The UK government has announced that it has hundreds of individuals and companies under ‘detailed review’ and has unearthed a major insider trading operation with links to Panama, following its analysis into the information from April’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)’s Panama Papers data leak.
Earlier today, the UK’s chancellor of the exchequer Phillip Hammond and the home secretary Amber Rudd have updated parliament on the work of the Panama Taskforce, with more than 30 individuals and companies are under “active investigation for criminal or serious civil offences linked to tax fraud and financial wrongdoing”, uncovered by the Panama Papers Taskforce partners, according to a statement released by HMRC earlier today.
The government was providing an update on the work of the Panama Papers Taskforce, a cross-agency taskforce that was created in April 2016 to analyse all the information that had been made available from the ICIJ’s Panama Papers data leak,
It revealed that hundreds of individuals and companies are now under detailed review and it has opened civil and criminal investigations into 22 individuals for suspected tax evasion.
Other actions include, the international acquisition of a “high-quality, significant and credible data on offshore activity in Panama” – ensuring the work of the taskforce was not delayed by the ICIJ’s refusal to release all of the information that it holds to any tax authority or law enforcement agency.
‘Major insider-trading operation’
HMRC said that it has also identified a number of leads relevant to a major insider-trading operation led by the Financial Conduct Authority and supported by the National Crime Agency. It has also identified nine potential professional enablers of economic crime – all of whom have links with known criminal, placed 43 high net worth individuals under special review while their links to Panama are further investigated.
HMRC has also identified 26 offshore companies whose beneficial ownership of UK property was previously concealed, and whose financial activity has been identified to the National Crime Agency as potentially suspicious.
The taskforce has also contacted 64 firms to determine their links with Mossack Fonseca, the legal firm based in Panama where the ICIJ’s huge data leak cam from, to establish potential further avenues for investigation by the taskforce. It added that it has seen many individuals coming forward to settle their affairs in advance of taskforce partners taking action.
HMRC’s director general for customer compliance, Jennie Granger said: “The net is closing in on tax evasion and economic crime and there are no safe havens for hiding money offshore. The vast majority of individuals and businesses pay their fair share and it’s on their behalf that the taskforce has made so much progress on so many fronts.
“The taskforce is leading the world on the acquisition and analysis of data that has enabled us to uncover and take swift action on evidence of wrongdoing – regardless of how deeply hidden the arrangements are. It will also enable us to identify those jurisdictions where regulatory oversight requires improvement,” she said.
In addition, the taskforce has established a Joint Financial Analysis Centre (JFAC). Using the data and intelligence gathered from across the taskforce, the JFAC has developed what the government calls “cutting-edge software tools and techniques”, ensuring the taskforce has access to the best information from which to work.