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Panama Papers: Belgian flagship companies implicated

Leonidas chokolate company and Belroy hotel are mentioned in the papers. This reported De Tijd and Le Soir on Wednesday (13 April) as part of the disclosures by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm behind the creation of offshore companies.

According to Le Soir, Dimitrios Kestekoglou, the head of the Belgian Leonidas chocolate company, established over the last decade three offshore companies in Panama: Dometrans in 2006, Uniprof in 2007 and Nouera in 2009.

The cooperation with Mossack Fonseca started in July 2006 by an intermediary in Luxembourg. Leonidas declined to respond to the allegations.

The Brackx family, historically linked to Jet Air and still holding the Belroy hotel Benidorme, figures also in the Panama Papers. The Belroy hotel, popular with Belgians, was actually held for 15 years by two offshore companies, Siegel International Inc. in Panama and Lumineous Holding NV in Curacao.

Both companies came recently under Luxembourg jurisdiction and “were regularized on the tax side,” a former company auditor said.

After a 27 hours search, the Panamanian prosecutor handling the fight against organized crime announced on Wednesday (13 April) that he would not take any actions “for now” against Mossack Fonseca.

“At the moment, we have no evidence that allow us to take any decision against the company or its managers and employees,” said Javier Caraballo to the press. However, the information gathered “will provide us the elements to take a final decision,” he added.

He said that the investigation is complicated because Mossack Fonseca is archiving its documents in digital form, not physical, in some hundred different servers.

The Attorney General of Panama, Kenia Porcell, also indicated that the investigation was “very complex”.

“In Panama, tax evasion is not a crime,” she said, adding that the Central American countries would “extend the necessary cooperation to clarify this affair.”

On Tuesday (12 April), Panamanian police raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca:

“At the moment we are conducting a search and inspection at the headquarters of Mossack Fonseca,” the ministry concerned said in a statement, adding that similar operations were ongoing “in subsidiaries of the group”.

On Monday Peruvian tax authorities raided a subsidiary office in Lima to seize documents, while in San Salvador, police seized computer equipment last week.

The Brussels Times (Source: Belga)