Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Almost 2,500 people and firms identified from Panama Papers

Tax authorities have so far identified some 2,400 individuals and corporations mentioned in the Panama Papers, MPs heard on Thursday.

Of these, 1,300 are individuals and 1,000 legal entities, deputy tax commissioner Soteris Markides informed lawmakers.

Among the names identified, around 700 had not submitted tax returns for years – a number going back to 2005.

Under the law, authorities may request information from taxpayers going back a maximum of 12 years.

That is why tax officials used 2005 as a baseline, Markides explained.

And about 50 persons/corporations did not even have a tax file.

In identifying these individuals and corporations, said Markides, the Tax Department made use of special in-house software, where parameters were inserted based on tangential information appearing in the Panama Papers.

For those who were found to be delinquent on filing tax returns or who lack a tax file altogether, authorities will be contacting them over the next few days requesting compliance.

Moreover, the Tax Department identified a number of “high-risk persons” who possess assets overseas.

Markides stressed, however, that having a relationship with a company abroad or keeping assets overseas does not necessarily point to tax evasion.

A sample of some 100 persons thus deemed “high risk” would likewise by contacted in the near future, and would be asked to furnish extensive data on their property and any earnings generated overseas.

According to the deputy tax commissioner, there is a “serious possibility” that several of the persons mentioned in the Panama Papers are nominee shareholders – holding stock in companies on behalf of another person.

Markides vowed that authorities would “do no favours to anyone found liable for tax evasion.”

But on the other hand, he added, the Tax Department is working “low key,” wary of actions or statements that might damage the island’s reputation as a financial services centre.
Contacted by the Cyprus Mail, Tax Commissioner Yiannis Tsangaris said authorities here have not officially requested the entire Panama Papers from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which released the documents in 2016.

The department, he said, is working with what is available in the public domain – documents published online.

He added that work was ongoing, not ruling out the identification of more persons appearing in the Panama Papers.

The department is currently analysing the information coming to light to determine which cases might constitute tax evasion, tax avoidance, or money laundering.

‘Panama Papers’ is shorthand for the widely-publicized report of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, originally published on April 3, 2016. The story broke simultaneously on the ICIJ Web site and in newspapers around the world.

A massive leak of 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca provided the investigative journalists with a trove of information about 200,000 entities incorporated in offshore havens – companies whose real owners were difficult or impossible to trace.

Mossack Fonseca (Cyprus) Ltd, a representative office of the Panamanian firm, was registered in Cyprus in 2003. The company asked to be deleted from the registry of companies registered in Cyprus in March 2016. Three individuals were listed on Mossack Fonseca’s website as contacts for the Cyprus office.

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