Switzerland is the only country that declined an invitation from the German police to sift through the leaked Panama Papers that detail the activities of global banks and financial intermediaries on behalf of wealthy clients.
The SonntagsZeitung reports that 16 other countries sent police and prosecutors to Wiesbaden, Germany, last September to glean evidence of potential offences. The documents were leaked from a Panamanian law firm to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalistsexternal link.
They contain details of how wealthy people arranged their finances, often through layers of shell companies and other opaque legal structures. The revelations have led to several investigations into suspected money laundering or tax evasion schemes.
But Switzerland refused to send any officials to Germany last year. A spokesperson for the Swiss federal police said officers are in contact with German counterparts. But German police told the newspaper that they have not received any request for assistance from Switzerland despite having possession of the treasure trove of documents.
The Swiss Office of the Attorney Generalexternal link said it was restricted by regulations on how it could receive and use evidence. One Swiss lawyer is quoted in the newspaper article as saying few restrictions apply concerning evidence received from private individuals.
The Panama Papers revealed among other things that 1,339 Swiss lawyers, financial advisors and other middlemen had set up more than 38,000 offshore entities over the past 40 years. These entities listed 4,595 officers – or administrators – also connected to Switzerland.
In October 2016, the Federal Tax Administration revealed that 450 individuals and companies in Switzerland were connected to the Panama Papers, but added that it was unclear whether offshore accounting was used to hide money from the tax authorities.