The investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on October 3 shook the world, making public the names of famous personalities who have their money in tax havens such as Panama and the British Virgin Islands. It would feature 78 African politicians including Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya and 7 members of his family.
The “Pandora Papers,” as the list of names leaked by the investigation is called, showed that the Kenyatta family is connected with at least 13 offshore companies and foundations, the total value of which would be unknown. In particular, it would own three properties in the UK that it bought with the intermediation of the Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee, which concealed the family’s extensive investment portfolio.
In addition, the Kenyatta family allegedly used the services of Union Bancaire Privée (UBP), Switzerland’s largest private bank. Through UBP the Kenyattas allegedly set up three foundations, for Uhuru, his sister Ngina and brother Muholo. The Swiss bank had been involved in two scandals in the past, the 2009 Madoff scandal and in 2012 when they were fined by the U.S. Department of Justice for contributing to the tax evasion of some of the bank’s clients.
Panamanian foundations are popular among other possibilities, in tax havens, because the true owners of the assets do not have to be disclosed to the Panamanian government and can also be designed to be transferred tax-free to a successor.
Kenyatta received the news while on a state visit to the United States. To the press, the Kenyan president responded that his name does not explicitly appear in the Papers and that he believes this investigation will go a long way “in improving financial transparency and openness that we need in Kenya and around the world.”
In fact, Uhuru Kenyatta’s name seems to appear, as heir to the Panamanian foundation ‘Varies’, created in 2003, in the name of his mother. Moreover, Kenyatta in an interview with the BBC in 2018 had stated that his family’s assets were in the public domain, as required by law. In the light of this investigation would instead seem to bring to light a dense network of management of assets abroad from unspecified wealth by the most important Kenyan ‘dynasty’ since the independence of the country.