Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday denied any wrongdoing after being been named in the Panama Papers as a former director of a British Virgin Islands company set up to exploit a Siberian gold prospect.
Turnbull and former New South Wales Premier Neville Wran joined the board of Australian-listed Star Mining NL in 1993. The company hoped to develop a A$20 billion ($14.67 billion)Siberian gold mine called Sukhoi Log, according to the Australian Financial Review, which first reported the story.
Both Turnbull and Wran were subsequently appointed directors of Star Technology Services, a subsidiary of Star Mining in the British Virgin Islands which had been incorporated by Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm at the centre of the global scandal.
“There is no suggestion of any impropriety whatsoever. There is nothing new there,” Turnbull told reporters.
“The company of which Neville Wran and I were directors was an Australian listed company and had it made any profits – which it did not, regrettably – it certainly would have paid tax in Australia.”
The details are included in documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists known as the Panama Papers but are not part of the publicly searchable database.
Tax havens and transparency have been thrust into the spotlight as governments worldwide launch probes into possible financial wrongdoing after the details of hundreds of thousands of clients’ tax affairs were leaked from Mossack Fonseca.
Turnbull, a former investment banker and technology entrepreneur, is campaigning ahead of a general election on July 2, with his ruling Liberal-National coalition in a virtual tie with the main opposition.
($1 = A$1.36) (Reporting by Swati Pandey and Matt Siegel in SYDNEY; Editing by Nick Macfie)