06Bangkok (HRNW): Thailand is to launch an official probe into 16 politicians and businessmen listed in the “Panama Papers” leak to determine whether they committed any wrongdoing in transferring funds to the “tax haven”.

Matichon news website on Friday quoted the Anti-Money Laundering Office’s (AMLO) secretary-general, police colonel Seehanat Prayoonrat, as saying, “we will investigate if they were involved in either tax evasion or in laundering money.”

The secret files related to offshore holdings in Panama include the names of 780 people living in Thailand, including 400 nationals.

No major Thai politicians appear in the list, available online in a database published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists earlier this week, which includes members of some of the country’s richest business families and CEOs of major finance and property companies.

Among the Thai nationals named is Potjaman na Pombera, a former wife of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire whose government was overthrown in a coup in 2006.

“Only 16 Thai nationals whose names are appearing repeatedly in the documents as directors or shareholders for companies set up by Mossack Fonseca will be investigated,” Prayoonrat said.

He underlined, however, that the names would not be made public as “there is no evidence of wrongdoing at this stage”.

“If evidence of wrongdoing can be collected, the cases will then be transferred to the Anti-Corruption Commission.”

The Commission is also an official, constitution-sanctioned, independent agency that has supreme authority on all cases involving corruption and illegal use of money.

Despite having inaugurated its seizure of power after a 2014 coup with an anti-corruption campaign, the military government was very cautious in its initial responses to the publication of the Panama Papers by more than 100 newspapers worldwide Monday.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya said the Thai names could not be released as the data was “a private matter.”

On Thursday, AMLO’s Prayoonrat insisted that the validity of the documents had not been proven, as the source was “not an official one”.

“Right now, the disseminated information is still unofficial, but when it becomes official, it will be put into the system,” he said.

The files contain 11.5 million documents that point to around 140 politicians worldwide who used Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore shell companies, which are typically used to conceal money from authorities.

The documents point to 140 politicians worldwide, among them 12 current and former national leaders, claiming they worked with Mossack Fonseca to establish shadow companies for global transactions and money laundering.

Their revelation has sent shockwaves across the world, resulting in the resignation of Iceland’s premier Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has admitted to having a profitable stake in a fund owned by his father.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has banned anyone — including media — from spreading any content from or stories related to the Panama Papers, in which relatives of President Xi Jinping are named.



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