A Vancouver man is among 350 Canadians named in a massive leak of financial records belonging to people who use a Panamanian law firm named Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in offshore-banking.
According to the Toronto Star, a mixed-martial arts trainer named Dave Feser used Mossack Fonseca to “register an anonymous corporation in British Anguilla”.
Feser has not been accused of any wrongdoing. The use of an offshore bank is not illegal and does not necessarily suggest someone is committing a crime. However, legal firms like Mossack Fonseca can be used to help individuals and corporations hide money from governments that might otherwise have a right to claim taxes on it.
The Star article naming Feser is the first of what the newspaper has said will be a series based on 38 years of banking files that were leaked to a German newspaper named Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Dubbed the “Panama Papers”, the leak was subsequently shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which counts the Star as well as CBC News among its members.
The leak consists of 2.6 terabytes of information consisting of 11.5 million documents. In addition to the 350 Canadians, individuals identified as having used Mossack Fonseca’s services include 12 current or former heads of state and many more close associates of world leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin. There are 26 Forbes-listed billionaires on the list.
The Star’s first article based on the papers focuses on how Canadians are using offshore banking to avoid paying their full tax burden. “Obscured by figurehead directors, untraceable money transfers and anonymous company ownerships, these Canadians paid for the secrecy promised by Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm renowned internationally for establishing shell companies,” it reads.
The other Canadians the Star has named so far are Chuck Furey, a former Newfoundland cabinet minister; Eric Levine, a fitness-club operator; Brian Shamess, a sports physician; Eric Ngyuen, an investor who has focused on penny stocks; and John Wright, a mutual broker. The Star has also noted the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and its subsidiaries have 378 shell companies listed in the Mossack Fonseca data. RBC has denied any wrongdoing.
A Star editorial explains why the newspaper has chosen to publish information contained in the leak.
“The Star and our partners, including France’s Le Monde, Britain’s Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, are publishing this material not because we believe something illegal is happening, but because we think Canadians should know about how the elite hide and shelter so much money,” it reads. “The rich get to play by different rules than the rest of us. We should all know about this unfairness.”