Friday, April 22, 2016

Articles on ICIJ's Panama Papers and Ramifications (4/22/16)

Introduction:  The following Wikipedia entries may offer updated information from time to time:
  • Wikipedia entry on Panama Papers, here.
  • Wikipedia list of people named in Panama Papers, here.
In addition, this searchable list from the Sunday Times might be worth consulting from time to time.  Josh Boswell, Tom Wills, Aendrew Rininsland, Panama papers: the names: Search our database of 37,000 names linked to Mossack Fonseca companies in the tax haven of Panama (Sunday Times 4/10/16), here.  The linked page offers at the bottom a downloadable zip file with the data, here, which includes a csv file which is apparently 102.54 MB in size (presumably this could be imported into an MS Excel file, although I have not yet done that) and a "README.TXT" file to explain certain matters about the data.  Apparently this file lists the companies and directors, shareholders, and legal agents for the companies.

Julia Harte, Journalists will not share Panama Papers with Justice Department (Reuters 4/21/16), here.
The media group that coordinated the Panama Papers investigation into offshore companies said on Thursday it would not participate in a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice. 
"ICIJ, and its parent organization the Center for Public Integrity, are media organizations shielded by the First Amendment and other legal protections from becoming an arm of law enforcement," said Gerard Ryle, director of the consortium, in a press release on the group's website.
Martha M. Hamilton and Hamish Boland-Rudder, Banks Ordered to Provide Info on Panama Dealings to NY Regulator, here.
More than a dozen banks will have to turn over details of their dealings with Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca to New York’s banking regulator, as authorities continue to respond to revelations from the Panama Papers investigation.
The order came from the New York Department of Financial Services and was sent to 13 foreign banks identified in articles published by ICIJ and its media partners, including Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group AG, Commerzbank AG and ABN Amro Group NV, Bloomberg reported. 
The banks have been given 10 days to respond, and were asked to provide communications, phone logs and records of transactions between their New York branches and employees or agents of Mossack Fonseca, as well as any subsequent communication with shell companies formed as part of these transactions. According to Bloomberg, the regulator has also asked banks to identify any New York-based personnel who may have held positions at the shell companies. 
The regulator is reportedly searching for potential violations of rules or regulations related to the law firm. The banks have not been accused of wrongdoing.
Panama Papers: About 80 serious Australian criminals named in leaked documents, ATO says (ABC News 4/21/16), here.

About 800 Australians were in the 11 million documents leaked from the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which revealed widespread tax evasion. 
Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan told a parliamentary inquiry into corporate tax evasion the ATO had already been investigating some of the companies and individuals named in the papers.
He said the ATO had linked 120 of those named to an offshore company in Hong Kong — although he did not name the company. 
Mr Jordan said he was particularly concerned by the number of people on the list who were also involved in organised crime. 
"Around 80 names match the Australian Crime Commission's serious and organised crime intelligence holdings," he said.
Why does this matter? Is it illegal? How do they operate? These questions and more are answered in our explainer. 
"These are not people with outstanding parking fines or traffic notices. They are in the database of serious and organised criminal holdings." 
The ATO's Michael Cranston said the list covered a wide range of offences, "from very serious — the bikie gangs, etc — all the way through to promoters of tax schemes".
9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask about the Panama Papers (Vox 4/21/16), here.  I am not posting excerpts.  I recommend the whole article. Vox has pretty good coverage.

Jen Wieczner, Here’s Why the Panama Papers Spared the U.S. (Fortune 4/20/16), here.
The Panama Papers, the largest data leak in history, were very bad news for a lot of very rich people. Switzerland launched a criminal investigation, the prime minister of Iceland resigned, and UK’s David Cameron was forced to defend the word “wealth” in front of parliament. American banks and politicians, though, have so far remained mostly untainted by the documents. 
You couldn’t say the same for the U.S. itself, which was a top locale for shell companies and middlemen revealed in the leak. States like Nevada (home to 1,260 companies named in the Panama Papers) and Wyoming, with lax incorporation laws, are almost as good a haven as someplace like Panama. 
“It is a major loophole in the system that allows the laundering of money,” says Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman, who believes that U.S. banks and citizens are likely involved in extensive tax evasion schemes—even if they didn’t have to go offshore to do it.
But even absent criminal activity, Americans are complicit in other forms of legal tax avoidance, Zucman says. “A lot of tax dodging takes place not via offshore bank accounts and shell companies,” he says, “but by big, multinational corporations” like Google  and Apple  —and by extension, their shareholders. 
Indeed, the U.S. ranks third among countries in terms of financial secrecy, above even the Cayman Islands, according to the Tax Justice Network, which estimates that up to $32 trillion is stashed away in such tax havens. 
But the good times for tax avoidance in the U.S. might not last forever. The Treasury is in the final stages of issuing a new rule that has been in the works for years to require banks to find out who the people behind the businesses they work with are—theoretically preventing terrorists and other criminals from hiding behind shell companies to open bank accounts.
Panama Papers and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif (BBC 4/21/16), here,
The leaks reveal that three of his children own offshore companies and assets not shown on his family's wealth statement. 
The companies identified so far include three British Virgin Islands-based companies Nescoll Ltd, Nielsen Enterprises Ltd and Hangon Property Holdings Ltd, incorporated in 1993, 1994 and 2007 respectively. 
These companies have been used to channel funds to acquire foreign assets, including some apartments along Park Lane in London's Mayfair area. 
The insinuation that the companies were meant to hide or launder ill-gotten wealth or to avoid taxes has called his credentials into question.

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