Thailand investigating 16 citizens over Panama Papers leak, but no evidence of wrongdoing found so far

Mr Seehanat Prayoonrat, Thailand's Anti Money Laundering Office acting Secretary-General, holds up a letter during a news conference on April 8, 2016.
Mr Seehanat Prayoonrat, Thailand's Anti Money Laundering Office acting Secretary-General, holds up a letter during a news conference on April 8, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Thailand's Anti Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is investigating 16 Thai nationals identified in the so-called Panama Papers leak, but has so far not found any evidence of wrongdoing.

The individuals are among the powerful businessmen, politicians and their associates around the world whose names have been exposed through a document leak from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama law firm that helps its clients establish offshore companies.

In a press conference on Friday (April 8), AMLO acting secretary-general Seehanat Prayoonrat said that although recent news reports about the leak had cited 21 Thais, it was only able to verify 16 of them.

He would not reveal the names pending verification.

 
 

"We may call the people mentioned in news reports for more information, but have to be careful because they are not doing anything wrong, from what we found so far," he said.

All investigations, however, will be conducted in confidence until concrete evidence is found. AMLO added in a press release that individuals who set up offshore companies could have chosen to do so because of their tax benefits.

While it is legal to set up companies in tax havens like Panama, such arrangements can be used to launder money or evade sanctions.

The global investigation of the Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and other organisations, published on April 3, have so far forced Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson to step down, as well as raised questions about the financial assets of senior Chinese leaders.

AMLO says it has contacted the ICIJ and Suddeutsche Zeitung for more information, but has so far received no response.