Not just a ‘Panama problem’: banks and Big Four are tax avoiders’ middlemen

Europe has some “backyard cleaning up to do” as the second region with the highest number of intermediaries having assisted international tax dodgers revealed in the Panama Papers

Major banks and Big Four firms were an integral part of the Panama Papers intermediaries. Artwork: 'The Misers' by Followers of Marinus van Reymerswaele
Major banks and Big Four firms were an integral part of the Panama Papers intermediaries. Artwork: 'The Misers' by Followers of Marinus van Reymerswaele

A new report by the European Green Party on tax avoidance confirms the role of the world’s leading economies, including European member states, in playing a big role in tax evasion and money laundering through the use of intermediaries like auditors, accountants, tax lawyers and banks (see full list below)

Taking the spotlight away from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, whose massive leak in April 2016 shed light on international tax dodging scandal thanks to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the report shows the role of European intermediaries in facilitating tax avoidance and evasion.

Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse take the first two places in the Top 20 ranking of international intermediaries, creating together as many offshore entities as the next three in line.

On the 140 identified international intermediaries, 127 have at least one active business unit or subsidiary located in Europe. This shows that Europe is a must-be location for nearly 90% of all international intermediaries.

Unsurprisingly, banks from Switzerland and Luxembourg are at the heart of the business of offshore-company intermediation. But major French banks seem to have been very involved as well, since three of the main French banks (Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas) rank among the Top 10 European banks.

All big 4 accounting firms (Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and EY) are identified as international intermediaries, with only Deloitte (12) and PwC (18) making it in the Top 20 of international intermediaries.

Finally, many names among these 140 international intermediaries remain unknown to the wider public. They are law firms, corporate service providers, consultants which intervened as middlemen and middle-women between wealthy clients and service providers like Mossack Fonseca.

“These new actors were probably on no one’s radar so far but some follow-up would be needed to find out more about their services,” the Greens said.

German Green MEP Sven Giegold said the detailed analysis of the intermediaries shows that enablers of tax evasion and money laundering are not only banks. “Therefore, we need legislation and effective supervision of law firms, notaries, tax advisers and accounting firms. The EU commission and the member states should come forward with legislation in order to ensure fair competition and to end the business of tax dodging,” Giegold said.

Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson Prof Arnold Cassola, added: "Although the vast majority of the intermediaries named in the leaks have a base in the EU, with the United Kingdom in the forefront, this report also is also relevant to Malta. It is because of the crucial roles which intermediaries play in tax evasion and tax avoidance that the representatives of Maltese companies like Nexia BT and EMD Advisory are being asked to testify in the European Parliament Panama Papers investigation committee."

The Greens said Europe had some “backyard cleaning up to do” as it is the second region with the highest number of intermediaries registered. “Transparency seems an obvious first step because if creating an offshore company is not in itself reprehensible then there is no problem having public registries where their ultimate beneficial owners are mentioned.”

The Greens aid all European member states should start inquiring on the role of intermediaries mentioned in the report and whether they helped their clients to breach European and national laws against tax evasion and money laundering.

As president of the European Council, Malta will be pushing forward legislation on the fourth anti-money laundering directive. The Greens want a European Financial Intelligence Unit in charge of coordinating all national counterparts and stronger sanctions against intermediaries providing assistance to any individual or entity involved in money laundering, tax evasion or aggressive tax planning.

