Banks distance themselves from Panama Papers firm
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Banks distance themselves from Panama Papers firm

Three local banks have distanced themselves from law firm Mossack Fonseca after revelations from the Panama Papers leak.

E-mails and documents from the Panama Papers show that Mossack Fonseca liked doing business with Sparkasse Bank, Mediterranean Bank and Bank of Valletta, which were recommended to clients wanting to open accounts in Malta.

The firm would charge clients around the globe up to €800 for helping to open a Maltese bank account. The account would often be linked to a shell company that hid the ultimate owner’s interest.

The Panama Papers have shone a spotlight on Mossack Fonseca’s role in the secret world of finance, which included the creation of shell companies in tax havens to conceal their clients’ wealth from the authorities.

The leaked documents show that the firm used Malta as one of its hubs through which clients could filter millions anonymously using shell companies. Clients were made to submit scans of their passports and utility bills as part of the due diligence process, as well as information about the purpose of the bank account.

Contacted by the Times of Malta, the three banks insisted that they always adhered to the strictest due diligence standards.

Sparkasse, which was often Mossack Fonseca’s first choice for opening client accounts, said that as a result of the Panama Papers, a decision was made not to deal with the firm anymore.

Mediterranean Bank said it had a “very limited” relationship with Mossack Fonseca and no longer did business with the Panama firm, despite its offering perfectly legitimate services.

Bank of Valletta said it did not have any ties with Mossack Fonseca.

The Times of Malta reported last month that Mossack Fonseca Malta’s sole director, Adrian Dixon, had resigned from his post.

Mossack Fonseca’s founders Juergen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca are listed as the directors of the Malta branch.

BT International, owned by accountant Brian Tonna, who is also the managing partner of Nexia BT, no longer appears as the sole shareholder in Mossack Fonseca Malta.

The Panama Papers were made available to the Times of Malta through an inves-tigative partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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