Journalists across Africa have published stories based on a treasure trove of nearly 12 million secret documents exposing an obscure offshore financial system that allows the rich and powerful to get richer, often at the expense of the public.
These documents, which come from a group of 14 offshore service providers with offices from Samoa to South Dakota, form the basis of the Pandora Papers, a survey conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a global network of investigative journalists. reporting partners.
The Pandora Papers are ICIJ’s largest ever collaboration, with over 600 journalists from 117 participating countries. It is also one of the largest collaborations of African journalists in history, with 53 reporters from the continent contribute stories about the offshore activities of powerful figures in their countries.
Several of these journalists were partnering with the ICIJ for the first time, such as Makanday Media Center, a non-profit newsroom established in Zambia in 2016. They reported on a once powerful politician who opened a business in Dubai and made major purchases at Louis Vuitton. and helicopter travel service.
The stories have prompted inquiries from governments around the world into the numbers reported as part of the Pandora Papers. In Nigeria, the government has opened an investigation based on information provided by ICIJ’s media partner Premium Times on figures such as Peter Obi, a former governor who admitted not disclosing his offshore assets during his time. mandate.
Here are some highlights from Pandora Papers from ICIJ’s African partners.
The Ink Center for Investigative Journalism discovered that Ramachandran Ottapathu, CEO of African multinational supermarket chain Choppies, had a stake in a company registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2016. Covering Concepts Global Ltd., established with assistance from ‘an offshore supplier Trident Trust, has been listed as an âinvestment vehicleâ for Ottapathu and two Dubai-based business partners.
Ottapathu denied owning a stake in the company, telling Ink Center that he had simply given a loan to a Dubai-based company of the same name to help its business partners. But the records they examined include Ottapathu’s passport and a reference letter from Choppies confirming his residential address.
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Journalists from L’Economiste Du Faso revealed that lawyer and businessman Arouna NikiÃ¨ma, owner of a security company in Burkina Faso, has also set up a company in Seychelles, Bayoure Ltd., with the intention of transferring the profits of his African company abroad.
NikiÃ¨ma told L’Economiste Du Faso that he had not declared Bayoure Ltd. to the BurkinabÃ¨ tax authorities because the company, which was incorporated in 2012, ultimately never received any money.
Le Monde Afrique revealed that the wife of the former Cameroonian Minister of Mines had received shares in an Australian mining company while her husband was in office and responsible for granting mining permits. The Australian company owned a Cameroonian company that held the license for one of the major iron ore exploration projects underway in the country at the time.
“This case is emblematic of the opacity that reigns in the commodities sector,” an investigator from the commodities network told Le Monde.
CENOZO, a regional center for investigative journalism covering West Africa, worked with Comorian journalists to delve into Olifants Ltd., a Dubai-registered consulting firm owned by Nour-El-Fath Azali – the son of President Azali Assoumani and economic advisor to the presidency since 2019.
Azali’s business partner and lawyer, who helped him set up the business in 2018 with the help of offshore supplier SFM, told ICIJ that he âalways promotes business in the Emirates for his friends and clients â.
In CÃ´te d’Ivoire, CENOZO joined forces with a journalist from the newspaper L’Elephant Dechaine to investigate a consulting firm owned by Prime Minister Patrick Achi. Achi used a secret trust agreement to hide his property from Allstar Consultancy Services Ltd., a company incorporated in the Bahamas in 1998.
Julien Tingain, the president of the Ivorian non-governmental organization Social Justice, criticized Achi and other senior officials who hide their wealth abroad.
âEven if the creation of a company in a tax haven is not illegal in CÃ´te d’Ivoire, it always calls into question the values ââof ethics and responsibility of these public authorities towards the citizens because of what they represent for the country, âhe said. . “A business created means jobs created, families lifted out of poverty and economic growth for the country.”
Africa Uncensored, a Kenya-based investigative newsroom, has partnered with Finance Uncovered to investigate the offshore empire of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family. Son of Kenya’s first president, Kenyatta is committed to fighting corruption and promoting transparency.
But Africa Uncensored discovered that members of his family had stakes in offshore companies and trusts dating back even before his first presidential election in 2002. Offshore companies linked to the Kenyatta family held tens of millions of dollars in assets, and records show her sisters used a company registered in the British Virgin Islands to buy an apartment in an upscale part of London.
