Saturday , April 13 2024

Panama Papers: Sons of Annan, Kufuor used offshore accounts to hide wealth

The sons of Ghana’s former President John Agyekum Kufuor and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have been indicted in the huge leak of confidential documents that has revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.

Eleven million documents were leaked from one of the world’s most secretive companies, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

They show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.

The documents show links to 72 current or former heads of state in the data, including John Addo Kufuor, the eldest son of former President Kufuor, whose offshore company according to the documents allegedly controlled a $75,000 bank account for Kufour and the former first lady Theresa Kufuor.

Mr. Addo Kufuor, a trained accountant, has worked in the hotel industry. Throughout 2005, local media in Ghana reported allegations that he gained lucrative government contracts and private sector business deals through paternal connections.

An official commission later found no evidence of wrongdoing.

According to the huge leaks from the Panamanian law firm, “in early 2001, shortly after the start of his father’s first presidential term, Kufuor appointed Mossack Fonseca to manage The Excel 2000 Trust.

“Later that year, it controlled a bank account in Panama worth $75,000. His mother – Theresa Kufuor, then-Ghana’s first lady – was also a beneficiary. In November 2010, an employee in Mossack Fonseca’s compliance office in the British Virgin Islands suggested to colleagues that “due to the apparent prevalence of corruption surrounding Mr. Kufour we would not recommend us taking him on as a client or continuing business with him.”

Mossack Fonseca, however, continued to do business with Kufuor as indicated in the papers.

In 2012, Mr. Kufuor asked Mossack Fonseca to close the trust. Files also connected Kufuor with BVI companies Fordiant Ltd and Stamford International Investments Group Limited. Both were registered when Kufuor’s father was president of Ghana and became inactive in 2004 and 2007.

According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which published the story, Kufuor did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Kojo Annan
In the case of Kojo Annan who is the only son of former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, who served from 1997 to 2006, he used an offshore company to buy a $500,000 London apartment, according to Mossack Fonseca data.

The files states that 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 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.

Annan and Cotecna have consistently denied allegations of wrongdoing.

The files added that Annan was sole director of the Samoan company Sapphire Holding Ltd, originally incorporated in Niue in 2003, which he had used to buy an apartment in central London.

The apartment was purchased in a transaction completed in 2003 for more than $500,000, according to U.K. records.

Sapphire Holding used unnamed shareholders until 2015 when Annan became a listed shareholder with a Ghana address.

Mossack Fonseca continued to communicate with Annan at the central London address, Argyll Mansions, into 2015. Annan was also a joint shareholder and director of two British Virgin Islands companies incorporated in 2002.

However, a lawyer for Annan responded that his companies “operate in accordance with the laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdictions and, insofar tax liabilities arise, they pay taxes in the jurisdictions in which taxes are due to be paid.

“In other words, any entity and account held by Mr. Annan has been opened solely for normal, legal purposes of managing family and business matters and has been fully disclosed in accordance with applicable laws.”

He also noted that an investigation found no evidence that Annan tried to influence anyone in the UN to award contracts to any company with which he was associated.



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