Three years of Panama Papers, over $1.2b recovered in taxes and fines, but no show in Africa

It’s been three years since the Panama Papers was published. The collaboration of more than 100 journalists from around the world exposed the rich, powerful and politically connected, business people and how they made strenuous efforts to hide their wealth in tax havens. The revelations shook the world. The staggering amounts being hidden became known, but so also were the spectacular web of multiple offshore registrations of companies just so the perpetrators can hide their wealth, some of them made from questionable deals.

As the world remembers this outstanding feat in journalistic delivery, particularly the coordination by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that brought together all the journalists from around the world to work on the project, there is evidence that around the world, in direct response to Panama Papers, some countries have been able to recover some monies in taxes and fines.

Countries have recovered total taxes and fines to the tune of over $1.2 billion. But in all these, the silence in Africa about Panama Papers has been deafening!

According to the ICIJ, the United Kingdom has to-date recovered $252 million; Australia has collected $92 million, and Belgium has exceeded $18 million.

In France, tax authorities have confirmed nearly $136 million has now been recovered – and that figure is expected to rise. They have carried out more than 500 inspections since April 2016, the ICIJ said.

It reports further that Canada’s Revenue Agency, which also raided two properties last week in connection to the investigation, has revealed it should recoup more than $11 million in federal taxes and fines from 66 audits. The agency said it planned to audit about 234 more taxpayers linked to the probe. Fewer than 10 criminal investigations are ongoing, it added.

It reports further that Iceland’s Directorate of Tax Investigations has finished 24 investigations relating to the Papers and estimates it has recouped $25.5 million, while in Panama, authorities have recovered back more than $14 million in the past three years.

Even though 52 African countries were named in the Papers, so far there is overwhelming silence on the continent over the investigations.

Countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Togo, Nigeria and Burkina Faso appeared in the Papers, but none of the individuals or companies in those countries are publicly known to have faced any official enquiry.

Of the 22 countries listed in the ICIJ report, none is from Africa.

Meanwhile, African countries together are believed to lose as much as $73 billion a year to illicit financial flows. The African Union Commission (AUC) has set up a High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows chaired by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki tasked to work with governments on the continent to stem the illicit outflows of money from the continent.

The AUC declared last year, 2018, the year to fight corruption, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised to lead the charge in the campaign to save Africa from losing billions that could go into developing the continent.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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