9 million) chateau in the South of France.
In Cyprus, a well-documented offshore center, President Nicos Anastasiades is also being questioned on why a law firm he founded is accused of hiding the assets of a controversial Russian billionaire behind fake company owners.
The former Prime Minister and his wife bought a sh6.5 billion (USD 58.8 million) office in Marylebone by acquiring a British Virgin Islands (BVI) offshore company.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected in 2019, is also named in the leak. He is accused of transferring a 25 percent stake in an offshore company to a close friend who works in his office as an advisor.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin does not appear in the files, but most of his close friends have been named.
They include the late Petr Kolbin, known to be Putin's 'wallet. '