Exclusive: Mexico widens tax evasion probe in wake of Panama Papers - documents

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is widening a probe into tax evasion by requiring banks to hand over names of local clients with transactions in tax havens, documents showed, weeks after the “Panama Papers” cast a spotlight on how the world’s rich and famous stash their wealth.

Security guards (R) stand in front of a logo of the Mexico's tax authority SAT at its headquarters in Mexico City, Mexico August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Henry Romero

In a letter this year, Mexico’s tax authority SAT asked banking regulators to compel banks and brokerages to provide a list of clients who made transactions or investments in over 100 jurisdictions.

“To comply with its fiscal responsibilities over resident taxpayers with presumed financial assets in countries designated as ‘tax havens’, SAT ... requires information and documentation to plan and schedule tax examinations of those taxpayers,” the letter reviewed by Reuters said.

Reuters was not able to verify the date that the letter was sent, but a source familiar with the matter said it was dated last month.

SAT and Mexico’s banking authority CNBV declined to comment.

Governments worldwide have begun cracking down on tax evasion since early April when reports based on an 11.5 million-document leak from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca shed light on schemes used by the rich to skirt taxes.

SAT chief Aristoteles Nunez said last month that authorities were investigating 33 people mentioned in the “Panama Papers” for possible tax evasion or financial crimes.

In a statement earlier this week, SAT said it would also probe people and companies named in a subsequent publication.

A separate letter from Mexico’s banking regulator to a brokerage asks the firm to comply with the massive information request in 15 working days. If it fails to comply, it could face fines or temporary closure, according to a law cited in the letter.

A source familiar with the matter said some banks received a similar letter last month.

Many of the jurisdictions listed in the letter from SAT, including Anguilla and Belize, are on the OECD’s 2000 tax haven list. But the list also includes Ireland and the U.S. states of Delaware and Nevada.

In addition to the names of taxpayers, authorities are seeking deposit or withdrawal amounts and taxpayer ID numbers.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Simon Gardner and Cynthia Osterman