Australia in probe of possible tax evasion

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on the publication by a coalition of media outlets of an investigation into offshore financial dealings by the rich and famous (all times local):

11:35 a.m.

Nordea, the Nordic region’s biggest bank, says it doesn’t help wealthy customers evade taxes in response to reports linking it to the Panamanian law firm at the center of a media investigation into offshore accounts.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT, one of the hundreds of media with access to leaked documents detailing offshore accounts, says Nordea’s private banking unit in Luxembourg worked with Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca to help wealthy customers set up shell companies.

Nordea said Monday it follows and “all rules and regulations” and doesn’t tolerate being used to evade taxes. It said its Luxembourg unit in 2009 started taking measures “in addition to those prescribed in laws and regulations or industry practices.” Since then the number of customers “with these structures” has decreased, Nordea said.


11:20 a.m.

A group representing current and former lawmakers from Southeast Asian countries says the trove of leaked documents shows how the wealthy and politically powerful have abused rules governing offshore tax havens, often to the detriment of their own communities.

The group, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, is calling for governments in the region to crack down on large scale corporate tax evasion and pursue more equitable tax regimes.

Malaysian lawmaker Charles Santiago, who chairs the group, says multinational corporations and individuals evading tax should be hauled up in their respective countries.

He says, “Intermediaries, especially financial institutions, must be investigated and charged as well.”


10:50 a.m.

Russian media are keeping mum about the $2 billion found in offshore accounts linked to close friends of President Vladimir Putin.

An investigation published by an international coalition of more than 100 media outlets on Sunday details how politicians use banks, law firms and offshore shell companies to hide their assets. Putin’s close friends including a cellist from St. Petersburg were shown to be engaged in a complex offshore scheme.

Following a leak from a Panamanian law firm, authorities in other countries said they would investigate the individuals mentioned for possible tax evasion.

In Russia, where the investigation was published by independent Novaya Gazeta, the so-called Panama Papers scandal faced an effective coverage ban. Russian television on Monday morning made no mention of the Panama scandal.


8:45 a.m.

Japan’s biggest security company, Secom Co., said Monday that it had disclosed to tax authorities all necessary information about the management of assets of its founders by a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, at the center of an investigative report on offshore financial dealings.

Secom Co. said in a statement that it understood all services provided by Mossack Fonseca to Secom and to its director Makoto Iida and its late former director Juichi Toda were legal.

The Kyodo News Service is part of a media consortium that has published details of an investigation into offshore financial dealings by the rich and famous. It reported that Iida and Toda, who died in 2014, used offshore companies to manage their assets.

Separately, the National Tax Agency said it does not comment on individual cases.


8:20 a.m.

The Australian Taxation Office says it is investigating more than 800 wealthy Australians for possible tax evasion linked to their dealings with a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, which is one of the world’s biggest creators of shell companies.

The investigation comes a day after the release by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalism of details of a cache of 11.5 million records detailing offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders, as well as businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars.

Ramon Fonseca, a co-founder of Mossack Fonseca, confirmed to Panama’s Channel 2 television network that the papers were authentic and had been illegally obtained through hacking.

The Australian Tax Office said in a statement that it had linked 120 out of 800 individual Australian taxpayers it found in the data to an unnamed associate offshore services provider in Hong Kong.


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