Tax authorities begin probes into some people named in Panama Papers leak

Mon Apr 4, 2016 1:00am EDT
 
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By Jane Wardell and Elida Moreno

SYDNEY/PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Tax authorities in Australia and New Zealand are probing local clients of a Panama-based law firm at the centre of a massive data leak for possible tax evasion.

The leak involves more than 11.5 million documents from the files of law firm Mossack Fonseca, based in the tax haven of Panama, revealing details of hundreds of thousands of clients in multiple jurisdictions.

The documents are at the center of an investigation published on Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations around the globe. Suddeutsche Zeitung reported it received the huge cache of documents and then shared them with the other media outlets.

The leaked "Panama Papers" cover a period over almost 40 years, from 1977 until as recently as last December, and allegedly show that some companies domiciled in tax havens were being used for suspected money laundering, arms and drug deals, and tax evasion.

Britain´s Guardian newspaper said the documents showed a network of secret offshore deals and loans worth $2 billion led to close friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reuters couldn't independently confirm those details.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) said on Monday it is investigating more than 800 wealthy clients of Mossack Fonseca.

"Currently we have identified over 800 individual taxpayers and we have now linked over 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong," the Australian tax office said in a statement emailed to Reuters. It did not name the Hong Kong company.

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A company list showing the Mossack Fonseca law firm is pictured on a sign at the Arango Orillac Building in Panama City April 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso