Venezuelans named in Panama Papers to be investigated, says president
MIAMI - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has asked the country’s chief prosecutor to investigate all Venezuelans whose names appear in the so-called “Panama Papers” – over 11 million leaked documents that originated with a Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca that helps individuals and businesses set up secretive offshore bank accounts and shell companies.
Maduro promised last week to investigate any wrongdoing exposed in the leak, while repeating his claim that political enemies of Venezuela's socialist government are involved in media reporting on the documents.
Venezuelans whose names have appeared in connection to the leak include a former top military officer, a former state oil company official and a security official who worked at the presidential palace during the administration of the late President Hugo Chavez.
Meanwhile, the repercussions of the leaked files are also being felt in Belize.
As previously reported, former deputy chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party, Lord Michael Ashcroft, and several of his associated companies are featured in the Panama Papers as having done business with Mossack Fonseca.
Belize Corporate Services (BCS), a subsidiary of Ashcroft’s company BCB Holdings, is reported to have begun using Mossack Fonseca to provide shell corporations for its clients in 2006.
According to reports in British media, in November 2013, another Ashcroft-owned entity Belize Bank International established an account for a new international business company (IBC) whose owners were Jurgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, the Panama firm’s founding partners, and another partner Christopher Zollinger.
The new IBC was called MF & Co. (Belize) Limited and worked with BCS in creating companies and acting as registered IBC agents in Belize.
The registered address of MF & Co. (Belize) Limited is also the office of local law firm Courtenay Coye & Co. Senior partners of that firm, Eamon Courtenay and Christopher Coye, were in the past both senior employees of the Belize Bank Group, with Coye having held the post of managing director of Belize Bank International until April, 2013.
Courtenay, an experienced parliamentarian, is a newly appointed opposition senator for the People’s United Party and Coye was introduced last week as the party’s new treasurer. The firm of Courtenay Coye & Co. has also provided extensive legal representation for companies and interests related to Ashcroft, Amandala reported.
Another Belize-registered shell company, Robertson Financial Corp., is also named in the Panama Papers as being linked to Sergei Roldugin, a Russian businessman, cellist and very close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As reported in international media, the Panama Papers allegedly show a paper trail of some US$2 billion in hidden funds purportedly connected to Putin.
Robertson Financial Corp.’s address is registered as that of IBC agent Morgan and Morgan Trust Corporation Ltd, which is also the address of the local office of a large Panama-based legal and offshore services firm, Morgan and Morgan Group, which also has offices in several Latin American jurisdictions and in Europe.
According to its website, the Belize office is headed by three local attorneys, Oneyda Flores, Rishi Mungal and Naim Musa, a nephew of former Belize prime minister Said Musa.
On Friday, authorities in El Salvador raided the local office of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers, seizing documents and computer equipment.
Attorney General Douglas Melendez said the Mossack Fonseca sign had been removed from the office a day earlier and quoted an employee as saying the firm was moving.
"As the attorney general I have to investigate such incidents," Melendez said in a statement. "That does not mean that all these companies are illegal or are corrupt."
The German-born lawyer who co-founded the Panamanian-based Mossack Fonseca law firm at the centre of the "Panama Papers" uproar has resigned from a council advising the Central American country's government on foreign policy.
Panama's foreign ministry said last week that lawyer Jurgen Mossack resigned this week from the honourary, unpaid post on the National Council of Foreign Relations, which is an informal advisory board.
Mossack and his partner, Ramon Fonseca, had been political heavyweights in Panama until the Panama Papers leak.
Fonseca had been a member of Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela's Cabinet until February.
St Kitts and Nevis
It will be some time before it becomes clear if there are any direct links in the Panama Papers to companies in or citizens of St Kitts and Nevis, said financial consultant Schniedman Warner, but he told WINN FM that he would not be surprised if some surface.
“The nature of the type of alleged activity is such that it would be nigh impossible for any of the over 180 nations of the world not to get mentioned after all. The St Kitts-Nevis passport is owned by thousands of persons who are not born in or have no direct blood relationship to St Kitts and so it’s quite possible that persons with multiple nationalities of which St Kitts and Nevis happens to be one, may be in involved in some of the alleged activities referred to in the so called Panama Papers,” Warner said.