“Stuffing against Putin”: Russia and the West react to offshore scandal


On Sunday evening the international consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ) and its partners published materials, from which it follows that 12 current and former world leaders, their relatives and associates, as well as hundreds of politicians and almost three dozen billionaires secretly held assets in offshore, created with the help of legal company Mossack Fonseca. An array of data that was available to journalists, covers the work of this law firm since the early 1970s and until the spring of 2016. One of the co-founders of the firm, Ramon Fonseca, has called the leak “a crime”. But representatives of the tax authorities and some heads of States welcomed the work of journalists and now promise to study the published information.

“Good news for France”

Among the participants of the investigation are not only immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Middle East, Latin America and Africa. In “the Panama document” included among the other six members of the British house of lords, the Ministers of the Icelandic government headed by Prime Minister sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, aunt of king of Spain Philip VI and a former budget Minister in the socialist government of France, Jerome Cahuzac.

Many Western leaders and law enforcement agencies welcomed the publication of the investigation. One of the first was made by the President of France Francois Hollande. He thanked journalists for their work. Only the documents mentioned more than a thousand citizens of his country. This is “good news for France,” said Hollande. The tax authorities will check the documents and start an investigation, said the President. Now in the French Parliament discussed a bill proposed by Finance Minister Michel Sapena. His idea was to provide the journalists leading the investigation, and their informants further protection from the state, says the magazine La Marianne.

The first report on the ICIJ has responded to the tax authorities of Australia and New Zealand. According to the news Agency Reuters, the Australian tax office reported that among the clients Mossak Fonseca — more than 800 Australian taxpayers; the head of Michael Cranston promised to transfer some of the cases for consideration by the special commissions for serious financial crimes.

European Commissioner for the economy Pierre Moscovici expressed confidence that with the revelations of ICIJ politicians have received a mandate to combat offshore companies. “This is great news, it gives a political weapon to declare, “Enough!” — and to demand greater transparency”, quoted by French publication L Opinion.

But Western leaders admit to the real struggle with the withdrawal of funds to offshore zones requires political will and joint work of all countries of the world. That for anti-money laundering measures must be taken “globally”, stated, in particular, the Chancellor of Austria Werner Faymann. “We need more severe actions against not interested in cooperating third countries. And those of the country whose business model consists in concealing tax fraud through offshore companies, it is necessary to impose sanctions,” — said the Chancellor.

“We have improved our rules”

The creation of offshore companies is not itself illegal, but any movement of funds on accounts of “politically exposed persons” (politically exposed persons) and their affiliated persons, in accordance with the requirements of the Group of financial action against money laundering (FATF) must be checked for corruption. “”Political officials” should not by definition be the movement of funds that was not mentioned in his official Declaration of income and property. And everything else should be checked,” comments in Facebook Vice-President of Transparency International Elena Panfilov.

“It is a criminal offence”

One of the founders of Mossack Fonseca Ramon Fonseca called the “crime” the leak and publication of documents about offshore companies and transactions of the firm’s clients. “This is a crime, a criminal offense. Privacy is a fundamental human right, which has increasingly eroded in the modern world”, he said (quoted by Sky News). Fonseca also expressed the view that publication of data is “an attack on Panama”. The President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela has previously promised that the government was prepared to “vigorous” cooperation with the courts on cases that might be filed in connection with the investigation. Founder Mossack Fonseca noted that while the company has no idea who leaked, which it characterized as “limited cracking”.

Possible violations of the recommendations are already acknowledged by Deutsche Bank. Along with this Berenberg Bank is the oldest financial organization actively cooperated with Mossack Fonseca in Germany. Both banks have confirmed that advised clients about offshore zones. Deutsche Bank claims that nothing illegal in this, but promises to be careful: “We are aware of the meanings of what is happening. Regarding the performance of the Deutsche Bank, we have improved our rules for admission of new clients: check with whom you do business, and for clarity, are our procedures and the principles with the law”, — said the representative of the Bank, magazine Der Spiegel. Employee Berenberg Bank also drew the attention of Der Spiegel on the strict rules of the company in respect of offshore companies, although acknowledged that the Bank managed the assets of some offshore firms, through its Swiss subsidiary. According to him, the ultimate owner is always known, and the transaction and the status of the companies are checked constantly.

