While it is not illegal for individuals or companies to own offshore bank accounts, experts say these accounts are often used by the rich all over the world as havens where they can keep their money and circumvent tax liabilities in their home countries.
According to the latest Panama Papers-related documents published online yesterday, at least three offshore entities, 53 individuals and companies, three intermediaries, and 38 addresses in Tanzania are linked to an unspecified amount of cash hidden abroad in these accounts.
Renowned local business tycoons Rostam Aziz and Yusuf Manji are among those named among the individuals with significant amounts of cash concealed in the so-called tax havens.
When reached for comment by The Guardian yesterday, Rostam - a former member of parliament - said there was nothing wrong with owning an offshore bank account.
"I have been retired from politics for the past seven years or so, and I have decided to focus on international business. Therefore, it’s perfectly legal to have offshore SPVs (special purpose vehicles) to invest in the various countries we invest in, and in some cases it’s a requirement by bankers," he said.
"I am engaged in legitimate businesses and it is my duty to conduct them in a manner that is both legal and that will benefit my shareholders the most," the ex-politician added.
A special purpose vehicle (SPV) is a legal entity created to fulfill a specific, and often temporary, objective. An SPV is typically used to isolate an individual or corporate investor from risk. It can be owned by one or more individuals or companies.
Also named in the new Panama Papers list is the incumbent Morogoro Urban member of parliament on a ruling CCM party ticket, Abdulaziz Mohamed Abood, who however denied owning any offshore bank account when contacted by The Guardian.
"That anonymous information leaked over the Internet lacks credibility. If the information was true, those behind it would have come forward and identified themselves," Abood stated.
Efforts to get in touch with other prominent local individuals and companies named in the list had not borne fruit by the time we went to press last night.
They include Eric Pasanisi, a French national who owns a major tourist hunting business in the country; and Kasbian Nuriel Chirich, Tanzania's honorary consul in Israel.
Other listed individuals with local addresses include Narendra Vaghjibhai Patel, Konsel James Wambura, B.A. Kotecha, Stuart Hugh MacDonald, Rameshchandra C. Somani, Suril V. Shah and Kalpesh Menhta.
Also Nicholas Charles Wilson, Hasnain Ahmed Hassanali, Mohamedraza Ahmed Hassanali, Ahmedirfan Mohamedraza Hassanali, Nawshad Ahmed Hassanali, Jorge Maritino, Eduardo Martino, Jacek Monlnik Rogoyski, Talal Mohamed Abood and Abbas Mohammed Jessa.
Others are Zuzana Kovacicova, Sajjad Mohamedhussein Virani, Roberta Thomaz de Matto Brisolla, Seydou Kane, Sun Mining Limited, R.D. Kotecha, Sukaina Manji, Rosmina Kanani, Daniel Littman, Aarti Puri, Andre Schmid, Rameshchandra Chotalal Somani and Mehbub Yusufali Manji.
The term ‘tax haven’ is also used to describe a country that offers foreign individuals and businesses little or no tax liability. Tax havens also provide little or no financial information to foreign tax authorities.
This means that neither the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) nor the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) would be able to gain access to information about the wealth stashed away in tax havens by Tanzanian individuals or Tanzanian-registered companies.
Contacted for comment, BoT governor Prof Benno Ndulu told The Guardian that he was in the Rwandan capital Kigali to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, and that he had not yet seen the Panama Papers dossier.
“I will be in a very good position to comment on the matter when I see the list for myself because right now I am totally unaware of anything like that,” he said briefly.
On his part, when asked about the implications of the latest Panama Papers leaks on the government's tax regime, TRA spokesperson Richard Kayombo referred The Guardian's questions on to the central bank, saying it was the competent authority on the regulation of the banking sector in the country.
Efforts to get further comment on the matter from other relevant government officials were futile as their phones went unanswered for the better part of yesterday.
The latest Panama Papers revelations came on the back of reports that more than 300 leading economists from 30 countries warned in a letter to world leaders on Monday that there is no economic justification for allowing tax havens to continue.
The letter, which urged the world leaders to bring an end to offshore financial secrecy, came ahead of a UK government summit on offshore corruption to be held in London tomorrow, which politicians from 40 countries as well as World Bank and IMF representatives are expected to attend.
WHAT PANAMA PAPERS HAVE REVEALED SO FAR
The documents show the myriad of ways in which rich people all over the world can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes to hide their wealth.
Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world who have been implicated by the papers so far. They include Russian president Vladimir Putin and British prime minister David Cameron.
Also exposed are Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.