Panama Papers Show Africa, Latin America Power Players Links To The Caribbean

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View of the facade of the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are in Panama City, on May 9, 2016.
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View of the facade of the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are in Panama City, on May 9, 2016.

By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 13, 2016: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)’s release of a huge database of Panama Papers documents relating to more than 200,000 offshore accounts show that several power players in Africa and Latin America have or are linked to several offshore companies registered in the Caribbean. They are:

Africa

1: Kalpana Rawal, Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice

The Panama Papers show Kalpana Rawal, who became Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice in June 2013, and her husband were directors of two companies based in the British Virgin Islands, prior to her joining the nation’s Supreme Court. The family used other offshore companies to buy and sell real estate in London and nearby Surrey. Montague Real Estate SA was used in 2004 to buy a London flat for $1.12 million, which they sold in 2006. Innovate Global Limited was used to buy a house in Surrey for $2.74 million and a London apartment which they bought for $967,000 in 2004 and sold for $1.62 million in 2013. Through Arklyn International Limited, they bought another two London apartments, one bought for $1.66 million in 2005 and sold for $2.23 million in 2011, and the other bought for $1.57 million in 2005 and sold for $2.15 million in 2012.

Rawal has been fighting an attempt by the Judicial Services Commission to force her to retire from Kenya’s Supreme Court on her 70th birthday in January 2016. Rawal has said she has not been involved with the family businesses except for generally knowing they were involved in real estate and that she was listed as director on two of them without her knowledge by her husband when he was told two directors were required.

2: Ian Stuart Kirby, president of the Court of Appeal in Botswana

Ian Stuart Kirby, who was Botswana’s attorney general and is now president of the Court of Appeal in Botswana, was one of dozens of shareholders of seven British Virgin Islands companies. He first appeared in documents sent to Mossack Fonseca as a shareholder of Bellbrook Estates Limited in May 2005, while Kirby was attorney general of Botswana. Bellbrook Estates Limited carried out unspecified activities in the United Kingdom, according to a 2014 list by Mossack Fonseca of active companies for which it served as registered agent. Although specific details of the offshore companies in which Kirby held shares are not available, at least three of those BVI firms held properties, including commercial real estate, in the United Kingdom. Kirby has said that the companies were special purpose vehicles formed by a joint venture to acquire, develop and resell a particular property in the UK, as an investment.

3: Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Ndahiro, Rwanda

Current Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Ndahiro of Rwanda, who is also a confidant of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, became a director of British Virgin Islands company Debden Investments Limited in September 1998, the same year in which he regularly appeared in international news as a spokesman of the Rwandan army. Debden reportedly owned a jet aircraft. At the time of his appointment, Ndahiro’s listed address was a building in a commercial section of a West London neighborhood. Hatari Sekoko, a former soldier with the Rwandan Patriotic Front and now a major business executive, was the company’s owner. The company was deactivated in 2010.

The Panama Papers Caribbean Link

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Latin America

4: Argentine President Mauricio Macri

President Macri as well as his father Francisco and brother Mariano were directors of Fleg Trading Ltd. which was incorporated in the Bahamas in 1998 and was in existence until 2009, according to the Panama Papers. Yet in asset declarations in 2007 and 2008 when he was mayor of Buenos Aires, Macri did not disclose his connection to Fleg Trading. Macri’s official spokesman Ivan Pavlovsky has said that the Argentine president didn’t list Fleg Trading Ltd. as an asset because he had no capital participation in the company.

