Cyprus Mail

Bar association scrutinises Mossack Fonseca’s Cyprus ties

The Cyprus Bar Association is also investigating reports in the international press about the activities of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in Cyprus, which allegedly helped politicians, companies, criminals and celebrities set up offshore companies, launder money and evade taxes, the chairman of the association said.

A team of five appointed by the bar association, the supervisory authority of both law firms and companies registered by law firms, is also tasked with investigating the Cyprus branch of Mossack Fonseca, Ioannides said on CyBC on Thursday.

Ioannides said that he was personally not familiar with Mossack Fonseca or its Cyprus branch before the reports by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism were made public on Sunday.

The Cyprus branch of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca (Cyprus) Ltd, which is registered under an apparently false address at the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver in Limassol, filed an application to be struck off in February. The directors of Mossack Fonseca (Cyprus) Ltd – Geoffrey Magistrate and Ioannis Despotides – have not responded to requests for a comment.

Mossak Fonseca (Cyprus) is affiliated with Ergoserve, a Limassol-based company, which in turn is affiliated with the Clerides, Anastasiou and Neofytou law firm and the tax consultant Isotax. The three companies, housed in the same building in Chrisoroiatissis & Kolokotroni street in Limassol, have not responded to repeated requests for a comment.

Ergoserve has removed references to Mossack Fonseca from its website dating as late as January 22, 2016.

Andri Athanasiou, wife of Isotax manager Nicos Charalambides, and – according to the Registrar’s website –director of another Cyprus unit of the Panama firm, Mossack Fonseca Secretarial (Cyprus) Limited, declined to comment when contacted by the Cyprus Business Mail on Tuesday.

Magistrate is also director of Mossack Fonseca Secretarial (Cyprus) Limited, which is also housed in the same building as Ergoserve.

According to the registrar’s website, directors at Ergoserve are Panagiotis Clerides, Marina Epiphaniou, and Phanos Epiphaniou. When contacted over the phone on Thursday by the Cyprus Business Mail, the latter said he was not aware of the exact nature of Ergoserve’s activities. “You should ask Geoffrey (Magistrate) instead,” he said.

The Panamanian law firm denies allegations of wrongdoing. There is no suggestion that the company’s Cyprus units or its affiliated companies engaged in any illegal activities.

Ioannides, the chairman of the bar association said that the team instructed to investigate Mossack Fonseca’s activities in Cyprus also carries audits at “mainly major law firms” in Cyprus.

“Audits are carried out based on random samples; we cannot audit all companies registered,” he said. “The audit (process) has been intensified since 2013.”

Ioannides added that the audit team already ensured that “lawyers keep detailed archives” and added that “Cyprus adheres to all European Union standards”.

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