NEW YORK (IDN | GIN) – Africa’s most talked-about and admired billionaires are among the dozens of world leaders named in the so-called Panama Papers – a huge trove of records listing tax dodgers and other misdeeds leaked to a media outlet in Germany, analyzed in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and published in papers around the world this month.
The massive leak of confidential documents from the Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca has even pointed a finger at Africa’s richest man whose net worth is said to exceed $17 billion. Aliko Dangote, founder and chairman of Dangote Group, is listed together with his relatives in the continuing Panama papers leak.
According to the newly-released documents, Dangote, his half-brother, Sayyu Dantata, as well as his business allies have over the years used shell companies domiciled in controversial tax havens in their business transactions, the Nigerian Bulletin reported.
While the leak does not say if the shell companies associated with Dangote and associates were used for illegal dealing, they have raised questions if the prominent businessman and industrialist has been paying his fair share of tax in Nigeria.
In statement sent to Nigerian newsrooms, the richest man in Africa denied having any dealings with Mossack Fonseca. A spokesman for the Dangote Group released the following: “I wish to state categorically that neither Aliko Dangote nor Dangote Industries Ltd. has any form of relationship with these alleged four offshore companies.”
“The group has four quoted companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and we cannot afford to tarnish our reputation or conduct our business in an unethical manner given this profile.”
Companies linked to the tycoon in the leaked documents include Paseo Trading Limited, Seychelles; Petrowest S.A., Seychelles; SID Holdings Corp, Panama; and Chalmers Shipping Inc, Panama.
Despite issuing a denial, the appearance of impropriety is likely to raise questions for Dangote, whose group in currently engaged in multi-billion dollar projects across Africa with partners such as U.S.-based private equity firm Blackstone and the Chinese government.
Also listed in the released records are several other prominent Nigerians including Folorunsho Coker, business adviser to the governor of Lagos; former Nigerian Ports Authority director Mallam Bello Gwandu; Theiphilus Danjuma, a retired army general and former defense minister, and James Ibori, the jailed former governor of the oil-rich Delta state.
Ibori, in a London court in 2012 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences, using his position as governor to corruptly obtain and divert up to $75 million out of Nigeria through a network of offshore companies. Authorities believe the total amount embezzled may exceed $250 million. Ibori received a 13-year prison sentence.
“The Panama Papers lifts the lid on how offshore companies are used by the global elite to conceal the ownership and control of assets and property worth billions,” wrote the Lusaka Times of Zambia in a recent editorial.
“This is a most excellent illustration of journalism at its best, doing what it is intended to do by holding those in power to account,” said Luckson Chipare, chair of the Media Institute of Southern Africa. “It is thanks to investigative reporters, whistleblowers and unprecedented international media collaboration that the matter is now in the public domain”.
The Nerve Africa Online newspaper has published altogether 18 African names that were found in Panama papers including Attan Shansonga, who served as Zambia’s Ambassador to the United States between 2000 and 2002.
While some of those named were international investors in African resources, a surprising number of Africans were also mentioned including 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.
The sons of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor were also mentioned. John Addo Kufuor, the eldest son of the former president had a $75,000 bank account using an offshore company as cover according to the documents. An official investigation in Ghana was unable to find evidence of wrongdoing. [IDN | INPS – 13 April 2016]
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