World: Analysis: Name and shame tax evaders, says journalist behind Panama Papers - PressFrom - Australia
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WorldAnalysis: Name and shame tax evaders, says journalist behind Panama Papers

01:20  22 july  2019
01:20  22 july  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Murdered Panama Papers journalist 's son attacks Malta's 'crooks'. Read more. “Everyone knows Ms Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine,” said Muscat at a hastily convened press conference, “both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way”.

Two years after the Panama Papers was first published, journalists look back on the project through different lenses, but taken together, they reflect a world Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa says there is still 6 million stashed offshore, as the country names and shames those it believes

Analysis: Name and shame tax evaders, says journalist behind Panama Papers© CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images Frederik Obermaier (left) and Bastian Obermayer (right) first received the "Panama Papers". The Panama Papers proved that once you out peoples' dirty secrets, their game is largely up.

To date, it remains one of the biggest data leaks in history, revealing the hidden faces behind shell companies and offshore tax havens.

The 11.5 million documents, leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca by an anonymous source operating under the pseudonym "John Doe", shamed the rich and famous and took down world leaders.

One of the early casualties was Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to resign days after the leaks showed he and his wife owned an offshore company he had not declared when entering parliament.

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Related The Panama Papers Largest Leak in History | Propaganda, Preparation for Mass Arrests or Birkenfeld originally blew the whistle on American tax evaders using Swiss bank accounts to divert their Noting that “all journalists from really respected and recommended big German newspapers ”

The Panama Papers . One of the biggest leaks in journalistic history reveals the secretive offshore companies used to hide wealth, evade taxes and commit fraud by the “Secretly owned companies are the getaway cars for terrorists, dictators, money launderers and tax evaders all over the world.

Then-Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was also eventually removed from office because of his and his family members' alleged links with offshore companies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin faced enormous political heat (although he has rejected links to offshore accounts and called the leaks part of Western efforts to weaken Russia).

Authorities across the world, including the Australian Taxation Office, moved immediately to investigate potential breaches of the law by their citizens.

And while the ATO has said prosecutions of individuals could take years to eventuate, in the United States federal authorities have already laid charges against several individuals.

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Regardless, the Panama Papers leak has faced scrutiny beyond Birkenfeld’s. Noting that “all journalists from really respected and recommended big German newspapers ” tend to be He said many reporters in countries around the world “play the [role of] respected journalists but if you look

A group of investigative journalists said the Mossack Fonseca law firm has helped people from more than 200 countries and territories hide their money. After the release of the leaked documents known as the “ Panama Papers ,” Mossack Fonseca said it acted responsibly and obeyed international laws.

Since the leaks, the OECD has been encouraging governments to introduce a register that gives the public free access to the names of people behind secret assets and bank accounts.

Known as a "beneficial ownership register", it would make it harder for criminals to hide who they are and what they get up to.

According to the head of tax at the OECD, Pascal Saint-Amans, this register is the final frontier in fighting tax evasion.

This register was also something that Labor supported in its election pitch, and the former minister for revenue and financial services, Kelly O'Dwyer, said the Government would look at introducing.

In a media release in February 2017, she noted it was a government "commitment" and announced Treasury would consult on how to best introduce a register and report back.

But more than two years on, nothing has happened.

There's been much effort, by those who have a great deal to lose, to fight against anyone who wants to shine a light on murky business deals.

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The biggest scandal in the Panama Papers leak, which revealed that political leaders around the world were hiding money in offshore accounts, isn't about corruption or organized crime. The 11.5 million files stolen from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed just how unequal the world is.

Journalist who exposed Malta's Panama Papers link killed in car bomb. Meanwhile, the French finance minister Michel Sapin told a press conference the Panama Papers have prompted “a burst A spokesperson at the Revenue Commissioners said it was not yet clear whether the Panama Papers

Despite most submissions to Treasury supporting the introduction of such a register, despite the Federal Government's own Black Economy Taskforce calling for it, and despite Australian government agencies including the ATO, the Australian Securities Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre all supporting it, the Government has delayed the introduction.

It appears that business and tax lobbyists have had some traction in convincing Liberal ministers that a register is too much red tape.

The person now responsible for hearing their grievances — but who ultimately has the power to see the policy through — is Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, Jane Hume.

A spokesman for Ms Hume said: "The Government is committed to improving the transparency of information around beneficial ownership and control of companies available to relevant authorities … including the establishment of a central register.

"The Government is considering how best to give effect to this commitment while not imposing unnecessary regulation on business."

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The UK tax authority would be incapable of chasing up tax evaders named in the huge “ Panama Papers ” document leak because it has been HMRC issued a bold statement in the aftermath of the scandal, saying it had requested investigative journalists at the ICIJ share the 2.6 TB of data involved.

Why we need a beneficial ownership register

Data leaks of the scale of the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers aren't common, and whistleblowers like "John Doe", who risked his life to out wrongdoing, are a rare breed.

Reporters for German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, who received the first batch of documents that sparked the Panama Papers investigation, have themselves noted the rarity of such information.

Obermayer will be in Australia next month.

He will be joining Australian Financial Review journalist Neil Chenoweth and myself in a discussion at The Wheeler Centre about the biggest tax leak in history, and the fallout.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Ahead of his visit, I asked Obermayer his view about a beneficial ownership register.

"A truly transparent company register should be considered necessary and even normal in a democratic society," he said.

It would not only reduce the incentive for people to evade taxes, but also help target terrorism financiers, arms smugglers and other criminals who are using front companies to hide their murky businesses, he said.

"The only reason not to do a beneficial ownership register is, in my understanding, that the finance lobby is stronger than it should be in our societies," he said.

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Financial whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, who helped expose American tax evaders hiding assets in Swiss banks, has little doubt the Panama “The CIA I'm sure is behind this, in my opinion,” Birkenfeld said , citing as evidence selective management of the information exposed to the public domain that

Public outrage over millions of documents leaked from a boutique Panamanian law firm — now known as the Panama Papers — wrenched attention away from France’s finance minister, Michel Sapin, told Parliament the government was putting Panama back on a blacklist of havens for tax evaders .

UN report calls for change

Ms Hume might also want to take note of a review released this month, which looked at the Australian Government's compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

This UN review made a number of recommendations for the Federal Government to improve its record of fighting corruption, including introducing a beneficial ownership register.

The Uniting Church and Tax Justice Network's Mark Zirnsak, who made a submission to the UN review as well as numerous inquiries into tax avoidance, has also called on the Government to make the public register a reality now.

"We do not need further delay," he said.

"We need to end the current shell game criminals can play with company ownership."

Mr Zirnsak said it was far too easy to use a false name to set up a front company with dummy directors, and that these had been used in Australia for the purpose of fraud, tax evasion and laundering money.

"These activities do real harm to people, communities and businesses, both here and overseas," he said.

"A public register of real company ownership would make the job of banks easier to detect criminal money and report it to police, by knowing who is really shifting money around."

The pressure is on the Federal Government to move sooner than later to introduce a public register of beneficial ownership that reveals those who have something to hide.

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