The Australian authorities will probe the involvement of super rich Australians in the just revealed Panama papers scam, wherein law firm Mossack Fonseca has been revealed for shielding the wealth of the world’s super rich in tax havens.
Its clients included companies, individuals, and top politicos. The cover-up involved a prolonged period of 40 years.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) said it would investigate more than 800 high net wealth, Australian clients of the Panama firm, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Some cases may be referred to the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce,” ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston told the Financial Review.
“Currently, we have identified over 800 individual [Australian] taxpayers and we have now linked over 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong,” the ATO said in a statement.
Cranston said some of the Australians under scrutiny had already faced investigations in the past and included a “large number of taxpayers who haven’t previously come forward.”
On Monday, more than 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca’s files revealed top secrets of thousands of its clients that included hundreds of Australians.
Leaked files also disclosed that Mossack Fonseca pressured Australian regulators and tried to stop police inquiries and shielded individuals accused of fraud. It also lobbied with Australia to stop signing agreements on tax information with Samoa, a key tax haven.
Internationally, the Panama firm is known as a global group providing corporate registry services in 21 low-tax jurisdictions.
The media investigation was led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington.
The leaked records also showed that many companies moved their base to tax havens for money laundering, arms and drug deals, and tax avoidance.
According to the BBC, the documents exposed links to 72 current or former heads of state including dictators in the data.
It also bears a Russian connection, revealing a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring run by a Russian bank, Bank Rossiya. It allegedly has close links with President Vladimir Putin.
A report in The Guardian said the Panama leak is bigger than the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and the Edward Snowden exposure in 2013.