ANONYMOUS APONTA CONEXÕES PERIGOSAS ENTRE TEMER, YUNES E A FAMÍLIA MARINHO
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Experts Quit Panama's Transparency Committee Over Lack of Transparency
Committee established in the wake of the Panama Papers loses two out of three international members
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has resigned from a Panamanian government commission set up to investigate the Central American country’s offshore financial industry in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, saying that government officials have refused to give the panel full independence.
Stiglitz and Mark Pieth, a Swiss anti-corruption expert, wrote Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela on Friday that they were pulling out of the study committee because they fear government officials will limit the panel’s freedom to investigate and keep its final report secret.
They said in the letter that government officials had declined to commit to public release of the panel’s report and instead had insisted the group’s findings would be the “property” of the government and that Panamanian authorities would have “sole responsibility” for any public announcements. Such restrictions, they said, made no sense considering that the panel was set up to investigate concerns about how offshore secrecy encourages money laundering and other misconduct.
“How can a group allegedly committed to transparency write a report that is not transparent? It would undermine our own credibility,” Stiglitz said in telephone interview Friday afternoon. “Evidently they wanted us to be part of charade to convince people they were serious when in fact they weren’t.”
A government spokesperson issued a brief statement saying Panamanian officials regretted Stiglitz and Pieth’s exit from the panel and adding that the government “understands both resignations” are related to “internal differences” within the panel “over which it won’t intervene.”
The statement added: “The Government of Panama reiterates its firm and real commitment to transparency and international cooperation” and how showed this commitment “with clear actions that have been recognized by the international community.”
In their resignation letter, Stiglitz and Pieth urged that the independent committee disband. Stiglitz said he and Pieth will likely issue their own separate report, which will make the case that being more transparent will help Panama’s economy in the long run.
Panamanian authorities established the panel – appointing four members from Panama and three from outside the country – in April.
President Varela called for the creation of the committee after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 other media partners began publishing stories exposing how a Panama-headquartered law firm, Mossack Fonseca, had set up hard-to-trace shell companies for politicians, professional athletes, organized crime figures and money launderers from around the world. The resulting media firestorm forced Panama’s government to respond.
Varela said at the time panel was formed that his administration was committed to “bulletproofing” Panama’s financial services sector “against threats from people and groups who want to use it for illegal activities.”
The commission is supposed to make recommendations to Varela and other Panamanian officials and write a report on their findings by the end of this year.
Stiglitz and Pieth said that committee members had agreed during a meeting in New York in early June that Panama’s government needed to make the committee’s report public no matter what its findings. Pieth said in an interview Friday with Tages-Anzeiger, a Swiss newspaper that collaborated on the Panama Papers investigation, that he and Stiglitz decided to resign after an official with Panama’s foreign ministry sent them a “rude” letter on July 29 that said the government wouldn’t commit to releasing the report.
“We were a little shocked,” Stiglitz told ICIJ. “Before we took the action to resign, we made an effort to contact the vice president or president, and we were rebuffed. We never got through.”
Pieth told Tages-Anzeiger that he and Stiglitz agreed that “we don’t write secret reports. If you want to have a clean financial center, transparency is the top priority.”
In their letter to Varela, Stiglitz and Pieth wrote: “We believe that transparency is at the core of our mission – transparency in Panama’s corporate and financial sectors and transparency regarding the Independent Committee’s process, findings and final reports. Given our commitment to transparency and the fact that global standards are moving towards more disclosure not less, we believe that it’s essential that our findings be made public and that Independent Committee members shall be allowed to speak freely about our findings, recommendations and beliefs.”
Stiglitz is a professor at Columbia University in New York and shared the 2001 Nobel prize in economics. Pieth is a professor of law and criminology at Basel University and spent more than 20 years as the chair of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s working group on corporate bribery.
Pieth and Stiglitz’s resignation letter noted that the country has made progress on meeting international standards aimed at combating money laundering and tax evasion, but said the country needs stronger laws and better enforcement when it comes to overseeing law firms, accounting firms and other key players in the offshore financial system. Because international standards are getting stronger, they said, Panama needs to do more to keep up.
If not, they said, “the gap between Panama and these global standards will increase, with substantial potential damage to Panama’s reputation and its place within the international community.”
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From Germany to the US, authorities want access to Panama Papers
German states have called for media outlets to release the cache of 11.5 million documents to authorities. But the journalists behind the largest data leak in history say it's not going to happen.
Germany's federal states on Friday called for increased measures against tax havens and for media outlets to allow prosecutors to examine the contents of a cache of 11.5 million documents known as the "Panama Papers," which had been leaked to the press.
"If the data sets from the 'Panama Papers' are not made accessible, then we cannot draw any consequences," said Lower Saxony's Finance Minister Peter-Jürgen Schneider, Reuters news agency reported.
However, the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung's (SZ) investigative unit on Tuesday said it would not hand over the cache nor would it publish the leak online, despite calls to do so by government officials and representatives of the whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks.
"As journalists, we have to protect our source: we can't guarantee that there is no way for someone to find out who the source is with the data. That's why we can't make the data public," the team said during an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit, which included journalist Bastian Obermayer, who was first contacted by the anonymous source.
"You don't harm the privacy of people, who are not in the public eye. Blacking out private data is a task that would require a lifetime of work - we have eleven million documents," the unit added.
'Our focus is journalism'
In a letter to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained by British newspaper The Guardian this week, US attorney for Manhattan Preet Bharara said the Justice Department "has opened a criminal investigation regarding matters to which the Panama Papers are relevant."
"The office would greatly appreciate an opportunity to speak as soon as possible with any ICIJ employee or representative involved in the Panama Papers project in order to discuss this matter further," Bharara said.
ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle said on Thursday that the organization would not release unpublished data to the Justice Department or other government entities, although it welcomed the "US Attorney's Office reviewing all of the information from the Panama Papers."
"ICIJ does not intend to play a role in that investigation. Our focus is journalism … ICIJ, and its parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity, are media organizations shielded by the First Amendment and other legal protections from becoming an arm of law enforcement," Ryle said in a statement.
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was impacted by the data leak, also called for the information to be shared with authorities, telling lawmakers: "It would hugely be helped if the newspapers and other investigative journalists now share this information with tax inspectors so we can get to the bottom of this."
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