Former Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei has been named in the latest global exposé of politicians who have used offshore companies to shelter their wealth from public scrutiny.
The Paradise Papers — a trove of 13.4 million files taken mostly from the hundred-year old law firm Appleby — were first leaked to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the same German newspaper that got hold of the Panama Papers in April, last year.
The papers reveal the offshore financial dealings of some of the world’s biggest multinational companies and richest individuals, and disclose the various ways in which tax can be avoided using artificial structures.
Before she joined politics, Dr Kosgei was former President Daniel arap Moi’s Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet.
The papers show that Dr Kosgei owned a Mauritius company, Zonrisa Limited, which was previously registered in the Isle of Man under the name Aisha Limited.
She also owns the Murang’a-based Zena Roses Limited in Gatanga where she grows rose flowers for export and two other flower farms: Zena Asai Farm and Zena Sosiani near Eldoret town managed by her son Ahmed Nzibo.
Dr Kosgei is currently the Chancellor of Taita Taveta University.
Documents sent to Appleby law firm indicate that proceeds from this 70-hectare firm were used by Aisha Limited to purchase an apartment in central London near Harrods.
The cost of that apartment is put at $1 million (Sh100 million).
“Kosgei owned her offshore company on April 2001, when she began work as the Cabinet secretary in the Office of the President (and) the ownership continued throughout her tenure as one of Kenya’s most powerful politicians,” International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a US-based organisation that coordinated the research, said.
Dr Kosgei told ICIJ that she bought the flat with personal funds before becoming the head of Kenya’s public service at a time when she expected to spend time in the United Kingdom due to her children’s studies.
She is quoted saying that “there is no relation whatsoever” between the purchase and date of her work in the Office of the President.
She also told ICIJ that she acted on a lawyer’s advice and that it was not illegal for Kenyans to buy property through offshore companies and that she had “satisfied all obligations — legal, professional and ethical — as a public official in Kenya” and declared everything that is and was required.
The current data indicates that the offshore empire is bigger and more complicated than most people thought.
In UK, taxpayers were surprised that millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate are now invested in a Cayman Islands fund as part of an offshore portfolio that has never before been disclosed to them.
“Critics are likely to ask why the Queen had money in there in the first place, and the duchy may face awkward questions about whether there was enough oversight and management of the Queen’s “onward investments” to ensure they remained ethical,” the Guardian newspaper wrote.
Records from Appleby indicate that the Mauritius law firm had clients ranging from Queen Elizabeth II to hundreds of other billionaires.
The data leak that spans from the 1950s to 2016 will trigger debate on the level of transparency required for the offshore accounts, which though legal, raise various ethical issues.
Last year, the Panama papers exposed how a local law firm helped Peter Alfred Ndakwe to vanish with Sh1.9 billion of pyramid scheme money by setting up two offshore dummy companies.
Mr Ndakwe had sought the services of the Kenyan law firm to bunker his assets in Panama, a known haven for money launderers and tax dodgers, with the creation of two offshore front companies.