Vietnam’s Anti-Corruption Bureau speaks about Panama Papers

By Ba Do   May 10, 2016 | 02:32 am PT
Vietnam’s Anti-Corruption Bureau speaks about Panama Papers
A company list showing the Mossack Fonseca law firm is pictured on a sign at the Arango Orillac Building in Panama City in this April 3, 2016 file photo. Photo by Reuters
Pham Trong Dat, head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau under the Government Inspectorate of Vietnam, told VnExpress that information from the Panama Papers may be used as grounds for the bureau to ask the government for clarification of the companies and individuals involved.

189 companies and individuals in Vietnam are linked to the Panama Papers and 2013 Offshore Leaks, according to the leaked files released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), along with Sudetendeutsche Zeitung, Tuesday.

Dat said the Government Inspectorate knew the information would be available online a day before. “This is just a reference source, let’s wait and see,” he said.

“It is not clear where the website [which posts the Panama Papers] comes from. Up to now, no state or international organization has provided [information] about it. The information needs careful clarification. We cannot exclude the possibility that it is inaccurate due to irresponsible way it has been released. It is very complicated,” Dat said.

If the information is accurate, “it will be one of the grounds for the bureau to propose the Prime Minister, the government, and other central agencies to step in to clarify,” Dat said. He added that this should be conducted carefully, and the bureau alone is not authorized to “do it directly”.

Lawyer Nguyen Thanh Ha, chairman and managing partner of local firm SBLAW, said we cannot say the offshore investments of Vietnamese businesspeople listed in the Panama Papers are illegal. “They have a right [to invest offshore] if they follow regulations on investment and foreign exchange,” he said.

Vietnamese authorities should consider the information contained in the Panama Papers as a reference source for investigating individuals suspected of money laundering and tax evasion. They will only be prosecuted if sufficient evidence is obtained as outlined in the Penal Code. Vietnamese investors have to declare their earnings from both Vietnam and abroad, and pay tax on them. Otherwise they may be fined or even prosecuted if tax authorities discover any wrongdoings.

The lawyer said the current laws allow companies and individuals to invest abroad if they follow the following steps: submit a project proposal and apply for a license from the Ministry of Planning and Investment to grant a license, and open a bank account in a commercial bank in Vietnam. After fulfilling these procedures, investors can conduct legitimate overseas investments and transfer their profits home.

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