Just over €16.8 million was recovered by the tax authorities after previously unknown foreign holdings by Maltese were laid bare in the Panama Papers and Swiss Leaks.

Information supplied by the Tax Compliance Unit (TCU) shows that €6.3 million has been recovered from its investigations into the Panama Papers data, which was leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Mossack Fonseca is one of the smaller firms operating in Panama.

The 2016 Panama Papers leak shed a global spotlight on the use of offshore companies by criminals, celebrities and politicians to hide and launder their money away from the prying eyes of tax authorities.

Both the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi were found to have opened secret companies in Panama sheltered by trusts in New Zealand.

The amount of recovered tax revenues to date may increase

Neither registered these trusts with the local tax authorities, an ‘oversight’ which they blamed on their financial advisers, Nexia BT.

Both men have been investigated by the government’s anti-money-laundering agency, and multiple magisterial inquiries into money-laundering claims are under way.

A spokesman for the TCU said 96 individuals or companies were already undergoing a full tax investigation. The spokesman said all cases needed to follow the process of a pre-audit, and if the level of tax at risk was found to be high, a full investigation would immediately be launched.

Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi did not reply to questions from this paper asking if the local tax authorities had contacted them in order to pay any outstanding tax, penalties and interest they may have due on their undeclared foreign holdings.

The TCU spokesman said that the €6.306 million recovered was made up €3.411 million in undeclared income and €2.895 million in fines.

A further €10.5 million was recovered from the Swiss Leaks data, which came from just a single HSBC branch based in Geneva.

The 2015 data leak released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed that €607 million was linked to Maltese bank account holders.

According to the TCU spokesman, pre-audit exercises have been carried out on all categories of the 96 taxpayers featured in the data, and those who were found to be on a high-level tax risk had an investigation initiated.

To date, 92 cases had been processed or were in the process of being closed, the spokesman said.

He said the whole exercise had almost been completed, and most of the audit reports had been finalised.

The amount of recovered tax revenues to date might increase after all tax risk cases were concluded, the spokesman said.

jacob.borg@timesofmalta.com

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