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Cyprus

Cypriot authorities checking Panama Papers

File photo of the Mossack Fonseca law firm sign in Panama City

Authorities are checking the information contained in the Panama Papers to determine any illegal activities, MPs of the House ethics committee were told on Tuesday.

The committee is scheduled to continue discussing the matter next week, where they hope they can commit authorities to a timetable for producing a final report.

Speaking in parliament, Eva Papakyriakou, head of the Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS) said they are currently going through their own records to determine whether there are any individuals or companies linked to the Panama Papers who have come to the unit’s attention in the past.

She said that the special committee of financial supervisory authorities has already met twice, on April 18 and then May 12.

The special committee, chaired by the attorney-general, comprises representatives from MOKAS, the Central Bank of Cyprus, the ministries of finance and justice, the police, customs, the Association of Cyprus Banks, the Cyprus Bar Association and the Department of Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver.

For his part, Tax commissioner Yiannis Tsangaris confirmed an earlier announcement by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySec), where 63 entities in Cyprus were found to presently have, or to have had in the past, a business relationship with Mossack Fonseca, and/or to persons named in the Panama papers.

CySec had stressed however that such ties do not automatically suggest suspicious activity related to money laundering. It had gathered data from 413 regulated entities.

“Today we had the opportunity to hear from the state agencies, because our aim was to establish whether the institutions and the laws are working correctly,” DISY MP Zacharias Zachariou, who chairs the House ethics committee, later told reporters.

“We wanted to determine whether Cyprus is truly a hub for high-quality [financial] services and whether Cyprus has shed its sinful past,” he added.

Zachariou recalled that the Panama Papers refer to the period up until 2011.

Cyprus, he added, has toughened its anti-money laundering legislation, particularly in the wake of the 2013 financial meltdown, where some quarters abroad accused the island of being a money-laundering haven.

AKEL MP Aristos Damianou called on the government again to officially request the Panama Papers from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, as other European states have.

It is imperative to discover whether politically exposed persons in Cyprus are named in the documents, he added.

Distributed by a group of investigative journalists, the Panama Papers disclosed how rich and powerful people, including heads of state and convicted financial criminals, use shell companies to avoid paying taxes.

The documents centred on Mossack Fonseca, “the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm,” a global operation based in Panama with a presence in 42 countries, offering, among others, wealth-management services and incorporating offshore companies.

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

 

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