Albania in “Panama Papers”

Albania in “Panama Papers”

Tirana, 5 April 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

Albania has also been involved in the world tax scandal which has broken out in the recent days. The publications made by Israeli media engaged in exposing the financial scandal called “Panama Papers” also identify a business with an Albanian owner.

The Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” is the most active one in unfolding this financial scandal. This paper reports that the Israeli lawyer, Assaf Halkin, has registered four companies through Mossack Fonseca. One of them is “GFI Technologies”.

This company has been registered in May 2013 in the island of Anguillas and a few weeks later, it was given by the Albanian government of that time one of the most controversial contracts, but also one of the most lucrative concessionary ones, that of the marking of fuels.

The owners of the company are the Israeli lawyer Halkin, the Canadian company “Global Fluids International” and an Albanian national, which the newspaper calls Ismail Mulati, but who results to be Ismail Mulleti.

But GFI was not alone in winning the concession of the winning the fuel coloring concession.

After registering in Anguilla, it joined forces with another company called “Petrolium Consulting Partners” and the latter is a company with an unknown shareholder registered in May 2013 in Switzerland.

A few weeks after the two companies joined forces into a consortium, they won the ten year concession agreement of marking fuels by the Albanian government.

This concessionary contract has a value of almost 200 million euros worth of business and was established as an offshore company, while it continues to be mysterious even to this day.

In September of last year, GFI disappeared from the concession by keeping a very symbolic amount of the shares, only 0,07% and fully selling it to the company “Petrolium Consulting Partners”.

This operation looks like a typical operation of offshore companies, which once they are formed and conduct secret transactions, are closed in order not to leave any trace behind.

But the fuel marking concession is not the only one that has to do with an offshore company. Other concessionary contracts in Albania are said to be owned by businesses created in tax heavens and this doesn’t seem to be mere chance.

The full publication of the files on the Balkans is expected to take place

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is expected to release within two weeks information on the Balkans which are part of the “Panama Papers”.

As member of the International  Consortium of Investigative Journalists, OCCRP was given the chance to collaborate and given that it operates in Eastern Europe, Balkans and Russia, it will analyze the documents regarding this region.

The official of this project, Miranda Patrucic says that concrete information can be expected for all the countries of the Balkan region, including Albania, Kosovo and FYROM.

Of course the documents relate to every country individually, but they differ depending on the amount of money or the people who are involved.

The Panama based law firm Mossack Fonseca has released 11,5 million documents for the public. Their publication came from an unidentified source. The documents were secured by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The German newspaper “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”, based in Munich, said yesterday that the documents were secured by an anonymous source more than a year ago.

The release of this massive amount of information is one of the biggest ones in the history of journalism, with a team of international journalists who have investigated for more than a year.

The documents released by the Panama based law firm, Mossack Fonseca expose a system which enables crime, corruption and abuses, concealed through shady companies.

In the documents published by the Washington based Consortium, it results that 140 politicians and officials throughout the world have deposited money in the banks of the so called “tax heaven” countries, mainly in the Caribbean. 12 of them are current and former world leaders.

The documents show that the banks, law firms and other players who have enabled these transactions, have often failed to comply with the necessary legal requirements in order to make sure that their customers are not involved in criminal activities, in schemes which aim at evading taxes or public corruption.

What is Mossack Fonseca Group?

Who: Firm was founded by Jurgen Mossack, who was born in Germany in 1948, and Ramon Fonseca, who was born in Panama in 1952.

When: Established in 1977; became Mossack Fonseca in 1986, when the two men merged their law firms.

What: A global company that provides comprehensive legal, trust and wealth management services. Incorporates and administers companies in offshore jurisdictions such as Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands and Malta, as well as in the U.S. states of Nevada and Wyoming.

Where: Located in Panama

Global presence: Considered the fourth-largest provider of offshore services

Response to Panama Papers: Firm declined to comment on specific allegations, citing client confidentiality, but said it acted responsibly and complied with international protocols, saying, “The companies we incorporate are not being used for tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist financing or other illicit purposes.” However, they added, “We regret any misuse of our services and actively take steps to prevent it.”

Panama Papers: 10 Most Popular Tax Havens

Mossack Fonseca is considered the fifth-largest provider of offshore services. Of the companies appearing in the firm’s files, one of every two were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, making it the firm’s No. 1 tax haven site.

Niue, a small South Pacific island nation with a population of about 1,000 people, ranks as the firm’s No. 5 tax haven site.

British Virgin Islands, 113,648 incorporated companies
Panama, 48,360
The Bahamas, 15,915
Seychelles, 15,182
Niue, 9,611
Samoa, 5,307
British Anguilla, 3,253
Nevada, U.S., 1,260
Hong Kong, 452
The United Kingdom, 148

Source: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists