No moves yet on ‘Paradise Papers’

Thursday November 09, 2017 Written by Published in Local

The Cook Islands Financial Intelligence Unit says it will properly investigate if it is provided with information that indicates that there has been any criminal activity or financial misconduct in this country in connection with the “Paradise Papers”.

 

The Paradise Papers are a leak of more than 13.4 million secret corporate documents which reveals the offshore interests of hundreds of high-profile companies and individuals, including the Queen.

In a report, Radio New Zealand said details from the corporate registries of four Pacific island countries including the Cook Islands were among millions of leaked files purporting to show the extent of tax avoidance around the world.

The electronic documents originating from the offshore law firm Appleby were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The newspaper shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which, with its network of journalists around the world, is investigating the documents.

The Cook Islands Financial Intelligence Unit said it had not been approached by the ICIJ in relation to the Paradise Papers.

“As such I cannot comment on any specific stories emanating from the material and none of which appear to relate directly to the Cook Islands,” said Philip Hunkin, the head of the Cook Islands Financial Intelligence Unit.

“We do not have any details of the leaked or stolen documents emanating from Appleby’s. If, however, we are provided (with) information that indicates that there has been any criminal activity or financial misconduct within the Cook Islands, this will be properly investigated.”

Hunkin said the Cook Islands government did not condone the use of its financial services for any criminal activity.

He said this country was a well-regulated jurisdiction, adding they are currently going through a Mutual Evaluation Review in which the Cook Islands are being measured against the Financial Action Task Force on 40 recommendations and 11 effectiveness outcomes.

The task force set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

“It is anticipated that the Cook Islands will again, as in the 2009 evaluation, evidence that it is a well-regulated and internationally compliant jurisdiction and will continue to be a leader within the Pacific region,” Hunkin said.

“The Cook Islands remain a leader in Trustee Company and professional services and is a politically stable and safe place in which to undertake business.”

The Paradise Papers contain the names of more than 120,000 people and companies, and cover the period from 1950 to 2016.

According to UK tabloid The Sun, the documents show the tax and financial affairs of hundreds of people and companies connected to Appleby, which has denied any wrongdoing, and involve 19 tax havens, including the Cook Islands.

Among those whose financial affairs are mentioned are Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, the President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos, and US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, the amount of money involved is around US$10 trillion.

Last year, the financial world was shaken by the Panama Papers which involved millions of files leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, showing how some of their clients laundered money, dodged sanctions and avoided tax. 

This is a separate leak but raises many of the same questions of tax avoidance, said The Sun.

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