[US] Federal agents and prosecutors are "chomping at the bit" to exploit the Panama Papers and launch prosecutions, a senior federal law enforcement official told NBC News -- but want to be sure that the way the huge data dump about offshore money was obtained doesn't jeopardize their cases.
"It is a bonanza," the official said in reference to the cache of 11 million financial documents about shell companies that a Panamanian law firm set up for some of the world's shadiest and most powerful people.
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But first the feds need to figure out the best way to use the documents without running afoul of a complicated thicket of laws, especially the attorney-client privilege that law firm Mossack Fonseca has used to protect its thousands of clients from public scrutiny over the past four decades.
Authorities run the risk of having prosecutions thrown out, and investigations quashed, if the underlying information is found to have been improperly obtained. One key question, according to the U.S. official and others, is whether the documents were hacked or otherwise illegally obtained from Mossack Fonseca.
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U.S. officials believe they won't have trouble getting access to the Panama Papers, especially as there are indications that at least some of the documents will be released publicly in a few weeks.
And they are confident that they will be able to use many of the documents by claiming Mossack Fonseca knew or should have known that particular clients were engaged in illegal activity, citing "know your client" financial transparency laws in the U.S. and internationally.
In the meantime, another key step will be for the Justice Department to prepare a "clean team" that would vet the documents before introducing them into investigations and open cases where they might run the risk of tainting them.Panama Papers: PM sets up anti-tax dodging task force (BBC 4/10/16), here.
The [UK] government is to set up a new task force to investigate allegations of tax-dodging and money laundering in light of the Panama Papers leak.
The unit will be led by HM Revenue and Customs and the National Crime Agency.
It will also include specialists from the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority.
It was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron as he released details of his tax returns in an effort to defuse a row over his financial affairs.
The move is also being seen as an effort by Mr Cameron to regain the initiative on the issue of tax avoidance, after attention focused on his own involvement with his late father's offshore fund, Blairmore Holdings.Adam Taylor, The not-completely-crazy theory that Russia leaked the Panama Papers (WAPO 4/9/16), here. Perhaps conspiracy theories. Of course, there is a rumor floating around that the reason there are few U.S. names is that the U.S. is the source of the files. Well.
Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Swiss banks face scrutiny over Panama Papers (Reuters 4/10/16), here.
"We want to know which banks have used the services of the Panamanian firm and whether Swiss laws were broken," said Thomas Bauer, president of Swiss financial watchdog FINMA.
"We've already contacted (Swiss financial) institutes," Bauer told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, without specifying names.
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Branches of Swiss lenders including UBS (UBSG.S) and Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) were mentioned in the leaked documents as being among the main banks that requested offshore companies for clients. Both banks have denied wrongdoing in connection with the practice.