SA law firm linked over 400 times in Panama Papers

2016-05-12 08:32
Papers stack. (iStock)

Papers stack. (iStock)

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Bloemfontein – Phatshoane Henney Attorneys, a Bloemfontein based law firm, has been linked to more than 400 entities in the Panama Papers. 

A searchable database of the leaked documents, which is hosted by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), showed that Phatshoane Henney Attorneys has acted as an intermediary for 436 entities. 

The firm told News24 in an e-mailed statement that all of their clients' investments in foreign companies "are in accordance with the applicable exchange control regulations which also require tax clearance certificates". 

"Taxes are therefore paid, both in SA and abroad, as and when applicable in terms of the relevant tax legislation," said CEO, Jan Berry. 

"We have always and are still advising clients investing significant amounts abroad, not to do so in their personal names in order to avoid various onerous administrative and cost consequences, especially in the event of death," he said.

He said Phatshoane Henney Attorneys are a "leading firm in the field of estate planning and administration and it is therefore expected that we will also have a sizeable number of clients investing abroad". 

Phatshoane Henney Attorneys also defended its relationship with Mossack Fonseca, the firm that the 11.5 million confidential documents were leaked from. The leaked documents purport to show how clients hid billions in tax havens.

Monitoring investigations

In April, Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was named in the papers and he resigned amid mounting public outrage that his family had sheltered money offshore.

"While we fully support transparency in the financial industry worldwide, and although the relevant allegations against Mossack Fonseca (if they transpire to be correct), would be regrettable, we have always experienced the firm as professional, regulatory compliant and cost effective," Berry said. 

"The firm was engaged in an administrative capacity after their credentials and reputation were verified with and confirmed by various major financial institutions using them as one of the largest providers of company incorporation services both offshore and onshore, including jurisdictions such as the UK and US. We will monitor the ongoing investigations to evaluate the continued use of the services of this firm." 

Berry said the ICIJ database appeared to be "fraught with inaccuracies which make it questionable".

"It is concerning that law abiding and transparent clients have been placed in a situation where their privacy has been breached."

Shareholdings registered

He said the shareholdings of the firm's clients in companies "formed on our instructions" were recorded in the shareholders’ registers, were transparent and should correspond with the clients’ records with SA Revenue Service (SARS). 

"Full and complete FICA records are maintained in accordance with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act." 

Berry said South African exchange control regulations allowed local residents to invest, or to do so through a non-resident company, but did not allow South African trusts to invest abroad. 

"Since exchange control regulations further prohibit the pooling of foreign investments, a non-resident company within which each family member can hold his/her own shares is in our view the best suitable vehicle to serve as the family’s multi generation estate planning platform," Berry said.

"The choice of jurisdiction is essentially based on the existence of a strong legal system under English law and cost effectiveness."

- Read more on the Panama Papers here.

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  panama ­papers

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