Update-Panama papers: Leak reveals tax havens, investigation launched. Find out about the Romanian connection

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Naming politicians, sports stars and others using offshore tax havens in the ‘Panama Papers’ leak of documents has offered an unprecedented look into how the elite conceal money. Tax authorities have started to react.

The 11.5 million documents from the files of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm, revealed the details of hundreds of thousands of clients using tax havens, dw.de reports.

The records, which were obtained from an anonymous source by German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” cover a period of almost 40 years, from 1977 until last December. They are alleged to show that some companies domiciled in tax havens were used for suspected money laundering, arms and drug deals, and tax avoidance.

Georg Mascolo led the research for the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and two German broadcasters on the basis of the data from the law firm’s files. They shared the information with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the international arm of the Center for Public Integrity, and a hundred other international news organizations. More than 370 journalists from 76 countries have spent a year going through the material.

The law firm Mossack Fonseca has claimed the revelation of the data is a crime: “This is a crime, a felony,” Ramon Fonseca, one of the firm’s founders, said on Sunday. “This is an attack on Panama because certain countries don’t like it that we are so competitive in attracting companies,” he said.

The report listed 12 current and former national leaders – from Argentina, Georgia, Iceland, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirate and Ukraine – among 143 politicians, their families and close associates known to use tax havens. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friend since childhood, the cellist Sergei Roldugin, was named as the linchpin in a scheme to hide money from Russian state banks offshore.

Among the national leaders with offshore wealth listed in the papers were Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Ayad Allawi, former interim prime minister and former vice president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president, and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.

The families of eight current and former members of China’s supreme ruling body, the Politburo, have been found to have placed wealth offshore.

A member of Fifa’s powerful ethics committee acted as a lawyer for individuals and companies recently charged with bribery and corruption, according to the documents. Footballer Lionel Messi is mentioned in the document.

Romanians: Frank Timiș, Cristian Borcea, Sorin Ovidiu Vîntu, Said Baklini

Vasile Frank Timis, the initiator of the Rosia Montana business, appealed to the same lawyers in Panama City to begin business in Romania in the mid ‘90s. In the Panama files there are also documents about the offshore connection which controls another important gold mine in the Apuseni Mountains, as well as other companies operating in the oil and natural gas sector, writes RISE Project, quoted by digi24.ro.

Vasile Frank Timis used Castle Europe Limited company, founded in Bahamas by the lawyers of Mossack Fonseca, for the affairs started in Romania in 1997.

According to the same source Cristian Borcea, Sorin Ovidiu Vîntu and Said Baklini are other Romanians listed in the database of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism.

Other top businessmen from Romania will be revealed as clients of the law firm in Panama in the coming days.

Another name included in the offshore scandal is Olga Repede. According to the same source, the Repede family were often investigated in criminal files and were part of controversial businesses. Olga and Alexei Repede were allegedly close to bankrupt the Uztel Ploiesti plant, a company set up by an American millionaire.

Israeli billionaire Beni Steinmetz – from Paul of Romania to the Panama files

Israli billionaire Beni Steinmetz is also included in the Panama Papers scandal. The businessman is investigated in Romania in the illegal retrocession file involving the so-called Prince Paul (aka Paul of Romania) and businessman Remus Truica. According to Rise Project journalists, Beni Steinmetz has allegedly used the companies set up by Mossack Fonseca to lead the business in Romania.

The Israeli businessman is known for his involvement in Rosia Montana scandal. BSG Resources (BSGR), one of his companies, is one of the main shareholders in the gold exploiting project. His companies have sued the Romanian state to the Washington Court to ask for damages amounting to billions of USD.

The documents revealed by the Panama Papers scandal, according to Rise Project, show that the same company (BSGR) had played an important part in other controversial businesses in Romania: the ones with RAFO Onesti and Darmanesti, huge industrial plants that went bankrupt, leaving thousands without jobs.

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