Panama Papers’ taskforce launches tax evasion investigations
A government taskforce created to analyse the Panama Papers data leak has identified a number of leads that are relevant to a major insider-trading operation, led by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and supported by the National Crime Agency.
After acquiring data on offshore activity in Panama, the taskforce has also opened civil and criminal investigations into 22 individuals, who are suspected of tax evasion.
Other actions by the taskforce include:
- Placing 43 high net worth individuals under special review while their links to Panama are investigated further.
- Identifying nine potential ‘professional enablers of economic crime’ – all of whom have links with known criminals.
- Establishing links to eight active Serious Fraud Office investigations.
- Contacting 64 firms to determine their links with Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to establish potential further avenues for investigation by the taskforce.
- Identifying 26 offshore companies, where beneficial ownership of UK property was previously concealed and financial activity has been identified to the National Crime Agency as potentially suspicious.
The government has responded to investigations by investing internally to ensure that they make the most of the data and intelligence gathered by the workforce. This, it hopes, will ensure that departments and agencies are well placed to forensically analyse massive-scale data of this kind. The taskforce has established a Joint Financial Analysis Centre (JFAC) to develop software tools and techniques to analyse the data and intelligence gathered.
Taskforce members are also present in Panama, using established relationships with the Panamanian authorities to help analyse the data.
Taskforce members have also worked with international partners as part of the Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre to exchange information and intelligence.
Over the past few years, the government has increased penalties and introduced new measures to tackle offshore and onshore tax evasion. In the summer 2015 Budget, the Government gave HM Revenue & Customs an additional £800 million to invest in compliance and tax evasion work. This is expected to recover £7.2 billion in tax by the end of 2020/21.