Panama Papers Task Force In Hunt For Tax Cheats

The tax man has set up a task force to tackle 700 leads to British companies and individuals whose names have cropped up in the Panama Papers.

The team of investigators will come from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the National Crime Agency and Serious Fraud Office.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged £10 million to underwrite the cost of the investigations.

HMRC says the team has some of the most sophisticated and experienced equipment and resources of any official agency in the world to tackle tax avoidance and money laundering.

Details in the Panama Papers suggest among the 11.5 documents is information linked to serious organised crime dating back to November 1983, when gold bullion worth around £26 million was stolen in a robbery at Heathrow Airport.

Leaked documents

The papers are the files of Panama lawyers Mossack Fonseca, a law firm that helped banks and tax advisers worldwide set up hundreds of thousands of offshore companies and trusts in tax havens that kept helped keep the transfer of money secret.

A whistle blower leaked the documents to journalists, including The Guardian newspaper in London.

HMRC has asked the newspaper to pass on documents relating to British companies and taxpayers.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said: “We should all pay our fair share of tax as the honest majority already do.

“No government has done more to crack down on tax evasion and aggressive avoidance both in the UK and internationally.

Crime and money laundering

“The Panama Papers show tax evasion is part of international criminal activity, money laundering, illicit finance and evading government sanctions.

“The taskforce will tighten the screw on those who think they can get away with dodging tax.”

Federal agents and prosecutors in the USA are also waiting for details from the documents.

“This will keep a lot of agents busy for a long time. They hope to find out not only who is hiding money, but where and how so they can get some back and stop them doing so in the future,” said a US Justice Department spokesman.

Other countries are also launching tax investigations following the Panama Papers revelations, including Iceland, Italy and New Zealand.

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