By Faith Nyasuguta
Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta’s family has been tied to a fresh declassification that has revealed how the rich and mighty have stored millions of dollars in offshore accounts.
The family has been domineering Kenyan politics since independence.
Records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) exposed how Uhuru and six other family members secretly owned a chain of offshore companies.
The records shared with 600 plus reporters and media organizations globally showed how world leaders and their associates evaded taxes and made huge property purchases using secret offshore firms.
The family has been linked to 11 companies- with one valued as holding assets worth US$30 million (Sh3.31 billion).
According to ICIJ, the leaked records named Uhuru and his mother as beneficiaries of a secretive foundation in Panama.
The investigation detailed that Uhuru’s brother and two sisters also own five offshore firms with assets worth over $30 million according to the records.
“Kenyatta and his family did not reply to requests for comment,” ICIJ said.
Despite that, the consortium indicated that the Kenyatta family started to stash much of its offshore wealth before Uhuru became head of state.
AN ENEMY OF CORRUPTION?
According to a report by The Guardian; “In Kenya, the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has portrayed himself as an enemy of corruption.”
Further, in a 2018 interview with the BBC, Uhuru said: “Every public servant’s assets must be declared publicly so that people can question and ask: what is legitimate?”
The President will be under pressure to explain why he and his close relatives amassed over $30m of offshore wealth, including property in London.
Uhuru did not respond to inquiries about whether his family wealth was declared to relevant authorities in Kenya.
The Pandora Papers probe by the ICIJ revealed that the secret documents expose offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the presidents of Ukraine, Kenya, and Ecuador, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained the trove of more than 11.9 million confidential files and led a team of more than 600 journalists from 150 news outlets that spent two years sifting through them, tracking down hard-to-find sources and digging into court records and other public documents from dozens of countries,” ICIJ said.
The investigation indicates that the records – from the Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal) – show that the Kenyatta family “owned at least seven such entities, two registered anonymously in Panama and five in the British Virgin Islands.”
“One BVI company owned a home in central London, according to the records, and two other companies held investment portfolios worth tens of millions of dollars,” ICIJ says.
The accumulation of wealth in offshore firms can be traced back to when the late Kenyan president, Daniel Arap Moi was still in power.
Records show that in July 2003, the exact month that Uhuru publicly defended Moi, a Union Bancaire Privée lawyer, Othmane Naïm, asked Panama offshore specialists to aid in the registration of a fresh foundation, to be known as the Varies Foundation, ICIJ said.
“The foundation, like a trust, was designed to manage and shelter wealth for its beneficiaries. Draft bylaws, also from July 2003, name the foundation’s beneficiaries: Uhuru Kenyatta and his mother,” the report says.
It was also revealed that records showed that the Union Bancaire Privée later helped manage a foundation for Uhuru’s brother, Muhoho.
“Invoices from Alcogal in Panama to the bank show that the Swiss advisers referred to the Kenyattas with a code: “client 13173,” ICIJ says in its report.
OTHER AFRICAN LEADERS
Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba and President of Congo-Brazzaville Denis Sassou-Nguesso have also been named in the leak of almost 12 million documents and files exposing the secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians, and billionaires.