LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - Britain’s financial regulator has not begun to examine the leaked Panama Papers, which have been combed through by media organisations for news stories, because it has yet to gain full access to the contents.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has unveiled a new task force of Revenue and Customers officials, the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to probe documents that allegedly show how the world’s elite exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.
The Panama Papers -- more than 11.5 million confidential digital files leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca -- are at the centre of an investigation published this month by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other news organisations.
But FCA enforcement head Mark Steward told a London conference on Wednesday that he had not yet seen the files.
“Most of us on the law enforcement side haven’t seen what the media has seen,” he said.
The FCA has asked 20 banks and other financial firms to check by April 15 if they have any ties to Mossack Fonseca.
SFO head David Green, who shared a panel with Steward at a conference hosted by law firms Brown Rudnick and Outer Temple Chambers, said the papers “are being and will be accessed” for evidence of wrongdoing such as fraud and illegal tax schemes.
He called the cache an “interesting source of information” that had yet to be fully analysed.
In an effort to show he is closing tax loopholes, Cameron has said he is introducing legislation this year to make companies criminally liable for failing to prevent employees from facilitating tax evasion.
Cameron is among politicians around the world to have been hit by the leak, which showed his late father had set up an offshore fund. The revelations forced him, along with other politicians, to publish tax records in an attempt to draw a line under questions about his personal finances.
The prime minister is hosting an international anti-corruption summit in London on May 12. (Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Keith Weir)