Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Panama connection: Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing linked with law firm Mossack Fonseca

ABC report says Cheung Kong Infrastructure used law firm to organise subsidiaries in Panama and the British Virgin Islands; it also shows image of billionaire’s Hong Kong identity card

The Panama connection: Hong Kong tycoon 

Li Ka-Shing linked with law firm Mossack Fonseca

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016,

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, is a client of the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal, and an image of the tycoon’s Hong Kong identity card was found in the firm’s leaked files, according to a media report.
The leaked data showed that Cheung Kong Infrastructure, the Cheung Kong group’s infrastructure arm, used Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca’s Hong Kong office to “organise” a string of related subsidiaries in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, Australian broadcaster ABC reported last week.
In reply to an inquiry by the Post, a spokesman for Cheung Kong Infrastructure said the group fully complied with the law of the countries it operated in.
The ABC programme reported that Cheung Kong Infrastructure required Mossack Fonseca to provide “the utmost secrecy” for its affairs.
The infrastructure company insisted that its documents be treated “as the high confidence” at the law firm, an alleged internal email obtained by the broadcaster read.
But the news report did not suggest any wrongdoing by the Cheung Kong company, while saying the firm failed to have the light shone on its tax affairs.
Industry insiders have also noted that a lot of companies in Hong Kong set up this type of offshore firm for various reasons and the practice itself was not inherently problematic, even though such vehicles commonly featured in corruption cases when they were used to secretly move ill-gotten gains abroad.
The ABC report noted that the Australian Taxation Office took two companies related to the Cheung Kong group to court in 2013 as the authority argued that the companies owed back taxes and penalties on their Australian electricity business.
In its 2013 annual report, Cheung Kong Infrastructure said it had paid A$61 million (HK$358 million) in total to the Australian tax office, being an amount equivalent to 50 per cent of the tax in dispute, including interest and penalties.
Recent investigations into the Panama Papers found that relatives of at least eight current or former members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, the ruling party’s most powerful body, had been implicated in the use of offshore companies.
Apart from Li, several names well-known to Hongkongers also appeared in the leaked files, including the billionaire Kwok brothers.
According to the documents, property tycoons Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen were behind the security firm running Australia’s controversial offshore refugee processing camps.
It was also revealed in the papers that Mossack Fonseca managed at least six companies owned by action star Jackie Chan.