Vietnam starts probing people, businesses named in Panama Papers

Thanh Nien News

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Vietnam's tax authority and relevant agencies have launched an investigation into 189 individuals and businesses named in the latest release of the Panama Papers, in the world's biggest leak of information about secret offshore assets.
Deputy Finance Minister Vu Thi Mai confirmed the investigation on Tuesday, one day after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a database of nearly 214,000 offshore entities.
Created in 21 tax havens around the world such as Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), many of the entities are believed to have helped those behind them, including politicians and celebrities around the world, hide their assets and dodge taxes.
The data is a fraction of the Panama Papers, a trove of more than 11.5 million files hacked from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is described as one of the world's top creators of hard-to-trace companies, trusts and foundations.
The Vietnam-linked individuals and businesses are listed as being associated with 19 questionable offshore companies, mostly in BVI.
At the moment the Ministry of Finance cannot say whether the listed people and companies have evaded taxes or not, Mai said, stressing it will take time to complete the investigation.
Pham Trong Dat, chief of the government's Anti-Corruption Department, said his agency will launch a separate investigation, without elaborating. 
No Vietnamese officials have been named in the scandal. 
Speaking with Thanh Nien, some of the people whose names have been released all dismissed allegations that they have violated tax laws.
One of them, Nguyen Duy Hung, chairman of Saigon Securities Inc. (SSI), is named as a shareholder of BVI-incorporated NDH Co. Ltd.
He said the company is simply an investor of the SSI Investment Member Fund.
Not every company which is registered in BVI or other tax havens is involved in money laundering, Hung said, denying that he and SSI have violated any laws or evaded taxes. 
Pham Nguyen Vinh, director of business development at investment group Dragon Capital, which is linked to BVI-registered Norco Tiles Limited, said Dragon Capital acquired a stake of 31 percent in the company in 1997. But the group sold all its shares in 2005.

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