A massive cache of confidential documents leaked from one of the world’s most secretive companies, has revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.
While twelve names have been exposed from several countries, additional eighteen names of Africans have been but initial research carried out by the Daily Observer editorial team did not reveal the involvement of any Liberians.
More than 11 million documents, known as the Panama Papers, were leaked by an anonymous source at Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s most secretive companies, and they showed how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.
The company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrong-doing.
Mossack Fonseca is based in Panama but has set up branches in 25 countries around the world, listing 37 different offices on its website. The global set-up has allowed the law firm to establish relationships with law firms, banks and accountants who work with the super-rich.
Some of the high-profile Africans named are Sudan’s former President Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani, Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and Kojo Annan, son of former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. The offshore companies were used to buy and sell expensive real estate in London, AFP reports.
Kenya’s deputy chief justice Kalpana Rawal and her family have been linked to 11 shell companies but she denied any wrongdoing, saying that registering and operating businesses in tax havens was a “perfectly legal and legitimate corporate practice in the UK”, where her family was in the real estate business, according to a report in Kenya’s Daily Nation.
Others include Mounir Majidi, the king of Morocco’s personal secretary, who used an offshore company to buy a luxury yacht in 2006 – a transaction that Mr. Majidi’s lawyers maintain is above board, according to the BBC.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma is named as a representative of two offshore companies that acquired oil fields in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010.
Khulubuse Zuma’s spokesman said that he has never held an offshore bank account, but declined to comment on his role in offshore companies.
Former governor of Nigeria’s Delta State, James Ibori, was convicted of such activities in 2012. Four offshore companies connected to Ibori are named in the Panama Papers – one of which was used to buy a $20m (£14m) private jet.
The documents were passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The documents reveal that Mossack Fonseca assisted companies and individuals to utilize tax havens in numerous ways.
Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s former leader Colonel Gaddafi, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad and Chinese president Xi Jinping are among those alleged to have links to tax havens through families and associates.
Meanwhile, the 12 world leaders linked to offshore hidden assets include: President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri; King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud; President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko; Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson; UAE President, Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan; Former prime minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili; Ex-prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi; Former prime minister of Jordan, Ali Abu al-Ragheb; Former prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani; Former Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani; Former president of Sudan, Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani; and Convicted former Ukraine Prime Minister, Pavlo Lazarenko.
French President Francois Hollande hailed the “good revelations” which would “increase tax revenues from those who commit fraud.” Besides the 12 current and former heads of states, there are at least 60 people linked to current or former world leaders in the data.
Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), said the documents covered day-to-day business at Mossack Fonseca over the past 40 years.
“I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents,” he added.