Letter sent to The Financial Times
Your on line reportage of the" Panama Papers" (Panama leak prompts tax haven probes, 4 April) states that "Authorities in the UK, France, Australia and New Zealand also said they would look at any allegations of money laundering or tax avoidance that arose from the document leak."
In the UK they will have to be a bit more curious than the British Treasury, as was revealed in a written Parliamentary answer to Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who asked the Chancellor late last year (question 20496): how many people were (a) prosecuted and (b) convicted for (i) off-shore tax evasion, (ii) in-shore tax evasion, (iii) tax credit fraud, (iv) VAT fraud, (v) smuggling and (vi) other tax-related offences in each financial year since 2010-11?
The Treasury minister David Gauke answered on 15 January:
"The information is not held in the format requested. HM Revenue and Customs’ centrally held data records the primary reason for the court case. The central data does not separately identify smuggling cases or use the term ‘in-shore evasion’ when recording the number of prosecutions or convictions."
More recently, Labour veteran backbench MP Paul Flynn asked the Chancellor George Osborne, with reference to paragraph 1.215 of the UK Budget 2016 whether he planned to make additional resources available to HM Revenue and Customs to implement the comprehensive package of measures to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, to be told by Mr Gauke ( 21 March 2016)
“The Government will ensure that HM Revenue and Customs has the resources it requires to implement the package of measures announced at Budget 2016 to tackle avoidance and evasion."
I agree with shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that HMRC is woefully underfunded to carry out this important mission, and this reflects the lack of serious intent of ministers to do anything other than apply another coat of whitewash to the problem, as I predict the tax evasion summit Mr Cameron has called in May will do.
For more on Mossack Fonseca:
The Law Firm That Works with Oligarchs, Money Launderers, and Dictators
Vice News, December 3, 2014