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Austrian banks caught up in Panama Papers leak

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Austrian banks caught up in Panama Papers leak
Raiffeisen Bank International AG
09:24 CEST+02:00
Austrian banks have become entangled in one of the biggest ever data leaks exposing how the some of the world’s richest and most powerful public figures hide their wealth in secretive offshore bank accounts.

The Panama Papers investigation is a cross-border collaboration of journalists in 80 different countries who analysed 11.5 million records leaked from the offices of an international law firm based in Panama.

Around 500 banks or subsidiaries and 140 politicians or public figures were connected to offshore companies in the research carried out by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The Consortium spent over a year studying records leaked from the Panama-based law firm Mossak Fonseca.

Austrian banks Raiffeisen Zentralbank (RZB) and Hypo Vorarlberg were mentioned in the investigation as helping wealthy individuals move money to offshore accounts to avoid paying tax.

From 2002 Raiffeisen reportedly helped the current Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko with tax avoidance, according to the magazine Falter that, along with the broadcaster ORF, took part in the investigative collaboration.

The bank is said to have dealt with a $115 million credit (€131 million) in an offshore account in the British Virgin Islands connected to Poroschenko's confectionery empire Roshen.

The Ukrainian president is one of 12 current or former world leaders among the 140 politicians exposed in the report.

Hypo Vorarlberg, which is not related to the disgraced and failed Hypo Alpe Adria Group of Carinthia, has also been connected to 20 offshore businesses.

Keeping money in offshore bank accounts is not illegal and both banks say they complied with all the necessary regulations.

“RZB of course fulfilled the legal obligations,” Raiffeisen spokeswomen Ingrid Krenn-Ditz told the Kurier newspaper.

Hypo Vorarlberg also emphasised that laws are “rigorously” complied with to help “prevent money laundering.”

ERRATA: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Hypo Vorarlberg is part of the failed Hypo Alpe Adria Group of companies.  We apologise for the error.

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