China slams ‘Panama Papers’

Lesotho Times - - International -

BEI­JING — Hos­tile Western forces are be­hind the “Panama Papers”, a state-run Chi­nese news­pa­per al­leged on Tues­day, as me­dia avoided re­port­ing rev­e­la­tions about Com­mu­nist lead­ers and it emerged that the law firm in­volved has eight of­fices in the coun­try.

The scan­dal erupted on Sun­day when me­dia groups be­gan re­veal­ing the re­sults of a year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a trove of 11.5 mil­lion doc­u­ments from Pana­ma­nian law firm Mos­sack Fon­seca, which spe­cialises in cre­at­ing off­shore shell com­pa­nies.

At least eight cur­rent or for­mer mem­bers of China’s Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee, the rul­ing party’s most pow­er­ful body, have been im­pli­cated, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Con­sor­tium of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists (ICIJ), which co-or­di­nated the re­ports.

Mos­sack Fon­seca has of­fices in eight Chi­nese cities in­clud­ing Hong Kong, its web­site showed on Tues­day, more than any other coun­try.un­der Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Bei­jing has launched a much-pub­li­cised anti-cor­rup­tion drive but has not in­sti­tuted sys­temic re­forms such as pub­lic dec­la­ra­tions of as­sets.

Among those named in the Panama Papers are close as­so­ci­ates of Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin and Pres­i­dent Xi’s brother-in-law, who was pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied in a New York Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the wealth ac­cu­mu­lated by Xi’s fam­ily.

Chi­nese me­dia have largely avoided re­port­ing on the leaks and so­cial me­dia have been scrubbed of ref­er­ences to them, with for­eign news broad­cast­ers such as the BBC blacked out when they re­port on the is­sue.

As well as Xi Jin­ping’s brother-in-law, the doc­u­ments also con­tained the names of fam­ily mem­bers of two cur­rent Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee mem­bers, Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yun­shan, re­ported the BBC, which took part in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Chi­nese jour­nal­ists were or­dered to delete “all con­tent re­lated to the ‘ Panama Papers’ leak case”, ac­cord­ing to instructions seen by AFP.

Users on mi­croblog­ging web site Weibo tried to cir­cum­vent re­stric­tions by cir­cu­lat- ing pic­tures of Chi­nese-lan­guage ar­ti­cles de­scrib­ing the al­le­ga­tions.

In an edi­to­rial the Global Times, a news­pa­per with close links to the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party, im­plied the leaks were part of a “dis­in­for­ma­tion” cam­paign by Western forces.

It did not men­tion any of the Chi­nese rev- ela­tions, fo­cus­ing in­stead on the al­le­ga­tions in­volv­ing Putin – as did the Shang­hai Daily, which is linked to the gov­ern­ment of the com­mer­cial hub.

“The doc­u­ments re­vealed do have ba­sic po­lit­i­cal tar­gets,” the Global Times said, adding that “Wash­ing­ton has demon­strated par­ticu- lar in­flu­ence” in pre­vi­ous leaks of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia.

‘Strike a blow’ Such ac­tions were “a new means for the ide­ol­ogy-al­lied Western na­tions to strike a blow to non-western po­lit­i­cal elites and key or­gan­i­sa­tions”, it added.

Asked whether China would in­ves­ti­gate those named in the re­ports, for­eign min­istry spokesman Hong Lei said: “For such ground­less ac­cu­sa­tions, I have no com­ment.”

Cor­rupt Chi­nese of­fi­cials have moved more than $120bn over­seas, ac­cord­ing to a 2011 re­port by the Peo­ple’s Bank of China.

Off­shore com­pa­nies are not il­le­gal and can be used for le­git­i­mate busi­ness needs. But they com­monly fea­ture in cor­rup­tion cases, when they are used to se­cretly move ill-got­ten gains abroad.

Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per said an in­ter­nal Mos­sack Fon­seca sur­vey found the big­gest pro­por­tion of its off­shore com­pany own­ers came from main­land China, fol­lowed by Hong Kong.hong Kong also housed the great­est num­ber of in­ter­me­di­aries, banks and law firms, among oth­ers, that set up off­shore cor­po­ra­tions on clients’ be­half.

Mos­sack Fon­seca’s of­fice lo­ca­tions in China in­clude the ma­jor fi­nan­cial cen­tres of Shang­hai and Shen­zhen, as well as port cities Qing­dao and Dalian, and lesser-known pro­vin­cial cap­i­tals such as Shan­dong’s Ji­nan and Hangzhou in Zhe­jiang, along with Ningbo, also in the east­ern prov­ince.fallen po­lit­i­cal star Bo Xi­lai was once the mayor of Dalian, and at least 48 of­fi­cials from Shan­dong have been caught up in Bei­jing’s anti-graft cam­paign ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion main­tained by the Asia So­ci­ety on its Chi­nafile web­site.

The Panama Papers doc­u­ment trove was anony­mously leaked to Ger­man daily Sued­deutsche Zeitung and shared with more than 100 me­dia groups by ICIJ.

In a state­ment, Mos­sack Fon­seca de­nied any wrong­do­ing and said it has al­ways com­plied with rel­e­vant laws and reg­u­la­tions.

— AFP

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

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