By Lisa Vives
The consortium of cross-border journalists that produced the massive investigation into corruption known as the Panama Papers has released a new work that digs into the proliferation of offshore accounts, the mechanisms used to hide money and the millionaires and billionaires quietly siphoning money into private accounts. The just-released Pandora Papers detail an opaque financial universe where the global elite shield riches from taxes, criminal probes and public accountability.
Among the account owners are more than 130 people listed as billionaires by Forbes magazine and more than 330 public officials in more than 90 countries and territories. The offshore financial system offers privacy, which provides an opportunity to hide assets from authorities, creditors and other claimants, as well as from public scrutiny.
World leaders linked to offshore accounts found in the Pandora Papers include President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro, President Sebastián Piñera of Chile, President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The case of the Kenyan president was spotlighted by Will Fitzgibbon, senior reporter with the Washington, DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with contributions from John-Allan Namu (Africa Uncensored). According to the writers, President Kenyatta referred to himself as a determined foe of corruption, saying in 2018 that “every public servant’s assets must be declared publicly.”
But Pandora documents show that he and several close relatives set up at least seven entities offshore that hold money and real estate worth more than $30 million, the reporters found. Kenyatta did not respond to their requests for comment.
At his annual State of the Nation address last fall, reported Fitzgibbon, President Kenyatta decried the large number of Kenyans who live in poverty, blaming this on the many officials looting the country’s public resources.
The 59-year-old Kenyatta urged lawmakers to join him in fighting corruption and yet again declared “the centrality of transparency, accountability and good governance as the anchors of sustainable development.”
But a massive cache of newly leaked documents show that Kenyatta’s family has for years been secretly accumulating a personal fortune behind offshore corporate veils.
Kenyatta, it was learned, along with his mother, sisters and brother, have for decades shielded wealth from public scrutiny through foundations and companies in tax havens, including Panama, with assets worth more than $30 million, according to records obtained by the ICIJ and shared with more than 600 reporters and media organizations around the world.
The Kenyatta’s offshore wealth, revealed in the Pandora Papers for the first time, represents part of an estimated half-billion-dollar family fortune amassed in a country where the average annual salary is less than $8,000 a year.
The full ICIJ report including a spotlight on the Kenyan president can be found online at: https://www.icij.org/investigations/pandora-papers/kenya-uhuru-kenyatta-family-offshore-wealth/
Other world leaders spotlighted in the Pandora Papers include the king of Jordan, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and Kenyatta’s fellow African leaders Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.