IMPACT

European Inquiry to Call UK Chancellor, Mossack Fonseca to Testify

A special 65-member Panama Papers committee of inquiry has been created by the European parliament to investigate potential wrongdoing exposed by ICIJ’s investigation.

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A special Panama Papers committee of inquiry has been created by the European parliament and is expected to call high profile officals including Britain’s chancellor and representatives of law firm Mossack Fonseca as it probes potential wrongdoing unveiled by ICIJ and its partners’ investigations.

The 65-member inquiry committee was approved by a vote in the European parliament last week, and will have 12 months to investigate “contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and evasion” revealed by the Panama Papers.

Spokeswoman for the Greens in European Parliament Molly Scott Cato told the Guardian that the committee intended to call ministers, tax officials and bank bosses, including British chancellor George Osborne. A member of parliament from the right-of-center EPP group, Burkhard Balz, told AFP that law firm Mossack Fonseca and the Panama government would also be called to testify.

The European inquiry comes amidst continued global responses to the Panama Papers investigation:

  • In the United States, Mossack Fonseca reportedly resigned as registered agent from 24 companies in Wyoming as part of a continued wind-down of its U.S. operations. The law firm had earlier abruptly resigned from more than 1,000 Nevada companies. The news came a week after NML Capital, a unit of hedge-fund giant Elliott Management Corp. managed by New York billionaire Paul Singer, announced it was suing the Panamanian law firm for obstruction of justice, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
  • In Asia, regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore asked banks to disclose any dealings they might have had with individuals or entities named in the Panama Papers, according to Reuters. The New York banking regulator had also asked banks for information about their dealings with Mossack Fonseca and its clients in April. Bankers in Hong Kong told Reuters that the Panama Papers “triggered a massive compliance exercise” in the jurisdiction as banks sought to ensure their books were in order.
  • In Malta, the Tax Compliance Unit has started an official investigation into the companies and individuals named in the Panama Papers, but the police force has thus far ruled out any criminal investigation.
  • In Switzerland, a computer specialist from Mossack Fonseca was arrested on suspicion of stealing data. Prosecutors had opened an investigation following a complaint from the firm. Reporters from German newspaper and ICIJ partner Süddeutsche Zeitung said the arrested person was not the source of the Panama Papers leak, and a report by ICIJ’s Swiss partner Le Matin said the allegations relate to data that was transferred after the Panama Papers investigation was published. The accused has denied the charges.

A recent 25-country poll by global market research firm Ipsos found that four in five people surveyed agreed that the Panama Papers “shows that there’s two sets of rules in the world – one for rich people, and one for everybody else.” Respondents overwhelmingly disagreed with the statement that tax avoidance is reasonable, and most said politicians should resign when allegations related to offshore activity revealed in the Panama Papers are proven true.

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