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Tuesday , December 6 2022

Panama Papers offshore companies data spurs anti-graft moves

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TOKYO, May 10, (AP): The latest release of the names of thousands of offshore companies and other financial data of the rich and powerful is spurring renewed calls to counter corruption and tax evasion. Japan’s government spokesman said Tuesday that Tokyo plans to propose an action plan for combating graft at the summit of the Group of Seven rich industrial economies that will be held later this month in Ise, Japan.

That follows various moves by other countries to investigate or tighten oversight of such financial dealings following the first release last month of information from what has been dubbed the “Panama Papers.” D. S. Malik, a spokesman for India’s finance ministry, said Tuesday that India’s income tax authorities have sent notices to all the Indians listed in the database and would investigate each case based on their replies.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made the fresh data on 200,000 entities available on its website at 1800 GMT (2:00 pm EDT) Monday. The database contains basic corporate information about companies, trusts and foundations set up in 21 jurisdictions, including Hong Kong and the US state of Nevada.

The data was obtained from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which said it was hacked. Users can search the data and see the networks involving the offshore companies, including, where available, Mossack Fonseca’s internal records of the true owners. The ICIJ said it put the information online “in the public interest,” noting that a mention on the list does not imply wrongdoing. The database omits information and documents on bank accounts, phone numbers and emails.

Mossack Fonseca said last week it had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the ICIJ urging the organization not to publish the database, on the grounds it was “based on the theft of confidential information.” Shell companies are often used for legitimate purposes. But they also can be employed to evade taxes or to launder earnings from bribery, embezzlement and other illicit activity.

The Group of 20 most powerful economies has agreed that individual governments should make sure authorities can tell who really owns legally registered companies, but implementation in national law has lagged. The database has revealed how some tiny countries in the South Pacific have been favored as places to set up offshore trusts.

More than 13,000 offshore companies and trusts were set up in Samoa, population 200,000, and nearly 10,000 in Niue, which has a population of just 1,200, it says. Some of the trusts listed are no longer operational. There are also more than 500 entities listed under the jurisdiction of the Cook Islands, population 10,000, and more than 600 in Singapore, population 5.7 million. The list for Hong Kong includes 51,295 offshore entities