By signing on April 28, 2021, with all the ministers, under the very attentive gaze of Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic, "The Government's charter of ethics", the solemn commitment of Patrick Jérôme Achi, head of government to put itself at the service of the Republic and the Ivorian people, has it been front? Hard to say. However, a survey carried out by a journalist from “ L'Eléphant Déchaîné“, With the support of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism (CENOZO), as part of the“ Pandora Papers ”project involving more than 600 journalists from 150 media in 117 countries and territories, by exploiting nearly 11.9 million confidential files from law firms and offshore service providers, discovered that the Prime Minister is the beneficial owner of the offshore company, Allstar Consultancy Services Limited. Our investigation ...
Patrick Achi and consultancy, a long-standing love story
Consultancy obviously seems to be Patrick Achi's favorite field. What justifies such an attachment to this profession? Certainly his university education. Indeed, this one graduated from a Master of science in management obtained at Stanford University in California and also an engineer from the Higher School of Electricity of Paris. In 1983, after his academic studies, he began his professional career in Paris, with Arthur Andersen, an international audit and consulting firm. In 1988, he was sent to Abidjan as technical director in the consulting division of the firm, office for West and Central Africa. In 1993, he created his own firm, Strategic and Management Consultant (SMC), where he was managing partner, founder and manager.
Patrick Achi, Ivorian Prime Minister
From 1995 to 1997, he worked as a consultant at the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, at the Directorate of Investments and Chairman of the Board of Directors of State companies: the National Regulatory Authority for the sector of the electricity (ANARE) and the Ivorian Electricity Operation Company (SOPIE). He was then appointed technical advisor to the Minister of Energy from 1997 to 1999. From 1999 to 2000, he was the government delegate in charge of the reform of the coffee-cocoa sector. Finally in 2000, he joined the Government as Minister of Economic Infrastructure. Despite his administrative, governmental and political functions, he kept a very close link with the consultancy. To the point of owning an International Business Company (IBC) under Bahamian law,
The secret society of Patrick Achi
Allstar Consultancy Services Limited was incorporated on December 1, 1998 with a share capital of US $ 50,000 or CFA 28,283,280. This international trading company registered under IBC number 83884 B and company number 20-00003655 is based in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Its main activity, as its name suggests, is consulting. To set up his offshore company, Patrick Achi turned to Richard Cook, founder and director of Cook Worldwide Limited (CWW), an offshore service provider.
And what seems to attract Patrick Achi to a tax haven, like the Bahamas, is certainly tax optimization. Indeed, by establishing his company in an extraterritorial jurisdiction, he avoids several tax burdens. And as a benefit, Allstar Consultancy Services Limited does not have to pay any taxes or income taxes. Having no tax or income tax to pay, it is not obliged to file its annual accounts. The other advantage consists in carrying out your activity in anonymity and confidentiality, keeping information confidential both on the company and its economic beneficiaries.
Patrick Achi uses a nominee
Despite the anonymity and confidentiality provided by Cook Worldwide Limited, Patrick Achi will still take extra precautions to hide any link with Allstar Consultancy Services Limited. What justifies such a precaution? Certainly because he is aware of his status as a Politically Exposed Person (PPE). To remain anonymous, he will therefore appoint Rendor Overseas SA, another offshore company, as a shareholder of his company and as first managers and nominees. Indeed, in a letter from Karen Brown of Cook Worldwide Limited dated March 27, 2006, addressed to Margaret Elliott of the independent consultancy company, CITAC Africa, we realize that Rendor Overseas SA
“ Dear Margaret, ALLSTAR CONSULTANCY SERVICES LIMITED, Company Number: 83 884 B, Date of Incorporation: 1 stDecember 1998, Headquarters: Winterbotham Place, Marlborough & Queen Streets, PO Box CB11343, Nassau, Bahamas; Directors: Mr. Andres Maximino Sanchez, Mrs. Moira Itzel Guevara Mc Alman, Secretary: Mr. Andres Maximino Sanchez; Shareholder: Rendor Overseas SA holds shares by virtue of a declaration of trust in favor of Mr. Patrick Jérôme Achi. We are pleased to attach the following documents relating to the aforementioned Bahamian company for your records: Original Certificate of Incorporation; Bound copy of Memorandum and Articles of Association; Original of share certificate and declaration of trust; Minutes of the subscribers appointing the first director and the secretary; Other company minutes; Copy of the stamped resolution confirming the transfer of the registered office / agent; Copy of the company register; Company seal. We note that the minutes of December 1, 1998 are not signed. Please arrange for Richard to sign it and return a signed copy to us to complete the file. We hope everything is to your satisfaction, however, if you have any questions regarding what is attached, please do not hesitate to contact me. Please accept, Madam, Sir, the expression of my distinguished feelings however, if you have any questions regarding what is attached, please do not hesitate to contact me. Please accept, Madam, Sir, the expression of my distinguished feelings however, if you have any questions regarding what is attached, please do not hesitate to contact me. Please accept, Madam, Sir, the expression of my distinguished feelings», He wrote in his mail.
