Germany is planning a new national transparency register that will oblige offshore companies to disclose the identity of their owners, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday (4 April).
The Munich newspaper said the government planned to amend its money laundering law so that it was no longer possible for the beneficial owner of an offshore company to remain anonymous.
“Secrecy has got to stop,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the paper, adding that more transparency was an integral part of the fight against tax evasion and terror financing.
The leak of the “Panama Papers” — four decades of documents from a Panamanian law firm specialised in setting up offshore companies — has prompted renewed calls for tougher action against tax abuses.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the leak would increase pressure to tackle misuse of tax rules and said additional measures were needed.
“We cannot allow that one part of society works hard, sticks to the rules and pays taxes while another part of society cheats,” Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the Sueddeutsche. “We need to impose a global ban on offshore companies and foundations whose beneficial owners remain anonymous,” he added.
While a national transparency register would not have any bearing on offshore companies in Panama or the Caribbean, its aim is to send a signal to the European Union and other international organisations that Germany is cracking down and others should follow, the paper said, citing government sources.
The European Commission is due to present a planned law on tax avoidance next week, but critics say it would still not stop companies hiding their activities in tax havens outside the EU.
The hidden wealth of some of the world’s most prominent leaders, politicians and celebrities has been revealed by an unprecedented leak of millions of documents which show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.
Journalists from more than 80 countries have been reviewing 11.5m files leaked from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm. The offshore holdings of some 140 politicians from more than 50 countries are exposed in this biggest leak of all times.
The records, called “The Panama Leaks”, were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the Guardian and a number of other media across Europe and the world.
The Panama records reveal among other things, that twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.