Wednesday, May 18, 2016


King Mswati III of Swaziland has lost another round in a long-running court dispute over an alleged unpaid bill of US$3.5 million for improvements and repairs to his private jet.

SG Air Leasing and SG Commodities Trading, two companies associated with businessman Shanmuga Rethenam, popularly known as Shan, have been chasing the King through courts in Canada and the British Virgin Islands for the money they allege is owed by the King and a company he solely owns called Inchatsavane.

At one time the King’s DC-9-87 private jet was impounded in Canada while courts decided on its future. The jet has since been released but the King was required to place US$3.5 million in a trust account in Canada pending the final decision of the court.

On 5 May 2016, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered that the money must remain in the trust account. It also ruled that King Mswati and Inchatsavane must not dispose of the aircraft until the matter is settled by the court.

On Sunday (15 May 2016), the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, where King Msawti rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported the Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini saying the DC-9-87 would not be sold. 

The newspaper said the decision had been taken after a ‘due diligence process of business viability analysis’.

It added, ‘He said it was decided that the aircraft would make a lot of money being leased out to private clients in its customised state.’

The Swazi Government has already announced it will buy the King a A340-300 jet from China Airlines in Taiwan at a cost of about US$13 million.

Swaziland is presently in the grip of a drought and 300,000 of the population’s 1.3 million people are in need of food and other aid. The Swazi Government has appealed to the international community for financial assistance.

About seven in ten of the population live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

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The Times of Swaziland newspaper has been made to retract a story and apologise after it said one of King Mswati III’s fiercest business critics was ‘robbing’ Swaziland of billions.

The target was Shanmuga Rethenam, popularly known as Shan, who has been pursing King Mswati through courts in Canada and the British Virgin Islands over an alleged unpaid debt of US$3.5 million relating to repairs and improvements to the King’s private jet.

Shan was also a business partner with the King in an iron ore mine venture at Ngwenya that collapsed among bitter recriminations.

The article appeared in the Times of Swaziland on 28 September 2015 and made a number of statements about Shan’s business dealings that it presented as fact.

A letter from Shan’s solicitor Rosin Wright Rosengarten to the Times of Swaziland said the article had ‘directly copied various sections of an article published by the City Press [a South African newspaper]’.

The City Press had also made an apology to Shan. In its apology, City Press said allegations against Shan, ‘have been made by parties who are currently in litigation with Mr Shanmuga Rethenam and remain unproven’.

In its retraction the Times of Swaziland, published in the print edition of the newspaper on 9 May 2016 and carried on the newspaper’s website every day since, said ‘We would like to clarify that these are allegations contained in court documents whose veracity is yet to be tested in a court of law.
‘We therefore retract this statement and further unreservedly apologise to Mr Rethenam for any embarrassment that might have been caused by the article which we have now withdrawn from the online version of the newspaper.’

On Tuesday (17 May 2016) newspapers in Swaziland reported that the Swazi Director of Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko had charged Shan with 14 counts relating to business activities.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III who is sub-Sharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said charges against Shan included, ‘fraud, money laundering, cheating public revenue and theft’.

The newspaper’s report which ran for nearly 2,200 words appeared in full on its website. Usually, the newspaper only publishes one or two paragraphs of a selection of its stories online and then directs readers to a paysite for the rest.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Panama Papers goes to Swaziland
Kenworthy News Media, 10 May 2016

The rich and powerful are also avoiding the tax man in Swaziland. Nineteen of the Panama Papers documents are related to Africa’s last absolute monarchy, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The leaking of the so-called Panama Papers, with details of offshore financial information that “strips away the secrecy that cloaks companies and trusts incorporated in tax havens and exposes the people behind them,” have made headlines around the world.

When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the documents that name more than 360,000 people and companies behind secret offshore structures in tax havens such as Panama on May 9, nineteen of the documents were linked to Swaziland.

Obscure companies from around the world

The documents include more or less obscure companies such as the Fondation La Perle du Nil, registered in Mbabane, with jurisdiction in the British Virgin Islands and linked to Alpha Management Trading Ltd. in Dubai and the fittingly named Talent Profits Limited from Malaysia.

It also includes individuals such as Ian and Helen McLaughlin, also registered in Mbabane and shareholders of the Bahamian-based Orca Gold Corporation International Limited.

There are links to individuals and companies from places such as Spain, Ecuador, Peru, Russia, the USA, The UK, Samoa, China and Hong Kong, hiding their assets mostly in the British Virgin Islands but also in Panama and Jersey.

Although such companies are often created for tax evasion purposes, being on the Panama Papers list does not necessarily mean that they have done so.

The king pays no taxes

The corporate tax rate in Swaziland is 27.5 percent (down from 30 percent in 2013), which is the same as the average rate for Africa, below countries such as the USA (39 percent), India (34 percent) and South Africa (28 percent) but above the global average of 23 percent.

Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a fund with a total worth of around USD 2 billion that in theory is held in trust for all Swazis, but in practice used as a private fund by King Mswati and the royal family, is exempt from taxes, as is the king himself.