The Swiss-run humanitarian organisation International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has allegedly been used without its knowledge to mask the true beneficiaries of offshore accounts whose details were leaked in the Panama Papers.
According to revelations by the Swiss papers Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung on Sunday, the ICRC was listed as the beneficiary for two foundations that were in turn used by clients to hold shares of their offshore companies.
The Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca (MF), which facilitated the creation of offshore accounts, offered the Brotherhood Foundation and Faith Foundation to its clients to hold the shares for their offshore companies. As these two foundations have no shareholders themselves, they provided a useful cover for the real beneficiary of the offshore account.
Around 500 companies that used the services of MF made use of the two foundations as a smokescreen. To further allay any suspicion of wrongdoing, MF listed ICRC as the beneficiary of these two foundations.
According to Panama’s legislation, a foundation’s beneficiaries can be named without their consent. According to the two Swiss papers, the Faith Foundation - which listed ICRC has a beneficiary - was used to funnel millions of dollars of public funds by former Argentina presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as well as the president of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid Nahyan, to acquire real estate in London.
“It is an enormous risk to the ICRC,” said its president Peter Maurer. “We will do everything in our power to stop such usurpation.”
In a general statement MF denied allegations of using opaque structures to mask the identity of beneficial owners of offshore companies.
“…as part of the services our trust company provides, we often constitute trusts for shares. As a result, allegations that we provide shareholders with structures supposedly designed to hide the identity of the real owners are completely unsupported and false.”