|Werner Langen is
a new entry this year
The Panama Papers caused big waves when they were leaked in
April 2016 and its impact on the EU and its member states
resulted in the need to scrutinise the leak and its impact.
The papers, a leak of more than 11 million documents from
Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealed the various ways
celebrities, politicians and others can exploit offshore tax
regimes and evade taxes.
Following the Panama Papers leaks, the European Parliament
decided on June 8 2016, to establish a committee that was given
a 12-month mandate to investigate alleged contraventions and
maladministration in the application of EU law in relation to
money laundering, tax avoidance and tax. The 65 committee
members and the 65 substitute members are investigating the
alleged failures, as required by the committee's mandate.
Werner Langen, a German member of the Christian Democrats
party, was appointed as chair of the committee on July 12.
The committee's first meeting took place in September, and
over the following 12 months it said it would investigate
whether "national governments and the European Commission
failed to properly implement EU anti-tax avoidance and
financial transparency rules". The committee will also consider
whether governments breached their treaty commitment to sincere
cooperation by not taking action against secretive tax
Although offshore tax structures are often perfectly legal,
the leaks showed that they are often used for purposes other
than inheritance and estate planning. "Tax justice and fair tax
competition are essential elements of the European single
market as well as a fair global system of labour division in
the context of globalisation," Langen said.
The German Christian Democrat said that he wanted
clarifications and suggestions on what went wrong in the years
and decades leading up to the release of the Panama Papers.
However, the committee's mandate has changed slightly since
it was first established as it will also be examining the
Bahama Leaks and the case of former EU Competition Commissioner
Neelie Kroes, who failed to declare a directorship in an
offshore firm while she held the competition portfolio.
"Ms Kroes told us she had given up all her engagements.
After her hearing for that post she passed the vote in the
Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee with a narrow majority
of 24 to 22. With the current knowledge, the outcome could well
have been different. We want to hear [from] Ms Kroes", Langen
During hearings throughout the 12-month period, the
committee will scrutinise confidential information, invite
witnesses and organise hearings to get to the bottom of what
went wrong. To date, the committee has heard from the Nobel
Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and experts on
anti-money laundering enforcement in Belgium and Germany, among
others. The final report will be published before the
committee's mandate ends on June 8 2017.