Investment

Panama Papers: Fijian clarifies role in offshore firm

A local business person listed in the infamous ‘Panama Papers’ as a shareholder of an offshore company has distanced himself from the firm. Mr Orisi Vukinavanua, 49, is listed as a shareholder of Total Confidence Holdings Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands in May 2012.  Other shareholders of the enterprise are Dennis […]

Peni Shute and Calvin Prasad

May 10, 2016 4:45 pm

A local business person listed in the infamous ‘Panama Papers’ as a shareholder of an offshore company has distanced himself from the firm.

Mr Orisi Vukinavanua is a businessman based in Suva. (Vukinavanua/Facebook).
Mr Orisi Vukinavanua is an entrepreneur based in Suva. (Vukinavanua/Facebook).

Mr Orisi Vukinavanua, 49, is listed as a shareholder of Total Confidence Holdings Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands in May 2012.  Other shareholders of the enterprise are Dennis Siong Lim, Tang-Wai Ting Lim, and Yan Ho Lo.  All shareholders apart from Mr Vukinavanua listed their registered address in various provinces in China.

Mr Vukinavauna told Newswire that Total Confidence was formed to set up an oil refinery in Fiji and submitted a proposal to the Fijian government.  He claims he withdrew from the company after disagreements with a shareholder.

VUKINAVANUA: “I have found out a shareholder was not really an honest man…in the way he was trying to manoeuvre the move of the company, the function of the company, and the way we applied to the Fiji government through Investment Fiji.”

According to Mr Vukinavanua, he broke off all ties with Total Confidence in 2014.

VUKINAVANUA: “I have pulled out completely from Total Confidence from 2014 December and I have pulled out from our submission to the Fiji Government on setting up an Oil Refinery in Fiji which was submitted.”

Mr Vukinavanua said he had been a frequent traveller to Hong Kong.

VUKINAVANUA: “I was there in Hong Kong, I’ve been visiting Hong Kong more than 20 times from 2013 until now…At the moment,I am just surviving from my business in Hong Kong.”

The latest release from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) also listed two other individuals claiming to have links to Fiji.  Newswire was unable to verify the identity of these people.  Three local address (two in Suva, one in Nadi) listed have been verified as existing residential properties.

The ‘Panama Papers’ Scandal

Earlier this morning (6.00 AM Fiji Standard Time – 10/05/16), more than 11 million leaked documents were made available to the public for the first time.

What are the Panama papers?

A huge batch of reports in early April linked 140 public figures, executives and celebrities around the world to overseas assets in offshore tax havens ranging from the British Virgin Islands to Panama. Iceland’s prime minister has resigned, while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman deflected criticism. More political pressure is likely to follow.

Is this activity illegal?

Having an offshore company isn’t illegal. For political figures, the question is how the funds were obtained and used.

How did this come to light?

More than 370 journalists from 76 countries got access to millions of records from a Panamanian law firm that specialised in offshore holding companies, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The ICIJ published a group of stories based on the records, alongside other reports from select news organisations.  The Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, denies wrongdoing.

What were some high-profile allegations?

Close friends of Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin were involved in transactions amounting to at least USD$2 billion, according to the reports. Relatives of China’s Politburo Standing Committee and President Xi Jinping were connected to offshore companies, while Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was blamed for not disclosing partial ownership of a British Virgin Islands company.

Why Panama?

Panama has long been known as a key jurisdiction for offshore corporations, because of its well-established legal system and banking infrastructure. When more than 70 Swiss banks confessed to the U.S. that they encouraged tax evasion, many said they participated in schemes using Panamanian corporations.

Editor’s Note: Includes excerpts of the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

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