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The European Parliament has begun its inquiry into the Panama Papers with a hearing with the investigative journalists behind the leak.
The European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance, and Tax Evasion (PANA) held its first full meeting on September 27. It consists of 70 members, including a chair and four vice chairs. It will investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of European law with respect to money laundering, tax avoidance, and tax evasion by the European Commission or member states.
Its establishment was prompted by the leak of more than 11.5m documents belonging to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The data leaked relates to the ownership of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions, and covers a nearly 40-year period, through to the end of 2015.
According to a parliamentary press release, the journalists were welcomed with applause, and explained their findings to the committee.
Parliament said that journalist Frederik Obermaier suggested that the Panama Papers represent merely the tip of the iceberg, and argued that EU banks are actively helping clients to evade taxes. Belgian journalist Kristof Clerix explained how a number of individuals named in the files seek low tax jurisdictions and anonymity for the ownership of their firms, "for example by hiding behind so-called 'nominated directors.'"
Parliament added that Swiss journalist Oliver Zihlmann had outlined the use of a system "comprising intermediaries such as such as Swiss lawyers who actually manage firms, Russian money, and banks on Cyprus and offshore companies with fake directors in Panama 'who just sign everything.'"
Parliament also announced on September 27 that PANA will look into the recent Bahama Leaks affair, and the case of former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who failed to declare a directorship in an offshore firm.
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