US banking regulator queries four investment banks including Goldman Sachs on Panama Papers: Source

A view of the Goldman Sachs stall on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on July 16, 2013.
A view of the Goldman Sachs stall on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on July 16, 2013.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - New York's banking supervisor has asked four investment banks including United States group Goldman Sachs and France's BNP Paribas for details of any offshore dealings related to the Panama Papers scandal, according to a source close to the matter.

The regulator, the New York Department of Financial Services, launched a review after the leak of 11.5 million confidential documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which set up more than 200,000 shell companies.

The four investment banks - Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Canadian Imperial Bank - have until May 23 to respond to the New York supervisor's information request, said the source, who spoke to AFP on Wednesday (May 11) on condition of anonymity.

The banks are not accused of any wrongdoing.

A global media investigation into the documents, published in April, revealed how the rich and powerful had stashed their assets in offshore entities, sometimes keeping their wealth out of the sight of law and tax officials.

The New York regulator, which has the authority to investigate and sanction banking and insurance institutions operating in New York, including Wall Street, asked the banks for any documents and communications with Panama-based Mossack Fonseca, the source said.

The New York regulator, which hit BNP Paribas with a record fine of nearly $9 billion in 2014 for violating US sanctions, could decide to open an investigation if it is not satisfied with their answers, the source added.

The banking supervisor had already sent out similar requests for information related to the Panama Papers on April 21 to April 13 other financial institutions including: Societe Generale of France; the Dutch bank ABN Amro; Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank of Germany; Credit Suisse of Switzerland; Nordic institutions Svenska Handelsbanken, Nordea Bank Finland and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken; and Bank Leumi of Israel.

The US Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into revelations from the leaked Panama Papers in April, according to an official letter from the office of Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

The Panama Papers dossier linked some of the world's most powerful leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister David Cameron to offshore companies.

Iceland's prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, and Spain's industry minister Jose Manuel Soria, were forced to resign when they were tied to shell companies.