Minister of International Business Donville Inniss says the Panama Papers leak was yet to reveal any wrongdoing on the part of players in the island’s international business sector.
Inniss therefore wants to know “what’s the big deal”, following the release two days ago of a database detailing the names of people and companies.
“Nothing thus far out of the Panama Papers leak has come to my attention that tells me that any individual or entity based in Barbados has been in any way engaged in any illicit activities.
“What is the real issue?” Inniss asked when pressed by Barbados TODAY for his views on the controversial information, which has already triggered a crackdown on tax evasion by some international countries.
Back in April, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) had released the Panama Papers, which consist of the files on over 200,000 offshore companies, trusts and foundations that reportedly showing how the wealthy use offshore firms to evade taxes.
In the new database issued on Monday, more than 40 listed companies were linked to Barbados.
However, the ICIJ has not released records of bank accounts, financial transactions, emails and other correspondence or passports and telephone numbers. It said information published had to be “in the public’s interest”.
While insisting that there was no need for undue alarm, Inniss asked: “Can you point me to at least one company out of the thousands that they have identified so far which have been accused of tax evasion?
“I have met with the British Foreign Secretary and I asked, ‘what is the big deal?’. I met with representatives of the US and Canadian governments and asked them ‘what is the big deal?’. Up to now I cannot get an answer,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Inniss said the real issue at stake was how the ICIJ obtained the information. According to international reports, the papers belonged to the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and were leaked by a source known as “John Doe”.
Mossack Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing.
“What to me is a big deal is how an individual or individuals could take information on clients without the permission of the clients or the owner of that information,” he said, warning that it sets a dangerous precedent.
“And the same way they did it in Panama, they could do it to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, they could hack in and get the medical records of innocent individuals who have done nothing wrong. Nobody in the USA, Canada or anywhere else is talking about the real criminal act that has been committed here,” Minister Inniss said.