Cyprus Mail

Panama Papers probe looks stalled until October

Mossack Fonseca law firm sign is pictured in Panama City

It looks like checks carried out by authorities into possible Cypriot connections to the Panama Papers will be dragging into the autumn.

The House ethics committee, which tabled the issue for discussion – the matter was tabled by Greens MP George Perdikis – heard on Tuesday that state agencies and regulatory authorities will be able to come back with a more detailed picture, but not until October.

MPs heard from the Tax Department that to date it has identified 100 of some 3,600 individuals mentioned in the Panama Papers as being linked in some way or another to Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the centre of the leaks.

The Tax Department said it was having difficulty identifying the remainder of the individuals as some of the names in the leaked list were identical, occurred several times, and lacked an identity card number or phone details.

The Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS) has been combing through its 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.

A memo that MOKAS submitted to the House committee shows that since September 2013, from convictions relating to money-laundering offences, courts have issued 39 confiscation orders for amounts worth some €36 million.

Earlier, the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) announced that 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.

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

The documents show the ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.

A chart published on April 5 named Cyprus among a list of 21 “tax havens” used by Mossack Fonseca.

When the story first broke, CySEC chairperson Demetra Kalogerou stated that in addition to the 150 companies supervised by CySEC, there are also law firms that provide administrative services and which are supervised by the Bar Association, as well as audit/accounting firms that provide administrative services and are supervised by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus (ICPAC).

Meantime the Bar Association, whose representatives have failed to show up at the parliamentary discussions despite being invited, has drawn the ire of Zacharias Zachariou, the chairman of the House ethics committee.

In a letter penned to the Bar Association, after the committee was apparently snubbed for a second time on Tuesday, the MP reminded the association that parliament has the power to subpoena them should they continue to refuse to attend of their own accord.

Zachariou pointed out that one of the Cyprus-linked names mentioned in the Panama Papers is a law firm, and therefore the responsibility of the Bar Association.

Speaking to reporters later, the MP asked whether the association was merely in contempt of parliament, or was trying to cover up something.



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