Panama Papers: Tax officials to consider international action

Investigative project involving ‘The Irish Times’ takes in one of largest data leaks ever

The Panama Papers project has  involved one of the largest data leaks ever. The 11.5 million leaked files cover 40 years of the operations of one of the world’s largest providers of offshore services, the Panama-headquartered Mossack Fonseca law firm. File photograph:  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Panama Papers project has involved one of the largest data leaks ever. The 11.5 million leaked files cover 40 years of the operations of one of the world’s largest providers of offshore services, the Panama-headquartered Mossack Fonseca law firm. File photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

 

Tax officials from around the world, including the Revenue Commissioners, meet in Paris today to discuss international action in response to the Panama Papers controversy.

The meeting comes as tax authorities, finance ministries and criminal investigation agencies have been contacting the more than 100 media groups, including The Irish Times, involved in the collaborative journalism project.

The project, organised by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), involved one of the largest data leaks ever. The 11.5 million leaked files cover 40 years of the operations of one of the world’s largest providers of offshore services, the Panama-headquartered Mossack Fonseca law firm.

The Irish Times has told the Revenue Commissioners it will not be acceding to its request for copies of all documents that appear to have an Irish link.

It said this stance is intended to protect sources of information whose action, in supplying such material, is very much in the public interest.

The Irish tax authority has also written to the ICIJ with a similar request. The ICIJ, on its website, says it has a policy of not turning over material such as the leaked Mossack files.

‘Tackling evasion’

“The ICIJ is not an arm of law enforcement and is not an agent of the government. We are an independent reporting organisation, served by and serving our members, the global investigative journalism community, and the public.”

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank said it is “liaising with the relevant authorities in Ireland and monitoring the situation closely”.

The Revenue Commissioners is “keenly focused on tackling offshore evasion and will avail in full of any emerging information in relation to suspected tax evasion”, a spokeswoman said.

“Revenue will attend the Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration [Jitsic] network to explore possibilities of co-operation and information-sharing, identify tax compliance risks, and agree collaborative action, in light of the Panama Papers revelations.”

She said the Jitsic network of tax officials is responsible for responding to global compliance risks through “active collaboration and fast and effective information exchange with other tax administrations”. It is affiliated with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Wealthy

The Mossack files were originally leaked to Suddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the ICIJ and its media partners. There is nothing illegal about using Mossack services or offshore companies and use of the firm’s services does not imply any illegality.

But the files exposed the use of such structures for secret holding of assets by political leaders, their families and friends. It also highlighted the use of secretive offshore services for tax avoidance and other purposes by the wealthy.

The leaked data includes more than 300 offshore companies linked with Irish addresses, hundreds of Irish shareholders and beneficial owners, and numerous cases of Irish passports used in Mosack’s due diligence process.

The ICIJ said early next month it will release names of the more than 214,000 offshore entities, as well as beneficiaries, shareholders and directors connected to them. An exact date has not been disclosed. The actual documents in the files will not be published.

Inquiries are being established in the UK and other jurisdictions, and the Mossack offices in El Salvador and Peru have been raided.

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