UPDATE 06. October 2021: President Kenyatta promises comprehensive response on offshore accounts + A Pandora box? Kenyatta family implicated in multi-million dollar offshore accounts + Offshore accounts and business + A Pandora box: Questions raised over offshore accounts + Rumors Swirl About Source Of Pandora Papers

UPDATE 05. October 2021: Pandora Papers sparks more international calls for investigation as pressure mounts on leaders in leaked records + Why is it so difficult to clamp down on tax evasion? + The Offshore Question +How the Mega-Rich Have Been Getting Out of Paying Taxes + President Kenyatta on Pandora papers + There is nothing illegal about owning an offshore account + Why is the matter of offshore accounts such a big deal as Pandora papers continues to spark debate? + Massive Leak Exposes How Elite Shield Their Wealth & Avoid Taxes in Colonial Legacy + THESE ARE THE WORST: POISONING PEOPLE AND STASHING THE LOOT - Poisoned towns fight for justice

UPDATE 04. October 2021: President Uhuru Kenyatta's response to ICIJ Pandora Papers leaks + The Pandora Papers: How the world of offshore finance is still flourishing + Pandora Papers investigation alleges high-level corruption in India and Pakistan + Pandora Papers reveal financial dealings of some of world's most powerful people

UPDATE 03. October 2021: Pandora papers: Biggest ever leak of offshore data exposes financial secrets of rich and powerful + Pandora Papers: Biggest offshore data leak exposes leaders' hidden wealth + Pandora Papers: The secret offshore world of Kenya’s first family

PROLOGUE: Especially those heads of state or government who impose the most stringent and choking monetary regulations on their oppressed citizens are the ones laundering money and stashing it offshore or in U.S. or London real estate. + What are the Pandora Papers? + JOHN LENNON: "OUR WHOLE SOCIETY IS RUN BY MANIACS FOR MANIAC ENDS"

Pandora Papers: An offshore data tsunami

The Pandora Papers’s 11.9 million records arrived from 14 different offshore services firms in a jumble of files and formats – even ink-on-paper – presenting a massive data-management challenge

By  and  - 03.October 2021

A2.94 terabyte data trove exposes the offshore secrets of wealthy elites from more than 200 countries and territories. These are people who use tax and secrecy havens to buy property and hide assets; many avoid taxes and worse.

They include more than 330 politicians and 130 Forbes billionaires, as well as celebrities, fraudsters, drug dealers, royal family members and leaders of religious groups around the world.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists spent more than a year structuring, researching and analyzing the more than 11.9 million records in the Pandora Papers leak. The task involved three main elements: journalists, technology and time.

What is the Pandora Papers?

The Pandora Papers investigation is the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration, involving more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.

The investigation is based on a leak of confidential records of 14 offshore service providers that give professional services to wealthy individuals and corporations seeking to incorporate shell companies, trusts, foundations and other entities in low- or no-tax jurisdictions. The entities enable owners to conceal their identities from the public and sometimes from regulators. Often, the providers help them open bank accounts in countries with light financial regulation.

The 2.94 terabytes of data,  leaked to ICIJ and shared with media partners around the world, arrived in various formats: as documents, images, emails, spreadsheets, and more.

The records include an unprecedented amount of information on so-called beneficial owners of entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, Belize, Panama, South Dakota and other secrecy jurisdictions. They also contain information on the shareholders, directors and officers. In addition to the rich, the famous and the infamous, those exposed by the leak include people who don’t represent a public interest and who don’t appear in our reporting, such as small business owners, doctors and other, usually affluent, individuals  away from the public spotlight.

While some of the files date to the 1970s, most of those reviewed by ICIJ were created between 1996 and 2020. They cover a wide range of matters: the creation of shell companies, foundations and trusts; the use of such entities to purchase real estate, yachts, jets and life insurance; their use to make investments and to move money between bank accounts; estate planning and other inheritance issues; and the avoidance of  taxes through complex financial schemes. Some documents are tied to financial crimes, including money laundering.

What’s in the Pandora Papers?

The more than 330 politicians exposed by the leak were from more than 90 countries and territories. They used entities in secrecy jurisdictions to buy real estate, hold money in trust, own other companies and other assets, sometimes anonymously.

The Pandora Papers investigation also reveals how banks and law firms work closely with offshore service providers to design complex corporate structures. The files show that providers don’t always know their customers, despite their legal obligation to take care not to do business with people who engage in questionable dealings.

The investigation also reports on how U.S. trust providers have taken advantage of some states’ laws that promote secrecy and help wealthy overseas clients hide wealth to avoid taxes in their home countries.

What form did the data come in?

The 11.9 million-plus records were largely unstructured. More than half of the files (6.4 million) were text documents, including more than 4 million PDFs, some of which ran to more than 10,000-pages. The documents included passports, bank statements, tax declarations, company incorporation records, real estate contracts and due diligence questionnaires. There were also more than 4.1 million images and emails in the leak.

Spreadsheets made up 4% of the documents, or more than 467,000. The records also included slide shows and audio and video files.

What’s different about this leak from others we’ve heard about?

The Pandora Papers information – the 2.94 terabytes in more than 11.9 million records – comes from 14 providers that offer services in at least 38 jurisdictions. The 2016 Panama Papers investigation was based on 2.6 terabytes of data in 11.5 million documents from a single provider, the now-defunct Mossack Fonseca law firm. The 2017 Paradise Papers investigation was based on a leak of 1.4 terabytes in more than 13.4 million files from one offshore law firm, Appleby,  as well as Asiaciti Trust, a Singapore-based provider, and government corporate registries in 19 secrecy jurisdictions.

The Pandora Papers presented a new challenge because the 14 providers had different ways of presenting and organizing information. Some organized documents by client, some by various offices, and others had no apparent system at all.  A single document sometimes contained  years’ worth of emails and attachments. Some providers digitized their records and structured them in spreadsheets; others kept paper files that were scanned. Some PDFs contained spreadsheets that had to be reconstructed into spreadsheets. The documents arrived in English, Spanish, Russian, French, Arabic, Korean and other languages, requiring extensive coordination among ICIJ partners.

The Pandora Papers gathered information on more than 27,000 companies and 29,000 so-called ultimate beneficial owners from 11 of the providers, or more than twice the number of beneficial owners identified in the Panama Papers.

The Pandora Papers connected offshore activity to more than twice as many politicians and public officials as did the Panama Papers. And the Pandora Papers’ more than 330 politicians and public officials, from more than 90 countries and territories , included 35 current and former country leaders.

The new leak also includes information on jurisdictions not explored in previous ICIJ projects or for which there was little data, such as Belize, Cyprus and South Dakota.

The legal entities in the files of six providers – the companies, foundations and trusts – were all registered between 1971 and 2018. The records show providers and clients shifting their business from one jurisdiction to another after investigations and resulting rule changes.

How did you explore the files?

Only 4% of the files were structured, with data organized in tables (spreadsheets, csv files and a few “dbf files”).

To explore and analyze the information in the Pandora Papers, ICIJ identified files that contained beneficial ownership information by company and jurisdiction and structured it accordingly. Each provider’s data required a different process.

In cases where information came in spreadsheet form, ICIJ removed duplicates and combined it into a master spreadsheet. For PDF or document files, ICIJ used programming languages such as Python to automate data extraction and structuring as much as possible.

In more complex cases, ICIJ used machine learning and other tools, including the Fonduer and Scikit-learn softwares, to identify and separate specific forms from longer documents.

Some provider forms were handwritten, requiring ICIJ to extract information manually.

Once information was extracted and structured, ICIJ generated lists that linked beneficial owners to the companies they owned in specific jurisdictions. In some cases, information about where or when a company was registered wasn’t available. In others, information was missing about when a person or an entity had become the owner of the company, among other details.

