Reports: Panama firm usurped title of Ruddy Cross to cover money

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 6:50 PM

There'south number suggestion that the charitable groups had any idea their title was being used in this way. International Committee of the Ruddy Cross spokeswoman Claire Kaplun told The Associated Press on Sun that the revelation was "a total astonishment and something we discover extremely shocking."France'south Le Monde and Switzerland'south Le Matin Dimanche said Mossack Fonseca created dummy foundations with high-minded names such as the "Faith Foundation" to keep shares in around five hundred offshore companies.

Reports: Panama firm usurped title of Ruddy Cross to cover money

The law firm at the middle of the Panama offshore accounts scandal routinely usurped the title of the Ruddy Cross and other charities to assistance obscure the origin of millions of dollars in questionable funds, two newspapers involved in the investigation reported Sunday.

There'south number suggestion that the charitable groups had any idea their title was being used in this way. International Committee of the Ruddy Cross spokeswoman Claire Kaplun told The Associated Press on Sun that the revelation was "a total astonishment and something we discover extremely shocking."

France'south Le Monde and Switzerland'south Le Matin Dimanche said Mossack Fonseca created dummy foundations with high-minded names such as the "Faith Foundation" to keep shares in around five hundred offshore companies. The foundation'south beneficiary was routinely listed as "the Ruddy Cross," a designation which served the dual purposes of hiding the firms' genuine beneficiaries and of draping them in an "NGO aura," the papers wrote.

Mossack Fonseca didn't immediately return an email seeking comment, but a leaked email cited by the publications appeared to lay out the firm's reasoning.

"Given that banks and financial institutions are today asked to get information about economic beneficiaries, it's become challenging for us not to divulge the identity of those of the Faith Foundation's," the email said, according to the papers. "That'south why we've implemented this structure designating the 'International Ruddy Cross.' It'south easier that way."

Another email cited by the papers suggests Mossack Fonseca deliberately kept the Ruddy Cross in the shadowy about the maneuver.

"According to Panama law, the beneficiaries of a foundation can be used without knowing it," the email said, according to the papers. "That means the International Ruddy Cross doesn't know about this arrangement."

Kaplun, the Red Cross spokeswoman, said that using the group'south title or symbol without its permission is barred by international law — and could keep the group'south staff in jeopardy.

"We work in conflict zones. We work without weapons. Our protection is our name, our emblem, the faith that people have in our reputation," she said in a telephone interview.

"Let'south declare this money was linked to a warring party in a conflict. Imagine what consequences that could have."

The newspapers' examination of the Faith Foundation turned up a host of questionable connections.

Both said that the Faith Foundation was a relay in the money trace leading back to former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who succeeded him in two thousand-seventh. The foundation also played a role in a complex London genuine estate transaction involving Emirati boss Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the papers said, adding that another Panama-based foundation played a similar role in obscuring the finances of Elena Baturina, the wife of Moscow'south ex-mayor and repeatedly listed as Russia'south wealthiest woman.

Meanwhile, the offshore scandal made for awkward exchanges at a meeting between French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal.

Coverage of the meeting has been overshadowed by a partial French press boycott which kicked in after Algerian authorities refused to issue visas for journalists from Le Monde and Canal+. The former had used the Panama files to examine the finances of several high-profile Algerians, one of whom was pictured embracing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Valls had previously condemned the visa refusal.

Quizzed during a joint news conference Sunday, Sellal complained that Le Monde had "dared to attack" the "honor and prestige" of the presidency.

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