Denmark to spend up to $1.8M for leaked Panama Papers data on tax evaders

Denmark will buy leaked data from the so-called Panama Papers, a trove of documents detailing the dealings of a Panamanian law firm that helped customers open offshore companies to avoid paying taxes, in an attempt to identify several hundred potential Danish tax evaders.

Anonymous source offered information on up to 600 Danish citizens who may have evaded taxes

The Danish government in Copenhagen, above, said it was willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy leaked data on clients of the law firm Mossack Fonseca that might help it identify Danish tax evaders. (Teis Hald Jensen/Reuters)

Denmark will buy leaked data from a Panamanian law firm that helped customers open offshore companies to avoid paying taxes, the Scandinavian country's taxation minister said Wednesday.

Karsten Lauritzen said Danish tax authorities had received an anonymous offer over the summer to acquire data from the so-called Panama Papers that could involve up to 600 people who might have evaded tax in Denmark. The ministry said communication with the anonymous source was made via encrypted channels.

Everything suggests that it is useful information.- Karsten Lauritzen, Danish taxation minister

"Everything suggests that it is useful information," Lauritzen said. "We owe it to all Danish taxpayers who faithfully pay their taxes.

"We must take the necessary measures in order to catch tax evaders who hide fortunes in, for instance, Panama. Therefore, we agreed that it is wise to buy the material."

The Guardian newspaper reported that Lauritzen said he would pay up to nine million Danish krone, or nearly $1.8 million, for the data.

Tax authorities should proceed cautiously

Lauritzen said, without elaborating, that "there may be fundamental problems associated with buying leaked information," and taxation authorities "should be cautious."

He added that other parties in Denmark's 179-seat Parliament supported buying the documents, which are part of a stash of documents leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The data, which consists of records on 11.5 million offshore holdings, was originally leaked to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which shared it with a global network of investigative journalists, leading to a series of media reports in April. In May, the journalists made the names of 200,000 offshore entities available in a searchable database.

It's unclear whether Denmark is the first country to have bought or accessed the leaked data beyond what was made public.

The repercussions of the leak have been far-ranging. The uproar led to the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and brought scrutiny to, among others, the leaders of Argentina and Ukraine, Chinese politicians, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his friends.

"The material contains relevant and valid information about several hundred Danish taxpayers," Lauritzen said.

It was not clear how many lawmakers backed the plan as there had been no public vote in the assembly.

With files from CBC News