The Kenyattas seem to open multiple offshore accounts around election time
By GW Ngari
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.
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
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.