After structuring the data, ICIJ used graphic platforms (Neo4J and Linkurious) to generate visualizations and make them searchable. This allowed reporters to explore connections between people and companies across providers.

To identify potential story subjects in the data, ICIJ matched information in the leak against other data sets: sanctions lists, previous leaks, public corporate records, media lists of billionaires and public lists of political leaders.

ICIJ’s partner in Sweden, SVT, generated spreadsheets containing data extracted from passports found in the Pandora Papers.

ICIJ shared records with media partners using Datashare, a secure research and analytical tool developed by ICIJ’s technical team.  Datashare’s batch-search function helped reporters match some public figures with the data.

The leak contains routine documents that service providers gather for due diligence – news articles, Wikipedia entries, information from financial data provider World-Check – that don’t necessarily confirm whether a person is hiding wealth in a secrecy jurisdiction. ICIJ used machine learning to tag such files in Datashare, enabling reporters to exclude them from their searches.

Our 150 media partners shared tips, leads and other information of interest using ICIJ’s global I-Hub, a secure social media and messaging platform. Throughout the project, ICIJ held extensive training sessions for partners on the use of ICIJ technology to explore, mine and better understand the files.

What did you research and how did you organize it?

Having identified documents that contained information on the owners of offshore entities and structured the information by provider, ICIJ unified the data in a centralized database.

This provided ICIJ and its media partners with a unique data set of beneficial owners of companies in secrecy jurisdictions.

ICIJ eliminated duplications in the data and identified key elements, such as nationality of the owner, country of residence and place of birth. This enabled us to find, for instance, nearly 3,700 companies with more than 4,400 beneficiaries who were Russian nationals – the most among all nationalities in the data. The figure includes 46 Russian oligarchs.

ICIJ also researched and analyzed the use of U.S. trusts, using keyword searches and matches with public data, among other methods.

As a result, ICIJ identified more than 200 trusts settled, or created, in the U.S from 2000 to 2019, with the largest number registered in South Dakota. The trusts were connected with people from 40 countries (not including the U.S.). ICIJ identified assets in single trusts worth between $67,000 and $165 million held between 2000 and 2019. The data shows that U.S. trusts held assets worth a total of more than $1 billion. Those included U.S. real estate and bank accounts in Panama, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and elsewhere.

To perform the analysis of U.S.-based trusts, ICIJ manually gathered information on the creators, known as settlors; the beneficiaries, and the assets held by the trusts. ICIJ was able to identify and gather data on trusts from 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

ICIJ and its media partners used keyword searches to identify politicians in the data, using passport information to help with the identification.

ICIJ used public records to verify details related to the companies and to be sure the people named in the data were actually the political leaders identified with those names. We found some false positives and discarded them. Among sources used in the research were the Dow Jones Risk and Compliance database, Sayari, Nexis, OpenCorporates, property records in the U.S and U.K., and public corporate records. More than 330 politicians and high level public officials, including 35 country leaders were confirmed.

ICIJ structured the information in a spreadsheet and put it through two rounds of fact-checking. Data gathered on politicians was also visualized in the profiles in our  Power Players feature.

ICIJ matched Forbes’s billionaires lists against the Pandora Papers to find more than  130 who had entities in secrecy jurisdictions. More than 100 of them had a combined fortune valued at more than $600 billion in 2021.

ICIJ analyzed 109 so-called suspicious activity reports to financial authorities filed by the Panamanian law firm Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee, or Alcogal, and learned that 87 of the anti-money-laundering forms were written only after authorities or journalists had publicly identified the firm’s clients as involved in alleged wrongdoing.

ICIJ also read through several thousand publicly available employees’ profiles  and found out that more than 220 lawyers associated with the giant law firm Baker McKenzie in 35 countries had previously held government posts in agencies including justice departments, tax offices, the EU Commission, and offices of heads of state.

ICIJ also did research and analysis to explore the role offshore finance plays in hiding looted art and ancient relics that authorities and communities seek to reclaim.

Finally, the Pandora Papers investigation identified more than 500 BVI companies that had been clients of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal, and moved their business to other BVI providers in the aftermath whom we found in the data.

ICIJ also matched Panamanian companies from the Panama Papers data against  data available for the Panama corporate registry on OpenCorporates, and found out that at least 113 companies had changed registered agents and simply moved to Alcogal between April 3, 2016 and 2020. Together with The Miami Herald data team, ICIJ also counted 759 BVI companies that specifically considered moving to Trident Trust as part of the provider’s so-called “Mossfon Project”.

How big a slice of all offshore provider data in the world does the Pandora Papers leak represent?

The Pandora Papers probe offers a broad look at secrecy jurisdictions and offshore service providers, but the data came incomplete.

The quality of the data varied by provider. In some cases, the data tied to companies didn’t offer information about the jurisdiction where they were registered, the period during which an individual was linked to an entity, or about intermediaries. The data still offered important information about owners and, in some cases, transactions and other financial details.

The 14 providers, which offered services in at least 38 jurisdictions, are part of a larger industry of offshore services operating around the world. It’s hard to say how much of the universe of provider data we have, a small fraction, probably.

For example, in the BVI, where six, or nearly half, of the providers found in the Pandora Papers have acted as registered agents, they are among at least 101 firms acting in that capacity, according to the BVI Financial Services Commision. In March 2021, there were more than 370,000 active companies, about a dozen for each of the tiny island nation’s inhabitants.

Why so many more  ‘ultimate beneficial owners’ – UBOs – here than in previous leaks?

A significant proportion of the beneficial ownership information in the Pandora Papers comes from reports generated by providers for the BVI’s Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System, or BOSS, established in the wake of the 2016 publication of the Panama Papers. This information is not available to the public.

A 2017 BVI law requires providers to report to BVI authorities the names of the real owners of the companies registered there. The leak identified many documents containing such information.

Pandora Papers: An unprecedented leak exposes the inner workings of a shadow economy

Oct 3, 2021

ICIJ

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' 2021 investigation the Pandora Papers reveals how the offshore money machine operates in every corner of the planet, including the world’s largest democracies.

Why so many world leaders and politicians in the data?

Alcogal and Trident Trust was where we found a large number of current and former politicians and public officials as clients. Most of their companies were registered in the BVI and Panama. Alcogal clients include nearly half of the politicians and public officials identified in the Pandora Papers. In the beneficial ownership data that ICIJ was able to structure, nearly half of the companies were linked to Alcogal. Alcogal, headquartered in Panama, has among its founders several politicians, one of whom served as Panama’s ambassador to the United States.

Why so many beneficial owners from Russia and Latin America?

Some of the providers, based on their location and the jurisdictions where they do business, such as Cyprus, have a large proportion of Russian clients, the largest group by nationality in the Pandora Papers data.

In the Pandora Papers, more than 30% of the companies that received services from Demetrios A. Demetriades LLC, or DadLaw, a provider headquartered in Cyprus, had one or more Russians as beneficial owners. Similarly,  more than 40% of the companies that received services from Seychelles-based Alpha Consulting Group, also had one or more Russians as beneficial owners. Alcogal and Fidelity Corporate Services Limited were also among the providers with the largest number of Russian clients.

A large proportion of beneficial owners appearing in the data are from Latin America.  More than 90 of the more 330 politicians and public officials in the data are from Latin America.  Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela are among the countries with the largest representation of beneficial owners. In the leaked data, Alcogal headquartered in Panama, has the largest group of Latin American clients.

Where are the U.S. citizens and multinational corporations?

When it comes to creating offshore companies, foundations and trusts, parties from different parts of the world and with different needs select different providers and jurisdictions for their shell companies.

Pandora Papers documents cover a large number of providers, but obviously not all, or even most, of them, and many jurisdictions are not represented in the data.