PositionNameCountriesNumber of offshore companies requested
1UBSBahamas, Cayman Islands, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Jersey, Luxembourg, Monaco, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, US, Indonesia, Canada,13285
2Crédit SuisseSingapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, UK, US, Bahamas, China, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Liechtenstein, Monaco,11347
3Trident Corporate ServicesBahamas, British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man8507
4Offshore Business Consultant LimitedHong Kong, China, Unidentified7515
5Orion House ServicesBelize, Hong Kong, Jersey7061
6Prime Corporate SolutionsHong Kong, Luxembourg, Gibraltar4300
7CitibankUK, Singapore, Jersey, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, US, Bahamas, Jersey3393
8G.S.L Law & ConsultingRussia, Cyprus, Unidentified2909
9HSBCSingapore, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Isreal, Jersey, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, US, Guernsey, Bahamas, Switzerland2882
10AnsbacherBahamas, Switzerland, British Virgin Islands2262
11Power Point ManagementTaiwan, Vietnam, Unidentified2049
12Delloite & ToucheTaiwan, UK, Isle of Man, Chile, Luxembourg, China, Hong Kong, Panama1742
13J.P. Morgan ChaseIsle of Man, Bahamas, Jersey, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, South Korea, US1735
14Banque Internationale du LuxembourgJersey, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Mauritius1727
15Overseas Management CompanyArgentina, Hong Kong, Bahamas, Panama, British Virgin Islands1668
16 Société GénéraleHong Kong, Panama, Monaco, Singapore, Bahamas, Mauritius, Guernsey, Jersey, Monaco, Switzerland,1639
17Portcullis TrustnetMalaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Indonesia,1475
18Pricewaterhouse CoopersCayman Islands, Colombia, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jersey, Luxembourg, Macao, Malta, Mauritius, Panama, South Africa, Taiwan, Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Hong Kong, Indonesia1364
19ChesterfieldIsle of Man, Cyprus, Switzerland1205
20Royal Bank of CanadaBahamas, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man1199
21ButterfeldBahamas, Bermudas, UK, Guernsey, Hong Kong1174
22Nautilus TrustHong Kong, Mauritius, Jersey1172
23CitcoBritish Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Jersey, Singapore1145
24Bank J.Safra SarasinLuxembourg, Monaco, Singapore, Switzerland, UK, Hong Kong, Canda, US, Bahamas1124
25First Names GroupHong Kong, Jersey, Guernsey1016
26Credit AgricoleLuxembourg, Monaco, Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Bahamas1005
27MinervaUAE, Mauritus, UK,Jersey953
28New World TrusteesSwitzerland, Jersey, Bahamas897
29ILS FiduciariesBahamas, Isle of Man, UK, Switzerland, Urguay832
30BNP ParibasHong Kong, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Bahamas782
31Rothschild BankBahamas, Bermuda, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland, UK752
32EFG BankSwitzerland, Bahamas, Luxembourg, Singapore, Hong Kong, US, Greece, France, Guernsey, Jersey,720
33Horizon GroupCyprus, Switzerland, Jersey694
34SantanderGuernsey, US, Bahamas680
35Offshore Incorporations LimitedBritish Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Hong Kong663
36Pictet BankSwitzerland, Luxembourg, Bahamas658
37IntertrustNetherlands, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Guernsey, UK641
38Royal Bank of Scotlandaymand Islands, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Lichtenstein, Singapore, US, Bahamas624
39Kleinwort BensonGuernsey, Hong Kong, Jersey, Isle of Man590
40Rhone TrusteesSwitzerland, Bahamas, Unidentified522
41STMCyprus, Gibraltar, Jersey, Malta507
42PinnacleSingapore, Jersey, Isle of Man, Taiwan496
43KPMGBahamas, Taiwan, China, Jersey, Canada, Cook Islands, Guernsey, Hong Kong , US, Switzerland, Urguay480
44CommerzbankPanama, United States, Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg, Malaysia468
45Bank Julius BaerUK, Switzerland, Singapore, Monaco, Bahamas, Guernsey, Hong Kong462
46Deutsche BankGuernsey, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Thailand446
47BDOVenezuela, Vanuatu, Bahamas, Luxembourg, Jersey, Malta, Switzerland, UK, Ecuador, Taiwan, Panama440
48Alba Corporate EnterprisesIsle of Man, Cyprus, Unidentified428
49Salamanca GroupJersey, Switzerland, Mauritius424
50FortisHong Kong, Luxembourg, Bahamas, Switzerland, Singapore407
51Nordea BankLuxembourg, Switzerland, Isle of Man405
52Fidinam Treuhandgesellschaf tSwitzerland, Hong Kong, Unidentified397
53Meridian Corporate ServicesSwitzerland, Bahamas, Isle of Man, Turks and Caicos Islands396
54AlphaUK, Seychelles, Panama, Hong Komg, UAE, Luxembourg, Brazil, China391
55Lombard OdierBahamas, Switzerland, Gibraltar, Bermuda381
56TMFBritish Virgin Islands, Jersey, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Uruguay371
57Ernst & YoungBarbados, British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jersey, New Zealand, Taiwan357
58BarclaysFrance, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jersey, Singapore, US, Cayman Islands330
