Putin denies allegation over Panama leaks

President Putin denies “any element of corruption” over Panama leaks, says opponents his opponents are trying to destabilise Russia.

Mr Putin was speaking for the first time since the leak of millions of confidential documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The papers revealed a number of offshore companies owned by close associates of Mr Putin.

Meanwhile, Panama is creating an international panel to help improve transparency in its offshore financial industry.

The move follows the leak of millions of documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca, showing it helped some clients evade tax and avoid sanctions.

Several countries are probing possible financial crimes by the rich and powerful in the aftermath of the leak.

President Juan Carlos Varela said Panama would work with other countries over the revelations.

“The Panamanian government, via our foreign ministry, will create an independent commission of domestic and international experts,” he said.

He pointed out that the panel would examine working practices and propose measures that could be shared to strengthen the transparency of the financial and legal systems.

The president is eager to defend his country against a “media attack” by wealthy countries that he says are unfairly stigmatising him following the leak.

Victim of Hack

The law firm, Mossack Fonseca, for its part, says that it has been the victim of a hack.

Mossack Fonseca partner Ramon Fonseca, however, insisted the leak was not an inside job- the company had been hacked by servers based abroad.

It has now filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general’s office.

Scandal and Defence

Mr Fonseca served as a minister in the government of current President Juan Carlos Varela but stepped aside earlier this year after separate allegations linked the firm to the corruption scandal engulfing the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.

Mossack Fonseca’s Brazilian arm was accused of helping several of those accused in the Petrobras case of opening offshore companies in Panama in order to launder money through property transactions.

Mr Fonseca said he had stepped aside “to defend my honour and my firm” and denies any wrongdoing on the part of his firm in the Petrobras case.

Mr Varela has been quoted in Panamanian media as saying that he is still in touch with Mr Fonseca, calling him a “friend”.

“At difficult times friends do not run away, they are there,” Mr Varela said.

Mossack Fonseca has accused media organisations reporting the leak of having “unauthorised access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company” and of presenting this information out of context.