In previous ICIJ investigations, including 2017’s  Paradise Papers, the leak came from a prestigious law firm with a larger corporate practice, Appleby. As a result, the data  included more documents about multinationals. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, which are popular havens for corporations, were among the jurisdictions with a large presence in that leak.

As for U.S. nationals, ICIJ identified more than 700 companies with beneficial owners connected to the U.S. in the Pandora Papers;  Americans were also among the top 20 nationalities represented in the data. In the Pandora Papers, Russia, the United Kingdom, Argentina, China and Brazil, are among the countries with the largest representation of beneficial owners.

In the Paradise Papers, U.S. citizens had a larger relative presence.

Is ICIJ going to release the Pandora Papers data?

With today’s publication, ICIJ is sharing data and details about the use of companies in secrecy jurisdictions by more than 50 politicians, through the Power Players feature. ICIJ is planning to incorporate data from the Pandora Papers into the Offshore Leaks database. To learn more about ICIJ’s data releases, subscribe to ICIJ’s email newsletter.

Contributors: Bruno Thomas, Anisha Kohli, Helena Bengtsson, Shirsho Dasgupta, John Keefe, Miranda Patrucic, Pierre Romera, Marcos García Rey

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JOHN LENNON:

"OUR WHOLE SOCIETY IS RUN BY MANIACS FOR MANIAC ENDS"

Re-published on BITCHUTE October 3rd, 2021.

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Freedom of Information

https://t.me/uncut_news/33941

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What Is The Pandora Papers Expose?

Oct 3, 2021

The Pandora Papers leak of offshore financial records, the most voluminous ever with as many as 12 million documents from 14 companies in offshore tax havens with details of ownership of 29,000 offshore companies and Trusts, was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) two years ago. A one-year investigation of data linked to India by The Indian Express reveals how individuals and businesses, many already under the scanner, are pushing the envelope to evade detection, using loopholes in the law at home and the lax jurisdiction of tax havens. Read here: indianexpress.com/about/pandora-papers/

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#WashingtonPost #PostDocs #PandoraPapers

What are the Pandora Papers?

Oct 3, 2021

Washington Post

A massive trove of private financial records shared with The Washington Post exposes vast reaches of the secretive offshore system used to hide billions of dollars from tax authorities, creditors, criminal investigators and citizens around the world.

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UPDATES:

PROLOGUE: Apart from the facts that many news-outlets, who were not invited into the core of media to pre-process and enhance the trove of leaked information, and sometimes out of envy engage now in further scrutiny which is actually good to enhance transparency on all sides, and apart from situations where media-houses, like the Guardian who is paid by Bill Gates and wouldn't bite the hand that feeds them, again venture off to grind their own stones, the questions on the leak sources are rather counterproductive, because they divert the attention from the real problem the elite poses to the enslaved world of today. One has to realize how long the investigation actually has run prior to any publication and that over 600 journalists did work on it not in isolation, but they also have their own networks. In addition: any 'hacker' worth anything, who came out into the open or can be identified, is today approached by agencies and services, who secure that brain and capabilities for their own assumed and often not sanctioned needs. Therefore, to create out of this gigantic network of sources and leaked information a digest that serves justice and equality and is now triggering further clarification processes in the countries affected is actually the greatest achievement of the ICIJ. 

Rumors Swirl About Source Of Pandora Papers

By Ken Silva - 06. October 2021

On Oct. 3, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its affiliates began publishing stories about the Pandora Papers—a trove of 2.94 terabytes of data comprising some 11.9 million records,reportedly exposing the finances of the world’s wealthy elite.

Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Pandora Papers follow the ICIJ’s 2016 Panama Papers and 2017 Paradise Papers investigations. The earlier exposes were largely based on leaked data from single firms - the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in the first instance, and the offshore service provider Appleby in the second case.

But this time, the data undergirding the Pandora Papers reportedly comes from 14 major financial service providers across numerous jurisdictions.

This has fueled speculation that the data was derived from a sophisticated hacking operation, possibly one with the backing of Western intelligence agencies.

“The idea that there are 14 trust companies around the world whose data was simultaneously handed over to the ICIJ or members of the same network, suggests to me a government intelligence agency with a lot of resources behind this, or a group of high-net-worth individuals who have it in their mind that the ‘one percent’ needs to pay their share,” Martin Kenney, an attorney in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), told The Epoch Times.

With the BVI being one of the main subjects of numerous ICIJ investigations, Kenney and his colleagues have frequently criticized those reporters over the years.

When it comes to criticizing the Pandora Papers, the BVI and other tax haven attorneys are joined by unlikely allies from the progressive left. On Twitter, numerous left-leaning pundits and reporters questioned why the ICIJ’s reporting has mostly focused on leaders from developing countries while leaving the Western power elite unscathed.

“What a coincidence that there are zero U.S. politicians included in the Pandora Papers list of offshore bank accounts. I guess they’re all pure and free from corruption!” said Ben Norton, an assistant editor at The Gray Zone, poking fun at the ICIJ’s exposes.

The relatively centrist Brookings Institution has also questioned the source of ICIJ’s data. After the Panama Papers revelations in 2016, a writer for Brookings suggested that the reports could be part of an info wars between Russia and the United States.

“Early last year, circles in the West sought to use the media to respond to what they described as Russia’s ‘hybrid warfare,’ especially information war, in the wake of the Russian annexation of Crimea and related activities. They identified corruption as an issue where Putin was quite vulnerable,” wrote Brookings’ Clifford Gaddy in April 2016.

“It’s worth looking at the Panama Papers in that context.”

The ICIJ has not responded to questions about the intelligence/hacking speculation.

Kenney, for his part, has reservations about the theory that the Pandora Papers is a Western-backed intelligence operation. He takes the view that there could be a simpler explanation: American taxpayers are more hesitant to use tax havens given that the IRS is perhaps the harshest tax authority in the world.

“Some countries like France, they have a chuckle about it. No one seems to go to prison for a long time for impeding the French tax man,” he said.

“America has more people in prison than anyone else in the world, and one reason is that they have a lot of police and a lot of prosecutors and judges willing to enforce the laws seriously.

“I think that has an impact on human behavior.”

Kenney added that many offshore banks won’t do business with Americans due to the risk of running afoul of U.S. regulators.

Regardless of whether the Pandora Papers were a product of hacking or whistleblowing, Kenney and others are unimpressed with the journalism stemming from the data.

While Pandora Papers stories will likely continue to be published for weeks, early headlines include “How we tracked ancient Cambodian antiquities to leading museums and private galleries,” and “Sri Lankan power couple piled up luxury homes, artworks and cash offshore as ruling family rose and rose.” The Guardian and other outlets reporting on the papers have repeated qualifications that the activity they’re exposing isn’t necessarily illegal.

Kenney said thus far the stories from the data have failed to live up to the Pandoran moniker, as though a collection of illegal or immoral activity had been exposed in opening a new Pandora’s box.

“Where’s the meat?” he asked.

Kenney argued that the privacy violations involved in such a massive data breach outweigh the public benefits that the reporting—at least thus far— has brought.

“Of course there are some examples here where there’s public interest, but I think that’s in the minority of cases—most of its sensationalist,” he said.

“Why is it that the ownership of the offshore company is somehow less private than a person’s home or their bank account or their bedroom?”

As an asset-recovery attorney, Kenney often represents victims of fraud and abuse. He’s not shy about calling out the criminality that exists within the murky offshore financial sector. His investigations have ranged from two-bit charlatans in the BVI to massively complex cases dating back to the Liberian civil war.

But he said that transparency for transparency’s sake—organizations like Oxfam and Global Witness call for the owners of all offshore firms to be public—won’t help fight crime.

