Screw Driver

Pandora Papers: Leave Uhuru alone, Ngina Kenyatta just gave birth!

The Kenyattas seem to open multiple offshore accounts around election time

Prisoner of Birth: Ngina Kenyatta, President Uhuru’s only daughter, gave birth to baby Nyambura at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. But the release of Pandora Papers detailing the family’s stash of offshore assets have come to spoil the party for Uhuru, now a third time grandfather.
The Pandora Papers surfaced when Uhuru was on a State visit to Barbados, another tax haven-and one of Kenya’s investment partners in finance, hospitality and education- sectors the Kenyattas have interests in via NCBA bank, Heritage Hotels chain and Peponi School.

By GW Ngari

Editor-at-Large

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s only daughter, Ngina, just gave birth the other day, making him a guka for the third time. Ngina delivered baby Nyambura at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, forcing her mother, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta to cut short her visit to London.

Baby Nyambura is named after the mother of Ngina’s fiancé, Alex Mwai, the son of Sam Mwai, the renowned sports marketing guru and manager of the Karen Country Club.

For two weeks, Uhuru had disappeared from the limelight, enjoying a guka moment with Nyambura when boom! came the Pandora Papers exposing how the Kenyattas stash assorted assets including cash, shares, bonds and real estate via shell companies, foundations and accounts.

Son of fortune: Alex Mwai, the fiance of Ngina Kenyatta, is in finance and marketing and part of the team now investing in electric boda bodas and Tuk Tuks in Kenya. He is also a board member at Switch TV alongside Kagwe Mungai, on of Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.

Never mind the Kenyattas are majority shareholders in NCBA, Kenya’s third largest bank by assets! But why stash legitimate wealth in shell companies which have no offices or employees?

Well, there are many reasons for operating shell companies, accounts and foundations in offshore tax havens: zero taxation, privacy, security and such accounts are not accessible to creditors, authorities and divorcing spouses. Offshore accounts are also ideal for international business people as they hold multiple currencies allowing a holder to invest in countries with endless hurdles for a foreigner.

British MP had no idea her Sh400, 000 a month apartment was owned by the Kenyattas

Offshore tenant: Former British MP Emma Hardy, had no idea her landlord were the Kenyattas. All along, she paid rent for her apartment in Central London valued at Sh150 million to a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands, according to the recently released Pandora Papers.
The apartment is owned by Mama Ngina and her two daughters via Milrun International. It was bought in 1999 for Sh42 million and the Kenyattas have been collecting Sh400, 000 in rent per month over the years.

That is where the advantages end as offshore accounts are also used by drug dealers, gun runners to launder proceeds of crime including looting state resources. Remember the over Sh250 billion Euro Bond 1 money was never accounted for? There are fewer options for moving such loot other than offshore accounts in which no questions on source of money are asked. And how would you bribe a politician or bankroll kickbacks better than through an offshore account?

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Of more interest is that, though the Kenyattas have operated offshore accounts for decades, they seem to open multiple shell companies around election time.

As a public servant, I am supposed to make my wealth known and we declare every year

Cash cow: “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,” President Uhuru Kenyatta told BBC’s HardTalk programme in 2018.“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.”

Through Private Union Bank of Switzerland and using lawyers in Panama and British Virgin Islands, they opened offshore accounts in 2003, when Uhuru lost the presidential race to Mwai Kibaki, in 2007 when Kenya witnessed a post-election blood bath and in 2013 when  Uhuru was facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court.  They also opened more offshore accounts during the 2017 presidential elections when Raila Odinga mounted a challenge going all the way to the Supreme Court.

Besides Uhuru, other African Presidents whose wealth abroad was tracked include dictators Ali Bongo of Gabon and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-both long-serving strongmen.

Besides Uhuru, other Presidents listed in Pandora Papers are long-serving African dictators

Web of dreams: Muhoho Kenyatta, Uhuru’s brother, held a Sh3 billion portfolio of assorted assets including shares and bonds in just one company. He seems to have interests in finance and he has two other registered companies-Wesmar, Galanes and Pictor, all dealing in finance. Don’t worry about meaning of the names, offshore companies are normally registered in advance to show ‘ageing.’

So, do the Kenyattas have perennial fear of who becomes the next President, they have to secure their fortunes in offshore tax havens? See, when a country burns, all someone with offshore accounts does is board the next plane to wherever since such accounts can be remotely accessed. Could the offshore accounts explain why Uhuru was so keen on BBI and hence the overdrive to craft the Uhuru Succession? 

The Pandora Papers were exposed by Finance Uncovered and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, opened a lid on the kind of wealth world leaders stash abroad away from the tax man and prying eyes of angry, Covid-ravaged voters.

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In the case of President Uhuru, the flat in London is one among a litany of money and properties held in foreign countries and which begs many questions. For starters, it is illegal for a sitting head of state to hold undisclosed offshore accounts which might not be part of wealth declaration forms.

One of Uhuru’s brother’s in-law opened an offshore account over 40 years ago

It runs in the family: (From left) The late BM Gecaga and wife Jemimah Gecaga, son Udi Gecaga and bride Jeni Kenyatta with dad, President Jomo Kenyatta and step-mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta.
Udi, Uhuru’s brother in-law, is father of Jomo Gecaga, Uhuru’s PA. Udi opened his offshore bonanza in Liechtenstein in 1977 when he was the 30 year old chair of Lonrho, according to Pandora Papers.
Through Blim Securities, Udi bought a large family mansion an hour’s drive from London and another apartment near the upscale London hood of Knightsbridge in 1999-the year the Kenyattas were also opening more accounts in Panama and the British Virgin Islands. Udi and Jeni have since separated, but Jeni cannot access the Blim Securities offshore account!

Offshore accounts also starve a country of taxes, with the burden thus being passed to overstretched taxpayers. It also chocks off capital, increasing inequality and “the greater the disparities in wealth are in a country, the more you have social problems,” notes Attiya Waris, Professor of Fiscal Law at the University of Nairobi.

The Pandora Papers exposed offshore assets of 35 current and former world leaders including former British Premier Tony Blair, one of Uhuru’s international advisors and the brains behind President’s Delivery Unit. Blair was also instrumental in hiring international PR firm, BTP Advisors, for crafting messaging during the 2017 general election.

The Pandora Papers note that Blair bought a shell company in British Virgin Islands that owned  a town house in London for Sh970 million. By buying the company and not the property, Blair owned it without forking out Sh47 million in taxes! The town house now houses his wife’s law firm.

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