by Simon Bowers

Finance Uncovered in October 2021 revealed a series of secret offshore entities set up for the family of Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta. The investigation was part of a global collaboration, organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in which more than 600 journalists sifted through a leak of almost 12 million files, known as the Pandora Papers.

The documents came from 14 law firms and incorporation agents that specialise in creating secrecy companies in places such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama and the Seychelles. 

Below we publish redacted copies of a small number of Pandora Papers documents, as well as other important evidence, which together helped form the basis of reporting by Finance Uncovered, Africa Uncensored, the ICIJ and many other media outlets.

Varies Foundation

The first is a copy (unsigned) of regulations for Varies Foundation, a Panamanian entity set up in 2003 for the benefit of Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the president’s now 88 year old mother. On her death, the document explains, the assets were to pass to her son Uhuru Kenyatta:

Paperwork for Varies Foundation, filed with the Panamanian company registry, looks quite different. There is no mention of the Kenyattas at all. Instead, all of the foundation’s officers are actually employees of specialist offshore law firm Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee — or Alcogal, for short:

Criselle Foundation

Less than a month before Varies was formed, another Panamanian foundation was set up, this time for the benefit of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s younger brother, Muhoho Kenyatta. It was called Criselle Foundation. On his death, the assets were to pass to his infant son Jomo:

As with Varies, publicly accessible paperwork for Criselle Foundation made no mention of the Kenyattas. Rather, it gives the names of nominees — all of whom are Alcogal staffers — as the  foundations’s officers:

Milrun International Ltd

In 1999, a company called Milrun International Ltd was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, with Mama Ngina as a minority shareholder and the remaining shares split between two of her daughters. But the company’s register of members shows that this later changed. First, all three Kenyatta women transferred shares to a Panamanian entity called Valberg Foundation. Then, Valberg, in turn, switched half of its shares to yet another Panamanian entity called Maclay Foundation:

Though the three Kenyatta woman no were no longer the immediate shareholders in Milrun after transferring their shares to Valberg Foundation, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sisters Christine and Anna still remained in ultimate control of of the company, as the following Alcogal documents show:

In total, Finance Uncovered’s investigations found 11 offshore entities linked to the Kenyattas. What assets most of them held, if any, is a mystery. But one asset our investigations were able to identify was an apartment in London, bought by Milrun in 2000 for £280,000. Today it has an estimated value of close to £1 million. Below is a redacted version of a document obtained from the UK Land Registry. It shows Milrun as the owner of the London apartment:

The biggest asset that Pandora Papers reporters were able to say was owned by one of the Kenyatta family through an offshore company was a portfolio of stocks and shares that were valued at $31.6 million in 2016. The paperwork for BVI company Hawkings International Limited gives the details:

Before publishing its investigation, Finance Uncovered repeatedly asked the Kenyattas why they had set up complex corporate structures in some of the world’s top secrecy havens, how much money they had taken offshore and where that money came from. We also asked whether they still used the entities and if so what assets they currently contain. 

No-one acknowledged or responded to our letters, emails, phone calls and texts. 

Only after our findings were published did President Kenyatta issue a statement. In it, he insisted that he welcomed the Pandora Papers investigation into his family’s activities using offshore companies. 

He said: “These reports will go a long way in enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe. The movement of illicit funds, proceeds of crime and corruption thrive in an environment of secrecy and darkness.”

He added: “Follow up audits will lift that veil of secrecy and darkness for those who can not explain their assets or wealth.”

*Graphic by Clement Kumalija

*Editing by Ted Jeory and Nick Mathiason

Posted by Simon Bowers

Simon Bowers Investigations Editor at Finance Uncovered. He joined in November 2020 after four years as European Co-Ordinator at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Before that he spent 19 years at The Guardian in the UK, where he was a senior reporter working on tax and financial investigations. Simon’s reporting has featured in some of the world's most prestigious news media. He has also given a TEDx talk on a collaborative investigation into Nike’s pan-European tax avoidance activities. He has been part of collaborative reporting teams that have won several awards, including three George Polk awards for Financial Journalism (Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, LuxLeaks) and a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting (Panama Papers).