“Can you imagine a world where an Al Capone—you tell him, ‘Now we have a beneficial ownership registry.’ And Al would be invited to fill out forms for the companies he formed, identifying his ownership so the Guardian can say, ‘Yes, we know which companies Al owns,’” Kenney said.

“Are you that serious and naïve to think the aims of these campaigners will actually stop crime, fraud and corruption?”

 

Author:

Ken Silva

Ken Silva covers national security issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting background also includes cybersecurity, crime and offshore finance – including three years as a reporter in the British Virgin Islands and two years in the Cayman Islands. Contact him at via The Epoch Times

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President Kenyatta promises comprehensive response on offshore accounts

DAY BREAK |

Oct 6, 2021

Kenya CitizenTV

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Kenya #KTNNews #KTNPrime

A Pandora box: Questions raised over offshore accounts

Oct 6, 2021

KTN News Kenya

ODM leader Raila Odinga weighs in on the Pandora Papers

Raila Odinga, the leader of the ODM opposition in Kenya, now says that having an offshore account is acceptable as long as parties can explain how they opened such accounts. Raila said in an interview with Chamgei FM that while he does not have any foreign accounts, it is fine for Kenyans who do provided they can account for the money in the accounts.

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A Pandora box?

Kenyatta family implicated in multi-million dollar offshore accounts

Oct 6, 2021

KTN News Kenya

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Offshore accounts and business

DAY BREAK |

Oct 6, 2021

Kenya CitizenTV

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THESE ARE THE WORST - POISONING PEOPLE AND STASHING THE LOOT

Pandora Papers: Poisoned towns fight for justice

Oct 5, 2021

ICIJ

ICIJ's Pandora Papers investigation reveals that members of the founding family of Belgian chemical giant Solvay stashed millions offshore as the company's plants faced accusations of contaminating water supplies in Northern Italy and New Jersey.

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Pandora Papers sparks more international calls for investigation as pressure mounts on leaders in leaked records

Officials in more than a dozen countries have called for probes in wake of biggest-ever offshore leak.

By  - 05. October 2021

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera offers a press conference, denying any wrongdoing, a day after he was mentioned in the Pandora Papers, at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, on October 4, 2021. Image: Javier Torres/AFP via Getty Images

Politicians and leaders whose secret dealings are revealed in the Pandora Papers are facing increasing criticism and scrutiny, and more governments around the world are pledging investigations in the wake of the biggest-ever offshore leak.

Since Sunday, when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media partners began releasing the first stories, enforcement agencies or leaders in India, Spain, Ireland, Mexico, Germany, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Australia, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Paraguay and Panama have vowed to take action.

The Pandora Papers is the largest-ever leak of records from tax havensand the largest journalistic collaboration. The investigation reveals the secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-level public officials in more than 90 countries and territories, including 35 country leaders.

Leaders identified in the leak have been on the defensive.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, one of the three current Latin American heads of state linked to the Pandora Papers, held a press conference on Monday at his presidential palace to address reporting on a controversial business deal exposed by the investigation. He denied conflicts of interest and said the information was already public.

In Malaysia, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Monday submitted an emergency motion to the lower house of parliament requesting the House to debate Pandora Papers revelations, which include details on the offshore financial assets and business associates of former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, according to ICIJ partner Malaysiakini.

In a statement, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will address the Pandora Papers revelations after returning from an overseas visit.

“That these reports will go a long way in enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe,” Kenyatta said. Kenyatta and his family did not respond to more than a dozen emails, phone calls and WhatsApp messages before publication of the Pandora Papers investigation, which revealed his family’s extensive offshore holdings.

In Paraguay, former president Horacio Cartes amended his public disclosure forms to add an offshore company he owned but didn’t declare during his presidency following questions from ICIJ’s partners ABC Color.

Among the many officials who have commented on the investigation is European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who condemned the practices exposed in the Pandora Papers and said that the EU must do more to combat tax evasion and aggressive tax planning.

Speaking at an event Monday in Finland, von der Leyen said that “tax evasion and aggressive tax planning is completely unacceptable.”

“We have in the European Union some of the highest tax transparency standards in the world, but as we see it’s not enough, more work is needed,” she said.

In Germany, the finance minister of Hessen, the state that previously analyzed the Panama Papers documents, said its team is ready to examine the Pandora Papers records.

“If the Pandora Papers contain evidence of tax crimes, we will pursue them consistently,” the state’s finance minister, Michael Boddenberg, said.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s press secretary told reporters that the White House has read Pandora Papers reporting and that the President is committed to enhancing the U.S.’s fight against financial crime.

Also on Monday, India’s finance ministry announced it will investigate the Indian names exposed in the leak and take “appropriate action.” It also said that, as of last month, Indian authorities had identified $2.7 billion in undisclosed assets following ICIJ’s Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations.

The ministry said that “leaks appearing in the media under the name ‘PANDORA PAPERS’ will be monitored” by a multi-agency taskforce that includes the country’s Financial Intelligence Unit, which monitors financial crime.

 

Hours after Pandora Papers published, Dutch financial authorities said they will examine the Pandora Papers findings “to assess the tax consequences for parties based in the Netherlands,” according to a statement released to the press. Dutch opposition lawmakers urged finance minister Wopke Hoekstra to respond to questions about his offshore dealings exposed by the publications Trouw, the FD and Investico.

“It is of course no surprise that the elite operate like this,” said Lilian Marijnissen, a politician with the Dutch Socialist Party. “But the fact that the Minister of Finance is dealing with this in this way makes you think about how credible this minister can still be in tackling tax avoidance.”

Ireland’s deputy prime minister said that the government will close any tax or company law loopholes that allow people or companies to use the country as a tax haven.

Ireland has been one of the world’s foremost tax havens for multinational companies. “It would appear on the face of it that some of the arrangements that may be routed to Ireland are very dubious,” Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Monday. “We certainly don’t want to be part of any supply chain that people use to conceal their assets. There is nothing in that for us, we don’t want any part of it.”

Montenergean Vice Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic, said that police are prepared to conduct an investigation into alleged illegal activities of Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic and his son, Blazo. Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic posted on Twitter that he is calling prosecutors to react and question findings on Djunakovic.

On Monday, a pro-Kremlin media activist announced that he is formally requesting that ICIJ be designated an “undesirable” organization in Russia, a move that would effectively prevent Russian groups from taking part in ICIJ’s collaborations.

If such a move was successful, it would become a criminal offense to work with ICIJ within Russia, and make it illegal to even share links to ICIJ’s website. The move followed ICIJ and its partners’ publication of offshore holdings and connections of key figures in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

More Pandora Papers stories by ICIJ and its partners will be coming out this week and beyond.

===

The Offshore Question [Part 2]

| NEWSNIGHT |

Oct 5, 2021

Kenya CitizenTV

Experts say some offshore dealings shrouded in secrecy KRA: Ksh 1 trillion wired back from offshore accounts in 2019 President Kenyatta promised comprehensive response on offshore accounts Leaks show Kenyatta family secretly owns a network of offshore companies Kenyatta offshore investments including stock and bonds worth Ksh3.3b President said reports “enhancing financial transparency and openness” Uhuru: Audits will lift veil on those who cannot explain their wealth Uhuru: The movement of illicit funds thrive in secrecy and darkness

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The Offshore Question [Part 1]

| NEWSNIGHT |

Oct 5, 2021

Kenya CitizenTV

===

Why is the matter of offshore accounts such a big deal as Pandora papers continues to spark debate?

