A new report by online publication, Premium Times on the leaked Paradise Papers has revealed a lot about how and where Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote keeps his money.
As expected, Dangote has several shell companies with which he protects his money offshore and carries out transactions. In 2016, documents from the leaked from internal data of Panama-based offshore provider, Mossack Fonseca, had, linked him. alongside his half-brother Sayyu Dantata, to at least 13 shell companies in Seychelles, a rising offshore tax haven.
Last week, a new set of documents about offshore tax havens were leaked from the database of an international law firm, Appleby. The 1.9 terra byte data vault named Paradise Papers was obtained by German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ in turn shared the data with more than 380 journalists from 96 media organisations in 67 countries.
Information from the new leaks indicate that Dangote is keeping up to $5.8 billion dollars through a shell company in Cayman Islands while he has invested over $50 million in an investment company operating in Mauritious
According to Premium Times, the leaked database of global offshore law firm, Appleby, show that Greenview is a classic shell company, originally incorporated by Mr Dangote in Panama in 1994.
Documents show that a certain Vernon Emmanuel (who doubles as the president of the company), Delio Mela and LiliaTovar De Leon were appointed nominee directors when the company was first incorporated on July 16, 1994. Nominee directors are residents of a tax haven paid to hide identities of real owners of offshore companies.
The three directors resigned from the company on August 24, 2015 the same day Mr Dangote was named sole director and shareholder of the company.
On June 30, 2015, two months before they resigned, the nominee directors, held a stakeholders meeting and agreed to transfer the jurisdiction of the company from Panama to the Cayman Island.
“The president of the company the company declared, in addition, that the purpose of the meeting was to consider and approve the continua of the company under the jurisdiction of the Cayman Islands,” the minutes of the meeting states.
The reason for transferring the jurisdiction of the company from one offshore jurisdiction to another was not stated in the minutes but an analysis of the company’s 2013 financial statement provides some explanation.
According to a summary of Greenview’s 2013 financial statement signed by Mr. Dangote, the chief finance officer of Dangote Industries Limited, Mustapha Ibrahim, and the chief operating officer, Olakunle Alake, the total equity held by Mr Dangote in the company as at January 2012 was $3 billion. But by December 2013 the value of the company has almost doubled to $5.8 billion.
As his offshore equity grew astronomically, Mr. Dangote probably decided to move his assets to the Cayman Islands. Why he chose that Island to warehouse his assets remained unclear. But experts suggest Cayman Islands is a more liberal tax jurisdiction than most other notorious tax havens.
Experts consider the Islands as the big masquerade of offshore jurisdictions. While Panama is generally seen as a mid-market jurisdiction, banks and investment advisors in Cayman Islands focus on some of the largest trusts and high-dollar private wealth management.
Another incentive luring wealthy business people like Mr. Dangote to Cayman Islands is the exempted status granted offshore companies in the country. Under the country’s Companies Law, companies are either incorporated as an exempted company or ordinary company. Greenview is registered in Cayman Islands as an exempted company with number 302375 on July 27, 2015.
As an exempted company, Greenview is not required to have nominee directors. It is not required to file details of its shareholders, not required to hold annual meeting of its shareholders and is entitled to a tax exemption undertaking that protects it from any future review of the tax law for up to an initial 20 years, which could be extended to 30 years on special application.
Its exempted status also allows Mr Dangote’s company to easily move his equity in the company from Cayman Islands to another jurisdiction that allows the transfer of company incorporated outside it.
Furthermore, Mr Dangote, who has been criticized for exploring loopholes in the pioneer status tax waiver granted his cement company to pay as little tax as possible in Nigeria, will not have to worry about the taxman breathing down his neck. Cayman Island has zero corporation tax. It does not require offshore companies to pay income tax, capital gain tax, inheritance tax, gift tax and wealth tax.
Documents obtained in the Appleby database showed that Mr Dangote also invested $50 million in a Mauritius-incorporated private equity fund, Carlyle Sub-Saharan Fund Limited through Dangote Industries Limited.
The fund, which holds a Mauritius Global Business Company 1 (GBC1) licence, in its confidential placement memorandum dated December 28, 2011 seeking $500 million investments, explained that the fund was needed for “expansion capital investments throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.”
The promoters of the fund said the Class “A” ordinary shares it was offering was only available to “sophisticated investors”.
A Class A ordinary share is usually given to a company’s management team and is accompanied with voting powers than a Class B share. This type of share helps keep the control of the company in the hands of senior management executives.
“Founded in 2011 and headed by an experienced team of Africans, Carlyle’s Sub-Saharan Africa investment advisory team, based in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria, is one of the most experienced private equity teams on the African continent with over 50 years of combined private equity experience as well as extensive experience in M&A, project finance, consulting and operations, including 30 years in Sub-Saharan Africa,” the company says of itself.
The minimum investment commitment allowed in the five-year fund was $5 million with a promise of targeted gross return of 25 percent.
Some of the documents obtained showed that Mr. Dangote has the highest shares in the fund with 10,919,444 Class A ordinary shares. Some other investors in the fund are the African Development Banks with $50 million and with 5,789,877 Class A shares, Old Mutual Life Assurance (South Africa) with $27.5m, Africa Reinsurance Corporation (Cameroun) with $5m and Sugar Industry Pension Fund – $2m.
As a GBC1 business the fund is only required to pay just three percent in tax. But with the Double Taxation Treaties (DTT) that Mauritius signed with about 43 countries, investors in the fund even pay less taxes.
DTTs are signed between two governments to prevent income of businesses from getting taxed twice and to prevent double non-taxation, but offshore companies exploit loopholes in them to siphon significant portions of their profits to tax havens where they pay little or zero tax. Low-tax countries like Mauritius deliberately sign DTTs with several countries which allow multinationals to engage in treaty –shopping
Mauritius is on the European Union and Oxfam blacklists of world’s worst tax haven. However, in a response to questions from ICIJ, the government of Mauritius argued that the classification of the Indian ocean country as a tax haven was “unfair and based on incomplete information.”