The Latest: El Salvador raids offices in Panama Papers case

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2016 8:05 PM
The Latest: El Salvador raids offices in Panama Papers case

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the publication by a coalition of media outlets of an investigation into offshore financial dealings by the rich and famous (all times local):

12:40 a.m.

Police in El Salvador have raided the local offices of the Panama-based company targeted in a data leak known as "the Panama Papers."

Prosecutors said Friday they were looking for evidence of Salvadoran citizens who opened accounts through the Mossack Fonseca law firm.

The data leak revealed the ties of rich and influential people around the world to secretive financial accounts and shell companies in low-tax havens used to hide wealth.

El Salvador's head prosecutor said officials decided to act after hearing that the company's sign was being taken down from the offices Thursday night. Douglas Melendez said prosecutors found "few documents" during the raid.

Melendez said "we have found a lot of computers and servers," and about a half-dozen employees, who are being questioned.

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7:12 p.m.

French president Francois Hollande has spoken with his Panamanian counterpart Juan Carlos Varela to explain why his country was put back on a list of non-cooperative countries.

The president's press office said in a statement that Hollande also encouraged Panama to answer requests for information issued by French tax authorities.

Hollande confirmed that France has convened a meeting of OECD experts to be held next week to explore possibilities of cooperation between fiscal administrations in the wake of the so-called Panama Papers revelations.

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5:05 p.m.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents 34 high- and middle-income countries, is convening a meeting of tax officials from around the world in Paris on April 13 to figure out what to do about the Panama Papers disclosures.

The OECD said in a statement that they will "explore possibilities of cooperation and information-sharing, identify tax compliance risks and agree (on) collaborative action in light of the Panama Papers revelations."

The organization has already formed a network of tax officials from around the world who have pledged to work with each other to crack down on tax evasion.

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3:25 p.m.

A top African Union official says African countries should investigate how people on the continent may be benefiting from tax havens overseas.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki serves as the chair of a joint AU/U.N. panel that put out a report on the problem last year.

Mbeki said Friday that African countries should investigate citizens named in the so-called Panama Papers. And he says political pressure must be stepped up against those countries that have become tax havens.

Already South Africa, Britain and France have said they will investigate their citizens mentioned in the documents.

Mbeki also underscored the role one African country has played: The Seychelles off the eastern coast of Africa was the fourth most used tax haven by the firm in question.

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1:25 p.m.

The Geneva prosecutor's office says it has opened an investigation in connection with revelations from the so-called Panama Papers.

A spokesman for state prosecutor Olivier Jornot said in an e-mail Friday that the prosecutor opened the investigation two days earlier, and his office was so far simply moving forward on "verifications."

Spokesman Vincent Derouand said Jornot, speaking Thursday at a news conference with Swiss reporters, pointed to "a risk that criminal infractions could have been committed" in specific cases, without elaborating.

The Tribune de Geneve newspaper, which has had access to the Panama Papers, reported this week that some Geneva lawyers had exploited the offshore bank system, among some 1,500 Swiss intermediaries with ties to the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca — from which the leaked documents came.

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1:05 p.m.

Nigeria's Premium Times newspaper is reporting that the country's senate president, the third highest-ranking politician in Africa's biggest oil producer, owns at least two offshore accounts that he tried to deny.

The paper is one of the media outlets investigating the leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm.

It said Toyin Saraki "was a mere business front" for her husband, senate president Bukola Saraki. It published documents showing she signed over to her husband one company registered in the British Virgin Islands and one in the Seychelles islands in January 2015.

Saraki could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. Earlier this week, he denied any wrongdoing and said the companies did not belong to his wife but to her family and that was why he had no obligation to declare them among his assets.

The revelations come as the senator is on trial for allegedly making a false declaration of assets while governor of Kwara state from 2003 to 2011.

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11:40 a.m.

Romania's richest businessman, Ion Tiriac, says he has placed assets in a private foundation in Panama.

Tiriac said he had a foundation in Panama, and said he paid taxes in the countries he operated in, in comments made to Realitatea TV late Thursday.

Documents published by investigative journalists at Rise Project this week reveal that Tiriac in 2009 used Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca to transfer the control of his assets from an offshore firm registered in the British Virgin Islands to a private foundation registered in Panama, Puma Foundation.

Tiriac's lawyer, Nicolai Mindrila, said Romanian tax authorities were aware of Tiriac's offshore holdings.

Klaus Mangold, a friend of Tiriac's and board member at Daimler from 1995 to 2003, is on Puma Foundation's board.

Tiriac has investments in real estate, automobiles and formerly in banking and Metro, the supermarket chain. He also put his name to the BRD Nastase Tiriac tennis open, a 21-year-old tournament.

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This story has been corrected to show Mangold was a board member, not CEO, of Daimler.