Oct 5, 2021

KTN News Kenya

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#Kenya

President Kenyatta on Pandora papers II

DAY BREAK |

Oct 5, 2021

Kenya CitizenTV

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President Kenyatta on Pandora papers I

DAY BREAK |

Oct 5, 2021

Kenya CitizenTV

Experts say some offshore dealings shrouded in secrecy KRA: Ksh 1 trillion wired back from offshore accounts in 2019 President Kenyatta promised comprehensive response on offshore accounts Leaks show Kenyatta family secretly owns a network of offshore companies Kenyatta offshore investments including stock and bonds worth Ksh3.3b President said reports “enhancing financial transparency and openness” Uhuru: Audits will lift veil on those who cannot explain their wealth Uhuru: The movement of illicit funds thrive in secrecy and darkness

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#PandoraPapers #PresidentKenyatta

Senator Ole Kina:

There is nothing illegal about owning an offshore account

Oct 5, 2021

Kenya CitizenTV

#PandoraPapers #PresidentKenyatta

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Pandora papers:

Pres. Uhuru says investigation will aid in accountability by public officers

Oct 5, 2021

NTV Kenya

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The Pandora Papers: How the Mega-Rich Have Been Getting Out of Paying Taxes

| The Daily Show

Oct 5, 2021

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

A massive trove of documents, named the Pandora Papers, reveal how many politicians, celebrities and billionaires are avoiding paying their taxes using offshore tax havens, dummy corporations and teams of accountants.

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'Pandora Papers':

Why is it so difficult to clamp down on tax evasion?

| DW News

Oct 5, 2021

DW News

It is the biggest ever data leak exposing how the world's richest and most powerful keep their wealth offshore, hidden from the tax man. Journalists from around the world, including at DW News, have spent years sifting through this trove of data – and the results reveal a global offshore shadow economy inhabited by billionaires, celebrities, and political leaders. The goal is the same: to keep wealth hidden and avoid paying taxes. Some of the practices are legal, others are raising eyebrows.

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#DemocracyNow

Pandora Papers: Massive Leak Exposes How Elite Shield Their Wealth & Avoid Taxes in Colonial Legacy

Oct 5, 2021

Democracy Now!

The Pandora Papers, described as “the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration,” have revealed the secret financial dealings of the world’s richest and most powerful people. “We’ve uncovered a system that benefits a few at the expense of the many,” says Ben Hallman, senior editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who details some of the project’s main revelations so far. We also speak with Vanessa Ogle, professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on tax havens, who says the growth of tax havens like the Bahamas and Switzerland is directly linked to wealth extraction from the developing world. “The seed money for the expansion of these tax havens comes out of the colonial world,” she explains.

Democracy Now! is an independent global news hour that airs on nearly 1,400 TV and radio stations Monday through Friday.

Watch our livestream 8-9AM ET: https://democracynow.org

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Spokesperson's Office
State House, Nairobi.

4th October 2021

Press Release

President Uhuru Kenyatta's response to ICIJ Pandora Papers leaks

His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta's attention has been drawn to the ongoing media coverage of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) Pandora Papers leaks and would like to make the following intervening response:

"My attention has been drawn to comments surrounding the Pandora Papers. Whilst I will respond comprehensively on my return from my State Visit to the Americas, let me say this:

"That these reports will go a long way in enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe. The movement of illicit funds, proceeds of crime and corruption thrive in an environment of secrecy and darkness.

"The Pandora Papers and subsequent follow up audits will lift that veil of secrecy and darkness for those who can not explain their assets or wealth. Thank you.", His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kanze Dena Mararo
Spokesperson

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The Pandora Papers:

How the world of offshore finance is still flourishing

| Four Corners

Oct 4, 2021

ABC News In-depth

In a major international investigation, Four Corners reveals the secrets of the Pandora Papers.

For months, more than 600 journalists from around the world, including the ABC, the Washington Post and the BBC, have been working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on this top-secret investigation. One of the biggest data leaks in history, the papers reveal how the wealthy and powerful are continuing to use offshore tax havens to hide their ownership of assets and stash their cash - despite attempts to rein the industry in. 

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Pandora Papers investigation alleges high-level corruption in India and Pakistan

| DW News

Oct 4, 2021

DW News

A new investigation alleges government officials and celebrities in Pakistan and India have used offshore companies to hide millions. Are these legitimate business dealings or corruption of the highest order? Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised an investigation into allegations hundreds of Pakistani citizens including some in government indulged in financial wrongdoing and corruption. Khan announced the probe on Twitter after revelations from the so-called Pandora Papers. It is a global investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), that looked at how multinational corporations and rich and influential people hide their wealth in overseas territories and accounts. The papers allege Khan's Finance Minister was involved in setting up offshore companies. Some 380 people from neighboring India also figure on the Pandora Papers list. The list includes well-known celebrities like actor Jackie Shroff, cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, and industrialist Anil Ambani among others. All are named for having parked assets overseas at one point or the other.

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#BBCNews

Pandora Papers reveal financial dealings of some of world's most powerful people - BBC News

Oct 4, 2021

BBC News

The Pandora Papers is a leak of almost 12 million documents that reveals hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering by some of the world's rich and powerful. More than 600 journalists in 117 countries have been trawling through the files from 14 sources for months, finding stories that are being published this week. BBC Panorama and the Guardian have led the investigation in the UK.

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Pandora Papers:

Biggest offshore data leak exposes leaders' hidden wealth

Oct 3, 2021

Al Jazeera English

The secrets of the rich and powerful are exposed in the biggest trove of leaked offshore data in history. It has been revealed the king of Jordan has amassed a property empire worth more than $100m. He is among 30 world leaders and 100 billionaires detailed in the Pandora Papers - a collection of millions of files published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. To discuss the international reaction from the United States and Europe, we speak to our correspondents Mike Hanna in Washington, DC and Rory Challands in London.

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Pandora papers: biggest ever leak of offshore data exposes financial secrets of rich and powerful

Millions of documents reveal offshore deals and assets of more than 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders and 300 public officials

By Guardian investigations team - 03. October 2021

Pandora Papers illustraion
The Pandora papers reveal the inner workings of what is a shadow financial world, providing a rare window into the hidden operations of a global offshore economy. Illustration: Guardian Design

The secret deals and hidden assets of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people have been revealed in the biggest trove of leaked offshore data in history.

Branded the Pandora papers, the cache includes 11.9m files from companies hired by wealthy clients to create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

They expose the secret offshore affairs of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state. They also shine a light on the secret finances of more than 300 other public officials such as government ministers, judges, mayors and military generals in more than 90 countries.

The files include disclosures about major donors to the Conservative party, raising difficult questions for Boris Johnson as his party meets for its annual conference.

More than 100 billionaires feature in the leaked data, as well as celebrities, rock stars and business leaders. Many use shell companies to hold luxury items such as property and yachts, as well as incognito bank accounts. There is even art ranging from looted Cambodian antiquities to paintings by Picasso and murals by Banksy.

The Pandora papers reveal the inner workings of what is a shadow financial world, providing a rare window into the hidden operations of a global offshore economy that enables some of the world’s richest people to hide their wealth and in some cases pay little or no ta

What are the Pandora papers?

The Pandora papers are the largest trove of leaked data exposing tax haven secrecy in history. They provide a rare window into the hidden world of offshore finance, casting light on the financial secrets of some of the world’s richest people. The files were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which shared access with the Guardian, BBC and other media outlets around the world. In total, the trove consists of 11.9m files leaked from a total of 14 offshore service providers, totalling 2.94 terabytes of information. That makes it larger in volume than both the Panama papers (2016) and Paradise papers (2017), two previous offshore leaks.

Where did the Pandora documents from come?

The ICIJ, a Washington DC-based journalism nonprofit, is not identifying the source of the leaked documents. In order to facilitate a global investigation, the ICIJ gave remote access to the documents to journalists in 117 countries, including reporters at the Washington Post, Le Monde, El País, Süddeutsche Zeitung, PBS Frontline and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In the UK, the investigation has been led by the Guardian and BBC Panorama.

