Since news of the Panama Papers leak broke several weeks ago, fallout has been felt far and wide. Heads of state have stepped down and several governments are stepping up their enforcement efforts. But not every party involved is feeling the pinch: a Swedish tech startup has the leak to thank for its big break. Here’s the biggest Panama Papers-related news from April.
Mossack Fonseca made a general statement accusing the media report of providing inaccurate view of the services provided by them and misrepresenting the nature of the work they perform.
In summary, they highlighted the following:
- They provide company incorporation and related administrative services that are widely available and commonly used worldwide.
- Their registered agent and corporate secretarial services are limited to a narrow set of administrative services.
- Their services are regulated on multiple levels, often by overlapping agencies, and they have a strong compliance record.
- They are responsible members of the global financial and business community.
- For 40 years they have operated beyond reproach in their home country and other jurisdictions where they have operations.
- They operate in jurisdictions with increasingly stringent financial and legal controls.
- They regret any misuse of their services and actively take steps to prevent it.
Read the full statement here.
India’s Income Tax Department
“The income-tax department is likely to summon all those Indians whose names appeared in the Panama Papers and seek sworn declarations on whether they held any undisclosed offshore accounts, and the purpose if that is the case, said people dealing with the matter.
Names of about 500 Indians, including top industrialists and Bollywood actors, featured in the millions of documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca, the Panama law firm that is at the centre of a massive global controversy for allegedly helping wealthy and powerful people in making shady and secret investments. The move to summon the Indians comes two weeks after the tax department sent notices to about 50 of them.”
New Raid on Panama Papers Law Firm
“Panamanian authorities launched a new raid on an address linked to the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal, local media reported. Prosecutors focused on organized crime ‘carried out a raid on a storage property belonging to the firm Mossack Fonseca,’ La Prensa newspaper said, publishing a photo of people putting documents into a vehicle.
Officials in the public ministry “confirmed to AFP that a raid ‘is under way’ but did not provide further details… It was the second raid in as many weeks on Mossack Fonseca in Panama. On April 12, the same prosecutorial unit swooped on the firm’s main offices for a search that lasted 27 hours.”
Mexico Cartel Suspect
“Uruguayan authorities have arrested several suspects linked to Mexico crime group Los Cuinis, a move that could shed light on some previously obscure aspects of the organization’s international operations.
On April 22, police in Montevideo detained 11 people, including Mexican citizen Gerardo González Valencia. According to Uruguayan newsweekly Búsqueda, Gerardo is the brother of Abigael González Valencia, the alleged leader of Los Cuinis — a relatively little-known organization thought to maintain an alliance with the powerful Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG).”
Hillary Clinton’s Wealthy Donors
“Names in the Panama Papers link Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, fresh off a big win in New York, and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, to those who use offshore tax shelters.
Though the former secretary of state was quick to denounce the Panama Papers revelations, describing them as “outrageous tax havens and loopholes that super-rich people across the world are exploiting,” some of those found in the 11.5 million documents have connections with the Clintons dating back four decades.”
Swedish Startup Neo Technology
“Every start-up hopes for a lucky break. Swedish company Neo Technology only found out it was getting one the day the Panama Papers made headlines around the world.
Journalists with access to the vast trove of data used the firm’s open-source database to make sense of 11.5 million documents, including emails, images and spreadsheets, leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Neo Technology’s ‘graph database’ literally connected the dots for them, helping find names of the rich and powerful and linking them to offshore accounts.”
“On April 4, as part of its ongoing investigation into The Panama Papers, The Indian Express reported that records of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca showed that actor Amitabh Bachchan served as director of four offshore shipping companies between 1993 and 1997. A day after the report appeared, Bachchan — he did not respond to emails and phone calls from The Indian Express — issued a statement that he did not know any of the companies, had not been a director of any of them and that ‘it is possible that (his) name has been misused’. -These show that Bachchan, as director of two of these firms, took part in their board meetings ‘by telephone conference.'”
“Australia will follow the United Kingdom and become the second major economy to create a public register revealing the identities of the beneficial owners of shell companies in an effort to stamp out tax avoidance by multinational companies, in response to the Panama Papers leaks.
The Canberra government has signalled it will make a public commitment to a register of beneficial ownership within weeks, ahead of an anti-corruption conference in London in mid-May convened by David Cameron.”
“The chairman of HSBC has told investors that the uproar over offshore tax structures caused by the so-called Panama Papers leak highlights the need for banks to keep tightening up their checks and controls.
Douglas Flint responded to questions from investors about HSBC’s role in arranging thousands of offshore structures in Panama by pointing out that many of them predated the bank’s drive to improve its compliance procedures.”
U.S. Launches Criminal Inquiry
“The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into the widespread international tax avoidance schemes exposed by the Panama Papers leak, published by the Guardian and other journalistic partners.”
Panama Papers Claim New Victim
“The worldwide ‘Panama Papers’ scandal claimed a fresh political victim as Spain’s industry minister resigned over allegations he had links to offshore companies.”
“ABN Amro again surfaced in the Panama Papers. This time in the form of accounts and loans given to companies connected to a controversial billionaire, Dutch newspapers Financieele Dagblad and Trouw reports.
The billionaire involved is Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz. He is suspected of bribery in Guinea, corruption in Switzerland and the United States and money laundering in Romania.”
The IRS Warns Americans
“If you’ve done any dodgy dealings with a Panamanian law firm, you might want to consider coming clean: U.S. tax officials are trying to figure out how to use the Panama Papers in their investigations, and have advised Americans to disclose their offshore accounts before they are discovered by the government. NBC reports that Internal Revenue Service and Treasury representatives met with their counterparts from around the world last week to discuss cooperation in the aftermath of the disclosures of the vast trove of leaked documents that detail global tax dodging.”
Qatar’s Former Prime Minister
“Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani already had his fair share of high-profile government positions by the time he became Qatar’s foreign affairs minister at the relatively young age of 33. It helped that his great uncle had founded modern Qatar in 1972, catapulting the extended Al Thani family into power. But as Al Thani worked his way up to being named prime minister in 2007, he wasn’t just concerned with tense Middle East politics.
It seems Al Thani was also focused on turning that power and access to riches from his family connections into great personal wealth. Thanks in part to the massive Panama Papers leak published last week, FORBES has determined that Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani is a billionaire, with an estimated net worth of at least $1.2 billion.”
“Just days after the Panama Papers toppled Iceland’s prime minister, the British premier now faces career-threatening accusations of financial impropriety.
The leak of 11.5 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has already implicated a number of world leaders in a web of shady offshore accounting. Among them is British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose late father’s offshore fund — Blairmore Holdings — was exposed by the leak. Cameron said that he had owned shares in the trust, after several days of dodging questions about what interests he had in it.”
Israeli Diamond Tycoons
“Panama Papers: Hundreds of Israeli companies, shareholders listed in leaked documents detailing offshore holdings.
Diamond and mining magnate Dan Gertler is mentioned more than 200 times in the leaked documents of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, a leader in establishing shell companies that often serve to conceal the ownership of assets.”