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International investigation into secret offshore accounts names Presidents of Kenya, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon

Tax losses and illicit financial flows are growing a decade after a high-level African Union report calculated they were costing the continent over $60 billion a year

The leak of documents known as the Pandora Papers and published on 3 October showed that 35 current and former heads of state, three in Africa, along with over 330 public officials are affiliated with companies that use offshore tax havens. It comes as national treasuries around the world face a revenue crunch as they chart recoveries after the first phase of the pandemic.

The Pandora Papers, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, gathered almost three terabytes of data on secret accounts in 38 jurisdictions including British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong and Belize as well as trusts set up in South Dakota and Florida in the United States.

These reports of politicians' and state officials' financial arrangements aimed at avoiding, if not evading, the demands of their countries' revenue services come midway through the season of global summits: the UN General Assembly, the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the G20 in Italy, and the UN Climate talks COP26 in Scotland.

The common messages of those meetings are of widening inequities between developed and developing economies, worsened by the pandemic and climate change. Reports of widespread collusion by officials across the world with tax haven schemes, especially in the US and territories linked Britain (both governments pledged to cut illicit financial flows) will reinforce concerns about the weaknesses of international financial regulation.

In May, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development launched its Tax Transparency in Africa programme which 34 member states of the African Union have joined. The programme aims to expand the Exchange of Information accords on tax between African and other states. Nigeria, Ghana, Mauritius, and South Africa have signed up, with Kenya and Morocco due to next year.

African heads of states named in the Pandora Papers include Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta, Congo-Brazzaville's Dénis Sassou-Nguesso and Gabon's Ali Ben Bongo. It also includes Uganda's security minister, a former prime minister of Mozambique, a senior official in Zimbabwe's ruling party and nine officials in Nigeria including a former state governor.



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