What is an offshore service provider?

The 14 offshore service providers in the leak provide corporate services to individuals or companies seeking to do business offshore. Their clients are typically seeking to discreetly set up companies or trusts in lightly regulated tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Panama, the Cook Islands and the US state of South Dakota. Companies registered offshore can be used to hold assets such as property, aircraft, yachts and investments in stocks and shares. By holding those assets in an offshore company, it is possible to hide from the rest of the world the identity of the person they actually belong to, or the “beneficial owner”.

Why do people move money offshore?

Usually for reasons of tax, secrecy or regulation. Offshore jurisdictions tend to have no income or corporation taxes, which makes them potentially attractive to wealthy individuals and companies who don’t want to pay taxes in their home countries. Although morally questionable, this kind of tax avoidance can be legal. Offshore jurisdictions also tend to be highly secretive and publish little or no information about the companies or trusts incorporated there. This can make them useful to criminals, such as tax evaders or money launderers, who need to hide money from tax or law enforcement authorities. It is also true that people in corrupt or unstable countries may use offshore providers to put their assets beyond the reach of repressive governments or criminal adversaries who may try to seize them, or to seek to circumvent hard currency restrictions. Others may go offshore for reasons of inheritance or estate planning.

Has everyone named in the Pandora papers done something wrong?

No. Moving money offshore is not in or of itself illegal, and there are legitimate reasons why some people do it. Not everyone named in the Pandora papers is suspected of wrongdoing. Those who are may stand accused of a wide range of misbehaviour: from the morally questionable through to the potentially criminal. The Guardian is only publishing stories based on leaked documents after considering the public interest. That is a broad concept that may include furthering transparency by revealing the secret offshore owners of UK property, even where those owners have done nothing wrong. Other articles might illuminate issues of important public debate, raise moral questions, shed light on how the offshore industry operates, or help inform voters about politicians or donors in the interests of democratic accountability.

There are emails, memos, incorporation records, share certificates, compliance reports and complex diagrams showing labyrinthine corporate structures. Often, they allow the true owners of opaque shell companies to be identified for the first time.

The files were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington. It shared access to the leaked data with select media partners including the Guardian, BBC Panorama, Le Monde and the Washington Post. More than 600 journalists have sifted through the files as part of a massive global investigation.

The Pandora papers represent the latest – and largest in terms of data volume – in a series of major leaks of financial data that have convulsed the offshore world since 2013.

Setting up or benefiting from offshore entities is not itself illegal, and in some cases people may have legitimate reasons, such as security, for doing so. But the secrecy offered by tax havens has at times proven attractive to tax evaders, fraudsters and money launderers, some of whom are exposed in the files.

Perhaps the most significant offshore leak to date was the 2016 Panama papers, which consisted of 2.6 terabytes of data leaked from the law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The following year saw the release of the Paradise papers, most of which were from the offshore provider Appleby, which was founded in Bermuda. In total, that cache consisted of 1.4 terabytes of data.

Containing 2.94 terabytes, the Pandora papers is the largest of the three leaks. The files also come from a much wider array of offshore providers than previous leaks: 14 in total. Locations range from Vietnam to Belize and Singapore, and to far-flung archipelagos such as the Bahamas and the Seychelles.

Other wealthy individuals and companies stash their assets offshore to avoid paying tax elsewhere, a legal activity estimated to cost governments billions in lost revenues.

After more than 18 months analysing the data in the public interest, the Guardian and other media outlets will publish their findings over the coming days, beginning with revelations about the offshore financial affairs of some of the most powerful political leaders in the world

They include the ruler of Jordan, King Abdullah II, who, leaked documents reveal, has amassed a secret $100m property empire spanning Malibu, Washington and London. The king of Jordan declined to answer specific questions but said there would be nothing improper about him owning properties via offshore companies. Jordan appeared to have blocked the ICIJ website on Sunday, hours before the Pandora papers launched.

The Azerbaijan president, Ilham Aliyev, and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva.
The Azerbaijan president, Ilham Aliyev, and his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva. The Aliyev family has traded close to £400m of UK property in recent years. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The files also show that Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family has traded close to £400m of UK property in recent years. One of their properties was sold to the Queen’s crown estate, which is now looking into how it came to pay £67m to a company that operated as a front for the family that runs a country routinely accused of corruption. The Aliyevs declined to comment.

The Pandora papers also threaten to cause political upsets for two European Union leaders. The prime minister of the Czech republic, Andrej Babiš, who is up for election this week, is facing questions over why he used an offshore investment company to acquire a $22m chateau in the south of France. He too declined to comment.

The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš
The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, is facing questions over why he used an offshore investment company to acquire a $22m chateau in the south of France. Photograph: Milan Kammermayer/EPA

And in Cyprus, itself a controversial offshore centre, the president, Nicos Anastasiades, may be asked to explain why a law firm he founded was accused of hiding the assets of a controversial Russian billionaire behind fake company owners. The firm denies any wrongdoing, while the Cypriot president says he ceased having an active role in its affairs after becoming leader of the opposition in 1997.

Not everyone named in the Pandora papers is accused of wrongdoing. The leaked files reveals that Tony and Cherie Blair saved £312,000 in property taxes when they purchased a London building partially owned by the family of a prominent Bahraini minister.

The former prime minister and his wife bought the £6.5m office in Marylebone by acquiring a British Virgin Islands (BVI) offshore company. While the move was not illegal, and there is no evidence the Blairs proactively sought to avoid property taxes, the deal highlights a loophole that has enabled wealthy property owners not to pay a tax that is commonplace for ordinary Britons.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie Blair
Tony and Cherie Blair bought a £6.5m office in Marylebone by acquiring a British Virgin Islands offshore company. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

The leaked records vividly illustrate the central coordinating role London plays in the murky offshore world. The UK capital is home to wealth managers, law firms, company formation agents and accountants. All exist to serve their ultra-rich clients. Many are foreign-born tycoons who enjoy “non-domicile” status, which means they pay no tax on their overseas assets.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is also named in the leak. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected in 2019 on a pledge to clean up his country’s notoriously corrupt and oligarch-influenced economy, is also named in the leak. During the campaign, Zelenskiy transferred his 25% stake in an offshore company to a close friend who now works as the president’s top adviser, the files suggest. Zelenskiy declined to comment and it is unclear if he remains a beneficiary.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, whom the US suspects of having a secret fortune, does not appear in the files by name. But numerous close associates do, including his best friend from childhood – the late Petr Kolbin – whom critics have called a “wallet” for Putin’s own wealth, and a woman the Russian leader was allegedly once romantically involved with. None responded to invitations to comment.

The Pandora papers also place a revealing spotlight on the offshore system itself. In a development likely to prove embarrassing for the US president, Joe Biden, who has pledged to lead efforts internationally to bring transparency to the global financial system, the US emerges from the leak as a leading tax haven. The files suggest the state of South Dakota, in particular, is sheltering billions of dollars in wealth linked to individuals previously accused of serious financial crimes.

The offshore trail also stretches from Africa to Latin America to Asia, and is likely to pose difficult questions for politicians across the world. In Pakistan, Moonis Elahi, a prominent minister in prime minister Imran Khan’s government, contacted an offshore provider in Singapore about investing $33.7m.

Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, will come under pressure to explain why he and his close relatives amassed more than $30m of offshore wealth. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

In Kenya, the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has portrayed himself as an enemy of corruption. In 2018, Kenyatta, he told the BBC: “Every public servant’s assets must be declared publicly so that people can question and ask: what is legitimate?”

He will come under pressure to explain why he and his close relatives amassed more than $30m of offshore wealth, including property in London. Kenyatta did not respond to enquiries about whether his family wealth was declared to relevant authorities in Kenya.

