Not only in Indonesia but also around the globe tax evasion remains a major problem for governments and tax offices. This problem was again highlighted by the Panama Papers, the massive leak involving around 11.5 million confidential documents from the database of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. These documents make mention of political figures, businessmen, celebrities and sport stars who have created secret shell companies and offshore accounts in an effort to avoid tax obligations. World leaders have again vowed to combat tax evasion.
The first victim of the Panama Papers leakage was Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who resigned on Tuesday after he (and his wife) were linked to an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands. Gunnlaugsson's position became untenable amid accusations of a conflict of interest. Other prominent names mentioned in the Panama Papers are Russian President Vladimir Putin, family of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), the father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, football star Lionel Messi and movie star Jackie Chan. The Panama Papers have already been labelled the world's largest leak in history, surpassing the WikiLeaks and the Edward Snowden leak.
The Panama Papers consist of 11.5 million documents. These were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung from an anonymous source. The newspaper then shared the documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which subsequently distributed the documents to 100 media agencies. The center of focus of the documents is Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca that reportedly helped to establish secret shell companies and offshore accounts for the world's big names and players (including 140 prominent political figures). However, most people mentioned in the Panama Papers deny being involved in illegal corporate activities and tax evasion.
Although having an offshore account or company in a tax haven does not necessarily imply the account holder or owner is involved in illegal activities, it is well understood that these vehicles are often used to hide assets from authorities (avoiding tax payments) and money laundering.
France's Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on Wednesday (06/04) France will put Panama back in its "tax haven" list after the Panama Papers scandal (four years earlier France had removed the Central American country from this list after reaching a bilateral tax evasion fighting agreement). Sapin also requested the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which consists of 34 big economies, to take similar steps. Panama responded saying it will take actions if the country is put back on international tax haven lists, for example by blocking foreign investment or withholding public tenders. In the past Panama was known as a haven for money launderers and tax cheats. In recent years the country has been eager to improve its image and reputation.