..as it moves to force tax haven territories to reveal secret owners
Two years after the International Coalition of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released Panama Papers, a catalogue of details from investigations into the ghost world of tax havens; the UK government announced it will force its overseas territories to have public ownership registers.
What this means is that offshore British territories such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Cayman Islands, where world oligarchs and criminal bosses love to stash away cash using paper companies will be forced to publish the owners of these companies.
Per fallouts from the ICIJ’s Panama and Paradise Papers, Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, will soon be officially published as one of ghostly big boys with money stashed away abroad where it cannot be taxed.
Already, Mr. Ofori-Atta is known to be behind at least two companies in tax havens whose wealth has been described in British power corridors as “dirty money.” Bermuda based Songhai Financial Holdings Ltd, emerged in November 2017.
It was reportedly a subsidiary of Ken Ofori-Atta’s Data Bank, based in Ghana, and had former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as onetime Director.
Earlier this year, it emerged again that the Ghana Finance Minister, and his longtime business partner, Keli Gadzekpo, are also shareholders in Frontier Alliance Limited (FAL) which is based Panama.
FAL’s address is listed as, International Management & Trust, Penthouse Suite 10, Elvira Mendez Street, Panama RT BVI. It was incorporated on 21st November, 2000.
Its main service provider is the Commonwealth Trust Limited, while International Management & Trust (IM&T) is listed as its intermediary. IM&T is connected to 197 other offshore companies based in tax havens around the world.
UK Conservative MP, Andrew Mitchell, justifies the government’s intent to have its over seas territories reveal the ghostly figures behind companies in its tax haven territories: “It is only by openness and scrutiny, by allowing charities, NGOs and the media to join up the dots, that we can expose this dirty money and those people standing behind it. Closed registers do not begin to allow us to do that.”
The UK’s BVI, according to the ICIJ, is the most popular tax haven in the world with over 100,000 companies avoiding tax from various parts of the world huddled there. The BVI is followed by Panama which hosts a little over 40,000 companies, including Ken Ofori-Atta’s FAL.
The Bahamas, Seychelles, Niue, Samoa, British Anguila, Nevada, Hong Kong and the UK itself follow in descending order on the list of the most popular tax havens in the world, according to the ICIJ.
These havens are usually viewed with suspicion, because even though being a tax haven is not illegal, it is well known that by their legal regimes they tend to accommodate dirty money from around the world.
Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, is a man widely perceived as a shrewd operator. He is currently under investigations in the US over a shady sale of $2.25billion worth of state bonds to US juggernaut, Franklin Templeton.
Ofori-Atta’s business partner, Trevor G. Trefgarne is a director of Templeton.
The Finance Minister is suspected to have many offshore companies in tax havens which he has not declared as part of his assets, even though it is required of him under Ghanaian laws, to declare his assets as a Minister.
Recently the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) highlighted Mr. Ofori-Atta’s refusal to abide by the legal requirements to declare all his assets. In response, Ofori-Atta sued CHRAJ on supposed grounds that CHRAJ had no business asking him to declare his assets.
But as the UK moves to get people behind companies in its offshore tax havens exposed, Mr. Ofori-Atta is expected to come up again.
Any further revelation that the Finance Minister owns companies in offshore tax havens would thicken the cheese around him and put into even more perspective the shrewdness of his character.