Liberian newspaper Front Page Africa has delved into the tax evasion case of Robert Baines, a British national who used a nominee shareholder to hide his ownership of a Seychelles-based shell company. One of the sources of funding for this company, according to leaked documents, was “missions carried out through the RB group in Liberia”.
In 2016, RB Group was one of more than 50 companies to seize shipping containers at a port in Monrovia for non-payment of taxes. Liberia’s tax authorities told Front Page Africa that the previous year, RB Group appealed its tax bill, claiming the government miscalculated the amount it owed – over $ 600,000. Authorities said the case is still before the Liberia Tax Appeal Board.
In another unprecedented collaboration with the ICIJ, the pan-Arab news agency Daraj Media reported on businessman Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Yaha, who has invested millions of dollars in companies registered in Dubai and the Canary Islands. , including one linked to Maurilog, a Mauritanian logistics company which Yaha owns.
In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that a Canadian gold company had violated the Corrupt Practices Abroad Act, âbecause it was forced – by a very influential person – to work with a certain company. Mauritanian logistics â. William Bourdon, the former head of a French anti-corruption organization, said it was likely that the “very influential person” was former president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and that the logistics company was Maurilog .
Moussa Aksar of L’Evenement worked with CENOZO to investigate a Russian-owned company that won several mining contracts in Niger. Semmous Lion Mining Ltd., incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2007 by the Russians Sergey Matveev and Dmitry Bakaev, received 10 mining exploration permits that year. These permits were transferred by other companies who apparently negotiated the permits in violation of Niger’s mining code.
According to Aksar’s information, Matveev is also the head of Pan African Minerals Ltd., which has obtained (through a subsidiary) four mineral exploration permits for “uranium and related substances”.
Senegalese reporters have teamed up with CENOZO to cover three childhood friends of former government minister Karim Wade, jailed for corruption from 2013 until he was pardoned in 2016. In 2015, Mamadou Pouye, Ibrahim “Bibo” Bourgi and Karim Bourgi were found guilty of helping Wade – who is now in exile in Qatar – hide a fortune of more than $ 200 million in various companies and accounts in tax havens.
Panamanian law firm AlemÃ¡n, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal) helped Pouye and the Bourgi brothers create three Panamanian foundations, which can help protect assets in legal disputes by hiding ownership, shortly before the end of the presidency of Wade’s father, Abdoulaye Wade, 2012. Menzies Afrique SA, a Luxembourg company linked to the group of friends, has also created several subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and Hong Kong.
South African investigation bureau amaBhungane has exposed the role of Singapore-based offshore service provider Asiaciti Trust in creating complex offshore structures for controversial Zimbabwean business tycoon Billy Rautenbach and his family.
In 2013, while Rautenbach was still on the US sanctions list for his association with then-Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, the businessman transferred millions of dollars in assets to his wife, Jenny, as part of a marriage agreement. Two years later, his wife founded the Bonsai Business Trust, but in leaked documents, “Asiaciti directors identified Rautenbach as the” effective controller … from the start due to his donation of assets to his wife. “”
In Togo, CENOZO reported on a former British honorary consul who created two Seychellois companies which have signed contracts with the port of LomÃ©. Rodney Cooper Wade founded Gander Consulting Ltd., which took charge of port security, and Centurian Consulting Ltd., which provided port access permits through a Togolese subsidiary.
CENOZO also looked into the offshore business of beer mogul Pierre Castel, who owned a group of Togolese breweries through a holding company registered in Gibraltar. Castel has vouched for its partner shareholder, a French national who wanted to take out a loan from a Swiss bank which, according to experts, could constitute tax evasion.
The Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor investigated the offshore assets of retired Major General Jim Muhwezi, the country’s security minister. Muhwezi was a shareholder of companies registered in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands until 2015 and 2016, respectively. Muhwezi has denied any involvement in offshore companies.
In 2018, Alcogal, who was the registered agent for Muhwezi’s BVI company, Audley Holdings Ltd., filed a report of suspicious activity with BVI regulators, claiming that she suspected Audley of having been used for the money laundering, fraud and tax evasion.
See more Pandora Papers reporting from Africa and stories from your country here.