Czech PM calls for probe into activities of Czechs on Panama Papers files

Здание, в котором располагается офис юридической фирмы Mossack Fonseca, Фото: ЧТК

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has called on the Czech tax authorities to launch a thorough investigation into the activities of close to 300 Czechs who are among those named in the Panama Papers. The list of Czechs suspected of using offshore companies to avoid paying tax includes the country’s richest Czech, billionaire Petr Kellner, owners of Czech solar plants and big players in the 1990 privatization deals.

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: Filip Jandourek
Of the 11 million files leaked from Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, 250,000 files are Czech-related, according to Pavla Holcová from the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism which has been analyzing the documents. Unlike in other countries, they do not appear to contain the names of politicians in high office, although they do allegedly contain the names of big players in the 1990s privatization deals. Responding to the scandal on a working visit to the United States, Prime Minister Sobotka said the Czech authorities must follow up on the information released.

“The tax authorities must react to this data leak and check out the information published. I expect a detailed and thorough investigation into the activities of those Czechs whose names have appeared on the Panama Papers files.”

According to Pavla Holcová from the Centre for Investigative Journalism Czechs tend to base their firms in the Seychelles where Mossack Fonseca has set up more than 800 companies. Other tax havens favoured by Czechs are the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Panama and Samoa.

Mossack Fonseca building in Panama City, photo: CTK
The Panama Papers show that billionaire Petr Kellner and his wife have several companies seated in the British Virgin Islands and another Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínsky owns one company in the same destination. Both have denied involvement in any illegal activities. Others on the list are owners of solar plants,big players in the 1990s privatization deals and Czech fugitive Radovan Krejčíř whom a South African court recently sentenced to 35 years in prison for attempted murder and kidnapping.

According to Czech Television the country’s special tax evasion squad Kobra has started looking into the matter. The country annually losses around 150 billion crowns through tax evasion and the special squad, set up in 2014, has largely focused on the big players in the field. The leaked Panama data might provide valuable information. However the country’s Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, himself a billionaire businessman whose name does not appear on the list, has warned that an offshore company does not automatically imply tax evasion or money-laundering.

“Panama is known as a country that keeps a tight lid on information of this kind, so we need to find out more, we need to ascertain if these documents are trustworthy.”

Andrej Babiš, photo: Filip Jandourek
Mossack Fonseca, which has set up more than 240,000 offshore companies for clients around the globe, denied involvement in any illegal activities, pointing to the fact that during the 40 years of its existence it had never been investigated by the police.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in this connection that the Panama Papers scandal should serve as an impulse for a broad international drive against tax-havens, offshore companies and anonymous shares.


Apology

Czech Radio would like to apologize to Mr. Tomáš Berdych that we mistakenly reported in a news item on April 5, 2016 that his name appeared in the Panama Papers database. The name of Mr. Tomáš Berdych does not appear on the pages that we indicated: https://www.investigace.cz/panamapapers, and, according to other available information does not appear on the Panama Papers database.

Link to ČTK apology: http://www.ctk.eu/news/?id=2508