The Pandora papers also reveal some of the unseen repercussions of previous offshore leaks, which spurred modest reforms in some parts of the world, such as the BVI, which now keeps a record of the real owners of companies registered there. However, the newly leaked data shows money shifting around offshore destinations, as wealthy clients and their advisers adjust to new realities.

Some clients of Mossack Fonseca, the now defunct law firm at the heart of the 2016 Panama papers disclosures, simply transferred their companies to rival providers such as another global trust and corporate administrator with a major office in London, whose data is in the new trove of leaked files.

Asked why he was migrating the new company, one customer wrote bluntly: “Business decision to exit following the Panama papers.” Another agent said the industry had always “adapted” to external pressure.

Some leaked files appear to show some in the industry seeking to circumvent new privacy regulations. One Swiss lawyer refused to email the names of his high-value customers to a service provider in the BVI, following new legislation. Instead, he sent them by airmail, with strict instructions they should not be processed in any “electronic way”. The identity of another beneficial owner was shared via WhatsApp.

“The purpose of this way to proceed is to enable you to comply with BVI rules,” the lawyer wrote. Referring to Mossack Fonseca, the lawyer added: “You are obliged to keep secrecy for our clients and to not make feasible at all a second ‘Panama papers’ story that happened to one of your competitors.”

Gerard Ryle, the director of the ICIJ, said leading politicians who organised their finances in tax havens had a stake in the status quo, and were likely to be an obstacle to reform of the offshore economy. “When you have world leaders, when you have politicians, when you have public officials, all using the secrecy and all using this world, then I don’t think we’re going to see an end to it.”

He expected the Pandora papers to have a greater impact than previous leaks, not least because they were arriving in the middle of a pandemic that had exacerbated inequalities and forced governments to borrow unprecedented amounts to be shouldered by ordinary taxpayers. “This is the Panama papers on steroids,” Ryle said. “It’s broader, richer and has more detail.”

At least $11.3tn in wealth is held offshore, according to a 2020 study by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “This is money that is being lost to treasuries around the world and money that could be used to recover from Covid,” Ryle said. “We’re losing out because some people are gaining. It’s as simple as that. It’s a very simple transaction that’s going on here.”

Pandora papers reporting team: Simon Goodley, Harry Davies, Luke Harding, Juliette Garside, David Conn, David Pegg, Paul Lewis, Caelainn Barr, Rowena Mason and Pamela Duncan in London; Ben Butler and Anne Davies in Sydney; Dominic Rushe in New York; Andrew Roth in Moscow; Helena Smith in Athens; Michael Safi in Lebanon; Robert Tait in Prague.

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#PandoraPapers #Kenyattasecretcompanies

Pandora Papers: The Kenyatta's secret companies

Oct 3, 2021

Africa Uncensored

The Kenyatta family, Kenya's first family twice over, has perhaps, one of the deepest investments in Kenya’s economy than any political family. But a global leak of documents from offshore secrecy locations has exposed the family's long standing use of companies, and trusts in Panama and the British Virgin Islands. The leak is called Pandora Papers. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shared this leak with Africa Uncensored, who, with contributions from Finance Uncovered, can now report on the Kenyatta family's secret companies #PandoraPapers #Kenyattasecretcompanies

If some of the wealth would be repatriated, it is hoped that it be can be used to solve the situation that every night an estimated 60,000 children sleep alone or with their homeless mosthers in the streets of the capital Nairobi, where often mothers feel forced to give up their child or baby-snatchers and child-traffickers lure to make money from adoption or their organs and many children just disappear.

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Finance Uncovered

Finance Uncovered

Finance has no borders – neither do we

By Purity Mukami and Simon Bowers - 03. October 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family, the political dynasty that has dominated Kenyan politics since independence, for many years secretly owned a web of offshore companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, according to a new leak of documents known as the Pandora Papers.

The Kenyattas’ offshore secrets were discovered among almost 12 million documents, largely made up of administrative paperwork from the archives of 14 law firms and agencies that specialise in offshore company formations.

Other world leaders found in the files include the King of Jordan, the prime minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babiš and Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

The documents were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and seen by more than 600 journalists, including reporters at Finance Uncovered and Africa Uncensored, as part of an investigation that took many months and spanned 117 countries.

Though no reliable estimates of their net worth have been published, the Kenyattas are regularly reported to be one of the richest families in the country. 

They are well known in Kenya as the owners of a vast business empire, including significant interests in the banking, insurance and media sectors, as well as hotels, agricultural land and the large Brookside dairy on the outskirts of Nairobi.

But what has not been known is their activity through tax and secrecy havens, maintained by a network of bankers, advisers, offshore service providers and front figures. 

Seven members of the Kenyatta family are revealed through the Pandora Papers as being variously connected to 11 offshore companies and foundations.

The documents reveal that family members have used offshore companies to own three properties in the United Kingdom. One, a flat near Westminster in London, now worth an estimated £1m, was until this summer rented out to a British Member of Parliament, although she did not know who owned it. 

The Pandora Papers also show that Muhoho Kenyatta, the president’s younger brother who manages large sections of the family’s businesses, owned an offshore company with a portfolio of cash, stocks and bonds worth $31.6m in 2016.

Other documents in the leak show a foundation set up in Panama in 2003 for the president’s now 88 year old mother, “Mama” Ngina Kenyatta. Upon her death, all the assets held in the foundation were to pass to her son, Uhuru.

The Pandora Papers contain only a handful of clues about the purpose of the Kenyattas’ offshore interests or what funds and assets they might have placed in these secretive entities. 

One document simply says a company in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) had been set up by Kenyatta family members with “savings from their family and their activities”.

In 2018, President Kenyatta (pictured below in Nairobi last week) was asked about his family wealth during an interview on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme. He said: “I have always stated, 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 every year.

“And I have always said: ‘If there is an instance where somebody can say that what we have done or obtained has not been legitimate,’ say so: we are ready to face any court.”

Jack Blum, an American financial crime lawyer and former staffer on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: “If you see that a prominent political family has set up offshore arrangements it certainly would pique one’s interests. You would really have to begin to investigate further because the question would be: Have state assets… been moved and used for the benefit of the individuals involved?”

However, Blum added: “Now, can we say with certainty that the simple use of [offshore companies] is evidence of some kind of criminal activity? I would have to say ‘No’. You have to do a lot more work.”

The Pandora Papers show no evidence that state assets have been stolen or hidden in offshore entities controlled by the Kenyattas. 

We tried to contact President Uhuru Kenyatta, his brother Muhoho, his mother Ngina and all relevant members of the Kenyatta family, as well as the president’s office in Nairobi. We asked why they had set up complex corporate structures in some of the world’s top secrecy havens, how much money they had taken offshore and where that money came from. We also asked whether they still used the entities and if so what assets they currently contain. 

No-one acknowledged or responded to our letters, emails, phone calls and texts. 

There is nothing unlawful about using secrecy structures or making overseas investments. Many wealthy families choose to spread their investments overseas, particularly when their home country faces political or economic turmoil. This is known as capital flight.

However, capital flight — whether lawful and illicit — often drains local investment and increases inequality.

Attiya Waris, Professor of Fiscal Law at the University of Nairobi, said that when ruling elites are discovered to have parked cash offshore, it “is a signal to the rest of the economy that they can do the same”.

She said: “The kind of knowledge on how to do this circulates among professional classes such as lawyers and accountants and they use it to implement the system for others, drawing even the middle classes into engaging with capital flight.”

Transparency and anti-corruption campaigners have long argued public officials should fully disclose their assets and earnings.

Waris said while complete transparency was never realistic, the concept itself is critical, particularly when countries are trying to rebuild themselves in the wake of the global pandemic.

“The greater the disparities in wealth are in a country, the more you have social problems,” she added.

Under Kenyan law, President Kenyatta is required to make asset declarations for him and his wife, though they are not made public. However, as in most other countries with such requirements, asset disclosure rules do not extend to the wider family.

The findings from the Pandora Papers come as Kenya enters an election period. President Kenyatta is constitutionally bound to step down from office in 2022 after eight years in office — two terms that have seen improved infrastructure yet concerns about inequality and national debt.  

First Family

President Kenyatta has carefully nurtured the reputation of the country’s “first family”. It is a family whose history is tied inextricably to the country’s independence and a business empire employing thousands of people.

Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, swept to presidential power as a near-penniless independence activist in 1963, ushering in the birth of a new republic. 

His status and reputation as the father of the nation grew. So too did his family’s wealth.

But by the time he died in 1978, there were already murmurs. 

As noted in a now declassified report by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), written days after Jomo’s death, there were allegations of controversial land dealings involving the Kenyattas.

The report said funds provided by foreign governments — earmarked to pay for redistribution of land from colonial settlers back to landless Kenyans — had instead allegedly been used by the Kenyattas and their associates to buy land for themselves.

US intelligence officers wrote that there was “growing public disenchantment with the Kenyatta clan’s economic monopoly”.

While Jomo Kenyatta himself owned only about half a dozen properties, on roughly 4,000 hectares of land, his fourth wife Mama Ngina owned at least 115,000 hectares including a large ranch, two tea plantations and three sisal farms, the report said.

The Pandora Papers show that in the late 1990s, Swiss wealth advisers had begun helping with the financial affairs of Mama Ngina (pictured below with her late husband, President Jomo Kenyatta) and other members of her family.

The Swiss advisers, in turn, used an offshore law firm called Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee — or Alcogal. 

The Pandora Papers include a leak of thousands of documents from Alcogal.

They show that in 1999, Alcogal incorporated a BVI registered company called Milrun International Ltd for Mama Ngina, a minority shareholder, and her two daughters. 

Alcogal also provided the registered office for Milrun and supplied Alcogal staffers to act as the company’s official directors. 

The result, explained in the diagram below, was an entirely anonymous company, with an address and directors that could not be traced back to the true beneficial owners.

This company was used a year later to buy an apartment thousands of miles from Kenya and Panama, in Westminster, central London, for £280,000.

The Pandora Papers show that the Kenyatta daughters still owned Milrun until at least 2017. We asked them if they still owned the company but they did not respond.

Today, Milrun is still listed on UK Land Registry records as the proprietor of the apartment — now estimated to be worth £1m. 

Until this summer, Emma Hardy, a British Labour party MP, rented the apartment when away from her constituency on parliamentary business. As she did so, she lawfully reclaimed £2,600 a month in rent expenses from state funds. 

After Ms Hardy was shown the findings from the Pandora Papers, a spokesperson for the MP said: “Emma had absolutely no knowledge of this. She signed a standard tenancy agreement through a reliable agency approved by the independent organisation that administers MPs’ accommodation costs. She is shocked at what this investigation has uncovered, and believes it shows why more transparency is urgently needed.”

In December 2002 Mwai Kibaki was elected Kenya’s third president, defeating Uhuru Kenyatta. It triggered a mood change among the country’s elites as Kibaki promised an anti-corruption drive.

“The era of ‘anything goes’ is gone forever,” Kibaki said at his inauguration rally. “Corruption will now cease to be a way of life in Kenya.”

In the wake of these remarks, there was a rush of money leaving the country. There were disputed allegations that Kibaki’s predecessor as president, the deeply unpopular Daniel arap Moi, had been among those sending money abroad, in part using offshore structures and Swiss banks.

Uhuru had been Moi’s choice to succeed him and his defeat was a blow for the Kenyattas. 

It was around this time in 2003 that a trust-like entity called Varies Foundation was formed in Panama, again with the assistance of the Swiss wealth advisers and Alcogal, the Pandora Papers show. 

The documents show that Mama Ngina was the beneficiary, and that upon her death this secret foundation was to be run for the financial benefit of her son, Uhuru.

The Pandora Papers do not show what funds, if any, were held by Varies. According to searches of public files in Panama, the foundation is still active. However, it has not paid local regulatory taxes in the Central American country since 2014, suggesting it may now be in disuse.

A spokesperson for Mama Ngina Kenyatta did not respond to our questions.

President Kenyatta’s press office did not respond to any of our questions, including those about his offshore inheritance.

Secrecy haven

Another member of the Kenyatta family named in the Pandora Papers is Udi Gecaga, former brother-in-law to Uhuru Kenyatta. The 76-year-old today has another link to the president through his son, Jomo Gecaga, who serves as his personal secretary. 

Gecaga’s fortunes had risen quickly under president Jomo Kenyatta after Lonrho, a powerful and controversial British conglomerate, with land and mining interests throughout post-colonial Africa, picked him out to be a senior executive.

Gecaga was flown to London and offered a huge sum to take the job on account of his influence within the Kenyatta family, according to a biography of Lonrho’s late chairman Tiny Rowland by journalist Tom Bower. Rowland wrote out a cheque for a five-figure sum and handed it to Gecaga: “Is this enough?… It’s for you and your family. Take care of the political problems.” 

Later, Rowland occasionally said he eventually wanted Gecaga to succeed him as chairman, but within days of the death of Jomo Kenyatta in 1978, the Lonrho boss demanded his dismissal. He was eventually replaced by a close associate of Kenyatta’s successor, Moi.

Gecaga’s name appears only fleetingly in the Pandora Papers, but further investigations have shown he was no stranger to offshore investments. While he worked at Lonrho, an exotic corporate entity called Blim Securities Anstalt, formed in Liechtenstein in 1977, bought a large mansion an hour’s drive from London, which became his family home. In 1999, Blim Securities also bought an apartment near in the upmarket London neighbourhood of Knightsbridge. 

An anstalt is an obscure type of trust in Liechtenstein, one of the world’s top secrecy havens. 

Neither Udi Gecaga nor his son Jomo responded to our questions.

In response to questions, a spokesperson for Alcogal said it leaves clients when it suspects clients are involved in money laundering. The company added it has “a robust compliance department, comprising around 20 professionals with high-level education, that receive ongoing training in compliance according to the highest industry levels.”

The company added: “It is equally important to note that corporate providers are not legally responsible for the activities of the companies which they incorporate. While no corporate service provider or financial institution is infallible, we have always acted according to the law, and have cooperated in all respects with competent authorities.”

Having received no response from the Kenyatta family, Pandora Papers journalists searched public records in the BVI and Panama to establish whether the entities linked to the Kenyatta family were still active. 

Three of the four Panamanian foundations are active and one is suspended. However, none of the four have paid the required regulatory taxes in Panama since 2014, suggesting they may have fallen into disuse. 

Of the seven BVI companies we examined, one was struck off the corporate register in 2014, five were struck off between 2018 and 2021, and one remains active. A company that has been struck off the BVI register is not dissolved, and can, if required, be reinstated once outstanding regulatory fees are paid. 

Below are two diagrams showing the abridged structure of the Kenyatta family’s offshore holdings.

Main image: A photo of the late President Jomo Kenyatta and his extended family taken in the years after he came to power

Editing by Ted Jeory and Nick Mathiason

Posted by Purity Mukami

Purity Mukami is our first Fellow. She started her fellowship with us in January 2021 and works alongside our partner, The Elephant, in Kenya. A specialist data journalist, Purity has a successful track record in following the money, investigating social networks and identifying stories using statistical methods and open source intelligence. Most recently, Purity worked at leading Kenyan independent investigative media outlet, Africa Uncensored. She has also worked with BBC Africa Eye, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

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