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Austrian 'Panama Papers' banks to be investigated

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Austrian 'Panama Papers' banks to be investigated
Hypo Vorarlberg
12:10 CEST+02:00
Two Austrian banks caught up in the Panama Papers leak that exposed how some of the world’s most powerful public figures hide money in offshore bank accounts are to be investigated by financial authorities.

Hypo Vorarlberg and Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI) were both mentioned in the report published by a group of 80 investigative journalists who analysed over 11 million files leaked from Panama-based legal firm Mossack Fonseca.

Both banks have said they complied with all the relevant regulations when helping individuals and companies set up the legal offshore accounts.

It has also emerged that one of the 20 offshore businesses connected to Hypo Vorarlberg that were mentioned in the Panama Papers report had already been investigated by the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) in 2012.

The FMA had looked into the financial businesses connected to Virgin Islands-based Southport Management Services Ltd., thought to belong to Russian billionaire businessman and friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin Gennadi Timtschenko, following concerns over possible money laundering.

Due to a “shortage of evidence”, the investigation was closed in Spring 2013.

Now the FMA announced yesterday they will carry out on-site investigations into both Hypo Vorarlberg and Raiffeisen to examine the relevant cases and documents and check regulations have been adhered to.

According to the leaked data, Raiffeisen has reportedly helped the current Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko with tax avoidance since 2002.

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, which will now be examined by the FMA.

The Ukrainian president is one of 12 current or former world leaders among the 140 politicians or public figures exposed in the report. Around 500 banks or subsidiaries from around the world were also connected to offshore companies in the research carried out by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

FMA Executive Board member Klaus Kumpfmüller has said that he expects cases involving other banks in Austria will soon appear.

“I don’t believe that the cases of RBI and Hypo Vorarlberg will be the last in connection [with the Panama Papers],” he told Der Standard newspaper.

Last year the FMA investigated 60 cases in Austria, many of which involved money laundering.

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