Governments around the world tried Tuesday to contain the fallout from the publication of thousands of names of rich and powerful people who conducted offshore financial activity through a Panamanian law firm.
In Nigeria,former rmer Delta state governor, James Ibori, now serving time in London, has been indicted in a massive tax evasion scandal and allegations of corruption made by Panama Reports released in Panama, a tax haven where many wealthy people go to invest their money due to the free tax laws in the country.
According to internal data of the Panama-based offshore-provider, Mossack Fonseca, and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), four offshore companies in Panama are linked to Ibori who is presently serving a 12 year jail term in the UK for stealing millions of dollars from the Delta state government when he served as governor of the state from 1999 to 2007. Below is what the paper wrote James Ibori, governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offenses.
Ibori admitted using his position as governor to corruptly obtain and divert up to $75 million out of Nigeria through a network of offshore companies, although authorities alleged that the total amount he embezzled may have exceeded $250 million.
Ibori, who received a 13-year prison sentence, used millions of dollars to support a lavish lifestyle that included six houses in London and a fleet of Range Rovers, Bentleys and Mercedes. Mossack Fonseca was the registered agent of four offshore companies connected to James Ibori, including Julex Foundation, of which Ibori and family members were beneficiaries.
Julex was the shareholder of Stanhope Investments, a company incorporated in Niue in 2003. Ibori was also connected to Financial Advisory Group Ltd. and Hunglevest Corporation, although Mossack Fonseca’s files do not specify the exact nature of his connection. In 2008, Mossack Fonseca received a request from the Seychelles government to produce documents as part of a probe by the Crown Prosecution Service, England’s principal prosecuting authority, of Ibori and alleged criminal activities.
In 2012, Ibori pleaded guilty in a London court to laundering and fraud charges. During court hearings in the United Kingdom, prosecutors claimed that Ibori opened a Swiss bank account in the name of Stanhope Investments through which millions of dollars were later channeled to ultimately buy a $20 million private jet.
But Ibori is not the only Nigeria so far mentioned in the Report. Embattled Senate President Bukola Saraki is allegedly also in that exclusive of leaders with offshore account. Granted, Saraki has denied disowned that account. He explained that the account belongs to his wife, who is from a wealthy family. Well, that might be true.
Many though think the duo may not be the only Nigerians operating offshore accounts, considering ‘rich’ Nigerians’ penchant for foreign accounts especially offshore ones where looted funds are securely kept.
Already, the Prime Minister of Iceland has resigned from office following the release of the report. Though the accounts belong to his wife, he felt he lacks the moral integrity to continue in office. David Cameron struggled endlessly to defend the fact that his father operates an offshore account.
China dismissed as “groundless” reports that relatives of current and retired politicians, including President Xi Jinping, own offshore companies.
The state media are ignoring the reports, and search results for the words “Panama documents” have been blocked on websites and social media.
Iceland’s prime minister has vowed to not resign despite thousands of angry protesters demanded he step down and call new elections. The leaks showed possible links to an offshore company that could represent a serious conflict of interest.
And Ukraine’s president was accused of abusing his office and of tax evasion by moving his candy business offshore, possibly depriving the country of millions of dollars in taxes.
The reports are from a global group of news organizations working with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. They have been processing the legal records from the Mossack Fonseca law firm that were first leaked to the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Shell companies aren’t by themselves illegal. People or companies might use them to reduce their tax bill legally, by benefiting from low tax rates in countries like Panama, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. But the practice is frowned upon, particularly when used by politicians, who then face criticism for not contributing to their own countries’ economies.
Because offshore accounts and companies also hide the names of the ultimate owners of investments, they can be used to illegally evade taxes or launder money.
Mossack Fonseca says it obeys all laws relating to company registrations and does not advise people how to evade taxes.
The firm said in a statement that “our industry is not particularly well understood by the public, and unfortunately this series of articles will only serve to deepen that confusion.
“The facts are these: while we may have been the victim of a data breach, nothing in this illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we’ve done anything wrong or illegal, and that’s very much in keeping with the global reputation we’ve worked hard to build over the past 40 years of doing business the right way. “
Members of the Group of 20 — which includes China — have agreed on paper to tighten laws relating to shell companies and make sure authorities can find out who the real owners are. Actual legislation at the national level has lagged behind the promises, however.
The appearance of offshore accounts in political scandals is far from new. Shell companies played a role in the corruption scandal involving the Petrobras oil company in Brazil. The U.S. Justice Department said in an indictment last year that offshore accounts were used to mask the transfer of bribes to officials at FIFA, the global soccer federation.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he would not discuss the reports further and declined to say whether the individuals named would be investigated.
“For these groundless accusations, I have no comment,” Hong told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, working with NDR and WDR public television, reported Monday that 14 German banks had used Mossack Fonseca’s services to set up 1,200 letterbox companies for clients.
The report said use of offshore company registrations had spiked after the European Union introduced regulations in 2005 requiring countries to exchange tax information on physical persons, but not for companies. Many of the accounts, however, have since been closed.
The EU has since tightened its rules on offshore companies under its Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which is being phased in as national governments pass local laws to comply by June 26, 2017. The new rules tighten requirements for companies to keep accurate information on their real owners and to make that available to authorities.


Ad:See How you can turn $500 into $10,000 Click HERE For Details.
SHARE