Friday July 01, 2022

More than law

October 08, 2021

The Pandora Papers come as Kenya is engaged in a discussion about wealth declaration laws prompted by the government’s public outing of the riches belonging to Kenyatta’s deputy, William Ruto – another politician linked to the massive looting enterprise that is the Kenyan government – after the two had a falling out. Kenyatta and his cronies have been trying to undercut Ruto’s bid to succeed him as president in next year’s elections by exposing the fallacy of Ruto’s cynical and populist attempt to paint himself as one with the common masses he is suspected of robbing.

Kenyan public officials and their immediate families are required by law to file wealth declaration forms every two years, but in a typically self-defeating move, the declarations are kept confidential with penalties of up to five years imprisonment for publishing or otherwise disseminating the information. It is thus unclear whether Kenyatta and other politicians have actually complied with the law and declared their hidden assets abroad.

The Pandora Papers also present an important opportunity to discuss the culpability of Western professionals, banks and jurisdictions in enabling the accumulation and camouflaging of illicit funds by public officials and their families. According to Tax Justice Network Africa, for every dollar of development aid that comes to the continent, $10 has left in the form of IFFs, tax evasion and avoidance as well as corruption. And much of this money ends up in Western economies – as the Kroll report and the Pandora Papers have demonstrated.

‘Tax havens play a facilitatory role in human rights abuse by providing an avenue for hiding and laundering money which has been … acquired under dubious circumstances’ such as corruption, writes Robert Mwanyumba of the East Africa Tax and Governance Network. And it is the countries that shout the loudest about corruption that run and benefit from these havens.

The British Virgin Islands, where the Kenyattas incorporated one of their shell companies, is part of what has been described as a ‘Spider’s Web’, which the Tax Justice Network calls ‘a network of British territories and dependencies [where the UK government has full powers to impose or veto lawmaking] that operates as a global web of tax havens laundering and shifting money into and out of the City of London’.

In fact, according to the Financial Secrecy index 2020, two-thirds of the top 12 most important financial secrecy jurisdictions are either in the US, Western Europe or British Overseas Territories. When treated as a single entity, the UK and its web rank at the very top of this index of abettors of theft and corruption.

The reporting by Kenyan media therefore does Kenya and Kenyans a great disservice.

Excerpted: ‘National media failing Kenyans on Pandora Papers’