The massive leak of confidential banking documents known as the Panama Papers has implicated some big names in Africa. The documents, described as the biggest data leak in history show how 143 politicians, including 12 national leaders, have used offshore tax havens and other means to avoid taxes and sanctions.
Some of the Africans mentioned in the documents include a nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, the twin sister of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, the jailed former governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State, and the petroleum minister of Angola, Africa’s second-biggest oil producer behind Nigeria.
Stanley Achonu is operations manager for Budgit, a civic organization that works to simplify the Nigerian federal budget for ordinary Nigerians. He said while the use of offshore facilities is not in itself a crime, the leak confirms what Africans have known all along about some of their leaders, that they use these offshore bank accounts to conceal stolen public funds.
“This is not new. The revelation is things that we have always known. But it now makes sense to have a paper trail backing up things that we have heard in the past,” he said.
James Ibori, governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences. Ibori admitted using his position as governor to corruptly obtain and divert up to $75 million out of Nigeria through a network of offshore companies, although authorities alleged that the total amount he embezzled may have exceeded $250 million. Ibori received a 13-year prison sentence.
Achonu said the leaked data will bolster President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to recover stolen public funds.
“This confirms all he has said in recent months about how huge sums of money was stolen by both elected and appointed officials. I believe that this revelation will further provide evidence for the anti-corruption fight,” Achonu said.
The leaked Panama papers also named the nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma’s nephew -- Khulubuse Zuma -- was listed as a representative of Caprikat Limited—one of two offshore companies that allegedly acquired oilfields in Democratic Republic of Congo in a $6.8 million deal in 2010. Caprikat is registered in the British Virgin Islands, the main offshore tax haven involved in the Panama Papers.
Khulubuse Zuma’s spokesperson Vuyo Mkhize said Monday that “Khulubuse does not, and has never held any offshore bank account” and that the Panama Papers simply suggested he was associated with Caprikat, which was a matter of public record.
The revelation could not have come at a worse time for President Jacob Zuma as South Africa's parliament is scheduled to open a debate Tuesday on an opposition motion to impeach him for violating the constitution.
The Constitutional Court ruled last week that Zuma "failed to uphold, defend, and respect the constitution" by failing to pay back some of the public funds he used to make improvements on his private home.
Zuma said in a televised address to the nation last week that he "never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the constitution, which is the supreme law of the republic." Achonu said it’s about time South Africans make a decision about what to do about their president.
“For me it’s not just about South Africa. It’s also about the larger role that South Africa plays in Africa, one of the biggest countries, only second to Nigeria. South Africa cannot afford to have a president who has been tainted on all sides with respect to scandals,” Achonu said.
The documents also mentioned Jaynet Désirée Kabila, twin sister of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. She has been a member of parliament since 2012. She is allegedly linked to Keratsu Holding Limited, a company incorporated in the Pacific island of Niue in June 2001, months before her brother was elected as president. Kyungu has yet to comment on the allegations.
Achonu said while the use of offshore facilities is not in itself a crime, the leak confirms what Africans have known all along about some of their leaders, that they use these offshore bank accounts to conceal stolen public funds.
“I wouldn't want to reduce the data being released to just tax evasion. Especially in Africa, it’s most likely a case of people who have stolen public funds which they cannot justify using their regular income based on the position they hold in government and are now trying to hid their assets and wealth through offshore companies,” he said.
Other Africans mentioned the alleged leaked date include Kenya’s deputy chief justice Kalpana Rawal and the widow of former Guinean President Lansana Conte, Mamadie Touré.
A Newsweek magazine article said U.S. authorities allege that Touré received $5.3 million in bribes to help a mining company obtain rights to the world’s richest iron ore deposit.
It said in 2014, U.S. authorities raided Touré’s Florida home, seizing properties, restaurant equipment and an ice cream cooler collectively worth more than $1 million.
The son of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is also mentioned in the alleged leaked Panama papers.
According to Newsweek, the Swiss company Cotecna hired Kojo Annan in 1995 for work in Nigeria. By early 1998, he had quit to become a consultant to Cotecna. Months later, the United Nations awarded the firm a contract as part of Oil-for-Food humanitarian program in Iraq, prompting allegations of impropriety. An independent panel investigated the program, including Kojo Annan, and issued a report in 2005 that found no evidence that he tried to influence or to use family connections to benefit from the program.
Alaa Mubarak, the son of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is also mentioned in the papers as well as Ian Stuart Kirby, president of the Court of Appeal in Botswana, and former Zambian Ambassador to the United States, Attan Shansonga.