Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Articles on ICIJ's Panama Papers and Ramifications (4/12/16)

I've been traveling most of the day, so don't have much to offer.  I'll be back up and running in full stride tomorrow.

Eamon Javers, Swiss banker whistleblower: CIA behind Panama Papers (CNBC 4/12/16), here.  This article quotes Bradley Birkenfeld as saying that "the CIA I'm sure is behind this."  Well.

Panama Papers: Spy agencies widely used Mossack Fonseca to hide activities (RT 4/12/16) here. Excerpts:
Intelligence agencies from several countries, including CIA intermediaries, have abundantly used the services of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to "conceal" their activities, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) says, citing leaked documents. 
Both "secret agents and their informants have used the company's services," wrote the newspaper, which earlier this month published online materials based on 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm. It has been called the largest leak on corruption in journalistic history. 
"Agents have set up shell companies to conceal their activities," the Munich-based newspaper reported, adding that there are CIA mediators among them. 
According to SZ, Mossack Fonseca's clients also included some of those involved in the so-called Iran-Contra affair, in which several Reagan administration officials secretly facilitated arms sales to Iran in the 1980s in order to secure the release of US hostages and fund Nicaragua's Contra rebels. 
The Panama Papers also claim to reveal that some "former high-ranking officials of the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Rwanda" are listed amongst the company's clients. Among them was Sheikh Kamal Adham, the former Saudi intelligence chief, who according to SZ, was "one of the CIA's key intermediaries in the 1970s" in the Middle East region.
Holly Watt, Panama Papers: global tax officials to launch unprecedented inquiry (Guardian 4/12/16), here.  Excerpts:
Tax investigators from 28 countries will meet in Paris on Wednesday to launch an unprecedented international inquiry following the publication of the Panama Papers.
Senior officials from tax authorities around the world have said they intend to work together to analyse information revealed by the documents, which have provoked international concern over the offshore industry. 
Investigations have been launched in a number of countries over the past week, but the Paris meeting will be an attempt to develop a global strategy to crack down on offenders.
The sheer scale of the leak – 11.5m documents, covering 210,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions – has led to Wednesday’s hastily arranged meeting.
The aggressive new approach is being led by the Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration (Jitsic) network, of which the UK is a leading member.
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) confirmed that it would be sending delegates to the Paris conference. 
Jitsic’s chairman, Chris Jordan, has previously spoken of establishing a “global mindset for tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance”. 
Jordan, who is Australia’s tax commissioner, has established a reputation for his direct approach to multinational companies over their tax affairs. 
He previously set up a six-country collaboration to investigate tech companies, including Apple, and has been praised for revolutionising Australia’s approach to tax collection.
“You are ‘structuring in’ aggressively, we will go after you aggressively,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. 
He now wants to develop a global approach to the exchange of information on tax collection. 
“We’re basically trying to get the bigger picture,” Jordan told the Financial Review. “It’s never been tried on this scale before. 
“A number of countries have got slices or pieces of the data and that’s been very useful, but really, the start of the conversation is to work out who’s got what, how we can pool that information and start to work together.” 
Jordan has emphasised the importance of speed, telling officials that he expects immediate information exchange, rather than the traditionally slow approach. 
The meeting in Paris will be chaired by the Australian tax office’s head of international tax, Mark Konza.
For more information on JITSIC, see
  • OECD Web Page on JITSIC, here.
  • OECD Web Page on Action on Panama Papers, here.
  • Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Memo on Impact of Multilateral Tax Information Exchange Programs (2009), here, discussing inter alia JITSIC (the participating nations have substantially increased since this paper.

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