Sunday 25 September 2016

European regulators probe banks' role in off-shore scandal

Joshua Franklin and Stephanie Nebehay

Published 08/04/2016 | 02:30

A company list showing the Mossack Fonseca law firm is pictured on a sign at the Arango Orillac Building in Panama City
A company list showing the Mossack Fonseca law firm is pictured on a sign at the Arango Orillac Building in Panama City

Banking watchdogs across Europe have begun checking whether lenders have ties to a massive document leak from Panama that showed how offshore companies are used to stash clients' wealth.

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Switzerland's financial watchdog FINMA said yesterday that banks must clamp down on money laundering, as the Geneva prosecutor opened a criminal probe.

Four decades of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies and has offices in Zurich and Geneva, showed widespread use of those instruments by global banks and triggered investigations across the world.

"Do I think we are where we should be in fighting misuse in the financial system? No," FINMA chief executive Mark Branson told Reuters following its annual news conference. "We think in some ways the risks in Switzerland have risen, not fallen, and that there is more that can be done. We don't want to see large scandals involving Swiss banks."

Switzerland is the world's biggest international wealth management centre. Britain's Financial Conduct Authority said yesterday it has written to 20 banks and other financial firms, giving them until April 15 to spell out any involvement they have with the "Panama Papers".

France's ACPR financial regulator said it has told French banks to hand over extra information about their business ties with tax havens.

German regulator BaFin is probing the role of Germany's banks, a source said on Monday.

Watchdogs in Sweden, Netherlands and Austria said earlier this week that they were looking into banks named in the papers. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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