“Everyone has the right to do what he wants”

Not all reacted to the investigation with such enthusiasm. The Kremlin, for example, considers the publication of ICIJ as part of an information attack on the President, Vladimir Putin, and the authors of the investigation — including as CIA agents. “Although Putin has never appeared on evidence and referred to other countries and other leaders, but it is clear to us that the main purpose of such disinformation was and is our President in the context of the parliamentary elections and the long term presidential elections, as well as overall political stability in our country”, — said Tuesday the President’s press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. “The degree of putinopoly has reached such a level that it is okay to talk about Russia, talk about the success of Russia should not, a priori,” — said Peskov. Among the participants of the investigation, he determined that “former employees of the state Department, the CIA and other intelligence services”, adding that he was their source of funding: according to ICIJ, its sponsors including based George Soros Foundation “open society”.

“Everyone has the right to do with your assets all that he wants,” said the information Minister of Pakistan Pervez Rasheed, commenting on data about the ICIJ offshore companies, which allegedly belong to the children of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “Can throw into the sea, to sell or create a trust. In this case, there’s no crime on Pakistani or international laws,” writes The Guardian. As follows from the information presented in the investigation, three children, Sharif registered in the British virgin Islands at least four offshore companies, which owned at least six luxury houses in the area of London’s Hyde Park cost millions of dollars.

The national anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine also stated that it will not initiate an investigation against the President of Petro Poroshenko, because he has no such authority. At the same time, the Ministry said that “in relation to other persons mentioned in the media, now being investigated in order to establish a basis for initiating pre-trial investigation”. According to ICIJ, the company Prime Asset Partners Ltd registered in 2014 in the British virgin Islands, became the holding company for Ukrainian and Cyprus entities owned by Poroshenko Corporation “Roshen”. Poroshenko was its sole owner, but did not specify it in their returns for 2014-2015. Himself Poroshenko on Monday publicly demanded from the governors of its assets explanations. He stated that as President of Ukraine, has departed from management of assets, instructing his consulting companies.

Another figurant of the list, Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson faced calls for his resignation. From documents Mossack Fonseca implies that the politician, along with his fiancee (later his wife) owned an offshore company Wintris that held the bonds of the largest banks of Iceland in the amount of about €3.6 million, Respectively, after the nationalization of banks during the crisis of 2008 Gunnlaugsson were among the creditors demanding settlement of debts. A month ago in an interview with Swedish journalists, the Prime Minister vehemently denied the presence of offshore companies in early 2010, he donated his share Wintris the bride.

On Sunday evening, according to Bloomberg, at least 4 thousand people took to the streets demanding the resignation of Prime Minister, and more than 7% of the population of Iceland have signed an online petition, reports bi-Bi-si. But to leave a post of the Prime Minister refused — “I’m not going to resign in connection with this situation,” said Gunnlaugsson Iceland’s Channel 2. According to him, his study showed good results and it is important to let him develop, before the Constitution of the metered period.

“We need real action”

Transparency International on Monday made an appeal to the G20 as soon as possible to agree on international standards open registries of beneficial ownership and to start to apply sanctions to those jurisdictions that these standards are not observed. Professor of the London Institute of financial services Peter Hahn remarked to Bloomberg that instead of blaming banks in offshore transactions the international community needs to ensure disclosure of ultimate beneficiaries of shell companies. About the same time the G20 leaders agreed at the summit in Brisbane in 2014, while talking about the need for disclosure of ownership was raised in this format seven years ago, when the “Big twenty” was being created.

The investigation into the “Panamanian archive” sheds light on the dark side of the global financial system, says the chair of Transparency International josé Extinguished. He urged world leaders to come together and ban secret companies that fuel large-scale corruption and allows the corrupt officials to benefit from the state obtained by criminal means.

A pioneer in the disclosure of final beneficiaries was made by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron has declared the fight against offshore companies one of the objectives of his office, from 1 April, all British companies are required to keep a register of its ultimate beneficiaries. British revenue and customs has promised to “carefully study” the ICIJ documents.

However, the anti-corruption portfolio premiere already have a claim. “Cameron promised, and failed in his promise to end tax secrets and “morally unacceptable” offshore schemes, and now requires real actions”, — quotes The Times shadow Chapter Treasury John McDonnell. The publication notes that over the past five years the British tax authorities made only 11 criminal cases on charges of tax evasion using foreign offshore zones.

Among mentioned in documents Dating Mossack Fonseca and the name of the father of Cameron — Ian, a stockbroker and a multimillionaire. This is not news — that it was registered offshore at the time of his son, a student of Eton, wrote in 2012, The Guardian. But the revelations of ICIJ fell out of place — it is unlikely Cameron is happy to see his father’s name in the same row with the cousins of Bashar al-Assad and close friends of Vladimir Putin, while he is preparing a summit to combat the withdrawal of funds through offshore companies, writes Spear’s. The forum should be held in may in London, to participate in it invited the world Bank, the IMF, and the country’s “Big twenty”.