Saturday, 11 February 2017

There would be a particularly nervous class of Australian investors right now - perhaps even Mr. Harbourside Mansion himself

The Guardian, 11 February 2017:

The founders of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal, were arrested in Panama City on Thursday as the country’s attorney general launched a probe into their alleged connections with Brazil’s sprawling Lava Jato corruption scandal.

Juergen Mossack and his colleague Ramon Fonseca, a former adviser to Panama’s president Juan Carlos Varela, were taken into custody and transferred to police cells in the capital overnight for further questioning on Friday, their defence attorney Elías Solano was quoted telling reporters.

Panamanian prosecutors raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca on Thursday. In a press conference on Kenia Porcell, Panama’s attorney general, said she had information that identified Mossack Fonseca “allegedly as a criminal organisation that is dedicated to hiding money assets from suspicious origins”. 

She said the firm’s Brazilian representative had allegedly been instructed to conceal documents and to remove evidence of illegal activities related to the Lava Jato case.

“Put simply, the money comes from bribes, circulated via certain corporate entities to return bleached or washed to Panama,” said Porcell. She explained charges had been formulated against four individuals, including the Mossack Fonseca partners. 

Porcell thanked the authorities in Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Switzerland and the United States for their part in a collaboration which she said began over a year ago.

The Panama Papers, which consist of millions of documents belonging to Mossack Fonseca and leaked in April 2016, provoked a global scandal after showing how the rich and powerful used offshore corporations to avoid paying taxes.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's merchant bank Turnbull & Partners received an estimated $3 million in 1995 and 1996 from the sales of shares held through offshore companies administered by notorious Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Turnbull & Partners received up to $7 million from share sales and advisory fees from Mr Turnbull's time as a director of a listed mining company, Star Mining, which had an interest in a Siberian gold deposit.

Documents obtained by The Australian Financial Review, which first revealed Mr Turnbull's link to a Mossack Fonseca company last month, show heavy selling of Star Mining shares by offshore companies in 1995 after a series of favourable decisions by Russian politicians and bureaucrats boosted the Star Mining share price.

One of the key figures who helped obtain Star's Siberian  mining leases, Ludmila Melnikoff, accuses Star director Ian MacNee, who died in 2008, of paying bribes of more than $US2 million to secure these decisions.

No comments: