5 ways the Panama Papers swept up EU figures
By Quentin Aries and Giulia Paravicini
European politicians and their families did not escape scrutiny in the huge leak of confidential documents revealing how tax havens are used to hide wealth.
More than 11 million records from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca provide a look at the secretive world of offshore finance, and some prominent politicians have been caught up in thePanana Papers leak, most prominently Russian President Vladimir Putin, theprime minister of Icelandand the president of Ukraine.
But they’re not the only ones involved. Here are five lesser-known European figures whose names have surfaced in the files.
The energy commissioner and his wife
Micaela Domecq Solis-Beaumont is the wife of the energy and climate action commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, and had the power to approve financial transactions for the Panama-based company Rinconda Investments Group, set up in 2005. She is a member of the aristocratic Domecq family, which has interests in bull breeding, wine and forestry.
The Panama Papers allege that Domecq Solis-Beaumont’s business interests, specifically bull breeding, benefited from EU agricultural subsidies. Her husband was an advocate for EU funds to subsidize the industry when he was an MEP (1986-1999) and Spanish minister for agriculture, fisheries and food (2000-2004). rias Cañete’s office denied that there was any conflict of interest.
“His declaration appears to be in compliance with the code of conduct of commissioners as it includes all the professional activities and financial interests of the commissioner’s wife that would pose a conflict of interest,” Magaritis Schinas, the Commission’s chief spokesman, told reporters Monday.
“As far as the company referred to in the news is concerned, the company had been inactive for several years, long before the commissioner took office in November 2014,” Schinas said.
Such allegations could draw the notice of OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office. However, “currently, OLAF does not have any open investigations on this matter,” according to an OLAF press officer.
The Greek bailout expert
Stavros Papastavrou is a member of Greece’s main opposition party, the center-right New Democracy, and was an advisor to former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Papastavrou was lead negotiator with the troika — the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank — on Greece’s bailouts.
According to the Panama Papers, a tax-evasion probe turned up an undeclared bank deposit of about $6.9 million in a HSBC Swiss bank account with Papastavrou’s name on it. He denied the money was his, but paid a $3.6 million fine in February 2016 to settle charges of tax evasion and money laundering.
The Greek politician was also a member of the several governing councils of foundations based in Panama. He said he received no compensation for serving on the foundations’ boards, had “no ownership interest in these entities of any kind” and “was under no obligation” to declare them to tax authorities.
Greece’s ruling Syriza party released astatement mocking Papastavrou, “congratulating” him on the “wide range … of his business activities.”
The Maltese minister
Konrad Mizzi is the only serving EU minister featured in the leaks.
Shortly after being appointed Malta’s health and energy minister in 2013, Mizzi opened a Panamanian company Hearnville Inc. In June 2015, he established an offshore trust in New Zealand which was a shareholder in Hearnville. His wife — Malta’s consul in Shanghai — and their two children were listed as beneficiaries.
A law firm representing Mizzi said Hearnville was acquired “to hold a London property” owned with his wife.
“I have no money in the company. I have subjected myself to a tax audit. There is no secret bank account,” Mizzi told Maltese media Monday.
Mizzi’s office told POLITICO that “the company in Panama will be closed soon after the tax investigation is concluded.”
The UK prime minister’s father
Ian Cameron, the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, avoided paying taxes in the U.K. by hiring residents of the Bahamas to sign its paperwork, according to the Panama Papers.
Cameron senior, who died in 2010, was a director of Blairmore Holdings, an investment fund set up in 1982 and run from the Bahamas. It was named after the family’s ancestral home in Aberdeenshire, and managed millions of pounds on behalf of wealthy families.
John McDonnell, finance spokesperson of the Labour Party, attacked the prime minister in two fiery tweets.
Promotional literature quoted by theGuardiansaid that Blairmore was “not liable to taxation on its income or capital gains” and that the fund “will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits.”
John McDonnell, finance spokesperson of the Labour Party, attacked the prime minister in two fiery tweets. “Cameron promised and has failed to end tax secrecy and crack down on ‘morally unacceptable’ offshore schemes, real action is now needed.”
A spokesperson for Cameron’s office told POLITICO there was nothing to add to this “old story.” British media reported that Downing Street said investments made by David Cameron’s office were “a private matter.”
The Cypriot connection to Ukraine’s president
While his country’s troops were battling Russian soldiers in a bloody conflict, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko set up an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands with, according to the Panama Papers, the express purpose of avoiding tax.
Poroshenko registered the company, called Prime Asset Partners Ltd, on August 21, 2014. Records in Cyprus list the Ukrainian leader as the firm’s only shareholder.
Poroshenko was elected in 2014 on promises to crack down on corruption.
Avellunm, a law firm hired by Poroshenko, said in a statement that his companies outside Ukraine “did not open bank accounts and did not carry out any financial transactions. Therefore, tax evasion allegations are groundless.”