Panama Papers: Italy readies to probe country's rich

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Former racing driver Jarno Trulli was among the Italians named in the so-called Panama Papers. Photo: Alejandro Pagni/AFP
08:41 CEST+02:00
Italian tax authorities are moving towards opening a probe after a massive leak of information from a Panama-based law firm showed possible wrongdoing in how the world's rich use offshore company structures to park their cash.

About 800 Italians were named in the documents, including ex-Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and former racing driver Jarno Trulli, according to a report in L’Espresso, which participated in the year-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), on Monday.

Having an offshore account is not illegal, but such accounts are often linked to tax evasion and other illegal activity.

Unicredit and UBI Banca were also named among the 11.5 million documents which make up the so-called Panama Papers, leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca. Both banks have denied any wrongdoing, saying they “acted according to the rules”.

Sources close to Montezemolo, currently the president of Alitalia, said that “neither he nor his family have an offshore company”.

Trulli also denied any wrongdoing, saying his property company, Baker Street, which was registered in the Seychelles with the help of Mossack Fonseca, is “transparent”.

Italian businessman Giuseppe Donaldo Nicosia was also implicated. Nicosia was accused of fraud along with partner Marcello Dell'Utri, a former advisor to Silvio Berlusconi who is currently in jail for corruption and mafia collusion.

Italy’s inland revenue will probe the activities of all the Italians named in the documents, although a formal decision is yet to be made, Rossella Orlandi, the agency’s director in Rome, was quoted by La Stampa as saying.

France, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand have also started investigations.

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Some 140 politicians and public officials around the world are also mentioned in the ICIJ investigation, including 12 current or former world leaders including the president of Ukraine, Pakistan and Iceland's prime ministers and the king of Saudi Arabia.

"Most of the services the offshore industry provides are legal if used by the law abiding,” the ICIJ said.

“But the documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players have often failed to follow legal requirements that they make sure their clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. In some instances, the files show, offshore middlemen have protected themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions or manipulating official records.”  

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