The family of Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, that has dominated the country’s politics since independence, secretly owned a huge network of offshore companies for decades, according to a new leak of financial papers.
The financial papers known as the Pandora Papers – is the biggest financial leak in history, with about 12 million files linking Kenyatta and six members of his family to 13 offshore companies.
The Kenyattas’ offshore investments, including a company with stocks and bonds worth $30m (£22m), were discovered among hundreds of thousands of pages of administrative paperwork from the archives of 14 law firms and service providers in Panama and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and other tax havens.
The secret assets were uncovered by an investigation, published on Sunday, October 3 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Finance Uncovered, Finance Uncovered, Africa Uncensored and other news organisations.
Documents show that a foundation called Varies was set up in 2003 in Panama, naming Kenyatta’s mother, Ngina, 88, as the first benefactor and Kenya’s leader as the second benefactor, who would inherit it after her death.
Panamanian foundations are much sought after because the true owners of the assets are only known by their lawyers and they do not have to register their names with the Panamanian government, ICIJ reports.
The assets can also be designed to be transferred tax-free to a successor.
Kenyatta family’s vast business interests span transport, insurance, hotels, farming, land ownership and the media industry in Kenya.
In 2018, Kenyatta told the BBC Hardtalk programme that his family’s wealth was known to the public, and as president he had declared his assets as required by law.
“As I have always stated, what we own – what we have – is open to the public. As a public servant I’m supposed to make my wealth known and we declare every year,” Mr Kenyatta said.
“If there’s 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,” he added.
In the same interview, Kenyatta said he wanted his legacy to be fighting corruption and promoting transparency.
Other world leaders named in the Pandora Papers include the King of Jordan Abdullah II, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba and President of Congo-Brazzaville Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
After his father’s death in 1978, Ngina Kenyatta, his father’s fourth wife, in 1999, set up an offshore company – Milrun International Limited – which was incorporated in the BVI.
According to the ICIJ, Mrs Kenyatta and her daughters were advised by experienced international wealth experts from the Swiss bank Union Bancaire Privée (UBP), which recruited Alcogal, a Panamanian law firm specialising in setting up and administering offshore companies.
The consortium says invoices from Alcogal to the bank show that the Swiss advisers referred to the Kenyattas with the code “client 13173”.
This company was used by Mrs Kenyatta and her daughters to buy an apartment in central London, which it still owns, according to filings at the UK Land Registry seen by Finance Uncovered.
According to Finance Uncovered, the Kenyatta family has used other offshore companies to buy two more properties in the UK.
UBP private-wealth advisers also helped Kenyatta’s brother, Muhoho, set up a Panamanian entity called Criselle Foundation in 2003.
It was set up for the benefit of Muhoho Kenyatta, with his son Jomo Kamau Muhoho, as successor.
Another BVI company which Mr Muhoho owned had a $30m valuation in stocks and bonds as of November 2016.
The Pandora Papers, however, show no evidence that the Kenyatta family stole or hid state assets in their offshore companies.