Syphoning Aga Khan money through banking secrecy: Tanzanian involved in robbing of $176 million

Simon Martha Mkina

Investigative Journalist
Sep 5, 2020

Aga Khan family

By Simon Mkina

Bank accounts owned by an individual whose documents at the Barclays Bank show is a Tanzanian, have been used to launder 176 million US dollars from Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) – for three years, JamiiForums investigations can now reveal.

This amount is more than Sh. 400,000,000,000 (four hundred billion Tanzanian Shillings) enough to put up 10,000 classrooms to accommodate 450,000 contemporary secondary school students in the country.

The questionable money represents more than two months of global budget for the entire development activities at AKDN. The annual finance of the network for non-profit development activities is approximately US$ 1 billion. But all this money went to a big pocket of person identified as Janmohammed Mohamed Ali Rahemtulla. The network works in 30 countries with 100,000 pensionable employees.

Each year, AKDN - for more than a century, has been contributing to poverty alleviation, education, health care, economic development and cultural restoration in Tanzania, both on the mainland and in the Zanzibar archipelago.

More than 150,000 children are benefiting from quality pre-primary and primary education, and over 28,000 women and children have improved health and nutrition practices yearly. AKDN hospitals and clinics provide over 460,000 outpatient visits annually, including nearly 1.2 million lab tests.

Investigations show that New York branch of Barclays Bank – USA, has issued a "suspicious activity report" about a certain Janmohamed Mohamed Ali Rahemtulla, whose personal details show he is living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzanian business capital, situated along the shore of Indian Ocean – at a villa located at 124 Uganda Avenue.

The bank said that from 2013 to 2016, Rahemtulla received more than $175,851,858 in his account with Barclays Switzerland. The fact that these transactions were made in dollars means that the bank's US subsidiary was automatically notified.

Rahemtulla's occupation, as described by Barclays, is ‘Senior Custodian of Imamat.’ That is a high-ranking custodian responsible for collecting donations from Ismail and other institutions for the Aga Khan.

Bank documents seen by the reporter show that Rahemtulla received all the money meant for AKDN to his personal gains and may be with the global illicit gangs dealing in money laundering and radicalism.

The money received in Geneva by ‘custodian’ Rahemtulla was divided into 535 payments from the Seychelles, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Congo, Madagascar, Angola, Kenya, China and Switzerland.

The average grant exceeds USD 328,000, with wide variations; the lowest is USD 2,443 and the highest is over USD 2 million. Transfers are marked as "donation", "religious tribute" or "personal contribution."

Investigations by the reporter has revealed that Rahemtulla has never stayed in a villa located at 124 Uganda Avenue, in Dar es Salaam as the place was demolished in 2015 to pave way for the construction of what stood up today as Shoppers Plaza, which accommodate Shoppers Supermarket.

Long time neighbors of the plot- 124, said on the land there was a small cottage before it was bulldozed to levels and that those who stayed there were Tanzanians, originated from Mtwara, never resembles any name of Asian or Persian origin; Rahemtulla.

In the ensuing investigations, it came to light that Rahemtulla is not even known and never worked with AKDN in Tanzania or elsewhere as banking paper and soft details claim.



Rew-Revealed Kataru, Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) country director - Tanzania, said she has never heard of the name Rahemtulla working at the entity. AKF is an agency of AKDN.

“I have never come across with such a name working at the capacity as custodian of any of our scattered institutions known to me, maybe you go and talk to our country representative who might be in a better position to speak on,” she requested.

The reporter interviewed Amin Kurji, Resident Representative of AKDN at his office in Upanga, Dar es Salaam who immediately said “that is fictitious; we don’t have such a person who can do that dubious.”



Kurji pointed out that AKDN has got well standing financial and accounting systems that can never be easily tempered for laundering ends.

He said, AKDN with East Africa headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya its contributions from well wishers, institutions and governments are managed by a Senior Custodian of Imamat who is now Mohamed Lalji.

The reporter visited AKDN in Nairobi, at IPS Building, 4th Floor, in the City Centre and found one staff who introduced herself as tea girl, saying others were on obligatory leave due to Covid-19 pandemic. She refused to issue any mobile number of any officials.

