Following the wild outburst of how the rich use secretive offshore tax regimes to stash their billions, as revealed by the Panama Firm, National Treasury has announced that the SA Revenue Service (SARS), the Financial Intelligence Centre and the SA Reserve Bank, will probe the reports without fear or favour.
The National Treasury also urged South Africans whose names appeared in the ‘dirty’ deal to come forward. Meanwhile, President Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma, is among the people whose names were found on the list, having been linked to a company named Caprikat which secured a R100 billion oil deal in the Democratic Republic Congo.
The Panama saga started a year ago, when some 11.5 million files from the database of Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca were leaked to a German newspaper which passed them on to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then gave the game away by sharing it with a large network of international media partners.
So far, at least 143 politicians, among them 12 country heads have been named as clients of its clients. The clients include middlemen accountants, lawyers, trusts, banks and front companies that handle money on individuals’ behalves.
Truly, many of Panama casualties have been on tenterhooks after the list went viral. Meanwhile, as more reports about prominent South Africans, who also struck a deal with Panama Firm is expected to emerge soon, Ismail Momoniat, who works at the National Treasury opined that if a special voluntary disclosure programme proposed during this year’s Budget is adopted by Parliament, it will give individuals an opportunity to come forward and pay their due at a reduced rate.
Meanwhile, Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, has resigned on Tuesday, becoming the first casualty of the leak.
Commenting on the leaked papers, a Panamanian lawyer at the centre of the leak scandal asserted that his firm was a victim of a hack from outside the company. He also stated that he has filed a complaint with state prosecutors.
On the other hand, founding partner of the firm, Ramon Fonseca who spoke during an interview with Reuters, said the company (Mossack Fonseca) which specializes in setting up offshore companies, did not break any law neither was its operation illegal. Nor had it ever destroyed any documents or helped anyone evade taxes or launder money.
Fonseca noted that the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media organizations which published company emails and extracts “took them out of context” and misinterpreted things.
Fonseca, who spoke at the company’s headquarters in Panama City’s business district said, “we rule out an inside job. This is not a leak. This is a hack. We have a theory and we are following it.”
“We have already made the relevant complaints to the Attorney General’s office, and there is a government institution studying the issue,” he added.
On the leaked papers, friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain and Pakistan and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the president of Ukraine topped the list.