Australian PM Named in Panama Papers
The Panama Papers data leak is proving to be one of the most sweeping revelations in terms of widespread tax fraud and evasion in data storage history. Heads are rolling, and as more and more of the papers are processed by media specialists, the number of higher ups with links to the offshore post will only increase further.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proven to be the latest world leader caught up in the scandal. He was named by the Panama Papers as a former director of a British Virgin Islands company set up and administered by law firm Mossack Fonseca with the intention of exploiting a Siberian gold prospect.
Turnbull and former NSW Premier Neville Wran joined the board of Star Mining NL on October 29, 1993. The Australian listed company hoped to develop a $20 billion Siberian gold mine called Sukhoi Log. According to the data, Turnbull and Wran were appointed directors of the Star Mining’s subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands, Star Technology Services, on December 3, 1993, just five weeks later. Star Technology Services held the group’s stake in the Sukhoi Log prospect.
A spokesman for Mr. Turnbull recently stated that the Prime Minister was not aware that the company had been administered by Mossack Fonseca as the registered agent in Road Town, Tortola. According to the spokesperson, none of the data implies that the PM acted improperly in any way.
However, Star Technologies has allegedly made donations to Russian politicians, an action that is unlikely to be coincidental to the fact that the gold mines were located in Siberia. The spokesperson then responded that Turnbull was not aware of any payments to political parties or to politicians made by Star during or prior to his time as director.
The use of the British Virgin Islands company provided privacy to many of its users; according to spokespeople working for Emma Watson, her naming by the papers was due only to the star’s need for personal privacy and safety that companies could supply to her as a result of British law.
While Emma Watson’s involvement with the company may not be extremely incriminating, the Prime Minister’s seems more shady.
Turnbull’s use of the company made it so that his Australian shareholders couldn’t tell that Star Technology was investing in the gold mine in Siberia. Star Technology was listed as a subsidiary in Star Mining’s 1994 annual report with the note that it was a “controlled entity not required to be audited under British Virgin Islands requirements.”
Eventually the Prime Minister and Mr. Wran resigned from Star Mining no September 1, 1995 citing work commitments in Australia. They also stepped down from their posts at Star Technology on September 25. Turnbull & Partners and broker County NatWest were able to raise somewhere around $72 million for Star Mining in share placements in Ovtober of 1993. Eventually court decisions in Russia stripped Star Mining of its gold stake and the company was forced to write off $127 million on the failed venture in 1998.
Again, it’s not suggested that there was anything improper in the Prime Minister’s role in the company.