EU lawmakers call for crack down on tax fraud as international tax officials gather in Paris

EU lawmakers called on the European Commission and EU Member States to step-up their efforts against tax evasion and money laundering, as tax officials from 28 countries gathered in Paris Wednesday to discuss co-operation, information-sharing and collaborative action in response to the 11.5 million-document ‘Panama Papers’ scandal.

At a plenary session in Strasbourg, European lawmakers from across the political spectrum called for a range of actions including a blacklist of tax havens, and penalties for using them. Lawmakers, including EU tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici, also put pressure on governments to crack down more vigorously on tax evasion, tax fraud and aggressive tax planning.

The special meeting of tax officials at the OECD secretariat in Paris, was called last Friday just days after Süddeutsche Zeitung and over 100 other news organizations published the results of a year-long review of 2.6 terabytes of data leaked from international law firm Mossack Fonseca, which exposed evidence of tax evasion and other criminal behaviour.

Investigations have been launched in a number of countries in light of the revelations, including Australia, Austria, France and the Netherlands, but the Paris meeting is the first attempt to develop a global strategy to crack down on offenders.

The fact that the data may have been obtained illegally and that the privacy rights of innocent individuals may have been violated could complicate the task of tax authorities. Following similar smaller scale incidents involving client data stolen from private banks, some countries, such as France, however, have made it legal for their tax authorities to use such data.

The leaked data includes emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records revealing the secret owners of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions, including Nevada, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands. It spans nearly 40 years of records and covers information on more than 214,000 offshore companies connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which led the review of what is thought to be the biggest leak of inside information in history, used collaborative platforms to communicate and share documents with journalists working in 25 languages in nearly 80 countries.

Nuix donated the software to Süddeutsche Zeitung and the ICIJ for the investigation and a Nuix consultant advised the investigators on hardware configurations and workflows.