A vast trove of data linking shell companies with tax havens has highlighted the role played by Swiss banks and financial intermediaries in concealing the fortunes of the wealthy from prying eyes.
More details from the so-called Panama Papers were released on Monday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The papers show that 1,339 Swiss lawyers, financial advisors and other middlemen had set up more than 38,000 offshore entities over the last 40 years. These entities listed 4,595 officers – or administrators – that are also connected to Switzerland.
While the use of offshore entities is not in itself illegal, the revelations from the Panama Papers have already resulted in a raid by Swiss prosecutors on European football’s governing body UEFA and an official investigation by the authorities in Geneva.
But some Swiss lawyers have hit back, saying that the documents provide no proof of wrongdoing. Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer has also gone on record to say Swiss law does not need changing with regards the regulation of offshore entities.
Earlier on Monday, 300 economists signed an open letter denouncing offshore trusts and shell companies as serving “no economic purpose” other than to provide a veil of secrecy for the wealthy. The letter urged world leaders to crack down on the secretive offshore financial world.