A prestigious Panamanian law firm was named in the so-called ‘Pandora Papers’ as implicated in the creation of offshore shell companies meant to hide money in tax havens for more than 160 politicians and public figures.
They included “some accused of looting their countries,” according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which obtained the leaked documents as part of the Pandora Papers, published Sunday, which sent shockwaves of embarrassment through powerful circles.
Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee, or Alcogal, was involved in creating shell companies to move money for Jordanian King Abdullah II, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic and three former presidents from Panama, among others, according to the bombshell release.
Others involved with Alcogal — co-founded in the 1980s by the son of a former Panamanian ambassador to the United States who then became ambassador himself — include a Honduran presidential candidate and a former president of Ecuador.
The firm also worked with figures in some of the most notorious financial scandals of the last decade, including the massive Latin American bribery plot involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and the soccer corruption case known as “Fifagate,” according to the ICIJ.
In a report, the ICIJ enumerated the 14,000 offshore entities in Belize, the British Virgin Islands and Panama created with the help of Alcogal in an effort to stash money away from public scrutiny for some 15,000 clients since 1996.
So prolific was the law firm’s offshore involvement that nearly two million of the 11.9 million leaked documents associated with the Pandora Papers — which were reported on by some 600 journalists — came from Alcogal.
Magnet for rich and powerful
According to the ICIJ, Alcogol played “a leading role in the tax avoidance and asset protection industry.”
“Over the past three decades, Alcogal has become a magnet for the rich and powerful from Latin America and beyond seeking to hide wealth offshore,” the reporting group said, citing leaked corporate records.
“Firms like Alcogal propel that (shadowy) economy, helping well-heeled clients find havens to conceal their money, sometimes from tax collectors and criminal investigators. Ordinary people often pay the price,” the ICIJ report on the firm said.
For example, the ICIJ says Alcogal set up more than 200 shell companies for the Banca Privada d’Andorra, some of which were then used to conceal public corruption in Venezuela. The United States later blacklisted the bank over money laundering concerns and Alcogal disentangled itself from the bank.
The firm rejected accusations of shady dealings in a statement, saying it was considering legal action to defend its reputation “in a vigorous manner where necessary.”
“Alcogal rejects the conjecture, inaccuracies and falsehoods in the papers,” the firm said, offering to work with authorities to investigate any irregularities.
And several politicians named in the papers also pushed back, including former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli, who denied involvement in anything untoward.
The revelations from the Pandora Papers could further damage Panama’s reputation, after the Central American country’s image already took a hit in a previous round of financial scandal reporting known as the “Panama Papers” five years ago.
The government worried about fallout from the new release, according to a letter from officials released by local media.
“The damage could be insurmountable,” the Panamanian government said in the letter, sent through a law firm to the ICIJ.
The letter warned that “any publication” reinforcing “a false perception” of the country as a possible tax haven “will have devastating consequences for Panama and its people.”
The letter from the Panamanian government also references some of the reforms that the Central American country has made in recent years, although it remains on the EU list of tax havens.
The Panama of 2016 “is nothing like the Panama of today,” the government said in its letter.
Senegal Records First African Win at Qatar 2022 World Cup
Senegal have become the first African country to win a game in the ongoing World Cup after a 3-1 win over the host nation, Qatar, on Friday.
With Senegal’s win, the hope of the host nation appears to be hanging, as their qualification to the next round is becoming really slim.
Goals from Boulaye Dia, Famara Diedhiou and Bamba Dieng were enough to beat Qatar, who will be eliminated if Group A leaders, The Netherlands, avoid defeat to Ecuador later on Friday.
Unlawful Imprisonment: Kanu Sues NIA DG, Demands N20bn
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, has sued the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar, for imprisoning him (Kanu) in Kenya for eight days, before his extradition to Nigeria.
The special counsel to the IPOB leader, Alloy Ejimakor, disclosed this on Wednesday morning, via his Twitter handle, were he posted a pictures containing the suit filed, where he described Kanu’s detention in Kenya as “false imprisonment.”
Ejimakor said the suit was prompted by new evidence gathered implicating the DG beyond the “infamous extraordinary rendition.”
Ejimakor said, “Yesterday (Wednesday) I filed a suit against Ahmed Abubakar, the DG of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for his eight days ‘false imprisonment’ of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in discovered evidence that implicated the DG/NIA beyond the infamous extraordinary rendition.”
According to the suit, the court gave Abubakar 14 days to appear or be represented in court, adding that failure to show up would mean that judgment would be given in the DG’s absence.
The suit filed in the High Court of Abia State reads in part, “You are hereby commanded that within 14 days after the service of this Writ on you inclusive of the day of such service, you do cause an appearance to be entered for you in the Umuahia Judicial Division of the High Court in Abia State in an action at this suit of Mazi Nnnamdi Kanu….and take notice that in default of your so doing, the claimant may proceed therein and judgment may be given in your absence.
“The claimant’s claim is for (i) A declaration of this Honorable Court that the defendant’s arrest of the claimant and his imprisonment of the claimant at said location in Nairobi, Kenya amounted to false arrest and false imprisonment.
“(ii) A declaration that the defendant acted in bad faith and/or abused his public office in falsely imprisoning the claimant at the said location in Kenya. (iii) An order of this Honorable Court directing the defendant to pay the claimant the sum of N20,000,000,000.00 (Twenty Billion Naira only) being general and exemplary damages…”
This comes just few days after Kanu’s N20bn suit against the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami was thrown out by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The Story Behind Peter Obi’s Grounded Plane in Lagos
There was a mild drama at the Lagos airport on Wednesday when supporters of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party and some party chieftains were prevented from boarding a campaign plane for their rally in Ibadan, Oyo State capital.
The Deputy Director-General and Campaign Manager for LP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Oseloka Obaze, was the first to raise the alarm following a report that the plane had been grounded.
The former Nigerian diplomat took to his verified Twitter handle on Wednesday to tweet that the ‘Obi-dent aircraft’ was grounded by the ‘powers that be,’ citing “regulatory reasons.”
When contacted, the National Chairman of the party, Julius Abure, confirmed the report.
He said, “We have just finished our rally in Ibadan. It is true that the plane meant to convey our NWC and NEC members for campaign was grounded by the powers that be. But we were not deterred by the plane that was grounded.
“This is what we have been saying about this country. It is not the first time it is happening. They have been using every opportunity to ensure we don’t get to do anything in this country.”
Also, the Head of Media for Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation, Diran Onifade, released a statement to express the PCC’s displeasure at the turn of event.
However, in their response, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority denied the allegations and explained that the plane belonged to a scheduled operator.
It said, “The so-called grounded plane belongs to a scheduled operator i.e. normal commercial flight. The flight crew of the said aircraft returned to the base on their own to check on an issue that developed soon after it took off. This is the normal and right thing to do. What they did is what we termed safety precautionary flight measures. NCAA was not involved in this decision.”
Meanwhile, Obi promised citizens that he would not build on tribalism and religion if elected in 2023 and assured them of his plan to secure the country and unite its citizenry.