Who is Billy Rautenbach? SA tied to Pandora Papers by Zim tycoon

The Pandora Papers leak is the biggest journalism partnership in history, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – even larger than the 2016 Panama Papers investigation, which led to the fall of world leaders, police raids and financial law reforms.

According to ICIJ, the Pandora Papers investigation reveals the inner workings of a shadow economy that benefits the world’s wealthiest people – “at the expense of everyone else.” South African investigative journalism non-profit newsroom, AmaBhungane, zeroed in on Zimbabwean tycoon Billy Rautenbach’s offshore dealings, which were exposed by the leak.

PANDORA PAPERS

ICIJ said the millions of leaked documents uncovered the financial secrets of 35 current and former world leaders, including the King of Jordan, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, Russian president Vladimir Putin and the former Prime Minister of England Tony Blair.

More than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories are also exposed alongside a “global lineup of fugitives, con artists and murderers.”

Rautenbach, who is known as one of Zimbabwe’s richest men, is a Zanu-PF ally with controversial ties to the late Robert Mugabe, which eventually led to him being sanctioned by the United States and European Union (EU). He was also on the run from South Africa, between 1999 and 2009, after he fled the country after being slapped with corruption and customs tax fraud charges, according to AmaBhungane.

Those charges eventually went away after his company, S.A. Botswana Hauliers (SABOT) paid a fine of R40 million. Rautenbach, however, never admitted any personal liability and the charges against him were withdrawn after the settlement was paid in 2009.

AMABHUNGANE DIVE INTO RAUTENBACH’S OFFSHORE DEALINGS

According to AmaBhungane, Rautenbach and his family enlisted an Asian specialist firm – Asiaciti, from Singapore – to help create an offshore trust fund while he was still under sanctions from the US and EU.

The investigation revealed that despite all the smoke and mirrors, Rautenbach is ultimately in control of the family’s trust, which is now held in the Cook Islands. The move was begun when Rautenbach donated multi-million dollar financial investments in his coal and ethanol businesses to his wife – Jenny Lynn Rautenbach (nee Noon) – as part of a corporate restructuring that was supposedly meant to “compensate” Jenny for her role in building the family’s wealth.

AmaBhungane said the process, which begun in 2013, would lead to the establishment of “a complex offshore family trust meant to preserve and grow the family’s assets for generations to come.”

With the help of Asiaciti and others, Jenny-Lynn was the settlor – the person who transferred assets into the fund – of the family trust. The main assets of the fund were intercompany loans – at penalty interest rates – repayable to Rautenbach’s businesses in Zimbabwe.

AmaBhungane said Jenny-Lynn was described as a very passive investor who did not even have direct profit entitlement or any investment say by an administrator in an email.

When the move was started, in 2013, Rautenbach was still under sanctions from the US and the donations to Jenny-Lynn distanced him from the matter. Asiaciti administrators reportedly identified Rautenbach as the “effective controller” from the onset because of the donation to Jenny-Lynn.

The European Union and the United Kingdom removed Rautenbach from their sanctions list in February 2012, while the United States and the Isle of Man removed him from theirs in April and July 2014, respectively.

AmaBhungane gathered all this from the more than 11.9 million documents leaked in the Pandora Papers. The information comes from the databases of 14 corporate service providers that manage offshore dealings around the world, including Asiaciti, where the details of Rautenbach’s marriage settlement and family trust fund originate.

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