panama papers reveal hong kongs murky financial underbelly
Last Updated : GMT 09:55:56
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Panama Papers reveal Hong Kong's murky financial underbelly

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Panama Papers reveal Hong Kong's murky financial underbelly

Criminals, drug dealers, email scammers and corrupt Chinese officials have turned to Hong Kong
Hong Kong - AFP

Jasmine Li was still a student when she opened her first offshore bank account through Mossack Fonseca Hong Kong, but the shady world she entered that day had been part of the city's underbelly for decades.

The granddaughter of China's then fourth-ranked politician was among dozens named in a vast cache of documents leaked from the Panama law firm that have given a glimpse into how the rich and powerful hide their money.

But the so-called Panama Papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists this month, have also exposed the key role played by Hong Kong and Singapore in funnelling that wealth into tax havens.

Mossack Fonseca's Hong Kong offices were their busiest in the world, the ICIJ analysis showed, setting up thousands of shell companies including some linked to China's top political brass, the city's richest man, Li Ka-shing, and movie star Jackie Chan.

Experts say the Asian financial hubs have already channelled billions into tax havens, and the Boston Consulting Group predicts they will be the world's fastest-growing offshore centres over the next five years.

"Hong Kong is set up to make it easy for people to do business, and it is very easy to do business here," said Douglas Clark, a barrister with one of Hong Kong's largest chambers.

"But when it's easy to do business then it's easy to do any type of business, legal or illegal."

Offshore companies are not necessarily illegal, but they operate on the fringes of what is allowed and their opaque structures make it easy to conceal ill-gotten or politically inconvenient wealth.
They have proved a boon for Hong Kong and Singapore, which are known not only for their financial expertise but also light-touch regulation, discretion and non-cooperation with foreign tax authorities.

Both are already on regulators' radars -- the EU briefly added Hong Kong to its tax blacklist last year -- but experts say they are unlikely to do anything to jeopardise the lucrative offshore business.

- 'Turning a blind eye' -

Domiciling offshore has a long history in the region. In 1984, then trading house Jardine, Matheson & Co, one of the most powerful companies in Hong Kong's colonial history, relocated to Bermuda citing concerns about the city's handover to China.

"Hong Kong's history as a financial centre that specialises in turning a blind eye to things that would be investigated elsewhere goes right back to the 1960s," said financial commentator Tom Holland.
Today, Chinese investors use offshore companies legally in Hong Kong to bypass red tape, take advantage of tax breaks for foreign investors and circumvent strict capital controls.  

Hong Kong University law professor Douglas Arner said it has become "perfectly normal" for companies to park money from overseas operations offshore, as the city does not tax profits made elsewhere.

But their widespread use has earned Hong Kong and Singapore reputations for murky dealings, and the Tax Justice Network ranked them among the least transparent places in the world in last year's financial secrecy index.

In Singapore, seen as more rigorous in policing its financial sector, the TJN said a culture has evolved of enforcing the law domestically but tolerating the illicit money that flows in from crimes committed overseas.

"Singapore is not only a secrecy jurisdiction... but also a tax haven, providing numerous tax avoidance and evasion opportunities," the group said in its profile of the city state.

- 'They'll find snakes' -

Clark said criminals, drug dealers, email scammers and corrupt Chinese officials have turned to Hong Kong to try to hide their money offshore.

But even when used legally, offshore companies can make it harder to sniff out crime.

Shareholder activist David Webb said three-quarters of companies listed in Hong Kong are domiciled in the Cayman Islands or Bermuda, but their opaque structure makes it practically impossible to tell who is behind transactions.
"I don't think there is any appetite in the stock exchange to look under that particular rock, because they'll find snakes if they do," he said. "They see tighter regulation as a problem."

A Hong Kong exchange spokesman disputed Webb's figures and said all listed companies must comply with Hong Kong and exchange rules.

