A new investigation published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and more than 100 other news organizations around the globe including Norwegian Aftenposten, reveals the offshore links of some of the planet’s most prominent people.
The leaked records – which were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from nearly 80 countries – come from a little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, that has branches in London, Beijing, Miami, Zurich and more than 35 other places around the globe, writes ICIJ.
The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies that can be used to hide ownership of assets. The law firm’s leaked internal files contain information on 214,000 offshore companies connected to people in 200 countries and territories.
The Panama Papers make it clear that major banks are big drivers behind the creation of hard-to-trace companies in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other offshore havens. The files list more than 15,600 paper companies that banks set up for clients who wanted to keep their finances under wraps.
According to Aftenposten , which is the only Norwegian newspaper which participates in the project, Norway state-owned bank DNB has paved the way for Norwegian customers to hide money in tax haven Seychelles in the period of 2006 – 2015.
The money was placed in anonymous shell companies in Seychelles.
– To be associated with this type of business is far beyond our tolerance, says Executive Vice President of DNB, Tom Rathke to Aftenposten.
Rathke said the scheme was demanded by customers, and therefore they have chosen to offer it.
The bank also published a press release writing that they should not have done.
– It is the customers’ responsibility to report its own funds to the tax officials in Norway. Nevertheless, we believe that we should not have contributed to establishing these companies. Not because customers have done something wrong, but because the structures could be misused to evade taxes, says chief executive of DNB Rune Bjerke.
Based on the information available, DNB has not broken any laws or regulations in this matter. Nevertheless we are sorry that this limited operations in DNB Luxembourg was not discovered and ended earlier, said he.
About the report
It is the largest cross-border media collaboration ever undertaken. Journalists working in more than 25 languages dug into Mossack Fonseca’s inner affairs and traced the secret dealings of the law firm’s customers around the world. They shared information and hunted down leads generated by the leaked files using corporate filings, property records, financial disclosures, court documents and interviews with money laudering experts and law-enforcement officials.