Almost four days after the Panama Papers leak broke, Russian President Vladimir Putin is denying taking part in “any element of corruption.” In sharp contrast to that defensive stance by the Russian leader, European Union officials have admitted to the problems of offshore tax havens and agreed to compile a list of havens with the potential to sanction countries.
The leak of 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed $2 billion had been funneled to offshore accounts linked to Putin’s close associates and friends, including cellist Sergei Roldugin. The leaks were Speaking to Russian journalists Thursday, Putin blamed the West and said the leaks — published by a collaboration of journalists from over 100 news agencies — were meant to divide Russian society. The Russian leader said he was proud of his good friend Roldugin for spending his own money to bring musical instruments to Russia, in a reference to the cellist's charity. The comments were Putin’s first public remarks on the leaks.
“They’ve thrown the spotlight on those offshores. Yours truly is not there, so there is nothing to talk about, but the task remains,” Putin said, Russian news agency Tass reported. “What did they do then? They produced an information product — found some acquaintances and friends. They’ve dug up some stuff and pieced it together.”
The EU’s executive said Thursday the 28-member union would work to agree on a list of tax havens and could impose sanctions on countries that allow taxable revenue to be hidden, Reuters reported. Individual EU member states currently have their own lists of jurisdictions that do not cooperate on tax matters.
“We need now a true European list of noncooperative jurisdictions,” said EU Tax and Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. “I want this list of tax havens in the next six months at the latest.”
The Panama Papers leaks exposed how politicians, business people and athletes around the world use shell companies and tax havens to avoid or reduce paying taxes. Major protests in Iceland Monday and Tuesday caused Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson to step down after revelations that he had not reported on offshore accounts he and his wife held.