Panama Papers prompt US Treasury Department to speed up rule change of bank treatment of company ownership

Hayley Kirton
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Panama Canal
The papers unearthed the details of nearly 15,600 shell companies (Source: Getty)

The leak of more than 11m files from a Panama-headquartered law firm which implicated various household names in offshore tax dealings has prompted the US government to hurry through a rule change on how banks treat company ownership, it was revealed early this morning.

On Sunday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published its Panama Papers report based on leaked files it had received belonging to Mossack Fonseca. The data showed that more than 500 banks had registered nearly 15,600 shell companies with the law firm.

Off the back of that revelation, the US Treasury Department is now said to be in the process of pushing through a law change that would force banks to find out the identities of people behind accounts relating to shell companies.

A department spokesperson told journalists from Reuters that they planned to pass the proposed rule change to the White House for review "soon", while a former Treasury official added that the papers gave "validation for those who have been screaming for a decade" about the need for more transparent ownership rules to aid the battle against money laundering and terrorist financing.

On Monday, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) announced that it was requesting access to the information obtained by the ICIJ. It is understood that tax authorities in Austria, Sweden, Netherlands and Australia are also among those which have launched their own investigations.

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