But what is meant by a trust? The trust results from an act by which a person, the settlor, transfers his patrimony to another patrimony that he constitutes, property that he allocates for a particular purpose and that a trustee undertakes, by the fact of its acceptance, to hold and to administer. In another letter dated July 8, 2005 and addressed to Overseas Company Registration Agents Limited (OCRA), he expressed his desire to transfer the management and administration of his company to the law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Bahamas) Limited.
In this letter, he also confirms Rendor Overseas SA as the shareholder. "Gentlemen, Re: Allstar Consultancy Services Limited - Bahamas. We wish to transfer the management and administration of the aforementioned company to the Bahamas. Please designate Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Bahamas) Limited as the new registered office and resident agent of the aforementioned company. The contact details of the new agents are: Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Bahamas) Limited Winterbotham Place Marlborough & Queen Streets BP CB 11.343 Nassau, Bahamas. OCRA must resign from its appointed directors and secretary and appoint the following people in their place: Director / Secretary: Mr. Andres Maximino Sanchez Address Amelia Denis de Icaza Bda 9 de enero, Sector I, Casa 131; San Miguelito, Panama; Director: Mme Moira Itzel Guevara Mc Alman, Address: Villa Guadalupe, Calle M Casa 1619 Panama, Republic of Panama. OCRA are required to transfer the shares of their nominee shareholder to: Rendor Overseas SA 2nd Floor, Swiss Bank Building East 53rd Street, Marbella, Panama City, Republic of Panama. Please forward your company records to Richard Cook, Cook Worldwide Limited, 2nd Floor, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BD. If you have any questions regarding the transfer of the company, please contact Margaret Elliott at email@example.com. Thank you for your help in this matter. Please accept, Madam, Sir, the expression of my distinguished feelings Republic of Panama. Please forward your company records to Richard Cook, Cook Worldwide Limited, 2nd Floor, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BD. If you have any questions regarding the transfer of the company, please contact Margaret Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your help in this matter. Please accept, Madam, Sir, the expression of my distinguished feelings Republic of Panama. Please forward your company records to Richard Cook, Cook Worldwide Limited, 2nd Floor, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BD. If you have any questions regarding the transfer of the company, please contact Margaret Elliott at email@example.com. Thank you for your help in this matter. Please accept, Madam, Sir, the expression of my distinguished feelings», Writes Patrick Achi. In short, he prefers to stay in the shadows and use Rendor Overseas SA as a nominee.
Glover Park Group requested by Patrick Achi
While he was Secretary General of the Presidency, he will be in the process of concluding a consultation agreement between the Presidency of Côte d'Ivoire and Glover Park Group, an American company, in September 2020. Why the choice of this company by Patrick Achi and what role Allstar Consultancy Services Limited played in the conclusion of this contract? Difficult to provide an answer to these questions. But as remuneration for the advisory services requested by the Presidency, this institution paid Glover Park Group a total fee of 303,188 US dollars, or 170,983,860 CFA francs. But that's not all.
“ The Presidency will also pay GPG, upon receipt of invoices from GPG (i) for the costs of all approved production and research projects, these amounts being based on the budgets established for these projects, (ii) for the costs of all costs for the development, start-up and ongoing maintenance of approved websites, these amounts being based on budgets established for those projects, and (iii) for production development, and placement of paid advertisements, the standard commission GPG on media buying, which commission is 15% of gross media spending , ”the consulting agreement reads as an additional fee. As we can see, consultancy seems to be the preserve of the latter.
But behind his consulting activity, should we fear a risk of tax evasion?
