Panama City (AFP)
A prestigious Panamanian law firm has been named in the so-called “Pandora Papers” as being involved in setting up offshore shell companies to hide money in tax havens for more than 160 politicians and public figures.
Among them, “some accused of looting their country”, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which obtained the documents disclosed as part of the Pandora Papers, published on Sunday, which sent a shock wave embarrassment in powerful circles.
Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee, or Alcogal, has been involved in setting up shell companies to move money for Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic and three former presidents of Panama, among others, according to the bomb. Release.
Others involved with Alcogal – co-founded in the 1980s by the son of a former Panamanian ambassador to the United States who later became an ambassador himself – include a Honduran presidential candidate and a former president of the United States. Ecuador.
The company has also worked with figures in some of the most notorious financial scandals of the past decade, including the vast Latin American corruption plot involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and the football corruption case known as of “Fifagate,” according to the ICIJ.
In a report, the ICIJ listed the 14,000 offshore entities in Belize, the British Virgin Islands and Panama created with the help of Alcogal for the purpose of hiding money from public scrutiny for some 15,000. customers since 1996.
The law firm’s offshore involvement was so prolific that nearly two million of the 11.9 million leaked documents associated with the Pandora Papers – which were reported by some 600 journalists – came from Alcogal.
– ‘Magnet for the rich and powerful’ –
According to the ICIJ, Alcogol has played “a leading role in the area of ââtax evasion and asset protection”.
“Over the past three decades, Alcogal has become a magnet for the rich and powerful in Latin America and beyond, seeking to hide wealth abroad,” the news group said, citing leaked corporate documents.
“Companies like Alcogal are propelling this (shadow) economy, helping wealthy clients find safe havens to hide their money, sometimes from tax collectors and criminal investigators. Ordinary people often pay the price,” the report said. of the ICIJ on the company.
For example, the ICIJ claims that Alcogal created more than 200 shell companies for Banca Privada d’Andorra, some of which were later used to cover up public corruption in Venezuela. The United States then blacklisted the bank for money laundering issues and Alcogal disentangled itself from the bank.
The company dismissed accusations of shady transactions in a statement, saying it was considering legal action to defend its reputation “vigorously if necessary.”
“Alcogal rejects guesswork, inaccuracies and lies in the newspapers,” the company said, offering to work with authorities to investigate any irregularities.
And several politicians named in newspapers have backed down as well, including former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who has denied any involvement in anything untoward.
The Pandora Papers revelations could further damage Panama’s reputation, after the Central American country’s image was already damaged in a previous round of reports of financial scandals known as the “Panama Papers” five years ago.
The government was concerned about the fallout from the new version, according to a letter from officials published by local media.
“The damage could be insurmountable,” the Panamanian government said in the letter, sent through a law firm to the ICIJ.
The letter warned that “any publication” reinforcing “a false perception” of the country as a possible tax haven “will have devastating consequences for Panama and its people.”
The letter from the Panamanian government also refers to some of the reforms the Central American country has undertaken in recent years, although it remains on the EU’s list of tax havens.
The Panama of 2016 “is nothing like the Panama of today,” the government said in its letter.
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