UK financial services watchdog gives firms until next week to carry out their reviews into the Panama Papers

Hayley Kirton
Follow Hayley
NASA Prepares For Launch Of Space Shuttle Atlantis
Firms have until 15 April to carry out their initial reviews (Source: Getty)

The UK's financial services watchdog has given firms until next week to scrabble through their back offices and find out if they can be linked to Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed to City A.M. today that it had sent a letter to a number of banks and financial firms on Tuesday and had given them until 15 April to complete their first round of in-house investigations.

On Sunday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released its Panama Papers report, which linked a number of high-profile individuals, including 140 politicians and public officials, to offshore tax dealings. The report was based on more than 11m leaked files belonging to Mossack Fonseca.

The ICIJ reported that the data leaked showed that more than 500 banks had been involved in registering nearly 15,600 shell companies with the Panama-headquartered law firm, while entities belonging to HSBC and Credit Suisse featured in the list of the 10 banks that had requested the most offshore companies for their clients.

Representatives from both banks are understood to have spoken out against the allegations that they had been helping clients cheat on their taxes earlier this week.

Panama papers latest: What you need to know

The Financial Times, which had obtained a copy of the letter, reported that it read: "Beyond 15 April we will require updates on any significant issues or relationships identified and a full response, detailing your findings, when your investigation is concluded."

On Tuesday, the FCA published its annual business plan, which included a nod to cracking down on financial crime and money laundering.

On Monday, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) announced that it had requested access to the information obtained by the ICIJ with the view of launching its own investigation.

It has been reported that tax authorities in a number of other countries, including, Austria, Sweden, Netherlands and Australia, will also be launching their own investigations.