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Imperial Bank owners linked to shell firms in overseas tax havens

NAIROBI
By Moses Michira | May 11th 2016
Anglo Leasing scandal suspects Deepak Kamani (right), his Brother Rashmi Kamani at Milimani Law Courts during the hearing of their case on 9/3/2016. PHOTO: FILE

Collapsed Imperial Bank owners and Anglo Leasing scandal suspects are among Kenyans with secret shell companies in overseas tax havens.

Aly Popat, managing director of Imaran Group – Imperial Bank's largest shareholder, is among the 191 Kenyans linked to 26 shell firms.

Separately, Anglo Leasing scandal suspect Rashmi Kamani is mentioned alongside Alka Somaia, the wife of convicted international fraudster Ketan Somaia of the Goldenberg heist. 

Former National Oil Corporation Managing Director Mwendia Nyaga and flamboyant businessman James Gitau Singh are also on the list of the wealthy Kenyans dominated by members of the Asian community.

There is no suggestion of wrong doing on the part of the Kenyans with accounts in the tax havens. But these facilities have also been used by powerful politicians and beneficiaries of big time corruption and illegal trade in other countries.

Information leakage

Names of individuals and companies released late Monday are part of the massive information leakage that has been published by the International Centre for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

ICIJ said some of the entities mentioned may actually be doing legitimate business. "There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities ... have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly," ICIJ said in its disclaimer.

Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is the biggest casualty of the Panama Papers yet, after he was pushed out last month amid soaring public outrage. Mr Gunnlaugsson and his wife still own an offshore investment company that is claiming billions of Iceland's failed commercial banks.

In Kenya, Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal was forced to fight off links with 11 offshore companies that she said only members of her family were involved in their daily running. But the association of the Panama Papers with Imperial Bank is perhaps the biggest surprise, considering the rot that has been unearthed by detectives.

Soon after the bank collapsed, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge described the theft of depositors' money as "a scandal of our lifetime". 

At least Sh38 billion was stolen from the bank, even though its chairman Alnashir Popat claimed innocence and even broke down in tears when explaining the theft to distressed depositors. Aly, a member of the immensely wealthy Popat family, is reported to be a shareholder in ImCap International limited – a secret company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by law firm Mossack Fonseca.

He owns the firm jointly with Munira Popat, another family member, but it is not easy to tell what kind of business the firm is involved in given the secrecy surrounding such companies.

The Popats could easily be the wealthiest family in Kenya with interests in Simba Colt Motors, Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel and 20th Century plaza in Central Nairobi. Rashmi Kamani, his father Chamanlal and brother Deepak are charged with fraud involving a Sh4 billion-worth security tender contract.

He was able to draw over Sh2 billion (15 million British Pounds) and is now facing five counts of fraudulently obtaining the money in the pretext of being able to provide modern security equipment for the police.

Police security

The Kamanis, who would cause the biggest stain on the Mwai Kibaki administration, are accused of engaging in an economic crime by engaging in a scheme to defraud the Government 40 million Euros (Sh4 billion) through a contract for modernisation of police security equipment and accessories project. And in the Panama Papers, Rashmi is linked to an Ecuadorian firm North West Properties Holdings Limited – a firm also registered in the BVI.

There is no record on the business of Rashmi's firm.

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