OAS says revised laws would have prevented Panama leaks

Transparency and revised measures in Panama would have prevented leaks, says chief of Organization of American States (OAS)

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The company logo of Mossack Fonseca is seen inside the office of Mossack Fonseca & Co. (Asia) Limited in Hong Kong, China April 5, 2016.

Panama should adjust its laws to prevent additional companies and individuals from concealing money in off-shore accounts as revealed in the Panama Papers leak, the head of a regional bloc said on Sunday.

Organization of American States (OAS) chief Luis Almagro said that in order to develop countries have to take on the responsibility of being transparent in handling such cases.

"It's imperative," he said. "Panama would have avoided many problems like this if it had updated laws that prevent those issues -- not only the rules but its application - and the sense of its obligation for all actors," he added.

The OAS is an intercontinental organisation that seeks regional political and security cooperation among its 35-members.

Almagro’s comments were delivered in the Dominican Republic during the midyear meeting of the Inter American Press Association.

He said the fact that numerous politicians have been linked to offshore accounts and shell companies in attempts to conceal trillions of dollars in wealth is a "serious" problem that leaves politicians with the responsibility of acting in the general interest of and resolving citizens’ problems, not taking financial advantage of situations.

Nearly 150 politicians worldwide, including 12 current and former heads of state, allegedly used Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore shell companies to hide financial assets from authorities to avoid taxes.

The list was published last week in a massive leak of 11.5 million documents, widely referred to as the Panama Papers, that disclosed a global industry of law firms and big banks that sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

The data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 through 2015 and relates to 214,000 offshore entities.

The prime minister of Iceland was forced to resign last week following protests that erupted there after it was revealed he had links to offshore accounts.

In Great Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron is facing mounting pressure which has forced him to admit he benefited from a Panama-based trust by his father.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Finance Minister Bill English on Monday said the government would begin a review of its foreign trust laws as the leaked documents highlighted vulnerabilities in its legal framework that made it a possible link in international tax avoidance structures.

"It's worth looking at whether the disclosure rules are fit for purpose and whether there are practical improvements we can make," said English in a statement.

The finance minister said the focus of the review would be disclosure rules for foreign trusts, including the way information was recorded and exchanges of information with other tax jurisdictions.

TRTWorld and agencies