PANAMA PAPERS: More than $500 million recovered by tax authorities worldwide; Nigeria excluded

Panama Papers

At least $500 million has been recouped by tax authorities across the world after the Panama Papers revelations published in 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ, has said.

The ICIJ on Wednesday said that Spain alone collected $122 million after an investigation into the affairs of tax residents who stockpiled money offshore. But unlike other parts of the world, no such development was recorded in Nigeria where many notable individuals got mentions in the infamous database.

The Panama Papers investigation, a series of global investigations into offshore entities, spanning over a year by the ICIJ, German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and 100 other media organisations across the world, was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.

The investigation exposed offshore companies linked to more than 140 politicians in more than 50 countries – including 14 current or former world leaders.

It also uncovered offshore hideaways tied to mega-banks, corporate bribery scandals, drug kingpins, Syria’s air war on its own citizens and a network of people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin who shuffled as much as $2 billion around the world.

PREMIUM TIMES was the only Nigerian news organisation involved in the investigation.

In its latest revelation, the ICIJ noted that among the countries represented in the Panama Papers data, a total of 15 – on three continents – have publicly commented on the amount of taxes recovered by tax authorities, adding that the number could keep growing with several countries still conducting audits on the basis of the Panama Papers information.

The report said that in Canada, 123 audits are underway and several criminal investigations are ongoing, according to the Canada Revenue Agency. South Korea also reportedly recouped $1.2 billion in taxes in 2017, though it is not clear what percentage is directly connected to the Panama Papers.

In July, the German federal police agency announced it had bought the Panama Papers data. The agency conducted raids and has so far frozen two million euros.

Danish tax authorities also acquired a portion of the Panama Papers data from an unknown source and are investigating 320 companies and 500 to 600 individuals linked through the data to Denmark.

The founders of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, had been arrested on money laundering charges after authorities raided the firm’s headquarters as part of investigations into Brazil’s largest-ever bribery scandal, known as Lava Jato, earlier in the year.

Earlier in July, the Supreme Court in Pakistan, in a unanimous vote, removed the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from office following revelations from Panama Papers investigation that three of Mr. Sharif’s children were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies, including two that owned “a UK property each for use by the family” of the companies’ owners.

In Belgium, the police raided the offices of Belfius bank in connection to revelations that its former subsidiary, Experta Corporate and Fund Services, had been a prominent client of Mossack Fonseca. Experta, a tax consulting firm, helped to establish hundreds of offshore companies on its clients’ behalf, allegedly taking advantage of lax reporting requirements for foreign accounts, according to ICIJ Belgian partners Le Soir, Knack and De Tijd.

Inquiries into the financial deals of Malta’s Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, are still ongoing. A Dutch regulator started criminal proceedings against a few trust offices based on the Panama Papers findings from ICIJ partners, Trouw. As a result, the law which regulates trust offices will also become stricter in January 1, 2018.

Similarly, the Canadian government has formally committed to creating a register of beneficial owners, although it is not yet clear when it will be publicly accessible. The government also increased the budget of the Canada Revenue Agency by more than $500 million to hire more auditors and investigators.

Meanwhile, the European Union also published its blacklist of 17 tax havens earlier this December, including Panama. But other major tax havens were missing from the list, including the British Virgin Islands, where Mossack Fonseca registered half of the companies it set up between 1970 and 2015.

A major milestone was reached earlier in Mongolia where a conflict of interest law for public service was amended to ban civil servants and public officials and their immediate family members from holding or using offshore accounts.

NO MILESTONE IN NIGERIA YET

In the course of the investigations in Nigeria, led by Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, PREMIUM TIMES published more than 30 stories, with damning details revealing the secret offshore asset of many prominent Nigerians.

It is not illegal for Nigerians to have offshore accounts, and many prominent businesses do have them. However, some public officials found to have the accounts did not disclose them as expected by law.

The newspaper’s investigations revealed the secret offshore asset of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his wife Toyin; as well as Mr. Saraki’s predecessor, David Mark.

It also revealed how late governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, began looting his state and hiding the funds in offshore structures and how a former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, organised the stealing of the oil-rich state’s fund via offshore companies.

The investigations also revealed a network of shell companies in offshore tax havens linked to Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and his brother, Sayyu Dantata; as well as the offshore companies of Wale Tinubu, the chief executive of Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil company, Oando Plc, among others.

Similarly, the stories also exposed the secret offshore company of one of Africa’s most influential televangelists, Temitope Joshua, popularly called T.B Joshua.

Other prominent Nigerians named in the investigations are former Minister of Defence and billionaire businessman, Theophilus Danjuma; Etisalat boss, Hakeem Bello Osaigie; Globacom CEO, Mike Adenuga; Governor Abubakar Sadiq Sani Bello of Niger State; the late Ooni of Ife, Okunade Sijuwade; Arik Chairman, Joseph Arumemi-Johnson and his wife, Mary, as well as two other serving senators – Andy Uba (Anambra) and Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto).

Other top business persons, politicians, and their family members were also found in the infamous database, including those currently holding public offices.

The revelations by PREMIUM TIMES’ investigations sparked outrage across the land, with activists, civil society organisations, the labour movement and the general public calling for extensive probe of those mentioned.


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