The Panama Papers, leaked confidential documents that have linked individuals around the world with offshore companies intended to hide money from public scrutiny, have triggered the investigation of some Mexican citizens by SAT, the federal tax administration service.
The agency said it will investigate 33 Mexican business people and former government officials whose names appear in the documents. Of the 33, 18 were already being audited.
SAT chief Aristóteles Núñez said if evidence of tax evasion is found through the preliminary investigations, suspects will be notified and a formal process will begin.
Depending on the complexity of each case, the preliminary investigations could take about two months, Núñez said, while the formal investigation process could take 12 to 24.
“We must classify all the data, assessing each detail of what was made public last Sunday through online media outlets. We need to identify whose names are mentioned there . . . and what was revealed” and relate it to the data filed in the corresponding tax returns.
The people under investigation could be exempted from penalties if they can prove the money was obtained legally, bring it back to Mexico and invest it for at least three years, regardless of when the funds were transferred abroad.
Some of the transactions mentioned in the Panama Papers correspond to the 2015 tax year, which can still be reported in time for tax returns, which are due this month.
Several well-known Mexican public figures have been mentioned in the documents, including TV Azteca owner Ricardo Salinas Pliego, former Pemex chief Emilio Lozoya, drug lords Rafael Caro Quintero and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, and Grupo Higa owner Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, among others.
Radio Fórmula has reported that the SAT is investigating Lozoya and former Veracruz governor Miguel Aleman.
The Panama Papers are a leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about more than 214,000 offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca.
The documents show how wealthy individuals, including public officials, hid their money from public scrutiny through offshore business entities. Investigations have revealed that some offshore shell companies may have been used for illegal purposes, including fraud, drug trafficking and tax evasion.