The UK’s tax authority, HMRC, have announced that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary have updated the House of Commons on the status of HMRC’s Panama Papers Taskforce.
More than 30 individuals and companies are under active investigation for criminal or serious civil offences linked to tax fraud and financial wrongdoing uncovered by the Panama Papers Taskforce partners, with hundreds more under detailed review.
On 8 November 2016, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary published an update on the work of the Panama Papers Taskforce. The cross-agency taskforce was created in April 2016 to analyse all the information that had been made available from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)’s Panama Papers data leak.
In a written ministerial update to the House of Commons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary reported that the Taskforce has:
- opened civil and criminal investigations into 22 individuals for suspected tax evasion
- led the international acquisition of high-quality, significant and credible data on offshore activity in Panama – ensuring the important work of the Taskforce was not delayed by the ICIJ’s refusal to release all of the information that it holds to any tax authority or law enforcement agency
- identified a number of leads relevant to a major insider-trading operation led by the Financial Conduct Authority and supported by the National Crime Agency
- identified nine potential professional enablers of economic crime – all of whom have links with known criminals
- placed 43 high net worth individuals under special review while their links to Panama are further investigated
- identified two new UK properties and a number of companies relevant to a National Crime Agency financial sanctions enquiry
- established links to eight active Serious Fraud Office investigations
- identified 26 offshore companies whose beneficial ownership of UK property was previously concealed, and whose financial activity has been identified to the National Crime Agency as potentially suspicious
- contacted 64 firms to determine their links with Mossack Fonseca to establish potential further avenues for investigation by the Taskforce
- seen individuals coming forward to settle their affairs in advance of Taskforce partners taking action.
In addition, the Taskforce has established a Joint Financial Analysis Centre (JFAC). Using the data and intelligence gathered from across the Taskforce, the JFAC has developed cutting-edge software tools and techniques, ensuring the Taskforce has access to the very best information from which to work.
HMRC’s Director General for Customer Compliance, Jennie Granger said:
The net is closing in on tax evasion and economic crime and there are no safe havens for hiding money offshore. The vast majority of individuals and businesses pay their fair share and it’s on their behalf that the Taskforce has made so much progress on so many fronts.
The Taskforce is leading the world on the acquisition and analysis of data that has enabled us to uncover and take swift action on evidence of wrongdoing – regardless of how deeply hidden the arrangements are. It will also enable us to identify those jurisdictions where regulatory oversight requires improvement.
These developments by the Taskforce build on action already taken by the UK government since 2010, which include:
- summer 2015 Budget investment of an additional £800 million for HMRC to expand their compliance and tax evasion work. This is expected to recover £7.2 billion in tax by the end of 2020/21, and will triple the number of criminal investigations for serious and complex tax crime. The aim is to increase prosecutions in this area to 100 a year, by the end of this Parliament.
- increasing global financial transparency among more than 100 countries, including British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, by automatically sharing offshore account data. This additional data will help identify and pursue the tiny minority of tax cheats still hiding their money offshore.
- publishing the National Risk Assessment for Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing to better understand the risks and vulnerabilities for the UK. The Action Plan, published in April 2016, and the Criminal Finances Bill, introduced to Parliament in September, will significantly improve its capabilities to tackle money laundering and recover the proceeds of crime, including proceeds of corruption.