Panama Papers: EU Parliament to ask Mossack Fonseca representatives to testify

Written by Martin Banks on 1 August 2016 in News
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Controversial law firm Mossack Fonseca and representatives of the Panama government will be asked to testify in a newly created parliamentary committee on the Panama Papers affair.

Mossack Fonseca | Photo credit: Press association


Confirmation of the invitation came at the first meeting of Parliament's committee of inquiry into the Panama Papers scandal (PANA).

The committee is tasked with investigating alleged contraventions and maladministration of EU law in the fields of money laundering, tax evasion and tax avoidance.

German EPP group member Werner Langen was elected as Chair. Portuguese Socialist Ana Gomes will be one of theVice-Chairs of the 65-strong committee.


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Former Polish foreign minister Dariusz Rosati, who was elected EPP group spokesperson in the committee, said, "We want the work of the Panama committee to be fruitful and not driven by populist demand. We want an honest inquiry which would make recommendations for further legislation in the EU and promote our standards at international level."

He confirmed, "We plan to invite the law firm Mossack Fonseca and representatives of the Panama government to testify in the committee."

Mossack Fonseca is the Panama-based company which was said to have helped the super-rich hide their wealth, although it says it has done nothing against the law.

German GUE/NGL group MEP Fabio De Masi, another Vice-Chair, said, "This investigation is not only about Panama but also organised crime and even terrorist financing in our own backyard."

"The Parliament has to deliver much more now after LuxLeaks.

"For example, the loopholes in the EU's anti-money laundering legislation have to be closed. Currently, they allow for the true owners of letterbox companies to be hidden through the use of nominee directors. 

"We must therefore pressure member states to transpose and implement rules in a robust and consistent fashion," he continued.

"Corporate criminal law provisions with strong sanctions for the assistance in tax evasion and money-laundering could rein in the excesses of legal and financial advisors. The fight against the financial crimes of the rich and powerful is intricately linked with the fight against austerity for the 99 per cent."

"Furthermore, Parliament must step up its scrutiny of those politically responsible for scandal after scandal. This was clearly the weak spot of the LuxLeaks investigation. We must not shy away from naming the big beasts this time," De Masi said.

"This would include finally pressuring the Commission and Council to consent to the regulation on committees of inquiry that the two institutions have been blocking since 2012."

"GUE/NGL will continue to pursue its lawsuit at the Court of the EU against the Commission for full access to the documents of the Council's code of conduct group. This case would also create the necessary precedence for the Parliament to gain access to these much-needed documents in the future," he added.

The committee's 12-month mandate expires on 8 June 2017.

 

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Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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