Tax evasion costs Côte d'Ivoire dear
" According to Tax Justice Network, in a report published in November 2020, Côte d'Ivoire loses $ 237 million per year, which is heading towards tax havens, " said Julien Tingain, Head of the NGO Initiative for Justice Social, Transparency and Good Governance in Côte d'Ivoire (Social Justice). Commenting on the merits of the creation of an offshore company by state and political authorities, he explains:
" Even if the creation of a company in a tax haven is not illegal in Côte d'Ivoire, it still calls into question the ethical values and responsibilities of these public authorities towards the citizens of the country. because of what they represent for the country. A business created means jobs created, families lifted out of poverty and the country's economic growth. In addition to the ethical value, this situation could tarnish the political will of the government regarding development and poverty reduction advocated by the government. It is difficult to understand that in a country like Côte d'Ivoire where at least 43% of the population lives below the poverty line there could be senior officials who, for profit, ".
Still according to Julien Tingain, offshore companies constitute a potential risk for tax evasion and money laundering. “ Companies created in tax havens are under their jurisdiction. Consequently, these companies and their transactions escape the control of the home states of their owners. This constitutes an obstacle to the transparency of financial flows from these companies to partners or customers. The opacity surrounding business creation and investment in tax havens are huge risk factors for tax evasion and money laundering as information on owners is highly concealed and the origin of funds invested is most often difficult to trace », He explains. Faced with this problem, he denounces the confidential nature of the declaration of assets in Côte d'Ivoire. Before proposing: “ The consideration of beneficial owners and the publication of a register of beneficial ownership and declaration of assets can give more meaning to this law and contribute to more transparency . "
The disturbing silence of Patrick Achi
In order to get the reaction of the Prime Minister, the beneficial owner of the offshore company Allstar Consultancy Services Limited, we have taken several steps which have proved unsuccessful. On September 7, 2021, a message sent via WhatsApp to the latter went unanswered.
“ Hello Mr. Prime Minister, I am Noël Konan, Journalist at L'Éléphant Déchaîné. I take the liberty of writing to you in the context of an international investigation that we are conducting with American partners on questions of tax evasion. As part of this investigation, we discovered that you are the owner of an offshore Bahamian-based business called Allstar Consultancy Services Limited. For the sake of balance and verification of information, we would like to meet with you to get your version of the facts about the existence of this offshore company , ”we wrote to Patrick Achi. Faced with his silence, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists also sent a letter to him on September 13.
" Mister Prime Minister, The rules of our profession obliging us, we come by this letter, to seek your reaction within the framework of an international investigation which we lead, with American partners, on the questions of tax evasion and money laundering. We review numerous business relationships with the participation of various offshore jurisdictions, companies and individuals around the world. The survey is based on multiple sources of information, including documents from offshore companies and clients around the world, including you. Although there are legal uses for offshore companies, tax havens are of significant public interest due to the frequent use of these jurisdictions to engage in illicit activities.
Indeed, it appears from the documents that you, as a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), are the owner of an offshore company, called Allstar Consultancy Services Limited and based in the Bahamas. In order to enable you to react to this discovery, we have a number of concerns, summarized in the following questions, for you:
1) What is the activity of Allstar Consultancy Services Limited, created in December 1998?
2) When you created this company of which you are the owner, you were an advisor to the Minister of Energy. So did you declare to the team your interest in the offshore company during your political activity?
3) According to documents that we have consulted, you have chosen to hold your shares through a fiduciary system, at Rendor Overseas SA which held your shares under "declaration of Trust in favor of Mr Patrick Jérôme Achi". This structure meant that your name did not appear in official documents. Why did you choose to structure your offshore company so that your name is more hidden?
4) What are the links between the Strategic and Management Consultant (SMC) of which you are managing, founding and managing partner and Allstar Consultancy Services Limited?
5) You have a bank account in London, specifically at BARCLAYS Bank PLC, is this banking institution aware of your politically exposed person (PEP) status?
6) Have you declared your consultancy activity to the Ivorian tax authorities and in which year?
7) Did you, when declaring your assets, to the High Authority for Good Governance (HABG) declare the existence of your company Allstar Consultancy Services Limited?
8) What motivated in July 2005 the transfer of management and administration from Allstar Consultancy Services Limited to Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee Limited?
Our request being guided by the principle of the balance of information, a reaction from you, would oblige us. Convinced of your interest in our approach, we ask you to believe, Mr. Prime Minister, in the expression of our deep respect ”, wrote Will Fitzgibbon, member of ICIJ.
The Prime Minister remained indifferent to this letter. This is also the case for the letter requesting a reaction that the editorial staff of “The Unchained Elephant” sent him on September 16. A reminder letter sent by ICIJ on September 23 to one of the Prime Minister's advisers suffered the same fate. We understood everything, Patrick Achi really likes discretion.
A survey carried out by Noël KONAN as part of the Pandora Papers under the coordination of the ICIJ and CENOZO.