KARACHI: The Panama Papers — a huge leak of documents detailing the alleged secret offshore holdings of global elite — were released in April 2016. The leak made headlines all-over the world, but its impact was probably most keenly felt in Iceland.
Just two days after the leak appeared, Iceland’s prime minister had to resign from his office over protests by the people. Thousands of people had taken to the streets demanding that Gunnlaugsson quit his office. According to some estimates, the crowd represented about 6.6 per cent of Iceland’s small population, said a Washington Post report.
Now, more than nine months after the Panama Papers first appeared — and two months after a snap election brought a new governing coalition to power — Iceland finally has a full-time replacement for Gunnlaugsson. But despite the public outcry last April, Iceland’s new prime minister was also named in the Panama Papers.
However, unlike Gunnlaugsson, he refused to resign, even though some polls had suggested a majority of the public thought he should. But Benediktsson recently faced further criticism after admitting that his government had not released the results of an investigation into offshore banking ahead of the election.
According to American TV CNN report, police in Panama arrested the founders of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal, on money-laundering charges after authorities raided the firm’s headquarters as part of investigations into Brazil’s largest-ever bribery scandal.
The firm’s founding partners, Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack, were taken into police custody, according to the men’s lawyer. Kenia Porcell, Panama’s attorney general, released a statement that said evidence gathered by her office indicated that the law firm was a potential “criminal organisation” that concealed and removed evidence related to “illegal activity.”
Both Fonseca and Mossack are well-known in business and political circles in Panama. The arrests came 10 months after an investigation by ICIJ and other media partners revealed that Mossack Fonseca had set up or managed offshore companies and other hard-to-trace corporate structures for world leaders, drug kingpins, American fraudsters and other clients.
The chairman of the EU’s Panama Papers inquiry has slammed the UK Treasury’s refusal to meet investigators, raising concern over Britain’s commitment to the high-level investigation.
It was “most disappointing and regrettable that no one at the political level at HM Treasury was able or willing to meet” during the trip to London last week from the European Parliament’s Panama Papers inquiry committee, Werner Langen told Bloomberg BNA in a Feb 14 e-mailed statement.
This is commendable, but the prime minister has so far failed to hold any inquiries over Panamagate, and the accusations levelled at Evarist Bartolo’s canvasser at the Foundation for Medical Services.
In addition, Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola has said that PANA committee members were angered at the fact that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit last year flagged 28 cases: none of which has so far been investigated.
This was highlighted by the PANA committee, which expressed bewilderment at the fact that the police had not yet investigated what it described as a ‘potential money laundering’ case.
The Malta Today said in its editorial that even when such investigations do take place, the current rules of engagement allow the Maltese government to decide whether or not to publish the results. The FIAU, for instance, did investigate the Panama Papers revelations. But its findings have to date been withheld.
As part of a fact-finding mission to the country, MEPs requested a meeting with members of the Maltese Parliament. The delegation asked to meet members and former members of the Maltese government but only finance minister Edward Scicluna and Beppe Fenech Adami, the former minister of internal affairs and Nationalist Party deputy leader, have so far confirmed their participation.
Ninu Zammit, former minister of energy, was approached but did not respond to the invitation.A report in daily Guardian said the leaked documents showed that some 1,924 UK-based banks, accountants, lawyers and other intermediaries helped to set up opaque corporate structures that processed illicit financial flows.
Secretive British crown dependencies and overseas territories act as an outpost of the City of London and facilitate the flow of money. More than 113,000 of the suspect companies were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, 15,000 in the Bahamas and a number were also registered in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Following the leak, the EU parliament formed a committee of inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, known as the PANA committee, to investigate the issues and develop reforms. After months of discussions, it visited London on 9-10 February to take evidence from academics, researchers, accountants, lawyers, banks, HSBC, parliamentary committees, regulators and ministers.
According to a DW report, Panama has suspended a probe into the so-called Panama Papers, a trove of documents that brought to light widespread tax avoidance among some of the world’s most powerful leaders, prosecutors said.
Attorney General Kenia Porcell said a legal challenge on constitutional grounds required the suspension, adding that it was now in the hands of the Supreme Court to decide whether to reactivate the investigation.
A Daily Mail article says that the investigative reporting alliance known for uncovering the massive Panama Papers scandal has become an independent entity, a move that may help it expand globally, the group said.
The Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has been spun off the non-profit Centre for Public Integrity, according to statements from both organizations.
The ICIJ gained notoriety last year by publishing leaked documents from Panama that linked some of the world’s most powerful leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, British prime minister David Cameron and others to unreported offshore companies.
According to Washington Post, Pakistan’s political drama has moved from streets to courtroom. Today, the threat of violent confrontation in the streets — averted at the last minute when the Supreme Court intervened — has been replaced by a drawn-out courtroom duel between two political camps. The country has been riveted by the clash of titans, with its blizzards of documents, grandiloquent speeches and competing versions of convoluted financial transactions that took place years ago in London, the Middle East and the British Virgin Islands.
Since the Panama Papers broke in early April, hundreds of journalists from dozens of countries who collaborated on the investigation have published more than 4,700 news stories based on Mossack Fonseca.
A report published by The Center for Public Integrity said that as a result, more than one-third of all nations — at least 79 so far — have announced 150 inquiries, audits or investigations by police, customs, financial crime and mafia prosecutors, judges and courts, tax authorities, parliaments and corporate reviews, according to global media reports and official statements. Thousands of taxpayers and companies are under investigation. Legislatures from Ireland to Mongolia to Panama have rushed through laws to strengthen weaknesses pinpointed by the media partnership’s reporting. Governments have already reported recouping tens of millions of dollars in taxes on previously undeclared funds.
“To my knowledge, apart from Pakistan, the authenticity of the Panama Papers documents has not been seriously questioned in court in any country worldwide,” Mr Obermaier was quoted as saying by one of Pakistan’s leading English newspapers.
—Originally published in The News