Re­port shines light on shady money tac­tics

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The re­lease of a vast trove of doc­u­ments and other data on off­shore fi­nan­cial deal­ings of wealthy, fa­mous and pow­er­ful peo­ple around the world is rais­ing ques­tions over the wide­spread use of tac­tics to avoid taxes and skirt fi­nan­cial over­sight.

Re­ports by an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion of me­dia out­lets on an in­ves­ti­ga­tion with the US-based In­ter­na­tional Con­sor­tium of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists (ICIJ) brought to light de­tails of off­shore as­sets and ser­vices of politi­cians, busi­nesses and celebri­ties, based on a cache of 11.5 mil­lion records.

Among the coun­tries with past or present po­lit­i­cal fig­ures named in the re­ports are Ice­land, Ukraine, Pak­istan, Saudi Ara­bia, Rus­sia and Ar­gentina.

Aus­tralia’s tax agency said yes­ter­day it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing more than 800 wealthy peo­ple for pos­si­ble tax eva­sion linked to their al­leged deal­ings with Mos­sack Fon­seca, a Pana­ma­nian law firm with in­ter­na­tional of­fices that pro­vide off­shore fi­nan­cial ser­vices and ad­vice.

And there have been calls for Ice­land’s Prime Min­is­ter Sig­mundur David Gunnlaugs­son to or­der a snap elec­tion af­ter he was named in the re­port.

Ra­mon Fon­seca, a co-founder of Mos­sack Fon­seca - one of the world’s largest cre­ators of shell com­pa­nies - con­firmed to Panama’s Chan­nel 2 tele­vi­sion net­work that doc­u­ments in­ves­ti­gated by the ICIJ were authen­tic and had been ob­tained il­le­gally by hack­ers.

But he said most peo­ple named in the re­ports were not his firm’s di­rect clients but were ac­counts set up by in­ter­me­di­aries.

He said the firm did not en­gage in any wrong­do­ing.

Busi­ness­men, crim­i­nals, celebri­ties and sports stars are men­tioned - the ICIJ said the doc­u­ments in­volve 214,488 com­pa­nies and 14,153 clients of Mos­sack Fon­seca. The non-profit group said it would re­lease the full list of com­pa­nies and peo­ple linked to them early next month.

“It [the in­ves­ti­ga­tion] al­lows a ne­ver­be­fore-seen view inside the off­shore world - pro­vid­ing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global fi­nan­cial sys­tem, breed­ing crime and strip­ping na­tional trea­suries of tax rev­enues,” the ICIJ said.

Ac­cord­ing to the ICIJ’s web­site, banks in­clud­ing HSBC, UBS, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank have worked with Mos­sack Fon­seca to cre­ate off­shore ac­counts.

“The al­le­ga­tions are his­tor­i­cal, in some cases dat­ing back 20 years, pre­dat­ing our sig­nif­i­cant, well-pub­li­cised re­forms im­ple­mented over the last few years,” HSBC spokesman Rob Sher­man said in an email to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

CALLS: Gunnlaugs­son

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