A government taskforce launched in the wake of the Panama Papers leak earlier this year has "added greatly" to the understanding of offshore tax evasion structures, the chancellor Philip Hammond said today.
The "Panama Papers Taskforce" was launched in April to analyse the information that had been released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The government today provided the first update on the progress of the investigations and announced that it had opened civil and criminal investigations against 22 individuals.
Hammond also revealed that 43 high net worth individuals had been placed under "special review", identified 26 offshore companies whose owners had been concealed and activity was determined as "potentially suspicious".
Meanwhile, he said eight cases had been linked to ongoing investigations by the Serious Fraud Office and according to the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the work done to date had: "Identified a number of leads relevant to a major insider-trading operation led by the Financial Conduct Authority and supported by the National Crime Agency."
A source close the to government told City A.M. that the investigations were still in their infancy. They said that the average length between opening similar enquiries and passing them onto the Crown Prosecution Service was around 44 months. "This is a marathon not a sprint," the government source said.
Hammond referenced the fact that the the ICIJ were not willing to share any information with the government that was not already in the public domain. "The taskforce was not delayed by the ICIJ’s refusal to release all of the information that it holds to any tax authority or law enforcement agency," said Hammond.
The government source said that the reason the taskforce had not been delayed was due to the fact that the government already had the majority of the information the ICIJ had obtained but not released.
Meanwhile the HMRC’s director general for customer compliance, Jennie Granger, said the taskforce's activities were at the forefront of global tax data analysis.
"[It] is leading the world on the acquisition and analysis of data that has enabled us to uncover and take swift action on evidence of wrongdoing – regardless of how deeply hidden the arrangements are," she said.