5: Daniel Muñoz, Aide to former Argentine presidents Néstor Kirchner; Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Muñoz, who was the private secretary and confidant of former Argentinian president Néstor Kirchner and later also served for two years as an aide to Néstor Kirchner’s wife, Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner, who was president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015, is linked to Gold Black Limited, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

The company was reportedly incorporated there in 2010 to invest in U.S. real estate and the origin of the company’s funds was listed as “personal savings.” In 2009, Muñoz was investigated for illicit enrichment, a charge that was later dropped. Then from 2010 to the beginning of 2015, the company’s ownership was through bearer shares, a financial instrument that can be used to hide an owner’s identity. In 2013, Argentinian media reported that Muñoz had helped transfer “bags of money” belonging to President Néstor Kirchner from Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, to Santa Cruz, the Kirchner’s home state. Charges in relation to the matter were dismissed in July 2015 for lack of evidence. In January 2015, Muñoz and his wife became named shareholders, owning 50 percent each. Muñoz is now ill and could not be reached for comment by the ICIJ.

6: Riccardo Francolini, former head of Panama State Bank

Riccardo Francolini, the former head of  the state-run savings bank Caja de Ahorros of Panama and a close associate to former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli, was listed as the sole shareholder of Jamefield Investment, incorporated in July 2014 in the British Virgin Islands. He was also president and co-owner ─ with his wife Iraida García ─ of Gladden Corporation, registered in the Bahamas in 1998.

According to press reports, he is suspected of having received at least $500,000 as part of a system of bribes involving Martinelli and associates related to a contract for a failed irrigation project. No charges have been filed against Francolini. He and Martinelli were also partners in the private Panamanian broadcaster NEXtv.

7: Idalécio de Castro Rodrigues de Oliveira, linked to suspected bribe paid to Eduardo Cunha, the president of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies

Idalécio de Castro Rodrigues de Oliveira, a Portuguese corporate executive who, according to Brazil’s attorney general, supplied money that was paid as a suspected bribe to Eduardo Cunha, the president of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, owned a conglomerate he called the “Lusitania Group,” that was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands from 2003 to 2011. The corporation was made up of 14 companies with interests in oil, gas and mining operations. In October 2015, a report by Brazil’s attorney general connected De Oliveira to Brazil’s Lava Jato (“Car Wash”) corruption scandal. In 2011, Brazil’s state-owned energy company Petrobras bought a 50 percent stake of an oil field in Benin controlled by de Oliveira’s companies. Twelve of his 14 offshore companies were incorporated just months before his agreement with Petrobras. According to the attorney general’s report, in May 2011, de Oliveira wired $10 million to a Swiss bank account held by João Augusto Rezende Henriques, a lobbyist for Brazilian party PMDB, through Acona International Investments Limited, a Seychelles company also registered by Mossack Fonseca in 2010. Over the next several weeks, the report said, Rezende Henriques wired $1.5 million to a Swiss bank account controlled by Eduardo Cunha. De Oliveira is currently under indictment for alleged corruption.

8: Carlos Gutiérrez Robayo, former brother-in-law of Bogota’s mayor

Carlos Gutiérrez Robayo is a business executive related by marriage to the former mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro. From 2007 to 2014, Gutiérrez Robayo created a network of 12 offshore companies and three foundations in Panama and the British Virgin Islands handled by his firm Trenaco Colombia.

According to Colombian media, Gutiérrez Robayo has allegedly benefited from business contracts through that relationship. In June 2014, Colombian authorities opened an investigation into contracts awarded for the extension of Bogota’s TransMilenio mass transit system, but the investigation resulted in no charges. Gutiérrez Robayo and Petro both have denied any impropriety. Gutiérrez has said he has committed no offense and has not been investigated in Colombia or anywhere else. He said he has never had business dealing with his brother-in-law and noted that holding companies in another jurisdiction is not illegal.

Most of the companies released by the ICIJ are registered in the British Virgin Islands and The Bahamas in the Caribbean and Panama in Central America. The BVI has the most offshore entities of any globally.

Other Caribbean nations without off shore registration according to the list are Anguilla, Aruba, Belize, Bermuda, St. Lucia and the Cayman Islands.

The Panama Papers have shown how some wealthy people use offshore firms to evade tax and avoid sanctions. The papers belonged to Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca and were leaked by a source simply known as “John Doe.” The company denies any wrongdoing. Last week it issued a “cease and desist” order to prevent the database being made public but the organization went ahead.

 

 

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