After three days, one senior official who could not speak on record denied personal knowledge of the position and Rahemtulla, but promised to get back with official details after speaking to the country representative of the Aga Khan, Dr. Azim Lakhan, who did not respond in time for the publication.

Money in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha, Zanzibar,

Investigations show that some money from Rahemtulla was sent to Garetus Ruto of Nairobi, Kenya through FBME Tanzania Limited. Details entail that the receiver was a businessman dealing in construction company with an office at Maser Ensuite, Waiyaki Way, Westlands. It came to light that the building is all-residents and no office is accommodated.

The central bank of the East Africa country, Bank of Tanzania (BoT) on May 5, 2017, revoked the main banking license of FBME Bank Tanzania and appointed the local Deposit Insurance Board as the liquidator, the first steps for ultimate fund recovery of all accounts in Tanzania. Investigations show that all major banking operations were conducted in Cyprus, an offshore known country.

Garetus accounts received and withdrew USD 320,915 from different dates throughout from July 17, 2014 to April 12, 2016.

His claimed company, GR Construction Company Limited were not found in any registration institutions in Kenya; documents at Business Registration Services (BRS) has no details just like at Kenya National Construction Authority (NCA).

Ruto is a household name in Kenya, as Deputy President, William Ruto bears the surname. It was revealed Garetus has no any relationship with the DP.

Based on information received from various institutions, another claimed Tanzanian businessman, Juma Salum Isiko, received money from Rahemtulla through FBME Bank Limited from July 17, 2014 throughout to April 12, 2016. Isiko claimed to be the director of Isman General Traders with offices in Arusha, Zanzibar and Mwanza

Banking details have revealed that Isman company has a registered address of P.O Box 18834, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and is categorized to be in the "freight forwarding business." Electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) data base shows that the company details were last updated on October 9, 2015.

Per investigations, Isman company is claiming to be "international freight forwarder company specializing in the comprehensive shipping for all types of cargo, via air, ocean and road. They handle logistics and cargo shipping from consolidated to full container shipments, full and partial charters, to roll-on/ roll off transportation."

The company received and withdrew a total amount of USD 213,432 – with economic purpose of the transactions were "payment of logistics and transportation freight from land locked countries (Congo, Rwanda, and Zambia).

Know Your Customer documentation for the company shows that it employs ten individuals, has USD 20 million in assets, USD 10 million in liabilities, USD 15 million annual turnover, and a net profit of USD eight million. The annual income/turnover for the past twelve months in the company account was reported as USD 384,917.59.

Per Know Your Customer documentation, Isiko was born in Tabora, Tanzania, and identified to have been the managing director of the company since 2012, and as consultant to the shipping industry in Tanzania since 2010.

Additionally, he was identified to consult and provide services to various entities involved in freight forwarding and cargo transport industries operating out of the country. Internet research did not identify anything related to the names and material negative news on this individual regarding financial crime, money laundering, or otherwise.

Investigations revealed that no offices of the Isman company were found at the following locations as claimed in the banking documents: Mwanza at Pamba House, along Pamba Road; at AICC House in Arusha; and at Bwawani Hotel, in Zanzibar.


FinCen collaged documents of how the suspicious money was moved

Documents seen by US based BuzzFeed News, and later glimpsed by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), of which the reporter is a partner, shows that the bank's internal communications, Barclays Switzerland informs Barclays New York that its client receives donations for a religious community. The Geneva-based bank didn’t say any more because of Swiss banking secrecy.

Nothing sinister at first glance, but the American bank is worried. "Rahemtulla appears to be receiving large payments from jurisdictions with high money laundering and terrorist financing risks," writes Barclays New York in its report. He appears to be engaged in the high-risk activity of receiving religious donations on behalf of third parties". This leads the bank to report these transactions to the US authorities.

Barclays later said payments to Rahemtulla suddenly stopped after the customer was asked to explain the reason for the transactions and the flow of funds. The client thereafter could not be seen anywhere. Internet research did not identify Rahemtulla.

When asked, Barclays refused to comment on its report or on these transactions. According to Barclays, US law prohibits it from commenting on the content of announcements made to the authorities.

