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Panama Papers: France opens money-laundering probe

Rodrigo Arangua / AFP | A sign outside the offices of Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm, source of 11.5 million leaked tax documents known as the Panama Papers

French financial prosecutors said on Monday they were opening a preliminary investigation for aggravated tax fraud after a leak of four decades of documents from a Panamanian law firm that specialised in setting up offshore companies.

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The tax evasion revealed in the documents "is likely to concern French taxpayers”, the French financial prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The finance ministry said earlier on Monday that the French government will seek access to the documents behind the “Panama Papers” revelations about potential offshore tax evasion and will punish tax evaders.

French President François Hollande has also promised that the revelations will lead to "legal proceedings" in France.

"It's good news that we are aware of these revelations because it will bring in tax revenue from those who have defrauded," Hollande said Monday, thanking the whistleblowers for revealing the information from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Other countries have also announced legal investigations of their own.

Panama itself will launch a probe into the revelations, the state prosecutor announced late on Monday. “The facts described in national and international communication media publications under the term ‘Panama Papers’ will be the subject of criminal investigation,” the office said in a statement.

Australian tax investigators said they were probing more than 800 Australian clients of Mossack Fonseca, which says it has operated beyond reproach for four decades and has never been charged with a criminal offence.

Spanish state prosecutors also opened a money laundering probe, a judicial source said, while the US Justice Department said it was reviewing the leaked documents.

“The US Department of Justice takes very seriously all credible allegations of high-level, foreign corruption that might have a link to the United States or the US financial system,” said Peter Carr, spokesman for the Justice Department’s criminal division.

The scandal erupted on Sunday when media groups made public a year-long worldwide investigation into a trove of 11.5 million documents that exposed a tangle of offshore financial dealings.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin furiously claimed it was the target of a plot to destabilise Russia after documents relating to President Vladimir Putin's close associates were made public.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

 

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