Despite the controversy, few expect authorities in Hong Kong or Singapore to change their regulations surrounding offshore dealings any time soon given how lucrative the industry is.

And, because the cities' own laws haven't been broken, experts say even international efforts to stop tax cheats are unlikely to make any difference.

"If anything, this is going to make people even more careful when they set up offshore holdings," said Clark.

"People will make sure investments are structured in such a way that if they are ever revealed, you won't be in trouble."

Hong Kong authorities said they were aware of the Panama Papers allegations. Singapore's monetary authority said it was investigating and "will not hesitate to take firm action" against wrongdoers.
Source: AFP

arabstoday
arabstoday

Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

panama papers reveal hong kongs murky financial underbelly panama papers reveal hong kongs murky financial underbelly

 



Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

panama papers reveal hong kongs murky financial underbelly panama papers reveal hong kongs murky financial underbelly

 



Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Jordanian woman reveals her project

GMT 00:46 2017 Saturday ,11 November

Jordanian woman reveals her project
Arab Today, arab today The Big Apple bike boom

GMT 10:47 2017 Wednesday ,22 November

The Big Apple bike boom
Arab Today, arab today Sophian Yussef reveals suitable decoration

GMT 02:56 2017 Thursday ,23 November

Sophian Yussef reveals suitable decoration
Arab Today, arab today Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

GMT 06:23 2017 Thursday ,23 November

Syria opposition meets in Riyadh
Arab Today, arab today 'Advanced' cyber attack targets Saudi Arabia

GMT 10:18 2017 Wednesday ,22 November

'Advanced' cyber attack targets Saudi Arabia
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Australian academic's book pulled

GMT 15:20 2017 Monday ,13 November

Australian academic's book pulled
Arab Today, arab today Srebrenica women cry tears of joy

GMT 08:03 2017 Thursday ,23 November

Srebrenica women cry tears of joy
Arab Today, arab today Delhi half-marathon to go ahead

GMT 03:51 2017 Saturday ,18 November

Delhi half-marathon to go ahead
Arab Today, arab today The history of solar eclipses

GMT 05:16 2017 Sunday ,20 August

The history of solar eclipses
Arab Today, arab today 'Robo-taxis' hold promise, and perils

GMT 08:07 2017 Thursday ,23 November

'Robo-taxis' hold promise, and perils
Arab Today, arab today Honda recalls 800,000 minivans

GMT 11:43 2017 Wednesday ,22 November

Honda recalls 800,000 minivans
Arab Today, arab today Singer Jahda Wahba has unlimited ambitions

GMT 07:56 2017 Monday ,20 November

Singer Jahda Wahba has unlimited ambitions
Arab Today, arab today paObama climate envoy slams Trump's rejection

GMT 16:04 2017 Friday ,17 November

paObama climate envoy slams Trump's rejection

GMT 09:23 2017 Saturday ,18 November

Fedra happy for “Between Two Worlds” success

GMT 02:14 2017 Saturday ,18 November

May under Brexit pressure at EU reform summit

GMT 18:41 2017 Friday ,20 October

Designer Aql Faqih aspires to innovation

GMT 11:38 2017 Wednesday ,15 November

Unloved vultures fight for their survival

GMT 17:52 2017 Sunday ,03 September

Etiquette expert underlines importance of gifts

GMT 10:43 2017 Wednesday ,22 November

Cigar-shaped asteroid came

GMT 00:44 2017 Monday ,20 November

Japanese regulators raid Airbnb

GMT 17:12 2017 Monday ,07 August

Al-Shawaifi reveals secrets of total solar eclipse

GMT 16:53 2017 Tuesday ,05 September

Youssra depended on colored foam
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
 
 Arab Today Facebook,arab today facebook  Arab Today Twitter,arab today twitter Arab Today Rss,arab today rss  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday
بناية النخيل - رأس النبع _ خلف السفارة الفرنسية _بيروت - لبنان
arabstoday, Arabstoday, Arabstoday