59AmicorpUK, Hing Kong, Luxembourg, Monaco, Bahamas315
60T &TGibraltar, UK, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Switzerland309
61Union Bancaire PriveeBahamas, Luxembourg, Switzerland303
62BSIBrazil, Monaco, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Bahamas, Switzerland, Guernsey300
63Lloyds BankBahamas, Switzerland, US, Urguay296
64ApexHong Kong, Switzerland, Jersey295
65Baker TillyGibraltar, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Dominican Republic, Russia293
66MF ConsultingVenezuela, US, Hong Kong285
67HorwathSwitzerland, Singapore, Taiwan, UK, Australia, Jersey, Taiwan, Hong Kong278
68Moores RowlandHong Kong, Monaco, Vanuatu, Jersey, Urguay, Monaco, Guernsey, Indonesia277
69Herald GroupHong Kong, Taiwan, Jersey276
70Standard BankIsle of Man, Mauritius, Jersey246
71JD-InfinumHong Kong, Switzerland, Unidentified245
72ATCHong Kong, Bahamas, Cayman Islands235
73Baker & McKenzieColombia, Hong Kong, UK, Taiwan, Switzerland, Sweden, Thailand, Singapore, France228
74ChartwellSwitzerland, Singapore, Unidentified224
75BridgewatersBahamas, UK, Isle of Man209
76EBCUK, Jersey, Monaco208
77AbacusBahamas, Guernsey, Singapore, Jersey, Cyprus, Isle of Man, Hong Kong201
78InvestecGuernsey, UK, Switzerland192
79FortressSingapore, Isle of Man, UK187
80MayfairUK, Seychelles, Luxembourg186
81Compagnie Bancaire HelvétiqueSwitzerland, Bahamas, Unidentified170
82Bank LeumiIsreal, Luxembourg, Switzerland165
83JordansBritish Virgin Islands, Jersey, Singapore, UK, Isle of Man158
84VistraHong Kong, UK, Jersey, Switzerland152
85RSMSouth Africa, Luxembourg, Australia, Russia, Hong Kong, Uruguay144
86HLBCyprus, Hong Kong, Colombia, UAE134
87Hermes GlobalUAE, Monaco, Luxembourg125
88Oak InternationalSwitzerland, Guernsey, UK122
89FidelityTaiwan, Gibraltar, Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Switzerland120
90Trinity GroupMauritius, Guernsey, UAE, Isle of Man109
91LGT BankSwitzerland, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Liechtenstein,108
92ApplebyBermuda, Mauritius, Cayman Islands, UK, Jersey97
93Professional TrustPanama, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Jersey96
94HeritageHong Kong, UK, Singapore, Guernsey93
95IntercorpCosta Rica, US, Luxembourg91
96RBCJersey, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Bahamas, US, Guernsey90
97KingstonHong Kong, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Hong Kong87
98ICSCanada, Hong Kong, Unidentified85
99Rawlinson & HunterBritish Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Guernsey, Jersey, Switzerland82
100Coudert BrothersUS, Hong Kong, Singapore77
101Merill LynchUS; Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland75
102ING BankHong Kong, Singapore, Jersey, Netherlands75
103QuorumUAE, Bermuda, Jersey74
104CapcoUK, Jerseey, Isle of Man62
105Moore StephensMalaysia, Hong Kong, Guernsey, Jersey, Monaca, Isle of Man, UK57
106Standard Chartered BankHong Kong, Jersey, Mauritius, Singapore, Taiwan, US55
107RegentJersey, UK, Hong Kong, Switzerland54
108PKFUK, UAE, Isle of Man, Taiwan52
109ParamountTaiwan, US, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands46
110GTHong Kong, Luxembourg, Vanuatu, Hong Kong43
111HottingerLuxembourg, Bahamas, Switzerland35
112OrcraIsle of Man, UK, Mauritius, Hong Kong34
113Attendus Treuhand- gesellschaftUK, Switzerland, Liechtenstein32
114Mutual Trust ManagementCyprus, Switzerland, Isle of Man32
115AMSBritish Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, United Kingdom31
116ABN AmbroHong Kong, Uk, Switzerland, Singapore, Isle of Man, Luxembourg30
117BBVAJersey, US, Panama, Uruguay30
118Bermuda TrustHong Kong, Jersey, Guernsey29
119Consuldado de PanamaGermany, UAE, Switzerland28
120GreenfieldHong Kong, Croatia, Unidentified27
121Northern TrustUS, Guernsey, UK27
122ABCAndorra, Hong Kong, Mauritius, UK26
123Biscayne BankUS, Ecuador, Bahamas23
124AllianceHong Kong, Bahamas, Monaco, Norway, Singapore, Mauritius22
125Union Bank of SwitzerlandJersey, Hong Kong, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland21
126Guardian TrustJersey, Switzerland, singapore19
127Company FormationsHong Kong, UK; Ireland17
128RabobankHong Kong, British Virgin Islands, Singapore, Indonesia17
129Asset ProtectionSouth Africa, UK, US15
130IndusuezUK, Hong Kong, Unidentified15
131Rathbone trustJersey, British Virgin Islands, UK11
132WalbrookUK, Guernsey, Jersey11
133AxisSingapore, UK, Mauritius10
134The investors of Glasgow Global FundBritish Virgin Islands, Mauritius, Samoa,10
135Scottia BankHong Kong, Bahamas, Jersey8
136OrbisSingapore, Liechtenstein, Jersey7
137Federal TrustMauritius, Singapore, Guersey6
138CliftionCosta Rica, Seychelles, Guernsey, UK5
139Royal Trust BankSwitzerland, Isle of Man, Jersey5
140Sanpaolo BankSwitzerland, Luxembourg and a third unidentified country5

They also want the EU to start a political dialogue with Hong Kong, Switzerland and the United States over the regulation of intermediaries in their own tax havens. 


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