A Geneva-based lawyer representing the Aga Khan's network of foundations, Daniel Schafer, sent us a written statement reiterating the Aga Khan's commitment to his community. He made no comment on the $176 million paid into the accounts of ‘guardian’ Rahemtulla.

A significant portion of the funding for development activities comes from partnerships with national governments, multilateral institutions and private sector partners. His Highness the Aga Khan provides regular funding for administration, new programme and country initiatives, and for some core activities.

The Ismaili community contributes invaluable volunteer time, professional services and substantial financial resources. Other funding sources include income from user fees and endowment funds. Another significant source of funding is in the form of donations from corporations and individuals around the world, notably through the fundraising activities.

The Aga Khan, a hereditary Imam of the Ismaili people, is a title passed down from father to son or grandson, which has the status of quasi head of state. One could compare him to the Dalai Lama, or even to the Pope; he has no territory, but is internationally recognized, with a seat in Portugal, the new home of the current Aga Khan.

In the past, the Aga Khans (a term that roughly means "Great Chief") received their gold and platinum weights from disciples to celebrate the anniversaries (jubilees) of their reign. This wealth enabled them to create a sprawling empire, particularly in Africa, where businesses linked to the Aga Khan are active in the media, cotton, insurance, banking and telecoms.

Aga Khan fortune


Aga Khan

Wednesday, May, 18, 2016 will remain a date of great pomp for Christie's, the prestigious auction house located at the foot of Geneva Cathedral. On that day, 45 pieces of jewelry belonging to the very fashionable Gabriele zu Leiningen, ex-wife of the Aga Khan, were sold for 22.5 million dollars.

This was the second time that the divorce of the spiritual leader of the Ismaili people has made Christie's happy. In 1995, his first wife Salima, a former English supermodel, had sold some $27 million worth of jewelry, most of it donated by her ex-husband.

As precious as they are, these jewels are only a fraction of the Aga Khan's legendary fortune. This direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad reigns spiritually over some 15 million Ismailis, Shiite Muslims spread across the globe and united by allegiance to their Imam.

He is also a figure of the jet-set and of the European aristocratic world, where he has his entrances at the highest level.

The current imam, His Highness Karim Aga Khan, 84, lives in a huge wooded estate north of Paris. Totally westernized, educated in Switzerland at the elite school of Le Rosey, he has strong ties with Geneva, where he lived for decades.

The imposing Mérimont estate in Chambésy still belongs to him, according to a family member. Geneva is also home to his network of philanthropic foundations.

Known as AKDN (Aga Khan Development Network), it is one of the largest NGOs in the world, with annual spending of around one billion dollars. It is managed from a discreet family office in the Lower Streets of Geneva.

The Aga Khan is a fabulously wealthy man. Every year, as a tribute, the Ismaili people pay him 10 to 12% of their income, or even more. Which makes a lot of money, because the Ismaili diaspora is considered prosperous, educated and skillful in business.

"In each community," says one insider, "there is a local who collects the money in a place called Jamatkana", which is both a mosque and a community center. "Then the money goes up to the Aga Khan in Switzerland."

Aga Khan who does not encourage media coverage for himself, in spite of owning huge media houses in East African countries; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – Nation Group, is rarely on the news.


  • This investigative article was developed with the support of the Money Trail Project (


JF-Expert Member
Dec 11, 2013
This is a very big deal! How is it not making headlines?!

Security risks in Tanzania have increased over the years (with the example of Southern Tanzania), how are our banks and other institutions prepared to curtail risky transactions or businesses that could be tied to illegal or terror-related activities? The fact that the New York branch had to flag this, is quite worrying.

Are there ongoing criminal investigations or is this it?


JF-Expert Member
Aug 29, 2007
Mmmmhhhhhh! This threatening or suggesting evil or harm in our financial institutions,lives....etc; is there any up date information on how authorities around the world investigated/still on?


JF-Expert Member
Feb 17, 2012
ok aiseee ngoja niicheki tena,nime miss kweli habari za hivi maana siku hizi tuna discuss kondomu kupasuka akazaliwa diamond..nime miss mambo haya jamani kina mwanahalisi etc
Tupo karne ya 21 ndio project ya mtu ni choo imeshika kasi;

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